Up until a few weeks ago we didn’t even know what a VersaClimber was, let alone endured a 45-minute class on one. Sure, we’d seen them before, usually in the corner of some studio or gym, ignored by everyone as a “bit of old kit”, we’d never even thought about using it though. That was until BRX took the piece of kit and turned it into one hell of a tough class.
For those, like us, who’ve never heard of them before, a VersaClimber is an exercise machine developed back in 1981 to mimic the movement of climbing. Claimed to be the world’s number one total body vertical trainer, the machine was also the first to incorporate heart rate monitoring as a measurement of exercise, instead of the more traditional speedometer. Essentially that means you monitor your own physical effort instead of things like distance and speed.
So what exactly is the class? Well, it’s a bit like spin. There’s music playing, an instructor is at the front of the class explaining the tempo of the movements and trying to motivate you, and you basically push yourself as hard as you can for 45-minutes. The only difference is that instead of focussing on your legs, you’re moving your arms up and down as well.
The first thing you notice when doing using the machine is that it feels quite weird, we can’t think of any movement that’s comparable. The next thing you notice, once you’ve got used to the movement is that it’s really damn hard. In spin you get a bit of respite, you can take the resistance of and basically just sit down for a bit. With a versa climber you can’t really relax. You can control the resistance if you want but you’re still moving your whole body.
The effort is managed by keeping in time with the music. You can make things a bit easier on yourself by moving your arms and legs a short distance, but the aim is to increase your movement reach using the handy little electronic readout. The further your push out your extremities, the further the reach – and keeping in time with the music demands a lot more effort.
Seriously, it’s one hell of a tough workout, especially if you’ve never done it before. You need to not only keep in time with the music, but make sure you’re keeping your back straight throughout, otherwise you’re going to hurt a lot more the next day. You also, as we found out, need to keep standing up straight or you end up whacking your head on the display screen. 4 times!
If you’re looking for a class that’s doing something a bit differently than what you’re used to, or just trying to find something to really test yourself against, it’s worth a try. Distance is measured in metres climbed so they also do an endurance challenge of how long it takes to climb a vertical mile, along with a series of classes to build up to it. We won’t tell you our time, let’s just say we’ve got a bit of work to do.
VersaClimber at Sweat BXR will cost you £30, with bulk packages available at a discounted rate. To find out more visit the website here.
Picture credits: Sweat by BXR, VersaClimber