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I'm a personal trainer – and these are the best gyms I've tried

Personal trainer Lucy Gornall rounds up the best gyms in London

best gyms london
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If upping your fitness levels in 2023 was one of your new year's resolutions, you're not alone. According to boxing gym Geezer's Boxing, searches for 'gym membership' in the UK have shot up by over 200% as of January 2023.

With temperatures absolutely freezing right now, it can be hard to motivate yourself to run outside in the capital, thankfully, London is filled with a number of studios and gyms where you can hone in on your fitness goals, without catching a chill.

Whether you want to improve your fitness, boost your strength, work on your flexibility, or simply break a sweat, there's a gym for you.

I’ve tried and tested endless London gyms and these are the best.

Happy woman dancing in gym gear© Photo: Getty Images

Best all-around studio

Psycle, various locations

Originally a spin-only studio, Psycle now offers a plethora of workouts for a full body and mind approach, plus they just opened their fanciest space yet, in Victoria's Eccleston Yards in London. Think sleek finishings, state-of-the-art changing rooms and friendly staff, and you're along the right lines. 

Yoga, barre, Reformer Pilates and strength are the other options available at Psycle, alongside their infamous spin class.

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If you fancy something more functional that will help build muscle whilst also getting your heart rate high, then Strength is ideal.

The brand has several studios across London, although their Oxford Circus studio (a 5-minute walk from the tube), offers the full selection of classes, spanning over four fabulous floors. But since Victoria just opened, it had to be our favourite! 

The beauty of Psycle isn't just their workouts, it's their community. There's nothing intimidating about Psycle; everyone is welcoming, positive and encouraging. The changing rooms are clean and well-lit, and toiletries are provided in and around the showers as well as GHD straighteners and hair dryers.

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Best UK gym chain

Fitness First, locations worldwide

A renowned name in the fitness industry, Fitness First has 39 gyms in the UK, with 28 based in London. Although the gyms do vary in size and equipment availability, the London Bridge Cottons platinum gym offers the full shebang.

A fully equipped weights room, a functional fitness area (sleds, box jumps, bars and the likes), a stretching area, a pool, sauna and steam room, a cardio area, a boxing room, a spin studio and various other rooms that host the gym’s expansive range of classes.

Woman working out in the gym lifting dumb bells© Photo: Getty Images

The changing rooms are huge, there are more than enough showers and there are several hair dryers. Bring your own toiletries though.

Best gym for running

1Rebel, various locations

Treadmill lovers, rejoice! There's a class just for you. 1Rebel's Reshape class focuses on treadmills and dumbbells, for a heart-raising, muscle-toning 50-minute workout.

It's sweaty, it's tough but it offers a big endorphin-rush. Everyone is assigned a treadmill or dumbbell bench station to start at and throughout the class, you swap between the tread and dumbbells.

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On the treadmill, I was put through my paces with sprints, inclines and also heavy runs using the treadmill's sled option.

Safe to say, my light grey t-shirt was no longer light by the end of the session. Expect a full range of toiletries, plenty of hair styling electronics and some vibey mood lighting.

Best gym for boxing

Kobox, various locations in London

Boxing is phenomenal for improving fitness, toning up and helping relieve stress. For me, nothing beats the feeling of putting on some gloves and smacking a punch bag as hard as possible. Crazy, me? Never. Anyway, when I want a 50-minute boxing blast, I head straight to Kobox.

'Fight club meets nightclub' is Kobox’s slogan, and they're not wrong. Lights, loud music and a room filled with punch bags. The boxing combinations (jab, cross, hook and uppercuts) are projected on the wall, so there’s no confusion as to what you should be doing. I love the fact that alongside the boxing are a number of HIIT style movements using resistance bands, bodyweight and heavy plates.

Woman kicking a boxing bag in the gym© Photo: Getty Images

Half the class is spent boxing, half is spent on strength and HIIT. The gloves at Kobox are also nice; glossy, well kept and clean.

The changing rooms give off an edgy, warehouse, underground vibe, with great toiletries and styling products.

Best gym for CrossFit

WIT Fitness, St Paul’s London,

Crossfit - high intensity, functional movements - is no longer reserved solely for the super fit and strong sporting six packs In fact, anyone can practise CrossFit. The proof is at WIT, which stands for Whatever It Takes.

WIT has become a brand unto itself with the gym space in central London sitting under the WIT shop, which sells their own-brand gym wear, footwear (think Nike Metcon style trainers; the creme de la creme of Crossfit shoes) and 'gym food' such as protein powders.

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The gym gloor space has 'open' hours where you can work out solo, plus a timetable of classes.

I did one of the Metcon classes. I found myself being put through my paces with various weighted movements (the Kettlebell Turkish get up was a tricky one) as well as blasts on the rowing machine and assault bike.

Man and woman doing sit ups in the gym© Photo: Getty Images

It was fun, I felt challenged, and I also learnt a lot. Plus, my instructor Gus was on hand throughout to offer advice, help me master any tricky moves and encourage me to go heavier on my barbell press.

The changing rooms are small, so I'd recommend saving your hair wash for another day as you might find yourself waiting for a shower or struggling to use a hairdryer for long enough.

Best bargain gym

PureGym, various locations in London 

With many of us feeling the pinch this January thanks to the cost of living, PureGym proves that there are still purse-friendly options available. Prices start from £15.99 per month, and many gyms are open 24-hours, so you can work out whenever suits you.

There’s an abundance of equipment and when I swung by the Lewisham gym, I was surprised at just how many weights there were.

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If you fancy doing a class, expect a timetable with more than 50 classes. Be sure to pack your own toiletries and towel for after though.

Best gym for rowing

Rowbots, City and Fitzrovia

With two studios in London, Rowbots offers classes that split time between the rowing machine and weights. The classes have been designed by professional athletes, including footballer Gareth Bale.

There are various rowing machines on the market, however Rowbots uses the water rower which I feel offers a much smoother stroke that feel closer to rowing on water.

inside London rowing gym class rowbots© Photo: Instagram

The class was great; I felt every muscle working, and because the rower is the cardio of choice, my knees didn't take a beating, as they would on the treadmill running.

The changing rooms are lovely too; clean, plenty of toiletries and hair stylers, and they're spacious.

Best premium gym

Third Space, various locations in London

'High-end health club' is the phrase I would use to describe Third Space. All of their eight London-based clubs are spacious, sleek and offer state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.

The facilities do vary across the gyms but expect swimming pools, spas, medical centres and climbing walls.

Changing rooms inside Third Space© Photo: Instagram

The Soho club is home to an Altitude Chamber which is designed to simulate the altitude of Le Panoramic in Chamonix. AKA, you’re working out in an environment with less oxygen.

Third Space also has an impressive roster of classes, which all fall under one of six pillars; Athletic & Rig, Studio Cycling, Mind & Body, Strength & Conditioning, Combat and Dance.

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One of the best things about Third Space is its changing rooms which are filled with beautiful toiletries, the best lighting, comfortable seating and plenty of electronics to make hair styling a doddle

Of course, high spec does come at a high price; monthly membership starts at £200.

Best gym for low-impact

FS8, Oxford Circus London

The globally renowned F45 training has launched FS8, their low-impact exercise innovation which combines Pilates, Tone and Yoga into one 50-minute circuit workout.

Personally, I devote too-little time to low-impact exercise, so this was a great way to move without battering my body. As someone who struggles to slow down the pace however, I found this class great as it's still intense and I was breaking a sweat within minutes.

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The Reformer Pilates machine is one which I am unfamiliar with and I can honestly say I have never felt my inner thighs work so hard. Plus, I later found out that FS8’s daily workouts are remixed from over 5,000 exercises, ensuring no two workouts are ever the same.

Best gym for quirky classes

Gymbox, various London locations,

If it's epic lighting, DJs and workouts with a twist, then Gymbox is great.

Their 10 London gyms are kitted out with the best equipment from cardio machines through to weights, as well as Olympic sized boxing rings and combat cages. But, it's Gymbox's class list that really keeps me hooked.

I've tried several of their classes over the years; once, I ate chilli peppers whilst undergoing a HIIT workout. Supposedly, more calories are burnt thanks to the hot chilli heat paired with the intensity of the exercises.

With names such as Gassed, Reppin’, Strongman and Tumbling, these aren't just any old gym class. Expect to work hard, whether you're sweating, biking, fighting or fancy a bit of rehab to work on your imbalances, there is a class for you.

Gymbox's latest class addition is a dance class in partnership with OnlyFans. Essentially, it looks to seduce members into a world of new-found camera-ready confidence with burlesque dance.

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Best gym for calisthenics

Blok, London and Manchester

Calisthenics tends to just use body weight. But don't be fooled. It's strength training that focuses on large muscle groups, with many moves involving grip such as pull-ups and dips.

If you've heard of the human flag- holding on to a vertical object (such as a pole) and holding your body perpendicular to the object- then you’ll know about callisthenics. Serious strength is required.

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Blok is in my opinion, the best place to work on calisthenics; I found myself breaking a sweat on the rings, which was a new thing for me and tested my upper body like never before.

The studios are sleek, well-lit, and clean and the changing rooms are beautiful. If you're off to work after a morning workout, you’ll feel good getting ready at Blok.

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