Gains is a “weights-based class focusing on strength training and muscle bulking” and sits in the Look Better Naked category of Gymbox classes, but this is far from anyone’s top priority as we enter woolly jumper season. So, why Gains? Why now?
Well, Gains has long been a stalwart of the Gymbox menu, but the new autumn timetable offers a number of hour-long slots in which a full-body workout is scheduled, as opposed to the 45-minute classes which alternate between leg and upper body workouts. This is fantastic news for anyone starting out with strength training or wanting supervision to work on building up their load – without the expense or scheduling commitment of working with a personal trainer.
Instructor Jamie Shaw explains that Gains offers “planned progressive weight training, so over a month of doing a weekly class, you see yourself achieving heavier lifts”. Most of the members at the Thursday evening class I tried at Victoria are regular attendees – and, wow, it shows. I spend my working life writing about fashion which means a lot of looking at runway images featuring the leanest segment of the human species. The Gymbox members assembled for Gains provided a refreshingly well-muscled contrast.
It’s not a chatty, high-fiving atmosphere, but there’s an undercurrent of camaraderie as each person quietly works towards their own goal. The hour flew by, although the pace of the class is calm and slower than many of Gymbox’s more frenetic offerings.
First, Jamie leads us in a warmup of dynamic lunges and shoulder walkouts with tricep push-ups. Then we go straight into the heaviest and most skill-based lifts. We start with deadlifts, doing three sets of just six to eight reps in our own time and, as we finish up our final reps, Jamie explains technique for the next lift, weighted squats. You have the choice to work alone or with a partner; members spot for each other and place bars on each other’s shoulders. This is ideal if you’re looking to squat with more than you can comfortably hoist over your head – which, duh, you ought to be because the legs and glutes are the biggest muscles in the body.
Jamie offers guidance (“After the first set, if you feel you’re not working hard enough, either add more weight or slo-ow it down.”), but he’s no drill sergeant. He checks my deadlift technique – already “spot-on”, thank you very much – but recommends keeping the bar closer to my shins for a more efficient movement and reminds me to keep my chin neutral so my head is in line with my spine.
As we move to working the smaller muscle groups using lighter weights, the number of reps per set increases and the rest time we’re encouraged to take between sets decreases, but strict timings aren’t enforced. Jamie suggests adding an extra set as he demonstrates the next exercise, but how hard you work is very much left to the individual. This is similar to 1 Rep Max and in contrast to the perpetual motion of Frame class or to the Ripped & Stripped format of lifting in time to the beat as led by the instructor.
There are a lot of things I love about this class: Jamie’s intelligent focus on technique, the option to go at your own pace, and the consistency that means you see progress from week to week. If it happens to make you look better naked for when you take off those wintry layers, well that’s just an added bonus.