May 072014

I tried 9Round for the first time last week. It’s billed as “30 minutes of kickbox fitness.” From the website:

9Round is a specialized fitness center dedicated to serving clients who want a unique, fun, and proven workout that guarantees results. 9Round offers traditional “old school” boxing and kickboxing fitness programs that incorporate functional, interval, cardiovascular, and circuit training regimens. The programs consist of a proprietary system of 9 challenging workout stations developed by a professional fighter. 9Round delivers total body results in a quick and convenient 30 minute workout with no class times and a trainer with you every step of the way.

It’s an interesting concept. The premise is that you spend 3 minutes at each of 9 stations, with 30 seconds of active recovery between stations. Some of the stations are fixed — you always start with either jump rope or running in place with high knees and end with ab work) but many of the stations in between vary. The emphasis is on upper body work – lots of punching — and abs. Leg/glute work is fairly minimal.

So far, I’ve gone three times. One of the hallmarks of the program is that, unlike Crossfit (another metabolic-style fitness program), 9Round never uses heavy weights. I did kettlebell swings with a 5-pound kettlebell. By contrast, at Crossfit, the women’s prescribed weight (the weight you are expected to work up to) is anywhere from 35-54 pounds, depending on the number of reps. Obviously, this leads to a big difference in how much muscle a person can gain at 9Rounds. This is somewhat disconcerting to me, since I think having muscle is a good thing. No, I’m not talking about looking like the hulk, but nicely defined shoulders look great, in my opinion. And weight-bearing exercise protects bones.

The most disconcerting part of 9Round has been the trainer. The site claims that a trainer is “with you every step of the way.” Well, not so much, at least, not at the facility I went to. True, there’s a trainer there. He (mine have both been men) makes sure people are staggered at the stations, calls out a 30-second warning when the round is close to ending, and shows you how to do the movement at the start of the round. But after that brief show-and-tell, he does not offer any tips or corrections as you complete the round.

The metabolic side of 9Round is a mixed bag. Because I’ve allowed myself to get out of condition when it comes to endurance type exercises, I am currently feeling very challenged. Station 8 of the circuit is an eye-hand coordination movement with the speed bag (no cardio here) and Station 9 is abs (again, no cardio). So the actual metabolic part of the circuit occurs for just 24 minutes. On the plus side, because of the way the stations are laid out, it is a HIIT-style program, which leads to greater increases in things like fat-burning and VO2 max than low-intensity, steady state cardio. Also, the workout can be scaled so that both those just starting out and those already in shape can benefit.

The strengths of the program are two-fold: it’s quick and the workout changes. I can do almost anything for 3 minutes, so even when I’m at a station doing something I really don’t enjoy, I know I only have to get through 3 minutes and then I’ll be on to something else. And I like that it isn’t the same thing each time. I get bored easily and having things mixed up is nice.

My overall rating is a solid B and likely a B+ when combined with more traditional gym workouts. I am thinking of doing 9Round three times a week and the gym twice a week. I’ll keep you posted!

Update: I never went back to 9Round after my initial try, but I plan to in the next week or two. Stay tuned!

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