A gym, but for your toes,  or your face, or your butt.

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine
Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

A couple years ago, a curious thing happened: Suddenly everyone wanted a special exercise studio just to work out their butt. The big fitness chains took note, and butt-focused classes soon filled the schedules. And then, just as suddenly, it wasn’t just the butt. This past May, something called FaceGym opened a location in midtown: There, athleisure-clad aestheticians sculpt your cheekbones and jawline by manipulating 40-odd facial muscles to a pulsing ’90s-pop playlist. That same month, Stretch*d, a studio that helps stiff New Yorkers loosen up everything from their necks to their ankles, arrived in the Flatiron. This type of singular training isn’t simply a way for new studios to differentiate themselves in a saturated market. According to New York Sports Club trainer Amira Lamb, who specializes in all things feet, focusing on overlooked parts can positively affect the rest of the body. Strengthening an underactive pelvic floor (which you can do at pelvic-floor-focused Fit Pregnancy Club), for instance, can help with back pain. Stephen Pasterino, whose gym, P.volve, concentrates on hard-to-get-at muscle groups like the inner thighs, agrees. “Phase one of the fitness movement was about sweat and burn,” he says. “I think phase two is about those smaller muscles. Whether or not hiring a trained specialist to stretch out your pinkie toe can fix your posture and improve your balance, at the very least it’ll feel wonderful.

Where to Exercise

The Ear

Align New York (928 Broadway, Ste. 703), an acupuncture clinic; HealHaus (1082 Fulton St.), a wellness studio

The (apparently out-of-shape) ear pictured above is getting some long-overdue exercise. There’s a lot to be gained from taking your ear to the gym, as it turns out: According to Aimée Derbes, a licensed acupuncturist, having someone apply just a little pressure to minuscule adhesive-backed stainless-steel “ear seeds” can stimulate a wide-reaching network of nerves, which then message the central nervous system to relax or lessen pain. Derbes offers the treatment in tandem with acupuncture at Align Acupuncture clinic in the Flatiron or as a stand-alone option at Clinton Hill wellness studio HealHaus for a donation-based rate of up to $10.

The Pelvic Floor

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Fit Pregnancy Club (552 Broadway), a fitness studio for pregnant and postpartum women.

The Benefits: FPC’s signature method, the Pump and Kegel, focuses on an oft-overlooked cluster of muscles responsible for supporting the bladder, bowel, and uterus: the pelvic floor. This is particularly important for pregnant women, who, post-birth, often experience chronic back pain, abdominal separation, and incontinence. “If you work to create a healthy and strong pelvic floor during pregnancy,” says FPC co-founder Joanie Johnson, “you’ll be less likely to experience all of the things they tell you are bound to happen postpregnancy. In France, you automatically get six weeks of pelvic-floor therapy after giving birth.” Pelvic-floor training is equally beneficial for non-pregnant women, she says: Allegedly, it can lessen back pain for those who hunch over their desk all day, help with incontinence, and, convincingly, make for stronger orgasms.

The Inside of the Mouth

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Take Care Face & Body (227 Waverly Pl.) offers buccal and craniosacral treatments.

The Benefits: Pursing the lips, clenching the jaw, or any of the contorted “expressions” one makes while resolutely pecking away at the keyboard all day can end up reshaping the face. So while people focus ​a lot of effort on ​the exterior, ​getting inside the mouth with clean hands may be just as effective. A treatment called “buccal massage” (done by a surgical-gloved technician) helps release tension in the muscular tissue underneath the lips and around the gums, cheeks, and TMJ joints, which in turn helps increase blood circulation and stimulate lymph drainage, says Sarah Clark, a craniosacral aesthetician who offers it at the West Village’s Take Care spa (60 minutes for $150). ​Bodywork practitioners have long suspected that working to relax the jaw can help the rest of the body. On the face, meanwhile, tiny lines around the lips soften, skin plumps, and smile lines appear temporarily filled in. Buccal, which has become a regular pre-red-carpet treatment, counts Meghan Markle among its fans.

The Butt

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

P.volve (112 Bowery, third floor), which was founded by Victoria’s Secret model–favorite trainer Stephen Pasterino.

The Benefits: According to Pasterino, the common combination of sitting at one’s desk all day and booking high-intensity workout classes (like spin) leads to something called “quad dominance” — basically, your muscles get tight and your quads become more developed than your glutes. This can cause knee problems, lower-back pain, and poor posture. Pasterino’s glute-heavy low-impact classes combat that and create perked-up, supertight butts in the process. The program reaches the inner butt via small micro-movements and stepping patterns.

The Face

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

FaceGym (670 Broadway) opened a second location in Noho in January.

The Benefits: Facial massage isn’t exactly new. It was a favorite among ancient Chinese medicine practitioners and, more recently, impossible-to-book Parisian aestheticians. But treating the face, specifically the skin and muscles underneath it, to the same kind of HIIT-like exercise offered at Equinox wasn’t really a thing for New Yorkers until FaceGym came to town. Founder Inge Theron noticed how healthy the skin on her body looked when she regularly did Pilates and Barry’s Bootcamp and thought, Why not apply the same idea to your face? One particular “workout” incorporates sculpting microcurrent and skin-tightening radio frequency (which heats tissue to stimulate collagen production) with some good old-fashioned muscle manipulation that’s ideal for lymphatic drainage. (Treatments range from $70 to $275; pregnant women can opt for a hands-only workout.) A few days later, clients claim their jawline looks more taut, once-droopy under-eye skin is generally more lifted, and forehead wrinkles are less defined — but as with the gym, you’ve got to keep at it.

The Toes

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Stretch*d (27 W. 20th St.), a studio entirely focused on stretching and elongating various parts of the body, opened in May.

The Benefits: Stretch*d offers two toe-specific exercises: webbing, in which a practitioner slowly separates each toe, and toe flexing, wherein the toes are pulled up and back. Both are meant to support overall foot health and combat arthritis, according to Stretch*d co-founder (and SLT founder) Amanda Freeman. “We put a lot of wear and tear on our feet,” she says, “via exercise and the shoes we wear — which are generally not the best, foot-wise. Toe health impacts foot health, and foot health impacts everything else: from your back, to your legs, to your knees, to your core.” Plus, she says, well-stretched toes can improve balance.

*This article appears in the March 18, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The New World of Highly Focused Micro-Workouts