Flex cabral vsit
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?

SEE ALSO: 11 Things You Need to Know About #TheProgram

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.

Flex cabral frontlever
Erica Schultz

Body weight is one of the harder disciplines. A quick adjustment to an angle can increase a movement’s difficulty tenfold at minimum. I feel body-weight exercises have been an underexplored realm for many people, but it’s on the up and up with social media. Explore your body’s potential.

Some people define “fit” as possessing a lot of strength or being able to run a certain number of miles. But your perception and goals should define what fit means to you.

Food is the fuel you need to get the results you want. So if you’re putting good fuel into your body and eating to be or look a certain way, you’ll be fine. If you’re not willing to sacrifice bad eating habits, that goal will be harder to attain.

SEE ALSO: The Warrior Fit Workout Program

Set incremental and realistic goals. You’ll hold yourself more accountable if you give yourself a goal. Then grasp where you are right now. From there it’s about planning to get better over time. If it’s a specific move or exercise…it’ll come down to how many hours you’re willing to put forth to achieve your specific goal.

If you’re weaker at the end of your range of motion, resistance bands are a modality that can help build up that strength.

Nothing ever goes to plan; always have contingencies, and don’t let your ego get in the way.

Many people want results fast and don’t look for sustainability. It’s hard to build habits if you don’t think about the long run. Do something you can sustain for the rest of your life instead of doing it for three weeks and then stopping. Know when to lead, when to follow, and when to break away.

Supplement good habits for bad ones rather than remove things all together. You’ll see results, and you’ll be creating a lifestyle.


The front lever is a great indicator for lats, abs, core, and grip strength. Work up to doing it with your feet together in stages. First, hang from a bar and bring your knees toward your chest. Then aim your knees toward the bar; get as parallel to the floor as your spine will allow. Next, try to hold that position for 10 to 15 seconds. When you can do that, extend one leg and alternate (one extends; the other retracts). Now attempt to spread your feet as you extend your legs; this will help to dissipate tension through your body.

FLEX CABRAL is a fitness instructor and model.

Follow him on Instagram at @trooperflex.