Gymbox brings the challenge of team sport training and the field environment into the gym this January with Gridiron – a new class created by master trainer Firas Iskandarani who just happens to have played pro ball in the US – and coached extensively since then.
Variety and challenge are the necessary fuels for fitness and Gymbox’s more, um, (euphemism alert) ‘creative’ classes straddle a fine line between fun novelty and ludicrous contrivance (Crowd Surf, anyone?). Gridiron achieves just the right balance between a straightforward, tough workout and tricky elements that improve agility and proprioception. It feels as if you’re being coached like an actual sport team, but the level of football knowledge required is nil – a relief for those of us without the ability to tell a pooch punt from a pump fake. (Or a butt fumble, muffed punt, slobberknocker, spearing... all real terms, folks.)
American football requires agility, strength, mobility and endurance. Work on all four in one session and you’ll be nailing your new year’s goals. Firas has distilled the key elements of his coaching into a concise workout that’s all about fitness – and not so much about hand-eye coordination. It was totally fine that, before the class began, one participant said, “I have a chronic medical condition that means I can’t catch for shit, so my experience of team sports consists of running into things and being hit in the face with balls.” He still got a great workout.
We start with a warm-up on the track and are sweating straight away. The session is divided into three sections and, while each instructor will bring their own favourite exercises, you can look forward to intervals that require you to change direction quickly (hello, shuttle sprints) and get your feet high in the air.
Expect box jumps, hurdles, and fast footwork using a flat step ladder on the ground. I’m familiar with the latter from tennis training, but the pace and complexity of Firas’s Gridiron routine requires intense concentration. I mucked it up multiple times, but was never bored – the crucial test of a class. As it starts to develop a regular following, expect the level of difficulty to increase. Firas was (probably) joking about his Thursday night salsa sideline, but these fast-paced exercises would get you in shape for Strictly.
From a strength perspective, American football demands pushing force, not pulling movements so you’ll be using the weighted sled and flipping tyres, not doing pull-ups on the bars. This sort of authentic adherence to the actual rigours of the sport distinguishes the class concept from others on the schedule. Firas’s motivational style is a notch shy of the full-on Jon Voight in Varsity Blues “Your attitude is earning you laps right now, boy” approach, but you’ll still feel sore and satisfyingly wrung out the next day.
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