Class Review: Refine Method
High Intensity Interval Training
117 W 72nd St
Additional NYC Locations: West Village & Upper East Side
New Client Special: $34 buy one, get one free; $99 for 4 classes
1 Class: $34 | Class Packages Available
A More Refined You
With so many boutique fitness studios poppin’ up all over the city, it takes a lot for one to differentiate itself from the rest. Enter: Refine Method. New York’s Smartest Workout. I heard the story and couldn’t wait to try it.
The Refine Method was founded by former New York City Ballet dancer Brynn Putnam. Supposedly, it is the opposite of the barre method. I disagree with this statement, given that the class cannot be compared to barre. It is simply a different workout. People compare it to barre since the founder is a former ballet dancer and the barre method has close associations with former dancers. This method is in line with other interval training workouts that typically have a bootcamp vibe, Kore at the West Village, The Fhitting Room, Exceed Physical Culture, etc. However, there are two things that differentiate this class from the rest- it focuses highly on customizing each workout for the individual and it places a high emphasis on proper form and alignment. Again, maybe it has something to do with the founder being a former ballerina?
The story goes that when Brynn retired from her professional ballet career; she had to find a new way to keep her body fit. While looking for her first gym ever, she started questioning all the myths surrounding fitness and was disillusioned with the slow progress made with typical workouts. Brynn went in search for the right workout. She traveled the country learning from top athletes, trainers, coaches, and scientists and the result was her own method, the Refine Method. The workout is geared towards achieving fast results. “By ‘refining’ the piles of information out there and giving only the best to our clients, we hope to produce a ‘refined’ body – lean, proportional and fit” (Brynn Putnam).
The Refine fitness space is 1 room with minimal equipment. All along the walls, it has its custom built MIT-designed Pulley System which allows for a ton of exercise variety. It also has suspension straps, battle ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, plyometric boxes, and slide boards. No dumbbells in sight.
Photo: Andrew Holz for Refine Method
The method is a full-body; high intensity interval training that has continuous movement with the only rest periods coming from transitions to new exercises. “We focus on training and strengthening by intensifying natural movements your body is designed to do in daily life, activating these muscles in the way they’re meant to be used” (Brynn Putnam).
The class starts with your typical warm-up: cat-cow pose, lunge twists, squats, jumping jacks, and holding the plank pose for 3 minutes. Again, the plank is the most typical and essential warm-up position for a variety of workout methods.
Every class includes a circuit consisting of 6 one minute exercises. The circuit is completed 3 times.
- Squat with kettlebell: As you come up from the squat, you pull the kettlebell up to below the chin, elbows wide, balancing on 1 foot while you lunge forward with the other foot.
- Bicep curls and tricep kickbacks using the Pulley System
- Kettlebell swings
- Lunges on one foot and then the other while raising kettlebell above the head
- On your knees, raising medicine ball on the diagonal
The Signature Cardio Burst
A cardio burst is a short, intense bout of cardiovascular activity. At Refine, we go all out for 20 seconds alternating two heart elevating movements and we rest for 10 seconds. This is repeated 5 times.
Cardio Burst Samples:
Alternating waves with battle ropes: we stand facing the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. We grab one end of the rope in each hand with palms facing in. Raise one arm to shoulder level and then quickly lower back down to start raising the other arm to shoulder level at the same time. We continue alternating as rapidly as possible without losing form.
Sliding side to side on the slide board. Wearing lycra booties, we skate to elevate our heart rate. We stick our seat out which turns the exercise into a skating squat workout! You get your cardio fix by incorporating a hockey exercise in your workout.
Photo: Andrew Holz for Refine Method
Class is Refined for YouI strongly believe that proper form, position, and alignment come first. Technique trumps endless repetitions or heavy weightlifting.Click To Tweet
I think Brynn’s New York City Ballet background and her extensive research on a results-driven workout made position and alignment a priority. And believe me the classes hold up this ideal. Out of all the interval training type classes I’ve been to, Refine is the only place where my form is corrected and perfected over and over. This in turn changes the way I work out. I take a more mindful approach to all exercises. Therefore, I see faster results.
The deep focus on form and alignment makes a huge difference in a class where you can do a lot of things wrong. Body parts that shouldn’t be strained, for example the knees and lower back, can easily get strained. Another interval based class with a bootcamp feel that shares similar exercises, circuit repetitions, and minimal equipment is The Fhitting Room. However, this class can have up to 24 people, so there is a lack of personal attention. You can perform many movements wrong and never get corrected. To be fair, The Fhitting Room usually has two instructors per class so it’s better than most studios. At Refine, there are 12 to 14 stations, hence 12 to 14 people per class. The personalization you receive includes the encouragement to lift heavier and/or ways to make an exercise more difficult for your level. This way, you are guaranteed results.
In all the Refine Method classes I’ve been to, I’ve received multiple corrections on exercises that I’ve done multiple times at other studios and thought I had nailed down. The best moments in class is when my technique really gets looked at. I carry this with me not only in other fitness classes but in how I walk and move in my everyday life.
Top 10 corrections I’ve received at Refine that can help anyone:
- When doing pushups, lift the hips a little more than you would think. When the teacher adjusted the position for me, the pushups felt strange (a different sensation). This means I’ve been doing them with a little sag in my hips (which is why I felt it in my lower!) all this time.
- The same correction above applies to the plank! It takes time and effort to discover the ideal hip point, which is why corrections are imperative!
- In side plank, pull shoulder blades together and feel the heart open.
- When doing step back lunges, avoid tucking the toes of the foot that steps back. The toes un-tucked require more leg stability and balance. This means we put more effort and develop strength.
- When sprinting in place, use the arms and move them quickly. This engages the body as a whole. Sprinting usually means that you need to go all out for a short amount of time. Engaging the arms enhances the movement.
- In kettlebell swings, bend knees less and swing the bell using only the seat and core muscles. Do not engage the knees or thighs. Engage the stomach, so the lower back doesn’t feel it. Lift the bell only as high as the chest.
- During double kettlebell swings, step feet together to avoid pressure on the knees.
- When using a plyometric box to do step-up lunges, use the leg that is stepping up on the box more than the opposite leg. The easy way to make sure all of the weight is on the working leg, is to lean forward 45 degrees while stepping up.
- When using the plyometric box to work the seat muscles by sitting on it and standing up holding a kettlebell, sit and stand up using just one leg, while extending the other and have it not touch the ground. This focuses the effort and engages the seat muscles even more.
- When doing bicep curls on the pulley system, keep elbows steady and behind your rib cage. This focuses the strength on the biceps.
The Upper West Side studio is the perfect size. It is modern, clean, and has all the essentials you need to shower and get ready for work in the morning. As previously mentioned, you receive a lot of personal attention given that there are 14 stations inside the studio. The space has two shower rooms. Showers are a must for every studio in Manhattan and I immediately discard studios that don’t have them. The majority of New Yorkers go to morning classes before work, which makes shower availability non-negotiable. Additionally, some people have plans after evening classes and therefore also need showers. The space is perfect for a boutique studio in Manhattan.
The Class: Personalized bootcamp vibe. It’s like having a personal trainer!
The Music: Top forty
The Teacher: Motivational, personally invested in your form, and technique focused
The Space: State of the art equipment, as well as unique equipment such as the MIT-designed Pulley System and slide boards.
The Amenities: Everything you need but in a small scale.
The Level: The class is personalized and is good for anyone, whether you are a seasoned gym-goer, a yoga guru, or brand new to the fitness world. It’s hard and you will sweat. The constant movement requires a lot of energy.