Core Fusion was created by Fred Devito and Elisabeth Halfpapp, and was the first of the Lotte Berk-inspired studios to open its doors in New York city. Fred and Elisabeth, both former star instructors at the original Lotte Berk Studio, left the studio in 2002 to create their own version of the method which they debuted at Exhale Spa on the upper east side of Manhattan in 2003. Although their workout, Core Fusion, takes its main inspiration from the principles of the Lotte Berk Method (the concept of using your own body weight as resistance), it fuses it with elements stemming from pilates and yoga, and mixes things up with some added interval cardio training. The results (long, lean, and strong physiques) speak for themselves, and for that reason Core Fusion's popularity has spread far and wide. In addition to the six studios in New York city there are studios in Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Illinois and California, along with one international location in Turks and Caicos. Those who do not live in the above-mentioned locales can also partake in the Core Fusion mania thanks to the availability of their eight dvds!
Needless to say, I was highly intrigued in trying this out so when Fred Devito invited me to take a class with him I moved things around my own schedule to make it work!
Excited, I went to the studio at Central Park South to take my first ever open-level Core Fusion class.
The classes take place at Exhale Spa and because of the spa's proximity the reception area exudes a calm, serene and incredibly zen vibe; the smell of fragrant oils subtly permeats the air; light jazzy music plays in the background, softly audible. Just being there is relaxing!
In addition to the fully functioning spa, the location also sells fitness wear...
...along with all eight of the Core Fusion dvds..
Blueprint Cleanse juices are also available to quench your thirst after class...
I made my way to the changing room and saw this at the entrance...
A subtle reminder to please leave your cellphones in the lockers. Amen to that! I hate it when people bring their cellphones into classes. Don't they realize how disruptive it is to their fellow class-goers?
The locker room had lots and lots of lockers, all with attached keys. Win for Core Fusion.
There are two studios, one for yoga and one for the core fusion classes. The space is beautiful and bright. Sunlight streams in from the atrium-style roof and ricochets off the mirrored walls.
One side of the room is lined with various props including red rubber balls, yoga mats, kettlebells, hand weights and yoga blocks. There is also a small basket containing yoga straps.
As I was waiting for class to being, Fred walked in and introduced himself. He was incredibly warm and so down-to-earth and we spoke a little bit about barre classes and how Core Fusion differs from the others. He then asked me to spend some time hanging from the stall bar prior to the class and to obtain two sets of weights (5lbs and 3lbs, a yoga strap and a mat).
The class began with leg lifts to warm up the body. We then moved straight into a set of 20 push-ups. These were performed slower than what I am normally used to and I started to feel the heat being created in my body. Following this set we were asked to hold a 90 second plank. While this is a long period of time (I think) for a plank, Fred kept speaking to us, saying words of encouragement, and when he said, 'last 30 seconds' I was surprised at how quickly it had passed - I thought we still had a ways to go. After this was another set of 20 push-ups, again performed at the same rhythm as before. I was really starting to feel the burn now. Core Fusion prides itself on its "Strength in Stillness" philosophy and Fred mentioned this a couple of times during class. I now understand exactly what that means and can vouch for its effectivity.
The arm series was performed using a set of hand weights. I chose 5lbs weights and we did a lot of moves targeting the deltoids and upper arms. The series involved pauses and holds and slow pulses. Again, the pace was slow but the burn was intense.
Thigh work at the barre was next. We placed the rubber ball between our thighs and started off with the chair pose (you hold onto the barre with your arms straight and your body is positioned as if you are sitting in a chair). Slow pulses. Hold. Slow pulses. Hold. My thighs were on fire and beads of sweat started to collect on my forehead. After a few more thigh exercises we moved onto the floor for 'seat' work. The 'pretzel' was going to be the weapon of choice. I hate the pretzel. Basically it is performed like this: you sit on the floor facing the barre, holding onto the barre with both hands, and keeping one leg bent at a 90 degree angle in front of you, you swing the other (working) leg behind you, with your heel close to your butt and you start pulsing it off the ground. This move is killer. If you are doing it correctly (and for the longest time I was not), you really feel it in your butt. Fred was moving around the class, ever watchful of form. He noticed my 'pretzel trouble', came over and eased me into the proper position. Made a huge difference! After repeating this on the other leg and doing an interesting standing split that also involved grabbing the foot of the lifted leg with the opposite hand and performing a mini-balancing act, we moved onto abdominal work.
The first set of abdominals was performed sitting up with our back flat against the wall and our legs stretched out in front. In this position we were asked to raise one leg at a time, then pulse both legs up together and then hold both legs up for a few seconds.I often feel this move in my hips and after class Fred explained that I should contract my abdominals more; that way the other muscles like the hip flexors (in my case) will not be compensating for the lack of adequate abdominal contraction.
The next abdominal set was round back where we slouched down a little from the previous position so that our lower back was on the floor and we performed moves such as raising both legs all the way up, and keeping them straight. I had the same problem again, feeling it more in my hip flexors and less in my abs. We then did a set lying down with our toes on the barre and began crunching and pulsing up.
The last abdominal set is the 'curl.' This is my favorite abdominal section in a barre class and in this series I really felt my abs working. This section is done lying on a mat with your shoulders raised off the mat and your legs slightly bent, resembling a curled position. The class ended with a stretch.
|Fred and Elisabeth doing the 'curl'|
I really liked this class. While it is slower-paced than other barre classes I have taken, not once did I feel like I was not being challenged enough. I felt my heart rate elevate, my muscles burn and I was sweating. As far as I am concerned, all the signs of a great workout. Sure, there is not a lot of cardio, Fred acknowledged, 'but for that we have other classes like Core Fusion Cardio and Core Fusion Bootcamp. This class is for building strength and flexibility.'
I asked Fred about variations to do instead of the flat back and round back section which I was having a hard time with and he said that he tries not to give variations. The key is to make you strong enough to do the exercises as they are meant to be done. Agreed.
1. The Studio: A calm, serene oasis in the middle of a noisy and bustling city.
2. The Instructor: Fred is so knowledgeable. He has been doing this a long long time and it shows. He kept the class challenging, provided gentle corrections and and was very aware of everyone's form.
3. The workout. The "Strength in stillness' philosophy really resonated with me. As someone who has always worked out 'hard' I was pleasantly surprised to note that even with a slower pace I was still able to get a good workout.
4. Locations: There are six studios in New York city so whether you are an east-sider, west-sider, down-town gal or Hamptonite, there is a Core Fusion studio near you. The same goes for dwellers in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Miami and Los Angeles.
1. Price: Like all other barre studios, classes here are expensive at $35 a pop. However, I was looking at the unlimited monthly membership and it is less than that at other studios. Plus you get to try a whole variety of other Core Fusion classes including Cardio, Sport and Bootcamp, along with a few different styles of yoga.
2. The workout: This particular class does not have a lot of cardio so if that is what you are looking for you may not find it here.
3. The abdominal section: I had a hard time with the abdominal section (other than the 'curl' which I loved). This is less a critique of the class and more just frustration on my end at being unable to do it properly. I am going to try Fred's tip on contracting my abdomen further while doing this series in subsequent classes.
This is a great class. I feel really lucky to have taken my first Core Fusion class with one of the co-creators. The choreography flowed seamlessly, and the cues were spot on. While there was not a lot of cardio, I felt constantly challenged. I am planning to go back to try their other classes thanks to a certificate I bought off Gilt a few months ago which I have yet to redeem. Also, they have a great special for first-timers in New York: $40 for one week of unlimited core fusion and yoga classes; and the price goes down to $30 for the Core Fusion-curious in LA, Dallas, Boston and Chicago. Check out their website for details.
A big thank you to Fred Devito for inviting me to take his class, which I enjoyed thoroughly!
Note: While I was provided with an invitation to attend this class the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Have you taken Core Fusion? If so, what has your experience been like with the abdominal series and do you have any tips for me?
If you have not taken Core Fusion what is your favorite ab exercise?