◊ THE CLASS: Personal Training ◊
WHAT TO BRING
Indoor shoes or barefoot
Pack a snack
Your full toiletries bag if you plan to shower/get ready post-workout
Bang Fitness is like no other gym in Toronto. They’ve been here long before the boutique fitness trend really took hold and based on their fiercely loyal members and unique service offering, they’ll be here for many moons after. They would never consider themselves a boutique gym though, of course. They’re too hardcore for that. Plus – the term “boutique” feels an inappropriate descriptor when you walk through the doors. This full service membership gym is best known for creating programs that are custom-tailored to you and it’s like getting a personal trainer that teaches you how to stand on your own two feet, so to speak. We went back multiple times to get a truer sense of the gym, as it’s not just about a one-time sweat session to see how many calories you burned or how sore you are the next day. Bang Fitness is a commitment and they’re about longevity, education, and teaching you how to build practices into your life so you can be – their words – SAF*.
*spry as f#$k
They’re located in the heart of Queen West, and you’ve probably walked by them a zillion times not realising it. Bang Fitness is beside the Urban Barn on the north side of Queen Street just west of Bathurst, sharing an entrance with 6IX MMA. Getting here is super easy and convenient no matter where you’re coming from with heaps of buses and streetcars running along Queen and Bathurst. That said, it’s not the most ideal to drive to and parking can be limited. There’s metered parking on Queen Street and free on the side streets.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
Bang Fitness is mostly a member gym. They have two types of memberships; Hybrid Coaching and Personal Training, both of which provide what they’re uniquely known for; personalised programs made JUST . POUR . VOUS. There are group classes as well that are open to the public as a drop-in but some classes like Advanced Kettle-bell and Strongman/Strongwoman require previous competencies. The Personal Training memberships include the individualised programs and coaching with every training session. The Hybrid Coaching membership allows access to personal training AND group classes. The group class schedule is pretty lean with 1-2 classes each day, and unlike many studios in this city, the most classes on Fridays and Saturdays. All classes include Powerlifting Club, Bad Juju Conditioning, Metabolic Circuit, Advanced Kettle-bell, Modified Strongman and Strongwoman (ladies only edition), Performance Stretch, and Olympic Weightlifting 101.
Considering the majority of their clientele are members, our biggest head scratcher was – how do they manage the personal trainers to client ratio? Do they have a gabillion PT’s? So this is how it works. Bang has an ap that’s vital to all memberships, because you have to schedule on the ap when you’re planning to come in so Bang can ensure a 4-1 (athlete to trainer) ratio. Obviously, it’s no surprise the 6am-7am and 6pm-7pm slots are often the busiest and once they’re filled, the ap won’t give you the option and you’ll have to workout another time. You can also set a re-occurring schedule to make it easy and keep yourself committed.
There’s a lot of customisation available with every membership option so this is only giving you a baseline. The base monthly memberships are $499 (2x/week), $599 (3x/week), and $699 (unlimited) which are definitely high if you compare them to say Fuel Training Club or Move Fitness Club that offer something similar (and this is double), however the best way to compare them is to personal training fees considering the services rendered. You’ll get more sessions for the same monthly rate compared to PT rates. As a point of reference, a 4x/week personal trainer could run you ~$1,600/month and you would get more value and more workouts at Bang for half the amount.
- 2x/week – $499/month
- 3x/week – $599/month
- unlimited – $699/month
- Drop-in: $30
If the vibe at Bang could talk, it would say something like “go workout, that’s the effing reason you’re here”. Meaning, this place is not flashy. It has no frills, barely any amenities, BUT the workout is the reason to go. They have an impressive array of hardcore “adult-gym” equipment like sleds, battle ropes, rings, barbells, plyometric boxes, tires, wall balls, kettle-bells, landmines, free weights and way way more. Because each persons program is so unique, and they have completely different exercises from the person next to them, the equipment variety is massive. On that – each persons program is so unique that both times we went to Bang, we didn’t see anyone perform the same exercises. They’re also a barefoot facility, or an indoor shoe facility for say, Olympic weightlifting, and it’s so you can feel and utilise the 100+ muscles in your foot as you move through every exercise. As we’ll get to later, some of the movements are VERY tiny, articulate, and precise and you need every nerve ending, joint and muscle talking to your brain from your feet. Part of the floor is finished with astro-turf for those bare footsies, which we’re hoping is cleaned on the regs?!
In terms of the flow – it’s all gym. When first walking in from Queen Street, you ascend the stairs to what smells strongly of spearmint gum masking sweat. The sign-in desk equipped with a small protein bar is the first thing you see, where you’ll be given your program and a pen on a clipboard for you to reference. The mens and womens basic change rooms are near the front and then 95% of the open-concept space is gym. There’s a stretching area at the back and an office for their in-house chiropractor who also offers soft-tissue, and movement-based therapy. The change rooms have cubbies, lockers, and a single shower and single washroom (that isn’t even fully walled in the womens so there isn’t much privacy). We get that the vibe isn’t the main priority here, and it’s not why people go to Bang, but these days and for the price, it might be good to see the facilities amped up a bit.
The crowd here is the best. Looking around all you see is people doing their own thing, confidently with their clipboards in hand with the sound of dropping weights, laughter, and old school Hova in the background. And this is easily one of the most diverse group of introverted souls we’ve seen, introverted being the operative word. Bang apparently attracts a particular type; hard working, dedicated, lone wolfs who respect and thrive on a process. Which is why a large chunk of their clientele is actually…wait for it…programmers. In part, that’s due to the location being in TO’s tech meca, but it’s more to do with the commonality that many programmers share. They’re intelligent and love the hell out of learning and may not have had success or experience in the fitness training arena, so when these nerdy weight lifting amateurs have an opportunity to learn proper form and technique literally from the ground up in their own tailored program, they pay attention, are dedicated, and absolutely kill it. There’s also a ton of clientele that are in television and sports (Elias Theodorou was throwing 195 lbs around like it was a foam roller) and there’s an almost even split of males to females, even though we expected men to dominate. Ages sway a bit “older” from 30’s to grey hairs, which also makes sense when considering the type of awareness and maturity required for this type of set up.
- Towel service included
- Water station
- Protein bar
- Washroom and shower
- Lockers (bring your own lock) and cubbies to store your personal belongings
- Small retail boutique selling Bang t-shirts
Bang Fitness has been on the block since the summer of 2008, which is no small feat in Toronto’s fitness scene. Their success can be attributed to founder and head coach, Geoff Girvitz – who’s a fellow Calgarian so we immediately bonded over what quadrant of the city our moms live in. His goal from the beginning was to create a space where fitness is accessible but focused on long-term results and commitment and he knew he had to create a culture where barriers to performance were eliminated and everyone felt welcome. He’s since built a team of over nine members including coaches, personal trainers, and Dr. Alex St. Pierre, their resident chiro, all of whom contribute greatly to the warm and welcoming feels that befit the gym.
Geoff is a very down to earth, dry humour, lovely human that once you get him started on proper form and body mechanics, he’ll talk your ear off and undoubtedly teach you something valuable. His attention to detail is exceptional and there were many moments that Geoff was correcting the most minutiae of our posture or technique to ensure we were grasping the concepts 10000%. He never left our sides for the first session, demonstrating each exercise and describing in great detail what we should and shouldn’t be feeling, and the purpose of that particular exercise being included in our individual programs (which were different for the two of us – see more below). Geoff was a coach to push us harder, a trainer to keep us on track to our program, and most importantly an educator on ideal technique. The second session, Geoff encouraged us to be a bit more independent but was still over our shoulder at a moments notice if we seemed confused or couldn’t remember the exercises. At the end of the day, his greatest priority is teaching you how to be independent, but independent with a proper foundation.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
Before you even step foot into Bang Fitness, you’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire online. The questionnaire is purposeful yet quick (under 5 mins) and goes through your goals, fitness background, any injuries or physical limitations, and your expected training schedule. With all of that considered, the team at Bang then gets to work, creating the very customised, personal programs for each member that focus on movement and strength. Then you’ll get started, training with the team and spending the first few months building a solid foundation of both your understanding and your physical fitness, continually having an opportunity to give feedback and evolve the program. A more formal feedback meeting is at four weeks to discuss the next phase, progress, and next set of goals. And so on and so on. As you get stronger, more educated and aware, and your fitness levels advance, your program will continue to evolve with you.
So our experience. When we first arrived, our “day 1” individual programs were waiting for us at the front desk. They included a warm-up broken into three parts and the workout which had strength, assistance, and density sections to them. Our programs noted the names of the exercise, # of reps or time, and included space to track training start and end times. My warmup included things like “3-month breathing”, “reverse plank”, and “forearm slack from child’s pose” which were all created to assist with my neck and upper back issues and were intentionally tiny-ass movements that activated my front neck muscles, and sub-occipital muscles (small neck muscles at the base of your skull). Then the work-out included a strength section (split-squats and inverted rows) to time to complete in 2-3 rounds. The assistance section included dumbbell bench presses (but done differently to stabilise), and stability work with a ball and kettle-bell (all tailored towards my post-natalness). Finally the density section which was 10 minutes and structured to get the most movement in as possible int he allotted time included things like landmine squats, dead bug with stability ball, and kettle-bell hip hinges. There was also a piece at the end for baseline testing, that’s exactly what it sounds like and is an opportunity to test where you’re at so you can measure your progress. Mine included a sled push, 10 push-ups, and 5 halo med ball slams and you’re meant to record how many rounds are completed in 5 mins (DM me and I’ll tell you).
The second time we did our programs, it was much faster, much harder, and we worked up a sweat and got majorly fatigued (hence “pack a snack” in the first section). Our warm-up took ~15 minutes, not including our initial roll-out on foam rollers, and we finished the workout in about 40 minutes. So, in total, we were there for over an hour but their goal is that you’re moving for 60 minutes. You start to get more efficient as you become familiar with the exercises and you get more clever in setting up your stations. They recommend to centralise your stations as much as possible; bring your kettle-bell, your ball, and your resistance band to the corner where the sleds are for example, cuz you’ll be back for a second set. In the end, this entire experience was just that. An experience. And we completely understand the loyal fan following that Bang fitness has amassed even with the minimal amenities and no-fluff attitude. We learned a lot, we worked out safely, and we know if you commit here, you’ll smash personal fitness goals over and over again.
For Fit-City followers exclusively, mention “Fit-City” when signing up for a membership at Bang Fitness and receive a $100 credit towards supplements or nutrients services (meal planning, dietary analysis, or building a customized, intuitive eating approach).
See ya next week, fineapples!