Unsurprisingly, David Beckham’s fitness regime isn’t easy.
The legendary footballer has given us a glimpse into the intense way he trains, by creating a cardio class with F45 (f45training.co.uk), alongside F45’s chief of athletics, Gunnar Peterson. With football-inspired explosive movements and negligible rest periods, it’ll leave you dripping with sweat.
The partnership makes sense: Beckham, 47, has invested in F45 since 2020, and has been a partner in opening the new (and extremely swanky) studio in High Street Kensington in London – where the ex-footballer works out himself.
We went to the new studio to see what it’s really like to workout like a footballer…
What does the class entail?
The class is 45 minutes of pure cardio, with Peterson saying Beckham wanted the exercises “to be reminiscent of his football training”.
There are 11 stations, and it’s set up like a classic HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class – you do two rounds on each station before moving onto the next, cycling through that twice – before ending on a brutal three-and-a-half-minute finisher of bodyweight exercises (appropriately called ‘extra time’).
“Explosive, power-focused movements, as well as multi-directional agility exercises, are all training types you would need to be able to play football at a high level,” explains Peterson – and they play a big part in the workout.
While each class will slightly vary, the session I did hit almost every body part, using a mix of bodyweight and weighted exercises. This ranged from fast feet into burpees and press-ups combined with jumping side to side, to high pulls using a barbell and lunges with diagonal bicep curls.
There are lots of little tributes to Beckham and his career weaved into the workout – sets are either 32 or 23 seconds of work, paying homage to his shirt numbers (he wore 23 at Real Madrid and LA Galaxy, and 32 at Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan – sadly his number for Manchester United and England, seven, didn’t make it into the workout – that would have made things far too easy).
What are the benefits?
“You’re going to have your heart rate elevated the entire time – from the warm-up right the way through,” explains Peterson. Your cardiovascular fitness will be put to the test as you cycle through intense periods of exercise and short rests. “You’re going to have the dips and the highs, and if you think about how that challenges your heart – it’s like starting your car, turning it off, starting your car, turning it off. It’s a lot of demand on the engine.”
While Peterson says other HIIT classes have their merits, what sets this football-inspired workout apart is how it challenges your movement. He says: “You’re moving in different directions, different planes of motion, you’re changing direction midway through – you’re going from upper body to lower body.”
One of the exercises was jumping up and down along a step, then running backwards to start again – a good example of using explosive and fast movements, as well as travelling along different planes. Peterson suggests these kinds of movements are “great for your joints and joint stability. If you think about everything you do in real life – from reaching around and grabbing the seatbelt, to reaching to the side when your kid goes towards the pool, or whatever it is… So, if you train like this, you’re better off in real life”.
What’s our verdict?
Don’t expect to go to this class and be able to coast – it’s incredibly sweaty and tough, right from the outset.
My workout regime tends to be strength and weight-based, so the pure amount of jumping and changing directions was a bit of a shock to the system. It was challenging, but I definitely felt stronger afterwards – not something you always feel after a cardio class.
Like most F45 and HIIT classes in general, the session is extremely fast-paced. On the one hand, this is a good thing – you don’t want too much time to think about your next set of brutal burpees, it’s much better to get on with it – but on the other hand, it gets incredibly tough towards the end, when your legs start to feel like lead. This is when you would’ve liked a few more seconds to catch your breath and move to the next station, to make sure you’re doing every exercise to the best of your ability.
The exercises range from the extremely simple to the more complex, so it might be a bit daunting for newbies, or anyone who is starting their fitness journey – and the sheer amount of jumping might be tough on anyone with dodgy knees. Speak to your GP or a trainer if you have any questions, and Peterson’s advice is simple: “Pace yourself. The work ratios are 32 seconds and 23 seconds, based on his jersey numbers, but if you need to cut it back a little, cut it back. If you need to drop the resistance, drop the resistance. You don’t have to start with the biggest dumbbell or the biggest kettlebell – pull it back, and work your way up.”