In the last decade “boutique fitness” have exploded onto the scene and challenged the fitness status quo. Despite the premium price, these companies have mastered the recipe for engaging more people and creating enormous followings – It’s hard to deny the appeal – great music, challenging workouts, inspiring instructors, and immaculate facilities.

Whether you are an avid or casual gym-goer, there is a good chance that you have taken at least one of these classes before and even more likely asked yourself “what class would be best for me?”

Therefore, I wanted to share my thoughts and recommendations on the seemingly big three: Orange Theory, SoulCycle, and Barry’s Bootcamp.

I’m well aware there are other and newer fitness studios out there (e.g., Rumble, Flywheel, Corepower, etc.) ; however, for the sake of this article, I kept it with the three companies that have been around for a couple of years, are often discussed in my circles, and are also available in the Bay Area.


SoulCycle: An indoor cycling workout that is community oriented and great for a quick cardio burn.

Orange Theory: A weight/cardio workout that calculates heart rate and great for cross-training.

Barry’s Bootcamp: A treadmill/weights workout that is great for an advanced full-body workout.



“A 45-minute indoor cycling class that features high-intensity cardio, muscle-sculpting strength training, and rhythm-based choreography.”

  • Equipment used: 
    • Stationary bike
    • Dumbbells
  • Who should take this class?
    • Those who have injury concerns
      • If you are rehabbing from an injury or dealing with any on-going issues, as an indoor cycling class, SoulCycle can provide a great workout while avoiding severe impact on the hips, knees, and ankles.
    • Enjoy/need instructor motivation
      • SoulCycle instructors are at the class experience core, which means:
        • They are positioned in front of the class.
        • They participate in the workout with you.
        • They are vocally motivating you throughout your cardio journey (from warm-up to stretch).
    • Likes the “group” in group fitness
      • SoulCycle is a community-driven cardio class.
        • You and 45+ other people ride, use weights, and (sometimes) dance on the same beat and on the same pedal stroke.
      • SoulCycle is unlike other classes in that the beat of the music works in tandem with your instructor to dictate your level of effort.
  • My thoughts:
    • Truth be told, I’ve taken SC more than the other classes for a few key reasons (one large reason is that my girlfriend has been teaching there for over 5 years).
    • The others are because of how it perfectly compliments my personal workout routine. As noted in another post, I avoid traditional forms of cardio (i.e. treadmill) and rely on a HITFIT training methodology. I do include one dedicated cardio day, and because SC offers the least impact on my knees, it offers me the best option for my health longevity.


Orange Theory

“A scientifically-designed workout that uses heart-rate technology to track fitness progress in real time.”

  • Equipment used: 
    • Treadmill 
    • Row Machine
    • Dumbells
    • TRX
  • Who should take this class?
    •  Those who enjoy numbers
      • Every OT class uses heart rate monitors to track your effort throughout the entire workout and real-time results are projected on TV screens throughout the studio.
      • Quantifying your fitness is not only a tool of motivation during your workout, but it also provides visibility on your fitness progress on a per class basis.
    • Enjoy variety
      • Orange Theory’s workout is roughly half cardio and half weighted exercises. However, each workout branches into a variety of exercises that keeps you moving and engaged.
        • A given class can include treadmill runs, rowing machine, burpees, renegade rows, and TRX Y raises.
          • All excellent exercises for cross-training and Spartan Races.
    • Need Proximity and convenience
      • Orange Theory is a franchised fitness class. There are over 550 locations which make finding a class by work, school, or home much easier if you live in a suburb.
      • I believe this fact is worth mentioning because proximity and convenience can be your biggest ally or enemy.
  •  My thoughts:
    • Orange Theory is very similar to Barry’s Bootcamp, I’d go as far to say it’s a BBC lite with advanced technology. However, to OT’s credit, the workout variety distinguishes itself from the others as it could be a complete replacement for a gym membership and personal trainer.
    • Personally, the extensive data collection and promotion were a little off-putting.
      • For one, it cultivates the potential for unwanted competition (one class, I had some stranger actively trying to beat my effort). Don’t get me wrong, I love competition, but not at my gym.
      • Secondly, while writing this post, I often got feedback from peers that measuring your effort was uncomfortable. You can justify the reasoning for both thoughts, but there is no denying there is forfeiture of health privacy when working out at OT.


Barry’s Bootcamp

“A 60-minute intense anaerobic workout that combines weight training with cardio.”

  • Equipment used: 
    • Treadmill 
    • Dumbells
    • Platform
  • Who should take this class?
    • Those who want advanced athletic workouts
      • Between interval treadmill sprints and high-intensity dumbbell lifts/isometric holds, Barry’s workout requires a degree of effort and execution that gym-pros would love.
    • Want a fitness schedule
      • Some fitness programs, and even your own workout routine, can be repetitive to the detriment of the body.
        • Muscle imbalances and stresses are created which contribute to injury.
      • Barry’s Bootcamp has done an excellent job of curating workouts that focus on different muscle groups each class/day. The programming ensures that there you are not only getting a balanced workout but also allowing for recovery.
    • Enjoy a one-stop shop for health/wellness
      • When it comes to improving/maintaining your health and wellness, nutrition is just as important as the workout.
      • Most of the Barry’s Bootcamp studios offer a “fuel-bar” where you can purchase a protein smoothie after your workout.
      • Having a fuel-bar in the studio is a huge asset as it’s easy to run-off back to work, home, etc. without refueling your body with the proper nutrients and thus missing out on the benefits of proper recovery.
  • My thoughts:
    • There is no doubt Barry’s is an ass-kicker. If someone was looking for a 30-day ultimate shred, I would suggest going to BB. However, my caveat would be that they would need to be in the 6-10 range of fitness level. It’s incredibly important that technique and form are applied to such an athletic class, and I’d be concerned with those at a 1-6 for injury.
    • I’d also be remiss not to mention that so much treadmill work is a major reason I don’t go regularly, as I try to avoid putting any unneeded stress on my bad knees.

What it all means:

We have been conditioned to believe fitness is an obligation; however, it doesn’t have to be. For long-term repeatable success, you need to find exercises, instructors and a community that can not only motivate you but also hold you accountable. Therefore, these classes, and others like it, offer the opportunity to find what you need.

If you haven’t taken a fitness class, what’s stopping you?