Gym Rat: Disq class at Crunch is intense workout on pulley system

Crunch prides itself on offering oddball group exercise classes, like pole dancing, cycle karaoke, and sandbag weightlifting on indoor surfboards. So, no surprise that it's so far the only gym in L.A. with Disq.

The class is based on the Disq fitness device, a pair of retractable resistance cords on a belt that thread down through ankle-cuff pulleys and come up to hand-held grips. It's like wearing a robot suit that makes every movement harder, with resistance as you raise, lower and punch your hands; you use knobs on the belt to dial your preferred resistance. I gave the Disq a great review in my Gear column a year ago for being a convenient, portable, customizable and functional strength workout. Crunch made it fun for group exercise by adding music and dance moves. Our high-energy instructor, 37-year-old Elle Young, a former backup dancer for Rihanna, Shakira and Mary J. Blige, kept it moving for 45 minutes.

Crunch, 761 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank.

Aura: Like warriors going into battle, our group of 12 strapped on our Disq waist belts and ankle pulleys and psyched up as Young cranked up the Michael Jackson and explained how to control the resistance. Then we spread out for an easy warmup of marches, side steps and lunges, moving our arms overhead to ramp up the heart rate.

Effort: Deceptively intense. The movements are fluid, no-impact and fun — but the resistance takes its toll. Swept up in the beat doing chorus line kicks and biceps curls, I soon noticed my lungs heaving, my coordination failing and my sweat raining. As we moved back and forth across the floor alternating dance moves and strength exercises (kettle-bell-style squats, lunges, sideways burpees, planks to donkey kicks, and bent-leg V-ups), it began feeling like the Boot Camp From Hell. My problem: too-high resistance. Halfway through the workout, I gave in and dialed down. "Drop the machismo," advised Audrey Adler, 55, a Los Angeles cycling teacher Disq-ing for the first time. She loved the workout, as did Dennis Arrue, a 25-year-old Sun Valley customer service rep who said he'd gotten some toning and weight loss (7 pounds) from four once-a-week classes since his New Year's resolution.

Style: Young was a stickler for form, running from person to person making corrections. Erika Aguilar, 27, a first-time Disq'er from Glendale, appreciated it. "I'm not knowledgeable about strength exercises and need a segue into weights. This kicked my butt. I definitely will be back next week."

Cost: $25. Crunch members free.

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