Our pick of Manchester's top studios, gyms and fitness places for making your January motivation last all year
JANUARY is a busy month for gym sign-ups thanks to New Year health kicks and post-party-season regrets. And while our resolve might stay strong for a few months, a fair number of us will be paying for a gym membership we rarely use by the time Easter rolls around. So if you’re looking for a new place to get fit, it’s worth doing some research to find the one that’s most likely to hold your interest once your "New Year, New Me" energy has crumbled to dust.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of Manchester city centre’s best places to work out, from Manchester’s cheapest gyms to its most luxurious, with January gym deals, and our view on what makes each one somewhere you'll want to go every few days rather than every few months.
Whether you’re looking for a secret swimming pool, a disco-lit spin session, or a super serene yoga space, there’s a Manchester gym that will (fingers crossed) keep you hooked until next New Year.
BANNATYNE HEALTH CLUB AND SPA| QUAY STREET | ££
Bannatyne’s is one the few gyms in Manchester city centre with a swimming pool - and it’s the only one where that pool is overlooked by an Art Deco dome and a vaguely unnerving mural of moustachioed Victorian gentlemen. Creepy artwork aside, the pool, steam room, saunas and jacuzzis at Bannatyne Quay Street are a big draw in a largely dry gym landscape. (Other gyms with pools in Manchester city centre are The Y Club, Nuffield Health in The Printworks, Rena Health at The Midland, and Pace Health Club at Park Inn.)
But the option for swimming is not the only reason this place has stayed consistently popular over the years. The gym is well-equipped, the changing rooms are warm, well-spaced and pleasant, and the class schedule includes big hitters like Les Mills plus short, lunch hour-friendly HIIT classes. There’s also a spa with discounts on Elemis treatments for members.
Cost: £29.99 a month plus £20 joining fee. Day pass £25.
Good for: if you like your gym trip to feel like a spa day.
BARRY’S BOOTCAMP | LOWER BYROM STREET | ££££
Leading the trend for workout studios that look and feel like a high-tempo club night is US franchise Barry’s Bootcamp. Stepping inside the "Red Room" is a little disconcerting at first. The lights are low, the music is loud and the instructors are yelling instructions through headset microphones. The workout itself is frenetic and challenging, combining treadmill sprints and inclines with weights and functional movement.
Barry’s claims you can burn up to 1000 calories in its classes, and while we can’t corroborate that, we can say from experience that a workout there will blow away any lethargy and give you a huge exercise high. Spacious, luxurious changing rooms and post-workout protein shakes help the endorphins to last.
Cost: monthly memberships from £170 for 12 classes. Single class £18. Classes from £12 with a class pack.
Good for: weight loss and body sculpting, lifting your mood.
January deal: Barry’s Hell Week Challenge starts w/c 30 January and costs £80 for seven classes in seven days.
BLOK | DUCIE STREET WAREHOUSE | £££
If you’re not a fan of grinding out reps alone with just a playlist for company, you will appreciate the connections and community found at this class-based gym. BLOK became a success in London before opening its stylish Manchester studio in 2018 - and although it looks very "designer" and "boutique", the atmosphere is friendly and down-to-earth.
BLOK Manchester offers a wide range of contrasting classes across its three spaces, including strength, various forms of yoga, boxing, barre, callisthenics, HIIT, meditation, and pilates. So you’re not likely to get bored or stuck in an exercise rut. The quality of teaching is high: you can learn how to dance, spar, or master the crow pose through the coaching here. And it’s right inside Ducie Street Warehouse so coffee and brunch is always an option after class.
Cost: from £84 a month for ten classes. Single class £15.
Good for: getting immersed in learning a new skill, challenging yourself, mixing different types of exercise.
F45 TRAINING MANCHESTER NQ | PICCADILLY | ££££
Backed by Mark Wahlberg (or Marky Mark as he’ll always be to us Gen Xers) F45 is a global class-based gym. The F stands for functional, the 45 is the length of the workouts. So in other words, it’s HIIT and circuits that’ll challenge you and slot easily into your workday. Do four or five of these a week and you’ll be flying with your fitness goals.
From what we’ve seen and heard, the folks there have a whole lot of fun while they train. There are disco workouts, team hikes, drag queens, and strong fit-fam vibes. With a "no mirrors, no egos" policy, it’s one for serious fitness folk who don’t take themselves too seriously.
Cost: £150 a month for a one year contract, £170 a month for no contract (both unlimited classes). Single class £20. Ten class pack £150. Trial price £40 for two weeks of unlimited classes.
Good for: big endorphins from HIIT combined with laughs and community spirit.
January deal: 28 Day Kickstarter for £89. 28 days of unlimited training plus a body scan before and after to track and prove initial results.
GSQUARED | ROYAL EXCHANGE | £££
This luxurious new gym opened last November underneath the Royal Exchange shopping centre - and it’s quite a sight to see. The reception and changing rooms have the plush, secluded feel of a five-star hotel, and the gym itself is visually-stunning. Facilities include a running track, sleep pods, obstacle course, free weights, infrared sauna, studio space, and high-specification CV and strength equipment.
It’s well set up for a mammoth workout but the emphasis at GSquared is on a holistic approach to health that takes in your emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing, as well as your physical fitness. A sophisticated induction programme will measure your cortisol levels, spinal alignment, metabolic type and body composition. GSquared’s owner Andy McGlynn believes gyms should offer their clients more than just a way to build their muscles, though if that’s your main goal, they can certainly help.
Cost: from £95 per month.
Good for: addressing burn-out and stress, getting some luxury into your work day.
THE GYM | DEANSGATE | £
This massive gym facility hidden away in the bowels of the Great Northern Warehouse has changed hands several times, switching from Virgin Active, to Lifestyle Fitness, and now to low-cost, no-contract chain The Gym Group. And although the price has dropped accordingly, the high-specification equipment and bigger-than-average space has stayed, so you’re effectively getting a mid-range gym membership for a budget price.
Key features include a full-size rig for callisthenics, a large studio space with a couple of classes running each day (a fuller timetable will return soon), a ladies' gym, and lots of well-maintained equipment: think three or four of each resistance machine rather than just one, and several free-weights areas with multiple benches. This means that even in peak times (5-7.30pm) you shouldn’t find yourself queuing for equipment.
Cost: from £16.99 per month (£5 joining fee). Day pass £6.99.
Good for: lots of high-specification equipment (the kit here attracts elite fitness folk) for a low price.
THE LIFE CENTRE| DEANSGATE | £££
The Life Centre specialises almost exclusively in yoga and meditation so if you want to get deep into your practice, and be part of a thriving community of yogis, here’s your place.
Classes range from strength-building ashtanga to warm yin with nidra. The hot yoga classes are deservedly popular; the small changing rooms can get a little full around these times and you’re advised to book ahead. There are a few pilates and barre classes on the schedule too.
The specialist focus on yoga attracts some of the city’s most experienced teachers so you can expect a high level of coaching. The Life Centre also offers in-depth workshops and courses with visiting teachers, plus regular retreats such as forest-bathing and yoga weekends in the Lakes.
Cost: from £75 a month (unlimited classes). Class packs from £9 a class. Single class £15. 21 days for £30 unlimited yoga to new members.
Good for: meeting fellow yogis, mixing different forms, taking your practice to the next level.
PUREGYM | MARKET STREET | £
Love it or loathe it, you have to admit that PureGym Market Street is well-priced and well-placed if you want to workout near work, and don’t want to pay a ton of money to do it. This nationwide chain is known for its back-to-basics, no-contract approach but you might be surprised by what it delivers for the price (which starts from less than a fiver a week).
There are over 200 pieces of equipment plus a prowler track, a rig, battle ropes, and 50 free classes a week. Of course, the low fees mean it’s popular so you might want to swerve the busiest times: the app tells you how full it is in real-time, like AA Roadwatch but for gym-goers. Delays at the squat racks, suggested diversion via the rowing machines. (Okay, it’s not that detailed but it’ll give you a general idea). Also, it’s open 24-hours so it’s great for shift workers.
Cost: £14.99 per month off-peak, £21.99 per month standard, plus one-off £10 joining fee. Day pass £7.99.
Good for: getting fit on a budget without being locked into a contract.
January deal: £0 joining fee.
UP FITNESS | SPINNINGFIELDS | ££££
If you’re serious about transforming your health - and can spend a fair chunk of money doing so - UP Fitness in Spinningfields’ XYZ Building could be for you. Known for its dramatic before and after pics, it sells blocks of one-to-one personal training sessions, typically 36 over 12 weeks. As well as the sessions, you benefit from a personal nutrition and cardio plan, daily support from your PT, and a just-launched app.
An eye-popping six-pack is quite an achievement but we’re personally more impressed by the changes you can’t see. UP Fitness trainers talk of clients who finish their programme with a completely new mindset and transformed habits. If you’ve tried to change your lifestyle before but never quite made it stick, it could be worth the investment.
Cost: from £1008 per month for 36 sessions over three months + £150 sign-up fee.
Good for: lots of one-to-one support and visible results within a few months.
V1BE | LIFESTYLE FITNESS | MOSLEY STREET | £££
Long-established health club brand Lifestyle Fitness has collaborated with boutique gym V1BE in this new opening on Mosley Street. The V1BE influence is evident in the edgy, industrial design, and in the classes which follow V1BE’s signature mix of treadmills mixed with HIIT. Try the popular STR1KE class to build up your endurance levels with a mix of running, weight resistance training and boxing on the bags.
Unlike other class-based gyms, such as Barry’s Bootcamp and BLOK, V1BE | Lifestyle also offers a gym floor for independent training. There’s CV equipment, functional training and free weights, and although it’s not huge, there is generally enough space to get your workout done without treading on other people’s toes.
Cost: gym only £29. Gym and six classes £49. Gym and unlimited classes £69. All with a £10 joining fee.
Good for: if you want a great class experience combined with a place to train on your own.
January deal: no joining fee for the month of January using code NJF2022.
THE Y CLUB | CASTLEFIELD | ££
Long before the era of boutique gyms and signature workouts, The Y Club was keeping Manchester fit and happy from its health club in Castlefield. The facilities here are impressive, and more akin to a good leisure centre than a city centre gym. There’s an 18m swimming pool, a sports hall, a running track, class studios, saunas, and a recently-updated gym. Plus a car park too. Classes and sports clubs include badminton, body blast, muay Thai, basketball, yoga, spin, boxercise and more. You don’t need to be a member to go to a class and they're just £5 - an absolute bargain for the city centre.
Some of the sports teams here have a strong history behind them, such as the Y Club’s wrestling team and their harriers. It describes itself as "the friendliest health club" in Manchester which is a tricky metric to measure but we’ll go with it. It’s certainly unpretentious and accepting and, yes, friendly too.
Cost: from £33 per month (peak) and £29 per month (off-peak) including all classes. Non-members £5 a class or £10 for a day pass.
Good for: Team sports, extensive facilities, and a community feel.
Read again: BLOK Manchester - is this your new gym for 2020?
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