People often ask me, “What is the best gym in Austin?” After spending the better part of a decade working and participating in the Austin fitness scene, my answer is that there is not a definitive answer to this question. However, there are the “best gyms” in Austin for particular objectives and client profiles.
What I object to is the popularity contest that has become Austin Fit Magazine’s - Best Gym Edition. Essentially, the bigger gyms amass their clients via social media, contests and email lists, ensuring that the small gyms seldom see any acknowledgement. This article serves to shed some light on the better-kept fitness secrets in Austin, Texas.
[Disclaimer: This article emanates from 10 years of experience in the Austin fitness industry and is based upon my experience with each of these gyms, and their reputations among Strength and Conditioning professionals.]
Best CrossFit Gym - Westlake CrossFit
This is one of Austin’s little-known secrets. Nestled remotely near the Hills of Westlake in Cuernavaca, these folks keep their clients “ready” for the unknown and unknowable. The gym stays small due to its semi-remote location five minutes from Lake Austin. Their classes are led by a coach who not only has one of the highest standards for movement quality I have experienced but is also very personable. This community is more of a family than anything else, with many new friendships and business relationships emerging in this quaint 2,000- square-foot gym.
Best Globo Gym - 24 Hour Fitness off William Cannon/South Austin
This gym has it all, from a vast array of cardio equipment to free weights and classes. This gym will suit most generalists looking for a convenient, low-cost option for fitness. Although there are many options here, their customer service is lacking and makes it feel less local and more globo. However, in a sea of Austin globo gyms, the 24 Hour Fitness off William Cannon stands apart from the others with generally positive experiences and a multitude of fitness options.
Most Hardcore Gym - Atomic Athlete
From grueling work capacity and stamina sessions to their connection with the military and tactical training, these folks take the cake for the most hardcore gym in Austin. There is a degree of masochism involved in their training methodologies, however, Atomic isn’t for the faint of heart; rather, it attracts a special breed of tough Austinites. If you sign up with Atomic Athlete, you will become “stronger, faster and harder to kill,” and many even find themselves wearing Ranger Panties during a 90-minute stamina session in 110-degree Austin summers.
Best Individual Design Facility - Central Athlete
Central Athlete works with a different market entirely. While most other Austin gyms offer group classes, personal training and fitness challenges, Central Athlete offers what is called Individual Design. In fact they are the only gym based solely off this model and have been pioneering the model since 2015. Clients have open access to the facility from 6:00am to 7:00pm, and coaches are onsite during floor hours for movement instruction, feedback and camaraderie. Each client has his/her own training and nutrition program that is uniquely created, tracked and adjusted by their coach. Clients meet with their coach on a monthly basis to review their last month of progress and implement any new behaviors that will enhance their journey.
Best Bootcamp - Stronghorn Fitness
This bootcamp is homegrown by an Austin original, Jess Martin. Not only are there multiple locations around town, these guys keep fitness fun with varied cycles of programming. You can expect influences from traditional strength and conditioning and yoga, and they’ll even throw in the occasional community event and happy hour.
Best Value - Titan Evolution
Huddled in one of the last remaining industrial areas in Central Austin, owner Kevin Edwards has a simple vision—to serve up fitness on a month-to-month basis for under $100. Titan Evolution offers several classes per day and even has a kickboxing gym in an adjacent, sublet space for early morning and evening classes. If you’re looking for a boutique experience for a portion of the cost, this is the way to go.
Most Unique Experience - Onnit
This is the most well-capitalized and diverse training facility that Austin has to offer. The gym has implements like steel maces, goblin-faced kettlebells and other unforgiving odd objects. These guys have made a name for themselves through their heavily marketed and funded fitness experience. If you are a special snowflake, looking to hang with the “cool kids,” pack your gym bags and head to Onnit. You may even hear about their psychedelic, open-relationship subculture that emanates from within the confines of the gym’s walls.
This is a boutique gym for all fitness levels, backgrounds and goals. Similar to Stronghorn Fitness, with an eclectic mix of influences, Dane’s has a brick-and-mortar running several classes per day off Guadalupe Street.
This is THE Tarrytown gym. MOVE runs three eight-week cycles focusing on work capacity, strength and stamina and works primarily with 30- and 40-something-year-olds who live in and around Tarrytown. Jarrod Freshour, the owner, is one of the most personable and quietly charismatic fitness coaches in town. Many people come for the convenience of MOVE, but find the gym “sticky” because of Jarrod and the personal experience in a group setting.