TUFF Call: Krita with other participants during a Futuro TUFF session at Fitness First Image Credit: ZARINA FERNANDES/Gulf News

When given the opportunity to try some of the most popular fitness classes in town, I signed up for The Ultimate Fitness Firster (TUFF) programme or Futuro TUFF, a freestyle routine devised by Nathan Brown, Group GX Manager, Fitness First Middle East and exclusive to the club. It claimed to change the shape of the body through a three-dimensional plan that uses body weight for 50 per cent of the session and barbells for the other half. The combination is meant to decrease fat and increase lean muscle tissue to give the body a chiselled look.

A while ago, when someone told me, “It’s called TUFF, and it’s really tough,” I didn’t care, but I did not feel so smug when I saw my instructor Marija Nikolic, a professor from the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education in Belgrade, Serbia and currently a full-time GX instructor at Fitness First.

While Nikolic set the music for the session, we got our gear ready — a floor mat, an aerobic step bench, a barbell (with plates in the weight you’re comfortable lifting) and some extra plates. “Research in the 25-40 age group shows that about 1,000 calories are burned during one TUFF workout session. The functional training increases overall fitness levels and guarantees personal achievement and satisfaction,” Nikolic explained.

Futuro TUFF is a maximum 45-minute interval training session with 30-45 second exercises punctuates by spurts of short breaks. The routine is broken up into six stages and each one is designed to move the body in a three-dimensional pattern.

We start with stage one, a warm-up session designed to increase blood flow and joint mobility.

Stage two or Spike, says Nikolic, is a cardio-burning zone that prepares the body for the next stage. It features blocks of 45-second cardio spurts — four athletic exercises that range from sports specific, to plyometrics, to lateral movements. By the end of this session I was drenched in sweat, my throat parched and my tongue threatening to fall out.

The next stage got me excited as it involved weights, but believe me it wasn’t simple. The session is called HUTT (Harden Up Tablet Test) and combines the use of a weighted barbell alongside a selection of high cardio exercises. You can feel the pull in the muscles as you work the barbells up and down, while the cardio exercises get your pulse racing.

Aptly called Ultimate, stage four takes you back to pure body weight exercises. This section is just two minutes long and is broken into 30-second intervals, with short, explosive high-intensity exercises.

We proceeded to stage five, which is called CORB (core and combination of back exercises) and features simple but effective core exercises along with working the back muscles for balance.

And finally the last stage features stretching and cooling down exercises along with breathing and meditation.

Nikolic told me later that they change the workout routine every three months to keep it challenging. After the workout, my arms were shaking and the muscles sore. But I was aching in the right places, which meant that the workout was efficient. I would say Futuro TUFF not only changed the way I exercise, it made me a devout follower.