The backlit sign at the entrance to Strong says “down for more”. It’s definitely a statement, not a question, and sets the tone for the push-the-limits workout ahead.

Classes at Strong use what’s called a Rowformer, a reformer Pilates bed on one side, and a rowing machine on the other. This combination makes for an intense full-body workout that fuses cardio training (the rower) with strength and resistance (Pilates).

Strong was co-founded by Michael Ramsey and Mark Armstrong, personal trainers who have previously owned six F45 outlets, and co-founded a yoga studio.

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“We’ve been in the game for a while now,” Ramsey says. “But we always wanted to do something where we could be 100 per cent creative, something that was new to the industry.”

The inspiration comes from Newport Beach, California (where the concept goes by the name Hardtfit). After learning about it on Instagram, the pair travelled overseas to test it out before acquiring the rights to use the patented machine in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. The Elsternwick studio is the first Aussie outpost.

“It was actually the hardest workout I’d ever done,” Ramsey confesses. “There’s something between the fast- and slow-twitch movements that absolutely destroys you.”

The industrial studio space has exposed white-brick walls, polished concrete floors and black metal finishes. Its signature scent is from New Zealand’s Perfume Playground with notes of saffron and cognac to keep the studio’s aroma fresh. The 15 Rowformers take centre stage, with a mirror spanning the length of the room to encourage good technique.

The studio offers five different 50-minute classes, which are high intensity, low impact and can be adjusted to suit your preferred pace.

Strong Body is the signature of the five classes. It features three five-minute blocks of rowing, and variations such as 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off, and distance rows. Then you’ll move to the reformer to cover core work, legs and upper body, then back to the rower to finish up.

“You could be going from a very heavy lunge into rowing. And then while your heart rate’s elevated and you’re trying to get your breath back, all of a sudden you’re back on the reformer trying to hold a pike.”

The Strong Core class focuses on abdominal and core strength; Strong Burn works on balance and stability; and Strong Resistance strengthens the legs, bum and upper body. Strong Form is Ramsey and Armstrong’s version of a Sunday run. “It’s a lot more core-focused, less intense and we’ll do a nice long row,” Ramsey says.

Strong worked with local DJ Gaz Kempster to curate a playlist to match the two-part workouts. Expect R’n’B for reformer, and when it’s time to row, the lights come down and the playlist kicks into deep house tunes.

Showers are available for post-workout and It’s BYO grip socks, sweat towel and water bottle. At the end of each class, the instructor hands out eucalyptus-scented, chilled towels.

Punters are encouraged to leave phones in a locker to abide by Strong’s “burn now, brag later” policy. “When you go into the studio it’s time to get to work,” Ramsey says. “We’re not about selfies on the machine.”

Strong is at 480B Glen Huntley Road, Elsternwick. Single classes are $36, five packs are $165, 10 packs are $300 and memberships start at $30 per week. Intro offers are available, too.

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 30, 2020. Some details may have changed since publication.