Tone House is known on the streets (and by streets I mean fitness blogs and Yelp) as the hardest workout class in NYC. As a fitness blogger, this information made me anxious yet intent on trying the class. When a fellow fitness instagrammer invited me to come try a “Tone House 101” class at the studio’s new Upper East Side location prior to its opening, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
To be clear: I’m in pretty good shape, but I don’t do a ton of weight lifting, and I’m most definitely not a runner. But I think the scariest part of going into this workout was that I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be doing. Looking at photos online, it looks like they use a lot of props (bungees, weighted ropes), but the exercises themselves are unclear. Are these crazy torture devices a la 50 Shades of Gray? Did the studio just round up a bunch of fitness models in a room and ask them to hold the props? Are the people on bungees lunging through the air actually just Cirque de Soleil performers? Will I see anyone from my barre class here? (The answer to the last question is a resounding “no.”)
Tone House’s main studio is in Murray Hill (well, they say “NoMad” but I say “You’re lying to yourself, 31st and Park is def Murray Hill, I’ve lived here for ten months and I name the neighborhoods now”). However, they are opening a new studio in the Upper East Side in early March as part of the new NYSC Studio concept, which links New York Sports Club to some of the city’s boutique fitness options such as BFX (including the popular Kira Stokes fitness classes), Cyc Fitness, and of course, Tone House. The studio looks like it’s shaping up nicely, but it’s hard to give it an accurate review because they were still working on final touches when I attended. As of mid February, the studio has a large check-in area for all of the classes, lots of lockers downstairs, large bathrooms, and a good-sized waiting area outside of the Tone House classroom. The classroom itself has the studio’s signature AstroTurf flooring and dark, red lighting.
Tone House classes are led by two coaches–one with a microphone leading the class, and one assistant coach demoing exercises and assisting at different stations. This is the second time I’ve seen the dual-instructor approach (Fhitting Room does this, as well), and I really like it–it’s great to have more assistance and encouragement when you’re paying $40 per class! This class’s main instructor was Alonzo, the founder of Tone House. He was a high school and college athlete, personal trainer, and TRX instructor, and now he runs Tone House and is a Wilhelmina fitness model (this info is from his bio, I didn’t creepily interview him). His biceps are the size of my entire body. The class’s assistant coach was Elvira, who is 5’0″ at most and probably the most in-shape person at that size that I’ve ever seen. I want to, like, ask her what she eats every day and copy her so I can be equally fit and in-shape. Both coaches were awesome at demonstrating the exercises and encouraged and cheered clients (both as a whole and individually) throughout class. They know this class is hard AF, but they really push you to do your best and go out of your comfort zone, which is awesome.
I took Tone House 101, which is highly recommended (if not required) before taking the other classes at this studio. This class isn’t a cop-out version of the main workout–in fact, it’s probably still the hardest class I’ve taken in NYC. The only difference is that exercises are broken down a bit more and the flow of class is explained to participants (rather than in the conditioning and muscle-group-focused classes).
The class begins with a team huddle and then a warm-up of drills running around the room. We ran across small risers/obstacles (not really sure how to refer to them) doing combinations of high knees, burpees in between each hurdle, straight running, and push ups. This probably went on for 15 minutes. In the TH 101 class, each exercise is introduced and then you complete 3-4 circuits of each. To my knowledge, there are no breaks/ breakdowns in the 15 minute warmup during the other class levels, which sounds like my personal hell. It’s been said that the warmup is the hardest part of this class, and I can definitely agree.
After the warmup/torture sesh, the class breaks into teams for different relay exercises. Relays included sprints, more burpees, bear crawls, push ups crawls with sliders, some sort of grasshopper-type move across the floor, and a bunch of other stuff that was really hard and also hard to describe. Each team cheers on the other teams, and it’s a competitive yet encouraging and inclusive environment. From there, we broke into pairs and hit a number of different workout stations–some with bungees, some with those crazy weighted ropes, some partner work, whips and chains, and waterboarding (just kidding about the last two). Basically, this class is like bootcamp on steroids. Class ended with follow-along drills in the middle of the room and another huddle….and free Sweetgreen for this specific event! Not gonna lie, the thought of the Sweetgreen Harvest Bowl after class really got me through a number of these exercises.
I left this class feeling exhausted but super accomplished and proud of myself. My chest was SUPER sore for the next several days and I happily used this excuse to avoid push-ups for the entire weekend. Overall, this class was totally out of my comfort zone but it’s a KILLER workout and a ton of fun. I’d definitely recommend it for those seeking a challenge, but probably wouldn’t recommend it to those who are relatively new to working out, just based on the intensity. I’ll for sure be back when the Upper East Side studio formally opens, but I might need someone to give me a shot of alcohol first to calm my nerves.
Since this was technically a private event, it’s hard to gauge the standard vibe of this studio. However, based on Instagram, it looks like there are a number of extremely fit regulars, both men and women. #Fitfam goals, basically. Clients seem to all hang out after class and partake in the Tone House recovery program, which includes these weird muscle-massaging boots that low-key make you look like the Michelin Man when you put them on. Allow Lebron to explain:
Classes at Tone House are $40, but newbies can buy-one-get-one-free. The rates may be different for NYSC members once the NYSC-Studio opens–it looks like drop-ins for members may be as low as $20. I’ll be sure to update this page once I have more information!