“Expertise programming, comradery among peers, and a welcoming atmosphere. War Horse has perfected this formula which is why I – and many others – keep coming back. Chris, Jaclyn, and the staff at War Horse have truly separated themselves from the mundane, uneducated, apathetic representation of what most “commercial gyms” have suddenly become. They take the time to work with each individual to provide appropriate programming in a motivating environment. Whether you’re looking to drop a couple pounds or deadlift 2x your bodyweight (or 2.5x, thanks Chris!), War Horse is absolutely the place to check out if you’re in the Philly area.”
“I always tend to approach things with what I consider to be a healthy dose of skepticism, and such was the case when deciding to give War Horse a shot. My wife and I had recently moved to Philly, and I was in a rut of limited to no physical activity. I did some investigating of places in my neighborhood of Northern Liberties to try to change that, and I kept coming back to War Horse because of how positive the reviews were. I am happy to say that eight months later, with both my wife and I being active members, I can attest that it has lived up to the hype.
My experience at this gym began with an initial assessment with owner/trainer Chris of some very basic physical abilities. This lead to a two week trial of semi-private sessions with Chris in order to make sure this was a fit for me. The two week trial lead to two months of semi-private training sessions, after which I felt prepared to join the IGNITE group classes. I’ve always enjoyed team sports, but even when I was an athlete never enjoyed going to the gym. I now attend IGNITE classes five days a week whenever possible. Each day has a different focus, and exercises are always being varied so that the workouts don’t become boring or routine. The support of the staff and your fellow gym members is one aspect of the community that is obvious from the beginning. Classes are relatively small (cap at 15 people), and you never feel lacking for individual attention. The trainers are incredibly focused on making sure everyone is training correctly, so as to not injure themselves, but also so that they can get the most out of every exercise. I joined the gym with a pre-existing lower back issue that bothers me occasionally, and I have always been offered alternative exercises if my back is bothering me. I’m happy to report, though, that I have seen a noticeable reduction in back pain since joining, which I attribute to being stronger than I have been in years, and in the best shape that I have been in since high school. Squats, deadlifts, and chin-ups were never part of any workout routine I felt comfortable with, but through deliberate practice focusing on technique, I can now accomplish all three.
War Horse has several fringe benefits as well. They have a partnership with Primal Supply Meat, a butcher specializing in locally sourced meats, and members can join the Butcher’s Club to have meat delivered on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. They arrange occasional beer clubs at local breweries, because after all the time spent at the gym it’s fun to just hang out and see people in “normal” clothes. They also have two of the sweetest pit bulls, Cameron and Emmitt, that happily greet everyone when they arrive. I’ve literally never belonged to a gym in my life, and I can’t really picture my life in Philadelphia without this one. If you want to get strong, work hard, and make friends, this is the place to do it..”
“When War Horse first opened in the neighborhood, I (wrongly) assumed that it was the type of place that you wouldn’t dare to set foot into unless you were already really into lifting and knew what you were doing. I completely dismissed it until I noticed that one of my coworkers had gone and I figured if she can do it, why not me? I’ve always exercised, but my regimen of cardio + Bikram yoga wasn’t doing much for my limp noodle arms, so I finally decided to go and check out War Horse.
You get to attend 3 complimentary Ignite classes before you to commit to joining or not. During those first classes, Jaclyn (co-owner) pretty much stays by your side to show you what to do, and she and Chris (trainer/co-owner) modify the moves for you based on your strength and fitness level. It’s a great introduction into the Ignite classes while still having guidance (and trust me, you will need that guidance).
Now that I’ve joined, I still need help, direction, and modifications to a lot of the moves. Chris and Jaclyn are patient and helpful and the other members are encouraging. If you’re worried that you’ll be the only girl there, don’t be. There’s a good mix of both men and women in the classes. If you’re not strong or haven’t really worked out before, don’t worry about that either. A lot of people who go to War Horse hadn’t ever really lifted before joining. Also once you join, you get 3 complimentary 1 on 1 training sessions. I haven’t taken advantage of that yet since I’m still deciding what I need the most help with, but I’m glad I have the option.”
“You’re going to have a very hard time trying to find a better gym and better coaches in the Philly area. All the coaches are some of the most genuine and supportive people I have ever met, all they want is for every person there to reach their goal and have fun doing it. The atmosphere they have cultivated in just a few months is nothing short of amazing; it’s a reflection of who the owners are. It doesn’t matter if you can barely do a push-up or if you can over squat 500 lbs, this gym will take you to the next level and you’ll feel stronger, faster and better than ever before.”
“There are certain decisions you make in your life that set you on a different, better path. The day I first walked into War Horse was one of those days for me. Workout wise, I had always been a lone wolf- attached to the treadmill cranking out miles, and forcing myself through generic weightlifting programs. I dreaded going to the gym even when I was “fit, ” and I also had an obsession counting calories and macros.
I was struggling after the sudden death of my Mom- this included not taking care of myself in any capacity and self-medicating with food. A year had gone by, and I laid in a pile on my couch that whole time. My clothes didn’t fit, and I gained a lot of weight (70+ lbs). I felt terrible and most days could barely convince myself to get out of bed.
I used to walk by War Horse on my way home from work every day and would be afraid to look in. I didn’t think I would fit in there, or that I wanted to work out with a group of people in class. I wanted to be healthy again, but I knew this time was different and that I needed a bit of help and I couldn’t just do it on my own.
I filled out the form on the website and heard back from the owner Jaclyn, she listened to all of my concerns and my history and encouraged me to come into a class. I made the appointment for 6 am (WHAT?) the next day. I was feeling scared, and I didn’t know anyone, but Chris and Jaclyn made me feel right at home. I was self-conscious of my size but never once did anyone make me feel like I didn’t belong. War Horse isn’t a judgey atmosphere. If there was a move I couldn’t do, they helped me come up with a modification, and never once was I made to feel “less” than anyone else there.
Joining War Horse opened me up to a whole new community and a new group of friends. Everyone there encourages each other and celebrates each other’s successes. It honestly feels like a big family. I don’t dread going to workout anymore; I look forward to it five days a week.
War Horse gave me the foundation both physically and mentally/emotionally to start to put my life back together. I started taking care and pride in myself again- I developed a HEALTHY relationship with food by using their Precision Nutrition program as well. I walk lighter and taller down the streets these days, and I owe a huge part of that to Jaclyn and Chris at War Horse.”
“First: my weight lifting and athletic history is…checkered. Previously, I had signed up for a Crossfit Intro package outside of the city and decided that it wasn’t the environment and type of training for me.
If this gets too boring to read, then spoilers: I’m still at War Horse 9 months later.
Ended up meeting with Chris to run through an assessment and begin a set of three trial classes.
Short story short: that remedial history translated to starting from scratch with basic form development and progression for the primary compound lifts War Horse works around. Completely not a problem, by the way. I was (am?) a novice so I appreciated that I wasn’t being encouraged to sacrifice my body for the sake of my ego (see the first paragraph).
I hooked up with a couple of evening classes and a Saturday morning session as part of the trial and jumped right in. Each class was (and continues to be) structured with a bit of time on group dynamic stretching followed by a core compound movement (e.g. bench press, squats, deadlifts) and then finally a conditioning component where Chris adds in accessory work that complements the muscle groups hit in the earlier part of the class.
I think it took me nearly two weeks to get through all three trial classes because my body was smoked for days after each one but after that third class, I signed up for a membership later that night and I’ve been hooked on it going in 5 days a week for coming up on a year soon.
Bottom line is that the classes crazy fun, there’s a method to the programming, and there’s absolutely no bar in place that says anyone walking in the door has to be of a certain athletic aptitude to get started. The fact that I can roll out of my house and jump into a class a minute later is just gravy. For whatever reason, having a generic gym membership with no accountability except to myself just never jived with my personality. I definitely wish I had that initial drive to get started with weight training much earlier but the Ignite class format, Chris’ class designs, and his oversight are exactly what it took for me to finally get motivated and into the gym.”