Some people who know that I did both Fitstop and F45 for a while wonder — what’s the difference? Which one did I like more? Which one would I recommend?
I trained at a Fitstop gym while living in Coorparoo, Queensland. Previously, I had done F45 in Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
In a nutshell, both F45 and Fitstop are very similar. If I were choosing between both, and my goals were “general fitness”, then I’d probably choose the one which had the more convenient/pleasant location and timetable, better pricing, or coaches I liked the most.
But there are some differences worth noting. If you have two that are around the corner, and you’re considering both, you might be interested in the below.
About Me (for context)
I don’t want to talk about me, but it’s important you know a bit about me to see if this is relevant to you.
I started doing actively pursuing “fitness” at around the age of 30. I wasn’t fit, but I wasn’t enormously unfit — just a typical desk worker. I started doing P90X (a series of videos) with home gear, which is all I had while living where I was at the time.
Then when I moved to a different city, I found a CrossFit gym, and started getting serious with CrossFit. I moved to an awesome gym in San Francisco, where I learned a lot about form. Eventually, I swapped out CrosFit for doing powerlifting and cardio work with a remote PT who gave me a monthly program, and got to a 1000 lb powerlifting total before I thought “OK, I’m strong enough for now.”
I started off able to do pretty much nothing, but these days I have healthy numbers, like a pull-up of over half my weight strapped to me, a deadlift of 2.5 x my weight, a squat of 2x my weight, and so on. I’m not a competitor, but in your average community CrossFit gym I’ll be in the top ~5 times/rep counts doing “prescribed weight”, with the active competitors easily outclassing me.
I like CrossFit for the people, the culture of excellence, and the quality of coaching. But I got a little tired of some movements like kipping and Olympic lifts, things that just didn’t interest me. Aside from that, one of the principles of CrossFit itself is to learn new sports every year! That’s why I moved on — it was time to learn something new.
These days I do a blend of MMA-style training (as a non-competitor) at martial arts gyms, focusing on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a smattering of striking arts like Muay Thai and Boxing.
See more on my transition from Crossfit to BJJ / other martial arts
I tried F45 and Fitstop while staying in a few locations near some gyms.
F45 vs Fitstop — in a nutshell
Both F45 and Fitstop are Australian-founded functional training franchises. The F45 franchise has been around for years now, but Fitstop is much newer.
It’s important to note that the intended outcome and process for F45 and Fitstop is basically identical. You choose either if you want to get fitter and you like group classes with equipment, led with a coach in a friendly, not-too-aggressive environment. “Fitness” in both is ostensibly performance-oriented, but in both F45 and Fitstop there’s a lot of talk about what you look like, whether you’re ripped, have defined muscles, etc. (CrossFit is guilty of this too, despite the marketing.)
Both F45 and Fitstop are really similar in that they have:
- An organised circuit class including cardio and strength
- An “in and out in under an hour” schedule with many time slots during the day
- An organised technology system for check-ins
- A friendly community where people often get coffee or brunch together. There’s lots of active banter between friends in the gym.
- A more casual approach to weightlifting — safe, but less technical, and fewer complicated moves
- A less aggressive attitude than CrossFit, which also means less focus on high-performance athleticism
But there are some important differences between F45 and Fitstop, and here they are in a nutshell.
Firstly, Fitstop has squat racks and plates. If you haven’t used free weights before (Olympic or weightlifting style), this might be intimidating for you. But the coaches are there to help and they’ll get you acquainted.
Neither Fitstop nor F45 use weights “machines”, though.
Despite the presence of weight racks, unlike a powerlifting or CrossFit gym, the goal in a Fitstop class isn’t ever to hit a one-rep max. So you’re not going for an all-out squat, deadlift, or so on. Rather, the focus is on doing a manageable weight in a sustainable way for multiple reps as a part of a mixed cardio/strength circuit.
Another important note is that in Fitstop, you won’t do Olympic lifts. The main movements are deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and overhead presses. You won’t do snatches or clean & jerks. Those are quite technical.
Part of the reason for this is that Fitstop doesn’t have that kind of coach. The coaches teach form, but they don’t have obsessive attitudes to form that you’ll find even in mid-range CrossFit gyms, where you’ll be actively coached on squat and deadlift technique. In Fitstop, it’s more about safety. There’s no pressure to add weight.
In F45, on the other hand, there are no squat racks and very few free weights. At some stations there may be a bar with a couple of small plates on it, but there’s never a big back squat or deadlift. The most I think I lifted as part of a circuit was 60 kg, and that was me going and getting my own weights from every corner of the room.
Side note: You might think “Well I don’t want to be bulky, so it sounds like I’d prefer F45!” This is a misguided way of thinking. It’s extremely hard for most people to get bulky, even with huge weights! You won’t do so by accident. It’d be like accidentally scaling a mountain. Bodybuilders (especially female ones) put a lot of focus and effort into getting bulky, and often do so using through many techniques, large weights only being a small (and not even essential) part of the picture
There are a lot of movements that you’ll do both in Fitstop and F45, of course. These are all the standard catalogue of whatever you can do with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate.
- Jump rope
- Dumbbell movements like curls, snatches, overhead presses, lunges
- Using cardio machines — bikes, rowers, ski-ergs
- Pull-ups, push-ups, sit-up variations
- Kettlebell movements from deadlifts, to swings
I could go on and on… and I’d never get there because both gyms are always inventing more movements to keep things interesting.
However, because F45 lacks the squat racks, it has more emphasis on body movement. E.g. compared to Fitstop, in F45 there are more stations where you do bodyweight things like push-ups, box jumps, side lunges, and so on.
Training quality in F45 vs Fitstop
I just wanted to point out that the quality of trainers in both F45 and Fitstop is basically the same, and varies almost entirely by location and by trainer.
In Australia, you have to be accredited to be a trainer at these locations. Often, I’d find that the trainers were studying something else, like nutrition, exercise physiology, or physiotherapy.
The trainers in F45 and Fitstop classes have been both pretty good at advising on correct form. I usually don’t ask for this (I asked all those questions a long time ago), but I saw them helping others with form in squats, deadlifts, and so on.
The quality isn’t as high as the best gyms I’ve ever been to, for example at CrossFit gyms in California. But that’s a bit of an unfair comparison; those people have decades of experience and California is one of the fitness theory centers of the world. Occasionally, at Fitstop or F45, I’d see a coach giving out what I thought to be controversial advice. And I see a lot of amateur form in F45 and Fitstop, like kettlebell swings that don’t maximise power from the core, or push-ups that don’t go down the whole way.
But the goal of F45 and Fitstop isn’t to build athletes; it’s to promote fitness in a safe and sustainable way. So I didn’t see any injuries, and the coaches definitely worked on preventing them in people through good form. In that case, they do the job 100%.
So which is for you — F45 or Fitstop?
As I mentioned above, for the vast majority of people I’d say just choose the one where you like the “vibe” more.
If your goal is general fitness — either F45 or Fitstop will get you there! And the thing that’s more likely to keep you going is if you like the location, coaches, and people.
The only caveat to the above is that if you are a former strength trainer or CrossFit athlete who really likes big deadlifts and squats, then Fitstop is more likely to tickle your fancy. This is me, for example.
In some F45 classes, I got bored. The classes were supposedly intense, but if you’re reasonably fit, you can keep up. Yes, the stations doing things like battle ropes or sled pushing were hard, but then a couple of minutes of jumping around obstacles or doing sit-ups was a little too easy.
In Fitstop classes, there was just more weight to use. Others would do 40-60 kg squats for sets where I’d rack on 100 kg, and it wasn’t a chore to find those weights.
Still, even so, Fitstop isn’t a competitive A-type environment. So finally, if you’re an A-type athlete who wants to always be around people pushing to improve — just find a CrossFit gym.
I found myself constantly racking on more weights at Fitstop. I’d hang around the bigger guys, but I was doing more weights, pushing more reps. I’m by no means hardcore, I’m just a casual competitor when I am one at all, but I suppose I do skew that way.
For me, I found F45 a little dull, Fitstop adequate, and all in all, I missed CrossFit.