Barry's: Everything You Need to Know About the Fitness Craze

Barry's Bootcamp


Perhaps you’ve heard of Barry’s (formerly known as Barry's Bootcamp), a wildly popular fitness studio with more than 70 locations across the U.S. and 13 other countries. Barry’s full-body workout, which consists of cardio and strength training, elevates your heart rate, works your muscles, and burns major calories. So what can you expect from a class, why do people love it, and could it work for you?  

“It's great for anyone who wants to move their body, realize their strength, and feed off of the energy of our incredible community,” says Kate Lemere, chief instructor at Barry’s. “You can choose from classes with treadmill and outdoor running, cycling, body weight, bands, and dumbbells, so there's truly something for everyone.” 

Read on to learn about all things Barry’s before giving it a try.

Meet the Expert

  • Kate Lemere is chief instructor at Barry’s in Chicago.
  • Joe Nicastro is a Barry’s instructor based in Chicago.
  • Dan Lyons, PT, DPT, is a Chicago-based physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine.

What Is Barry’s?

Barry’s classes alternate aerobic activity like running or cycling with strength training. You can pick workouts based on your preferences, like a class for arms and abs work or one with treadmill intervals. Regardless, expect to be active throughout class as you cycle through those endurance and strength-training sections. And prepare to vibe out, says Barry's instructor Joe Nicastro. Workouts take place in what’s called the Red Room, a studio with red mood lighting and bumping music. 

“You’ll never have the same workout twice,” says Nicastro. “Each trainer programs their own workout. We’re dedicated to executing it in a fun and safe way, and we want to see each and every client succeed.”

Best for: Burning Calories, Building Endurance and Muscle

Barry’s workouts combine high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training to develop endurance and muscle all in one. “The formula of a Barry's workout is as efficacious as it gets,” says Kate, Lemere, chief instructor at Barry's. “Your body gets an aerobic workout to improve your heart health and endurance, coupled with strength training to build muscle, promote fat loss, and increase your metabolic rate.” 

HIIT alternates short bursts of intense exercise with recovery periods of rest or light activity, like sprinting for 30 seconds then walking for 30 seconds. These spurts of intensity cause your heart rate to go up and down in quick succession, which can boost heart health by lowering your blood pressure and resting heart rate and improving your oxygen capacity and circulation, according to Lyons. This also encourages major calorie burn, sometimes as much as 700 to 1,000 calories per class. Your body has to work hard to replenish depleted oxygen from all that heart-pumping HIIT, which means extra calorie and fat burn after the workout.

Barry’s strength training builds muscle through bodyweight exercises, resistance band drills, and weight lifting, says Lemere. Since classes are tailored to specific parts of your body, the strength-training sections might focus on arms and abs, chest and back, or lower body. And weight training benefits more than just your muscles: It can also burn fat, boost your metabolism, and strengthen your bones.

What to Expect During a Barry’s Class

If you’re new to Barry’s, show up about 15 minutes before your first class. Getting to know you is a priority, notes Nicastro, so take that time to meet your instructor, get an overview of the workout, and ask any questions you may have. 

Classes are 45 minutes to an hour long. Workouts start with a dynamic warm-up to prep your body for the activity to come. After that, you’ll hit the ground running (sometimes literally) with treadmill intervals, cycling, weightlifting, or bodyweight work, depending on the class. This could be anything from full-body lifts to biceps curls and bicycle crunches.

Expect to use treadmills, stationary bikes, weights, or resistance bands during your workout, all of which will be ready for you in the Red Room. You’ll finish class with a cool-down to bring your heart rate back to normal and stretch out your muscles. Afterward, you can shower on-site or grab a smoothie at Barry’s Fuel Bar to recharge.

If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry: You don’t have to be a seasoned runner or weightlifter to successfully complete a class, says Lemere. Your instructor will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it throughout the workout. 

You can also try Barry's outdoor or at-home workouts. Check in with your nearest Barry’s studio for outdoor class options or try their virtual classes, some of which require no equipment.  

Benefits of Barry’s

  • Increases endurance: The HIIT drills accelerate your heart rate in a short period of time, which can help your heart pump more efficiently, lower blood pressure, and improve your endurance whether you’re a runner or are new to cardio.
  • Strengthens muscles: Safe weight training puts a healthy strain on your muscles, which creates micro-tears in the tissue. Your muscles grow stronger and bigger as the tissue heals.
  • Burns fat: Cardio coupled with strength training can boost your metabolism and prompt your body to burn fat during and after the workout.

Safety Considerations

“Proper form is crucial when you begin introducing weights,” says Lyons. “You must master the techniques and form before ever adding weight.” Form varies based on the exercises you do during class, so your instructor will guide you through proper technique. Lemere advises talking with your instructor before class to clue them in to any injuries or limitations you have. That way they can help tailor your workout to meet your needs. And throughout class, Lemere says, feel empowered to ask questions, substitute exercises, or modify your form to whatever best serves your body. Physical therapist Dan Lyons, who specializes in sports medicine, also suggests going at your own pace as you develop tolerance for new movements.

Though each person’s rate of recovery is unique, says Lemere, three to four Barry’s workouts per week is ideal to help you consistently reach your goals. And if you have ongoing heart issues, Lyons recommends checking with your doctor before you start any exercise program. 

Barry’s vs. OrangeTheory

Barry’s isn’t the only bootcamp in town: OrangeTheory is another popular fitness studio that combines HIIT and strength training. A key difference between the two is that at OrangeTheory, you wear a heart rate monitor throughout class. Each section of the workout has an ideal heart rate zone (ranging from resting to all out), which you accomplish with the help of feedback from your monitor that’s broadcast on a big screen. Barry’s workouts also encourage your heart rate to rise and fall, but don’t incorporate the heart rate tracker.


What to Wear to Barry’s 

Since these workouts involve high-impact cardio and dynamic floor exercises, wear athletic clothing that you’re comfortable moving around in and that will stay in place during intense sprints, like leggings and a fitted top. Expect to get sweaty, says Lemere, who recommends a headband or ponytail if you have long hair and a water bottle to rehydrate. If you’re taking a treadmill class, bring your running shoes. If not, Lemere advises wearing a stable shoe that's as flat as possible for optimal strength-training performance.


The Takeaway

Barry’s studio classes combine HIIT with strength training that targets specific muscle groups. You’ll alternate between cardio (like the treadmill, outdoor running, or cycling) and floor exercises (like weightlifting and bodyweight drills). These workouts torch calories while building heart health, endurance, and muscle. If you have heart problems, try this class only with your doctor’s blessing, says Lyons. 

“The energy found in the Red Room is one-of-a-kind,” says Lemere. “The music, the connection our community has, and the intensity of the workout cannot be beaten.”

Article Sources
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  2. Hyldahl RD, Hubal MJ. Lengthening Our Perspective: Morphological, Cellular, and Molecular Responses to Eccentric Exercise. Muscle & Nerve. 2013;49(2):155-170. doi:10.1002/mus.24077

  3. Willis LH, Slentz CA, Bateman LA, et al. Effects of Aerobic And/Or Resistance Training on Body Mass and Fat Mass in Overweight or Obese Adults. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012;113(12):1831-1837. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011

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