SmartCore Fitness – Functional Core Training in Small Groups

My post last week about the importance of core training to our fitness drew a lot of traffic and great feedback. I gave readers a brief introduction to SmartCore Fitness, which recently opened its permanent location in the Midtown area of Charlotte. This week, I joined a small training group to complete my first workout with owner/personal trainer Denise Duffy.


This studio and endeavor has been a long time coming for Denise. I first met Denise in 2007 upon taking one of her coveted cycle classes at the Dowd YMCA. My husband was also teaching at the Y at the time, so their friendship allowed me to get to know her better over the years. It was through several interactions that I learned Denise is a Duke graduate who left a corporate career at GE to enter the fitness industry. Her passion helped her build an incredible group of clients. Through her hands on approach with each client, Denise is able to adjust group training circuits, to meet the needs of individuals. In fact, to better meet the needs of her clients, she took the step towards opening a studio that was better equipped to handle the type of workouts that her groups are used to.


So, that brings me to SmartCore Fitness and my workout. The location (situated on Baxter Street between Uptown and Myers Park) is great and so are the hours. The first training group starts at 5:30 AM and there are sessions all the way through lunch. Parking is free and getting in and out of the lot is very easy. Let’s talk about the inside. I can describe this place in three words: open, clean, and upbeat. Everything you need from the place that you are going to work out. Upon entering the studio, there is a room with cubbies (see above) for clients to put their things in. In the case that you need to change, there is a beautiful single person bathroom.


The studio is set up such that two groups can be running the same circuit simultaneously beside each other. Each group is made up of 2-6 people. This is not one on one personal training, but rather station to station group training. I will be the first to say that these stations are more intense and well thought out than anything I have ever done. Remember in my prior post when I said the core is made up of a lot more muscles than just the abs (some of them you probably don’t even know that you use)? Denise has found a way to touch all of those muscles in a planned format that will allow your body to get the most out of each exercise.


One unique trait about Denise is that she has such an understanding of each individual’s health history, that she can adjust ANY exercise such that every client is getting the most out of that respective day’s circuit. So let’s say I had knee surgery that prevents me from doing certain leg exercises. Before I would even get to a station that might bother my injury, Denise would already have tweaked it such that I could work the muscle that she was aiming for me to work in the original exercise.  In the workout that I completed today, we utilized the following pieces of equipment through several stations (see pictures):

  • TRX
  • Bosu Balls
  • Bands
  • Dumbbells
  • CorDiscs
  • Foam Rollers
  • Gliding Discs
  • FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross


I can’t list everything we did today, because it took me over an hour to complete and the moves are very complex.  Exactly why you need to stop by (you get your money’s worth).  It is worth mentioning that the facility has four FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross machines.  I bring this up because these machines by themselves have gotten a lot of great publicity lately as it relates to core/strength training.  Both Shape and Self Magazine recently had great write-ups and workouts on the machines (see links below).

Self Magazine FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross Article

Shape Magazine FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross Article


With the ability to run two circuits at the same time, Denise opted to bring a second personal trainer into the business. That is where Steve Justice comes in. What a perfect fit.  Steve is also currently an instructor at Flywheel, but his background in athletics and fitness goes far beyond Flywheel. Steve was an All-American Center while playing football at Wake Forest.  He also played in the NFL several years, which ultimately brought his family to Charlotte (he played for the Panthers). After he stopped playing football, he lost over 100 pounds and he has completely transformed his exterior physique. Like Denise, he is very down to earth and light hearted (as seen through the sweet picture above with his beautiful little girls).  And in case you were wondering, Denise would not have brought Steve on if he couldn’t provide the same individual/unique experience to each client that she does.  The circuits will be the same regardless of whether Denise or Steve are working you through them.


So, how do you get hooked up with this great group?  Denise and Steve both still have space open to train new clients.  See the scheduled times for both below.  The best way for you to reach them is through email or phone.

Denise – deniseduffy@carolina.rr.rcom (704) 906-5653

Steve – (317) 340-7291

Please feel free to ask many any other questions as well.  I loved my first visit.  The group that I worked out with was so fun and encouraging.  As I write this, I am still feeling the effects of a workout that made me feel empowered and strong.


4 thoughts on “SmartCore Fitness – Functional Core Training in Small Groups

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