I Tried the Celeb-Loved Dogpound Gym — and It Really Is That Good

POPSUGAR Photography | Marietta Alessi
POPSUGAR Photography | Marietta Alessi

I'm in a no-frills gym. There are two bathrooms, but no showers. It has black walls and tons of equipment lining the perimeter, a boxing ring, and various machines. There's a plush massage table where a client is loosened up by his coach using a Theragun. A group of five is taking an active recovery break from their kettlebell class and doing nonstop mountain climbers in the back corner of the studio.

The place is Dogpound, the original location that celebrity trainer Kirk Myers opened back in 2015. Since then they've expanded to have another location in West Hollywood that attracts A-listers and everyday athletes who can afford the premium price point. Although Dogpound wouldn't comment on any specific celebrity's attendance or workout routine, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Hugh Jackman have reportedly all been spotted sweating here — and the studio was kind enough to hook me up with a trial of the full experience.

What Is the Dogpound Gym?

Dogpound memberships are offered in three different tiers: Silver for $8,000 a year, Platinum for $23,000 a year, or Black for $36,000 a year. Each membership has a mix of private sessions and group classes.

While the studio offers packages, Dogpound is best known for its A-plus custom programming and personal training, and that's what I was trying out. The programming is usually constructed on six-week or 12-session minimums. Instead of working with just one trainer, you'll cycle through a team of trainers to help you reach your goals. In fact, there's a rule that you can't have more than two consecutive sessions with the same trainer. They do this for a few reasons: one, to avoid scheduling conflicts; two, so the member can try different modalities; and three, so the trainers don't fight over clients.

As a fitness writer, I was eager to sink my sneakers into the space and try their team of trainers.

What Dogpound Is Like

About a week before my first session, I was asked to fill out an intake form. On it, I shared my fitness and injury background, preferences in trainers (gender, prenatal, specialties), and my short-term (three month) and long-term (six month) fitness goals.

I share that I'm a lover of strength training, am interested in lower-body workouts especially, and want to build back up to running half-marathons again — or perhaps try a Spartan Race.

The day before my session I received an email from the Training Team with my trainer's bio and was immediately impressed. Trainer Wes Beans is not just a NASM-certified personal trainer (and a former Division 1 football athlete); he also has a NSPA Speed and Agility Certification and a RKC Kettlebell Certification. Clearly, Beans knows about strength and conditioning — something I need to do more of to reach my goals.

Naturally, I headed to Instagram to vet the trainer further, and my jaw dropped as I thumbed through the videos of him pushing monster kettlebells, sandbags — whatever he can put his hands on, it seems — with absolute ease. "I love kettlebells," he tells me upon first meeting. "Everyone here has their specialty. For me, it's kettlebells." As a lover of strength workouts myself, I knew we'd get along.

On the day of my session, Beans warmed me up with some dynamic movement and mobility work, and then we headed to circuit one. Lunges with — you guessed it — kettlebells, followed by eight calories on the Airdyne bike. Before I knew it my new Fitbit Charge 6 was telling me to slow my roll. My heart rate was a balmy 175.

In between sets, Beans and I talked until my heart rate dropped and my Fibit buzzed me to "keep it up."

It's during my second set of weighted lunges that I notice the squat rack and excitedly ask, "Can we?" He obliges and puts me through a strength and conditioning workout focused on lower-body push (hello squats!) and upper-body pull. Translation: Beans stacked my workout with exercises that focused on the front of the lower body (back squats, alternating Bulgarian split squats) and the back of the upper body (alternating gorilla rows, single arm pull downs).

POPSUGAR Photography | Marietta Alessi

After my session with Beans, I was slated for a lower body pull / upper body push training session with Sebastian Richard, a Drake-loving bodybuilder, at the end of the week. Then, I'd finish out my trial a few days later with another lower-body push and upper-body pull workout with trainer Molly Ertel.

The reason my custom Dogpound programming oscillated between the style of workouts was to ensure I'd have enough time to recover each muscle group between training sessions.

While I had to skip my planned session with Richard, I was as impressed with Ertel as I'd been with Beans. I was told she'd shaved off 45 minutes off her marathon race while maintaining muscle mass by optimizing her training — which made me confident that she could help me meet my goal of prepping for racing.

Does Dogpound Training Work?

In a word: yes. While a couple sessions aren't enough to lead to sustained benefits, the post-session glow was real.

After my workout with Beans, I felt accomplished, strong, and all-around amazing. According to my wearable, nearly half of my workout had been spent in a "vigorous" heart rate zone (with my BPM falling between 130 to 160), and about 20 percent of my workout had been spent at a "peak" heart rate zone, with my BPM falling above 160.

But perhaps most importantly: I had that hurts-so-good feeling two days later (aka, DOMS), when you find yourself remembering your leg workout every time you go down a set of stairs or squat down on a toilet.

I was similarly gassed (in a good way) after the workout with Ertel, too. My Fitbit told me that I'd spend 41 percent of my workout with my heart rate above 160 and 41 percent of my workout with my HR between 131 and 161 BPM — a really impressive effort. Afterward, Molly offered either a Theragun massage or assisted stretching. Still feeling tight after Wes' workout I opted for the latter and it felt incredible.

Looking back on my experience, what really sets the studio apart from others is the people. It felt like a white glove service throughout the entire experience, from booking to session and the follow-up, when I'd get emails from the team asking how my session went.

The level of people investment isn't just on the member's side but on the trainer side as well. In talking with my trainers I learned that Dogpound offers their trainers 401Ks and benefits — not common perks in the fitness training world. It's easy to see why this level of care would attract the best of the best trainers to the studio, and breed an environment of shared success.

The bottom line? I see why celebs would flock to Dogpound. It's a workout experience unlike any other — and one that I'd gladly make a regular in my routine.

Marietta Alessi is a wellness writer with nearly ten years of experience. Her work has appeared in Shape, Bustle, and many other outlets. She is based in Hoboken, NJ, but loves travel, boxing, and long walks on the beach where she makes sea glass jewelry in her spare time.