Spa Junkie at… SpeedFlex, London

Our reporter gets to grips with a “free-motion bar” for a high-intensity resistance-based workout in the city

Sometimes it seems like everything hip and fun – from gyms to gin bars – has headed east. I decide to swap Belgravia for Bank for the latest fitness hoo-ha: a 45-minute SpeedFlex class. SpeedFlex machines offer resistance exercise, which is more effective at toning the body and burning calories than aerobic exercise alone. Resistance training promotes muscle growth but doesn’t bulk them up – which is exactly what I am after.  

There may be a spacious reception area and well-equipped changing room in the SpeedFlex HQ, but this is a gym like no other – there are no Stairmasters, rowing machines or bicycles – simply several studios each housing several black, rather stylish machines, each with a “free-motion bar” at the front that makes them look like a cross between a chest press and chin dip. Each has a screen on the top, which is linked up to a heart-rate monitor. A friendly fitness instructor, Hayley, hooks me up to the one of the machines.

In between the machines are a variety of stations with mats for bodywork (like push-ups and squats) and medicine ball racks.

The class begins to fill up with a wide variety of types – from hipsters to banker-types to pensioners. My surprised expression prompts Hayley to explain that because the machines are hydrolic – they respond to the force of the user as opposed to the addition of weights – the system allows for “a professional athlete to train alongside a pensioner”. She gives me a comprehensive Speedflex demo: I am to lift and push down the bar in quick movements using a variety of techniques from arm curls to raising it above my head. At the same time, I can do a mix of squats and lunges. She stresses that I will be met with as much resistance as I put in.

Even though we are all different in shape, size and age, there is a feeling of camaraderie among the group as we commence our circuit routine. We switch between machines – using each for 20 seconds – indicated by a buzzer, which rings through the air. It’s high energy and frantic, but quite thrilling.

I huff and puff my way around, using the bar to pull and press, squat and stretch using the free-motion bar. I quickly realise that I can work as hard or as little as I want – depending on the effort I put in, the machine gives back equal resistance. The routine is challenging, but never gets boring as we switch it up so often. I watch my heart rate and try to push myself into the 80 per cent or more aerobic zone – and stay there.

We mix up moves on the machine with exercises like Kettlebell lifts, exercise ball crunches, squats, lunges and presses – I am being put through a serious full-body workout. I’m pouring with sweat and my heart is racing.


After 45 minutes, Hayley congratulates us all for working so hard and calls out our progress statistics – our monitors show the results on screen and tot up the calories we have each burnt.

The class has been a real blast – if exhausting!

The bottom line

I burnt a whopping 600 calories in 45 minutes and left feeling elated after the short bursts of constantly changing exercises.

I am a complete convert to this high-intensity, low-impact session: it’s a new favourite interval-training workout discovery.

What was also interesting was that I didn’t ache at all the next day. Supposedly this is because with resistance training, muscles don’t tear during exercise. Calorie-busting and pain free? Sign me up for more.

Spa Junkie is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies.


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