Barry's Bootcamp will kick your body into shape before summer

It's after dusk in Sydney and there's a buzz below a bright neon sign at a plush new venue at the bottom of Reservoir Street, one of the steepest of the Surry Hills.

It's only two weeks old but already people are streaming in. Inside, there's a sound-proofed room, dimmed atmospheric red lights, mirrors everywhere and pumping music. In another room, there's a bar with stools and a large drinks menu.

But those drinks are more likely to contain spirulina than Stoli and that room with the dimmed lights isn't a nightclub (although it's designed to resemble one) – it's a gym.

This is Barry's Bootcamp the newest entrant in Australia's busy, booming fitness market. I went along to see what the buzz is all about.

From LA to Sydney (and Melbourne, soon)

First of all, banish any conventional ideas about a bootcamp. This couldn't be further from outdoors on the soggy grass. It's bouji.

Attention to detail is everywhere: from the upbeat greeting as you enter to the exy-looking soap in the toilets and the cold flannel presented with a smile to each puffed participant after class. And those muscle shakes at the 'fuel bar' can be pre-ordered, so they're awaiting you straight after the flannel has worked its chill.

All this could be to do with where Barry's has come from: it reeks of LA. It started in WeHo, home to Hollywood's gay village, in 1998 and has now come to trendy Surry Hills. A new venue will open at Sydney's Martin Place in November, and it's coming to Melbourne in 2019.

Owned by Fitness and Lifestyle Group (FLG), Barry's has been exported here by power couple Heston Russell and Blake Bridges; Heston is the Head of Ops and Blake takes my Arms & Abs class. He's the head trainer, complete with strong American accent, which he booms through a Madonna-style microphone.


The workout

Each Barry's class is different and bespoke; crafted by the instructor: no two classes are the same. In that way, it differs from F45, where classes are identical worldwide. You can also do classes such as Chest, Back and Abs, Full Body, or Butt and Legs.

It's most comparable to Orange Theory, which I wrote about at the start of this year, in that the class is divided into two sections: the treadmill and on the floor, for a functional weights workout.

I enjoyed Barry's a lot more because it has less of a competitive focus (Orange Theory displays screens which shame you the minute your heart drops below the "orange zone".) Barry's still pushes you (its website claims you'll burn up to 1000 calories per class) but you're more focused on yourself and less on those around you.

In my class (Arms and Abs), we alternate between doing functional weights on the floor and a series of sprints and jogs on the treadmill.

Switch it up

"Barry Jay hated having to do weights and cardio separately, so he created a class with them combined" Heston Russell tells Executive Style.

We use dumbbells and plastic cables on the floor doing exercises such as curls, hammers and skull-crushers (not as dangerous as it sounds).

Twice in the class we rotate from the floor up to the treadmills for some high intensity interval sprints and jogs, but if you'd prefer you can book a 'double class' (such as double floor) if, say, you wanted to ditch cardio altogether. So you can tailor each workout according to your mood or goals.

Club vibes

The swish and swanky venue is accompanied by super-friendly staff, but it might be intimidating for some clients who prefer a no thrills workout; this is definitely the five star experience.

The "immersive atmosphere" they create feels fun to me, but may be distracting for some.

"Barry Jay was a partier" Heston says.

"His two loves were the gym and partying, so he brought them together."

You better work

Classes are a little on the pricey side: $36 per class; cheaper if you buy a package.

My only other critique is that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish when Blake was giving instructions to the treadmill runners or those on the weights floor; perhaps different microphone frequencies are required.

But it's partly the responsibility of the participant to work that out for themselves; all part of the challenge of the class.

As Britney sings, in my exhausting final HIIT sprint of the evening: You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work, bitch.