Pro Tips

Expert Advice From Flex Cabral

Think group fitness is only for noobs? Your mind will change after you take a class run by Flex Cabral.

Erica Schultz

Photos by Erica Schultz


Many old-school gymrats think of “group fitness” as a bunch of middle-aged ladies in floral unitards or dudes in thigh-high bun-huggers sweating to Tina Turner songs. Thirty-year-old Rafique “Flex” Cabral, co-owner of Trooper Fitness in Manhattan, had a similar opinion. “I thought it was like step aerobics,” admits Cabral, a Marine who retired from active duty in 2008. But Cabral’s view changed once he began running his own boot-camp–style classes. “There’s still a stigma, but more people now understand that within a group there’s more energy, and that pushes them to work harder.”

Cabral’s classes are notoriously exhausting, but his ability to work a room and champion his “troopers” to soldier on when they’re running on fumes makes even his most grueling session addictively enjoyable. “I’m often asked if my class gets easier,” he says. “It’s never going to feel easy; it’s about making progress, and with progress there’s always a challenge.”

The amount of time it takes for you to achieve a goal doesn’t matter; fitness is a journey, and if you have a goal in mind it’s going to take time and patience to be successful. If you rush things, it won’t be a quality product. You might get to the finish line, but how long can you sustain it?

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Finding ways to create positivity through negative situations is the best way to get through whatever it is without feeling broken down.


When you kick your legs up and back, like you’re doing a plank—try to hold each position as long as possible. I can pause for two or three seconds, but the ultimate goal is 15 seconds. The move requires triceps, shoulder, and core stability. To start, keep your knees bent throughout the movement. Progress by adding a knee tuck and then aim to hold each position—up and back—for a couple of seconds. Utilize momentum to get back into position if needed but always maintain some control. When you gain more hand spring, flexibility, and core strength, attempt to extend your legs upward as you look to extend them higher each rep.

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