If sticks and stones may break our bones, how can we make them stronger? Hint: There’s more to it than calcium and vitamin D.
The 21 Most Innovative Gyms in the U.S.
Ready to hit the electricity-generating elliptical, a track made of sneakers, or a treadmill— on ice? Some gyms aren’t quite like the others, and they have the facilities to prove it. So take a tour of Greatist’s most innovative gyms, those at the forefront of developments in exercise technology, methodology, and management. Whether you’re near one or not, they’re sure to inspire your next great workout.
1. Athletes’ Performance (Phoenix, AZ)
Go big, or go home, right? At Athletes’ Performance, elite athletes get the All-Star treatment, including top-notch integrated performance training, physical therapy, nutrition planning, and massage. The Adidas-sponsored facility is also home to a renowned NFL Combine Program and state-of-the-art performance innovation labs. (But start saving now— the High Performance training program can cost up $16,500 a year!)
2. Reebox CrossFit Back Bay (Boston, MA)
According to Reebok, “The sport of fitness has arrived.” And it’s all starting in the Back Bay area of Boston, home to Reebok’s first ever CrossFit box. With pull-up bars, barbells, ropes, rings, and zero bells and whistles, the Reebok brand of CrossFit emphasizes the same founding principles (think: constantly varied, functional movements at high-intensity) but with a splashy campaign, world-class competition, and some undeniably sweet new gear.
3. The Green Microgym (Portland, OR)
Looking for a little more green cred? At the GreenMicrogym, eco-conscious gym-goers help generate electricity— simply by working out. Capturing energy produced from the flywheel, the gym’s high-tech bikes and elliptical machines can produce approximately twice the power needed to run the facility at any given moment. Converting melted calories into precious watts? Now that’s hot.
4. DeFranco's (Wyckoff, NJ)
“Turn your body into a weapon.” That’s the motto at DeFranco’s, New Jersey’s hardcore, warehouse-style training facility focused on cutting-edge strength and conditioning techniques. Void of TVs, juice bars— oh, and air conditioning (NBD)— this no-frills gym is all about discipline, determination, and results. Just ask Dhani Jones, Brian Cushing, and its other pro athlete trainees.
5. University of Missouri — Columbia (Columbia, MO)
The MizzouRec philosophy? Maximum participation. And who wouldn’t want to hit the beach club instead of the books? The swanky pool and lazy river (seriously) come complete with palm trees, a waterfall, and flat screen TVs. Prefer to stay on dry land? Head to the Pump Room, Jungle Gym, or scale Scroggs Peak, a 35.5-foot rock climbing tower. We’d heart college, too.
6. Nike World Headquarters (Beaverton, OR)
Working at Nike has its perks— and it’s not just getting first crack at the KobeSystem. At the Nike World Headquarters, employees have access to 190 acres of star-powered facilities, including the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center, Ronaldo Athletic Field, and Michael Johnson Running Track made from 50,000 recycled Nike shoes collected from the Reuse-A-Shoe program. We’re still waiting for our invite.
7. Athletic Republic (various locations)
Everything’s better on ice— treadmill workouts included. At Athletic Republic training centers, patented skating ‘mills can hit 16 mph and reach up to 32 percent elevation. And if state-of-the-art ice hockey training isn’t your thing, simply hop on the Generation II Super Treadmill. Raised and lowered hydraulically, these tricked-out treadmills are designed to help athletes improve their speed (28 mph sprints or 40 percent incline hills, anyone?) while reducing force at the knee upon foot strike.
8. Westside Barbell (Columbus, OH)
Home to some of the world’s strongest powerlifters, this is one gym that’s earned every ounce of its reputation. And with powerlifting legend Louie Simmons at its helm, Westside Barbell devotees have more than just world-class equipment at their fingertips. Simmons’ resume includes three books, 37 years of elite lifting experience, and strength training consulting for the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots. Oh, and he invents and patents his own machines. Now who’s ready to put up some weight?
9. Peak Performance (New York, NY)
Who wouldn’t want to train like a VIP? At private training facility Peak Performance, owners/celeb trainers Joe Dowdell and Jay Wright help clients get in the best shape of their lives using innovative tools and equipment, and impeccable technique. And while these workouts don’t come cheap, every inch of the 10,000-square-foot space is designed to work for you, from functional battle ropes, prowlers, and sandbags to state-of-the-art Force treadmills and Olympic lifting platforms.
10. Green Fitness Studio (Brooklyn, NY)
An eco-friendly gym grows in Brooklyn, it’s true. With bamboo floors, recycled rubber mats, and remanufactured, energy-efficient exercise equipment, the Green Fitness Studio is building a more sustainable gym from the ground up. And we mean all the way up: The “living” rooftop features a 2,000-square-foot blanket of sod, designed to absorb pollutants, conserve rainwater, and reduce storm weather runoff.
11. Cressey Performance (Hudson, MA)
GTL someplace else. Designed by athletes for athletes, this high-performance training facility is the real deal. Stripped of non-functional machines and extraneous equipment, Cressey Performance and its sports-specific development program is the go-to gym for elite and pro athletes looking to throw, hit, and run faster, increase strength, and stay injury-free.
12. Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning (Woburn, MA)
Elite athletes come far and wide to train with legendary performance training coach Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning. Voted America's top 10 gyms by Men’s Health, the cutting edge facilities feature 2,000-plus square feet of multiuse turf for sprints, drills, and sled work, along with functional training equipment like slide boards, plyo blocks, and 70-plus feet of concrete wall space for a barrage of medicine ball drills.
13. Gym Jones (South Lake City, UT)
Mere mortals need not apply. At Gym Jones, (indeed, a nod to Jim Jones, the sect leader who drove more than 900 people to suicide in 1978), the workouts are grueling, and the culture, rooted in “The Art of Suffering.” But while the unmarked, invitation-only facility caters primarily to the fitness elite (this is the gym that got 300’s Gerard Butler loincloth-ready), for the rest of us, there’s always online memberships (get ripped at your own risk).
14. The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers (New York, NY)
The ultimate urban escape, the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers offers 150,000 square feet of athletic adventure, perched above a sprawling NYC pier. Featuring a ¼-mile indoor track, a 46' high x 100’ wide rock climbing wall, and the Big Apple’s only indoor sand volleyball court, there’s truly something for everyone— triathletes included: The Sports Center is the only USA Triathlon Certified Training Center in the Northeast.
15. Crunch (various locations)
Group fitness might not seem revolutionary, but throw antigravity yoga, pole dancing, and Kangoo into the mix, and things are known to get a little cray— in a good way. From day one, out-of-the-box classes have been Crunch’s calling card. And with 31 locations and counting, the “no judgments” chain always seems to have a few new tricks up its sleeve.
16. Jackson’s MMA (Albuquerque, NM)
The premier Mixed Martial Arts school in the country, Jackson’s MMA is where the sport’s rising stars (not to mention a few UFC title holders) come to train under the great Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. Featuring a pro boxing ring and cage, Jackson’s hones fighters’ wrestling, kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai skills— tapouts guaranteed.
17. Institute of Human Performance (Boca Raton, FL)
In case the name alone didn’t sell you, Florida’s premier private fitness facility offers innovation at every turn, from sports-specific training to weight loss, combat, and conditioning programs. What’s more, the Institute of Human Performance serves as a consulting and beta-testing site for the industry’s top manufacturers— so clients can get first crack at some of the latest cutting edge technologies and equipment.
18. David Barton Gym (Miami Beach, FL)
Gym-as-nightclub? Why not. Splashy, flashy, and oozing with South Beach flair, Miami’s David Barton Gym is the ultimate exercise in excess, featuring entrance-reflecting pools, valet parking, and live deejays (oh yeah, and 42,000 square feet of fitness space). With six ultra-luxe locations to his name, David Barton has clearly found his ($230 million) niche, and has no qualms about cashing in.
19. Curves (various locations)
Do my ladies run this m*th@f—? Hell yeah! The first fitness and weight loss facility designed for women only, Curves boasts nearly 7,000 locations, millions of members worldwide, and a signature 30-minute circuit workout that blasts up to 500 calories a pop. Cleveland Clinic employees are getting in on the action, too, resulting in more than 100,000-pounds lost in the first year of their partnership.
20. Gold’s Gym (Venice, CA)
Want to lift with the big boys? This three-story flagship is considered the “Mecca of Bodybuilding”— and for good reason. Complete with 35,000-square-feet of free weights and Nautilus machines, a posing room, and a larger-than-life guest list (including Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno, Jim Morrison, and the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger), when it comes to "Pumping Iron," Venice Beach is still the place to be.
21. Parisi Speed School (Fair Lawn, NJ)
Ready for life in the fast lane? Far from your average snooze-fest, this school offers the ultimate in speed training, with a focus on power, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Touted by NFL players and UFC fighters alike, the Parisi Speed School combines everything from plyometrics, speed work, strength training, yoga, and more. And with 75 locations and counting, chances are there’s one within running distance.
A note about our methods: So how did Greatist's Editorial Team come up with our list of the coolest, most innovative gyms in the country? We asked our writers, editors, readers, and experts to weigh in, and did a whole lotta independent research as well (it’s The Greatist Way, after all). Don’t see your favorite heavy-hitters on the list? Tell us which gym keeps you on your toes in the comments section below!
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BodyTribe Fitness, Sacremento, CA., offers strength training in a non-traditional setting. Barbells, sandbags, tires, kettlebells, and more are the stars here. Owned by author, lecturer, Chip Conrad - the affordable dojo is the home of the modern physical subculture movement.
Families work out together-children are not allocated to special spaces- and the BodyTribe animals keep everyone calm and on a positive groove.
Extreme Fitness Personal Training, Fallsington, Pa. , pushes clients through grueling workouts using the functional training method with atlas stones, weighted kegs, prowler sleds, truck pulling, up to 1000 pound tire flipping and more. 3000 square feet of NFL quality artificial turf (the only facility in the area with that workout surface and 3500 additional square feet of machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, rings, TRX, Jacobs Ladder and more, it is a one of a kind facility. Clients range from 8 to 72 years old and they all work out in the same style and intensity. Here, regular people are made into athletes and athletes are made indestructible! www.extremefitnesspa.com
I'd say Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club (East Lansing, MI) should get a nod. A 276,000 square foot facility that houses 16 tennis courts, 4 pools, 3 basketball courts, 2 sand volleyball courts and over 150 weekly classes in any of six studios. A 1/5 mile track, 10,000 square foot weight room floor, massage, salon services and full restaurant round out the numerous options. As an affiliate of Sparrow Hospital, tons of medically based programming is available to the community and MAC members - free injury clinics, nutritional seminars, post rehabilitation training and more. In business for over 20 years, the MAC is always innovating - seems like they belong with the rest of the group. Great list!
@BenjaminWorden Love the MAC, grew up playing tennis there. This place is amazing.
How did you base your rankings? What was the criteria? Are all of these facilities open to the public? I am curious what research was done to produce the list.
@Jordan Shakeshaft Thanks for your speedy reply. Who is part of your network of experts, writers and contributors that created the list? I'm not challenging it. I think it's balanced and represents a good array of facilities. Just curious on the method of research your team used? Thanks again!
BEAST TRAINING (“BEAST” - @Beasttraining) is the #1 Strength & Conditioning Facility in CT; they are dedicated to helping athletes achieve their full potential on and off the field. BEAST’s goal is to develop their athletes into: Scholarship Players, High School and Collegiate All-Conference Players, All-State Players, and/or to facilitate entry into “reach” Colleges through excellence in athletic performance. Utilizing top-of-the-line equipment from @EliteFTS, Beast combines old-school methods with intelligent programming to achieve superior results - http://beastllc.com/
@StrengthBox in Toronto. Uses the MovNat philosophy of fitness through moving naturally, and with its cedar climbing structure - even a log hanging from the ceiling - it's pretty unique.
I am A private Gym owner in Scottsdale. I will always have a problem with top 10 anything so I have a biased opinion from the start. What really makes a gym innovative? What is the criteria? Who is rating them, and are all gyms included?Clearly it is impossible! I grew up in New Jersey so I do Know Parisi and Defranco's Gyms,also being in AZ now, I know about Athletes Performance..... they all have their place in the fitness industry. To me, it has never been about the star power, the square footage, profit margins,or a cookie cutter facility. It has ALWAYS been about customer service and results for all types of people. The versatility is what gives a Gym success and the relationships between Teacher and student. I know that this is the top 10 innovative gyms in the U.S., but I think we do not have to reinvent the wheel here for results. Our country is WAY overweight for many reasons which I won't get into, but being fit is very simple and there is always "The next best thing" spin on getting in shape when it has always been right in front of us the entire time. Calories in = calories out. Put down the fork and get active. I never wanted to be famous or train anybody famous, or compete with a Gold's or a Mega Sports complex Facility. What I would like is for people to understand that it is our lifestyle that needs to change, not the facility. Thirty years ago, the average person was in better shape and I believe the only Franchise gyms were Gold's and Jack LaLanne....remember him?
I received this email through a client who thought was doing me a favor, it only sparked a fire inside of me to say "enough".
EZIA Human Performance!
How about Sports Specific Training (SST) in Canada! Check out their website at SSTcanada.com!
Tons of great athletes- combine testing- rated #1 speed facility!
@MichaelD_PT here: I visited Santa Barbara and went to Fuelled Performance - Astro turf, vertical jump tests, sledge hammers, prowlers, kettlebells, strongman farmers walk equipment, multiple hanging rings, indoor moving climbing wall... the list goes on! As a PT it's one of the top gyms I'd love to work at and use regularly.. unfortunately I live in England!! :-(
What about Reebok Sports Club/NY and The Sports Club/LA?
There are some great faciities on this list, but Curves, come on!!! WHERE IS THE MONKEY BAR GYM, THAT IS INNOVATION!!!
How is Reebok Crossfit BackBay on this list considering there are literally thousands of other Crossfit gyms or boxes opened for the past couple of years. And it is planted right in the middle of an office building so there is no space to run.
ASAP training with Dave Stroshine
The Peak Performance in NY is the best gym ever. I also found the my favorite <a href="http://www.evolvehealth.com.au/programs/personal-training-professionals/">professional trainer</a> here. Their workout programs is by far the best! I couldn't be happier!
Thanks for generating this article. As an independent gym owner myself, I definitely like to see what is out there that is innovative! ...and also to see what my competition looks like.
I found a need in my own gym, and that need was comprehensive software technology to make running my business seamlessly. Because my primary line of work is programming software, I developed a state of the art billing company, member management, and comprehensive sales tool. These services can be utilized ALL IN ONE. My gym may be small, but it is definitely innovative from a tech viewpoint from the inside - out!
Please check it out and the all my own services that run it!
Member Management Software: http://www.gyminsight.com/insight
Gym Business Insights: http://blog.gyminsight.com/
Definitely need to check out a place in the Outer DC area. It's called Fitness for Health in Rockville MD. They have a facility where everything is electronically interactive, it's like your playing games the whole time and not working out, but it's a killer workout!
How many gyms exist in the USA ?
Curves is on this list and the Monkey Bar Gym isn't??? Ouch...Anything that gets people moving is a great thing, nothing real innovative. MBG was doing body weight training before it was trendy.
nice pic ,this type of facility should be provided in every gym
Elevate: Performance, Health, Wellness in Albuquerque, NM is a brand new state of the art facility. It was designed with the help of Mike Boyle of Mike Boyle's Strength and Conditioning #12 on your list and works directly with Jackson's MMA #16 on your list. We train everyone from UFC Champions Jon Jones and Carlos Condit to 73 year old golfers. www.elevatePHW.com and www.facebook.com/elevatephw