An Unusual Swiss-Born Gym Lands in Fitzroy North

Written for Broadsheet

You’ll notice there are no mirrors at Kieser. There’s no blaring music, either, and phones aren’t allowed on the gym floor.

“[It’s about] really focusing on exercise, sort of like mindfulness – you’re really in the moment,” says Fitzroy North centre manager Jess Hiew.

There are no free weights, and no cardio machines. Instead, Kieser’s high-intensity strength programs are completed on a series of weight-training machines that – on first glance – look a lot like those in a regular gym. The difference here is that machine settings are carefully tailored to each individual, refined after consultation with an in-house physiotherapist, and during six one-on-one sessions with an exercise scientist.

It might seem like a slow start, but this approach ensures room for error is minimised, so that even when users are training solo their technique is perfect.

Prior to her move to Fitzroy North, Hiew worked as manager of Kieser’s Brighton centre (the company has 14 gyms across Australia, including Collins Street, Essendon, Torquay, Sandringham and Camberwell) for two years.

“I thought, ‘I really love this concept, I want to bring it to the north side’,” she says.

The centre’s focus is on helping those with back pain and people recovering from both long- and short-term injuries. Hiew says this initially brought in older clients, but as the gyms grow in popularity, Kieser has attracted a younger demographic, too.

“We’ve still got retirees and some middle-aged clients, but … we’re getting more of a younger population here, particularly [people] who are scared of injuring themselves at the gym.”

The approach was founded by Werner Kieser in Zurich, Switzerland in 1966. The first Australian centre opened in 2006, and while the training incorporates physiotherapy, Hiew says the benefits that go beyond musculature: it strengthens bones, reduces weight sustainably, increases metabolic rate, prevents injury and fast-tracks injury recovery. It’s that fusion of strength training and physiotherapy that separates Kieser from regular gyms. “They don’t have that supervision that you can get by having a physio or exercise physiologist around,” Hiew says.

The Kieser method involves just two 30-minute workouts per week. Machines are designed to isolate muscle groups, with seatbelts to assist the targeted training. Each exercise is completed once (no repeated sets), until local fatigue sets in, which Hiew says is optimal for muscle strengthening. Members generally spend between 90 and 120 seconds on each machine before moving onto the next.

Lumbar extension (LE) equipment is an integral part of Kieser, too. It’s aimed at assisting the 80 per cent of Australians who will suffer from back pain in their lifetimes. The machine isolates the muscles in the lower back to strengthen and reduce symptoms.

“We’re all about making sure people are progressing and getting stronger, so we put a strength metre in a lot of our machines,” Hiew says. “The client will come in and do some baseline strength tests. Then, they’ll do that about twice a year again to make sure they’re increasing.”

A fixed term, one-year membership at Kieser costs $67.65 per fortnight. The initial physiotherapy consultation costs $99, and the six exercise physiologist sessions cost $50 each.

Kieser Fitzroy North 
498 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North 
(03) 9445 7900

Mon to Thu 6am–8.30pm 
Fri 6am–7pm 
Sat 7am–3pm 
Sun 8am–1pm


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