Hybrid workouts mash up aerobic and strength training for a new challenge

Aaron Small jumps to kick the boxing bag in a class at Krav Maga in Los Angeles. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

There was cardio, and there was strength. In the gym, the two have long been separate entities, in separate sections, often with separate audiences. If you wanted both, you hit the weights first and then jumped into an aerobics or spinning class, or vice versa. But that's changing.



Hybrid workouts: In the June 21 Saturday section, an article about classes that combine forms of exercise referred to the co-founder of Exhale Gym in Santa Monica as Elisabeth Papp. Her name is Elisabeth Halfpapp.


Meet the hybrids — classes that hit you with a bunch of activities that you aren't used to seeing together: running, rowing, kettle bells, sandbags, dumbbells, calisthenics, stretching, yoga, a ballet barre and more. Hybrid workouts throw aerobic and strength workouts in a blender, turn up the speed to purée and dare you to keep up. Classes such as ShockWave, which combines rowing and weights, or Orangetheory, which combines running and rowing with strength and stretching, are thriving.

"That's because everyone wants to get as much as possible out of an hour nowadays," says Elisabeth Papp, who added an aerobic function to her long-standing New York Core Fusion Barre and expanded nationwide in the last couple of years. "Mixing it up is effective and fast."

Ultimately, people pay a gym to push them out of their comfort zone. These hybrid classes seem to do a good job at that.


The mix: Rowing and strength exercises

The routine: Row for 90 seconds. Pump weights for 90 seconds. Slam sandbags to the floor for 90 seconds. Do medicine-ball sit-ups for 90 seconds. Then hit the rower again, do prone exercise-ball dumbbell flies, Bosu-ball jump squats, push-ups and lunges, all for 90 seconds each. Then do the whole set two more times.

ShockWave is frantic, exhausting and exhilarating, a frenzied nonstop rush through eight workout stations. It uses interval training to jack your pulse through the roof with the rowing (done as twice-per-set races) and delivers a good strength-training pump. The best part is how fast it's done; urgently racing from station to station, you lose track of time. When it was over, 60 minutes seemed to have gone by in 10.

The feedback: First-timers I talked to after my class at the Irvine Equinox were impressed. "The music, the energy, the cardio, the full-body workout — it was very motivating," said Person Garcia, 46, a salesman from Costa Mesa who lifts weights and runs twice a week. "Because of this class, I'm going to join this club."

"Rowing can be intimidating in large doses because it's a new movement pattern, so we made it more palatable by breaking it up into small pieces and mixing it up with the other stuff," says ShockWave co-creator Josh Crosby, a former U.S. national team rower. "The combination of the interval training with strength stations keeps it exciting and works everything on your body. Nobody jumps on a Spin bike after this."

He was right. I'd planned to go for a swim after ShockWave. I got as far as the hot tub.

Information: www.equinox.com

Orangetheory Fitness

The mix: Running, rowing, weights, suspension straps, stretching

The routine: It's one thing for a trainer to push you to go faster, harder. It's another to see your effort measured and displayed in vivid colors on a big video screen up on the wall, where everyone else can see if you're dogging it or not. That's the hook at Orangetheory, a franchised gym that outfits you with a networked heart-rate monitor before you start. An instructor pushes you to run and row faster to get your heart rate into the "orange" — a challenging "interval-training" zone that represents 82% to 91% of your maximum heart rate. If you go too slowly, the color of your rectangle on the big screen is green or blue; push too hard and your color changes to red, meaning it's an all-out effort you can't sustain for more than 30 seconds. The goal is to stay in the orange as long as possible, ultimately accumulating 12 to 20 minutes there by workout's end.

The orange zone not only burns more calories than a more normal pace, it also keeps burning fat long after you're done by jacking up your metabolism and post-exercise oxygen consumption. More important, the psychological reward of seeing your name in orange up on the screen keeps you pushing hard. Tellingly, nobody left the room when the workout was done until we all got our "orange" scores and saw how we ranked.

The feedback: "Woo-hoo!" screamed Christina Nunez, a 28-year-old technology recruiter from Newport Beach, when she saw that she'd been in the orange zone for 15 minutes. A lifelong non-exerciser until last year, she'd been doing some Spin and Zumba classes until she heard rave reviews of Orangetheory in October from a friend and signed up. "I'm not a runner or a rower, and I get bored easily, but I won't miss a class of this; unlike with the other stuff, I want to do this," she said. "I love the action, and the muscle definition, which I've never had before. This has turned me on to fitness." In a big way: She's now training for her first 5K run.