What is it all about?
Gravity Blast is a 30-minute, high-intensity resistance workout on a piece of kit called the Gravity Training System (GTS). It's the usual fitness story: the workout became popular in America, attracted the attention of a celebrity or two (Colleen Rooney to be precise, but don't let that put you off), and then started popping up in UK gyms.
Tell me more about the GTS
The GTS resembles a pimped-up rowing machine or, if this is more your thing, a high-tech Pilates Reformer. Basically it's a moving board on an adjustable ramp, with a couple of pulleys and a footrest. You sit, squat or lie on the board and perform resistance exercises with your arms, legs, core and, well, any part of the body you care to mention.
What's so good about it?
It's weightlifting without the potentially off-putting heavy weights and the bodybuilder connotations - instead of hefting dumbbells, you're pulling and pushing your own bodyweight. The ramp can be adjusted to increase the intensity: on the smallest gradient you use 5% of your bodyweight, building up to 59% on the steepest incline. If you're strong enough to lift more, weights can be added to the GTS, but you'll be surprised how tough it is without that.
The beauty of the GTS is that you can exercise every muscle in your body on one piece of equipment. Apparently more than 200 different exercises can be performed on it (although I didn't manage quite that many in one session). The Gravity Blast class rattles you through a full-body workout in 30 minutes, so it's an efficient way to exercise: no more sneaky rests as you wait for the next piece of kit to be free.
Compared to traditional weight machines, the movements performed are much closer to real-life exertions. This means that you exercise lots of small stabiliser muscles at the same time as the big ones, which makes you stronger and less likely to injure yourself. It also makes your body work harder.
You can also perform plyometric movements (to develop explosive power) and the full Pilates Reformer sequence on the GTS, or do rehab exercises, so it's pretty versatile.
Sounds tiring ...
I was sceptical about how hard the class would be, but I was pleasantly surprised. On a medium gradient it quickly became challenging. I noticed one classmate was soon soaked in sweat and another took frequent rests, while a third had to up the gradient to feel anything at all. In short, it works for all abilities. I really felt the burn towards the end, particularly in my biceps and triceps.
If that sounds too much like hard work, don't worry; after a couple of goes you'll find the gradient that's right for you. And then you'll have the satisfaction of moving up to a tougher one once you've improved! There's no rest for the wicked.
What are the downsides?
I suppose it could get a bit boring after a while, but you could say that about all exercise classes or gym regimes. And at least it will take a few sessions to work through all 200 exercises …
If your gym hasn't invested in the GTS, you'll have to be flush to splash out on one for your spare room. It will set you back £2,675 before tax. Then again, if you can afford a spare room these days, you must be loaded.
Perfect if ...
You want to tone up but don't fancy setting foot in the free weights room with the grunting muscle men and women.
Best avoided if ...
Your idea of resistance training is turning down a second slice of cake.
What more do I need to know?
Gravity Blast classes are available at selected Nuffield Health Clubs and independent UK gyms. A 60-minute class is also available at certain gyms. The Gravity kit is available at selected Virgin Active gyms. For a full list, visit gravityuk.net.