Wherever you stand on the subject, there’s obviously something to the age-old adage that size matters. In fitness, that is. Plenty of people (and studios) extol bigger, heavier weights, faster reps, and double-time everything as the key to being in great shape. But every time we hit up ModelFIT, we’re tempted to cheer for the other team, Team Stamina, Subtlety and Shaking Limbs. ModelFIT’s quiet intensity and intention is a great reminder that there’s a big difference between the ability to swing a big, heavy kettlebell frantically between our legs, and strength.

At first, we thought ModelFIT’s methodology – sculpting lean muscles and a strong core using slow, controlled, exhaustive movements – sounded pretty similar to that of many barre and pilates classes out there, so we wondered how ModelFIT would stack up in that company. The answer is very, very well. The pace and format of the class are on point; not a second of the hour is wasted, and every fleeting water break came at the exact moment when we were ready to wave the white flag. Our instructor was energetic and encouraging, but never crossed the line into over-the-top territory. (We’ve experienced other “restrained” classes where instructors overcompensate with unnatural fervor, which is not our favorite look.)

ModelFIT delivers one of the best toning workouts we’ve ever encountered, with plenty of focus on ass, legs, core, and arms; and the props are exactly right to get the job done. Along with light dumbbells and ankle weights, we utilized resistance bands (sometimes for an extra challenge; sometimes for stability), and a skateboard contraption (wheels-free, and bearing no resemblance to the sk8tr boi kind) that allowed us to tap into different muscles on a single movement based on its positioning, and demanded mucho balance. Most of the butt/legs exercises were unilateral, but had an arm component that kept our shoulders burning the whole time. With the exception of some short cardio bursts where we sprinted in place, pretty much the whole class works one side and then the other, so balance goes a long way. For us, that means working really hard to engage our core, which is not f*cking easy, and we still fell over a lot. This could have been frustrating, but our instructor’s reassurance to stick with it (and modification suggestions) made us feel like our Leaning Tower of Pisa tendencies were perfectly acceptable.

As for the actual exercises, we did squats, leg lifts, and eventually some tough glute and oblique exercises in tabletop (cat-dog, the exercise, not the Nickelodeon legend; more leg lifts; endless pulsing) and some hardcore ab work using a resistance band (wrapped around the barre for controlled tension). But what stood out to us most was lunging in every way imaginable – front, side, back, curtsey, full range, pulsing. When we thought we were done lunging, we did some more lunges using a gliding disc to glide into these positions, which somehow created a totally different, yet equally intense, sensation. Our instructor let us know we were hitting a all of the tiny, little muscle fibers in our glutes, and we believed her.

Ultimately, we think ModelFIT’s no bullsh*t approach to toning and sculpting puts the studio in a league of its own; and could school even the biggest, baddest Cross Fit junkie on a thing or two about real strength.

Gonna Cost You
ModelFIT classes are on the steeper side at $40/class (includes price of class plus small wager on seeing Karlie Kloss or another VS supermodel). There are a couple of intro class specials, but be careful or you’ll end up like us – hooked and broke. In case this doesn’t go without saying, you won’t find this studio on ClassPass. Also worth noting, if you’re planning to shower post-class, towels are $2 a pop.

Instrutor Vibe
One thing that really resonates with us is when an instructor leads by example. Especially when you’re in pain after doing 9,000 lunges and fear for the safety of your left butt cheek. Without compromising hands on corrections, our instructor seemed to be right there with us pulsing and pushing through each exercise, and at the exact instant we wanted to give up would help us find a small reserve of energy by reminding us that we didn’t have much time left in class together.

Studio Sitch
For those of you who have come across ModelFIT’s #212crew hashtag, you might be thinking it’s a NYC thing. Wrong, it’s a ModelFIT thing. As in their address. Which also happens to be tricky to find (tip: the studio is on the west side of Bowery; look closely, enter, climb a flight of stairs to the studio). Bright and homey, ModelFIT feels more like a sun-splashed living room that’s been adapted into a workout haven than a gym. The aura does not translate to the amenities game, however. There’s a single locker room (reserved for women, from what we can tell) with lockers that are BYO lock, two showers (we’ve definitely experienced clean-up back-up after an early morning slot) and blowdryers to finish the job.