Interview with Fred Devito, Co-Founder of Exhale Spa’s Core Fusion Program

I’m addicted to my morning workouts at the Upper East Side Sports Club/LA, so it takes a lot for me to go out of my way to try a fitness class somewhere else, especially in the dead of winter when it’s freezing and the Sports Club/LA is just a two minute walk from my apartment. With all the chatter I’ve been hearing about the Core Fusion classes at Exhale Spa however and given that this winter has been especially depressingly cold, I decided to give one of their classes a try to pull me out of a winter funk. I’m not a huge fan of The Bar Method, so I opted to try the Core Fusion Cardio class and wow talk about feeling the burn! The class had more push-ups, planks, and mountain climbers than I could count! Unlike the typical cardio class though they incorporate breathing and focus on form so it’s a calorie-burning workout, but you come-out of it relaxed. It’s definitely unlike anything I’ve ever tried and though, for me, there’s still nothing like the high after an awesome spin class, I’m excited to try out some of the other classes Core Fusion has to offer.

In the meantime I spoke with Fred Devito, the co-founder of the program, to get his insight on what sets Core Fusion apart, what he suggests eating pre and post workout, the biggest fitness mistakes people make, what we’d find in his fridge, and more. Jump to read the interview!

What is your personal fitness routine?

Core fusion class 3 times per week, yoga once a week, cardio class or sport class once a week. Personal stretching every day.

What sets Exhale’s Core Fusion class apart from all the other Lotte Berk/bar-based routines?

My partner Lis and I ran the LBM for over 20 years. We know the technique because we taught it for over 20 years and we both taught over 30 classes a week for 15 years. When we left LBM to start exhale, we took the best positions in there purest forms, and blended them into the Core Fusion class. The teachers that we trained at LBM, who eventually went on to create their own techniques include Bar Method, Daily Method, Physique 57, Fluidity, Pure Barre, and many others have modified the LBM positions and call them their own, which is fine. But it’s important to know that the LBM was a very balanced workout. The most significant difference between Core Fusion and a lot of our competitors is the amount of time that they spend at the bar doing thigh and glute strengtheners. They do double the amount of reps, pulsing in plies then we do and hardly any real core work or significant stretching as reported to me by students who used to go there and now do Core Fusion. 

As the main disciples and trainers of the LBM for over 2 decades, the one thing we learned is that too much of these thigh exercises can cripple you. Leaving out the stretching is playing into the hands of the type A student who doesn’t have the patience for stillness. One of our competitors calls our class “exercise on Quaaludes” for that reason, as if being still is easy or less challenging!! If you have ever taken a Core Fusion class you will know that the most effective part of the technique is strength in stillness. The same competitor refers to their class as “LBM on steroids” because they are non stop, quick paced movements. With the negative connotation steroids has these days, don’t ask me why they would want to attach that label to their class.

We give very intense thigh work by focusing on positional accuracy and we spend a lot of time in the core conditioning exercises with detailed teaching for safe effective work.

We have learned that the classes that use these lethal thigh exercises as their main staple are selling their students smoke and mirrors. It is easy to teach this thigh work and it leaves you crippled for a few days never mind what all of those reps eventually do to your knees. On the other hand to teach the LBM core work with accuracy requires a whole lot of teacher training. We spend 225 hours with our teachers before they can step in front of our students. I know for a fact that a few of our competitors role out “instructor” trainings very quickly. They hire dancers who can pick up choreography and yell like a drill sergeant. But, there is something to be said for that approach as it is successful, even though our studios attract two very different kinds of students. 

Will taking the same class over and over eventually lead to that class losing its effectiveness?

Sometimes, yes. If you took Core Fusion 5 days a week, you could get a different class every day because there is so much variety in the syllabus. What sets us a part from our competitors is that we have a program, not just a class. Core Fusion and Core Fusion Yoga, Cardio, Sport and now Boot Camp combined give you the best variety and options for working out and keeping your muscles guessing.

Why do you think Core Fusion has grown such a cult following?

Honestly, I am not sure, but my guess is that we cater to the intelligent exercise student. We are not about “skinny”, we are about “health”. Our program is holistic; we blend in stress reduction, breath focus, and mind body awareness. Our students see quickly that when you come to exhale, you shift your energy and transform to a higher level of living. Students come to us because we have a reputation for lifting your butt, flattening your abs and leaning out your thighs and yes……you will definitely lose some unwanted pounds, but then they quickly discover that what we offer is a complete mind body experience, not just an exercise class. 

How do you get the bikers, spinners, and joggers into a Core Fusion class?

Cardio exercise is the most over rated form of movement in the fitness industry. Sweating till you’re soaked and breathing till your heart feels like it is going to explode is like doing addictive drugs, hard to break the habit. And I agree that it is fun and good to do, once in a while, but if you are serious about making lasting changes in your body and life style, you should be focused on building lean muscle mass to raise metabolism and create a body that burns fat and calories even when you are resting. You do not get this benefit from doing cardio, you get it from strength training. The good news is that all of our classes at exhale give you strength, flexibility and cardio results all at the same time. But it takes certain humility to work on exercises that you’re not good at doing. Most anyone can peddle a bike. It takes practice to find and engage your core.

What kind of results can you get from your DVDs?

We have countless testimonials from our DVD users of how Core Fusion has changed their lives. We have sold almost 150,000 of them and our Core Fusion Lean and Toned DVD was rated in the Top 10 by Fitness Magazine in 2010.

What would we find in your fridge?

Fresh fruits, vegetables, home made soups and a cold pasta dish. Water and Sparkling water in glass bottles, fresh juices, eggs, bread, jams, along with wine, beer and a few small bottles of regular coke! No diet drinks, no processed foods.

Best pre and post work out foods?
Pre include high density carbs and post workout foods include protein and fresh produce.
Biggest diet mistakes people make?
Dieting in general is a mistake because dieting implies temporary. Proper nutrition is a life style of food that is local, fresh, organic, not processed and in small quantities frequently throughout the day.

Biggest exercise mistakes people make?

They think that their sport is their exercise. Weekend tennis matches are a competitive sport not structured, focus exercise. You should be doing Core exercises during the week to prepare for that weekend tennis match. Exercise is about using your body with wisdom, not ego. Work on the areas and exercises that you need, not just on the exercises that you are look good doing.

Any favorite exercise clothing brands?

Kate and Shawn from Anatomie have the highest quality fabrics around and they have created some beautiful exercise pants and tops for me to wear in our DVD shoots. Also Amy from the clothing line Be Present does a great job creating comfortable and functional exercise clothing.


  1. VonKitty
    February 28, 2011 / 5:12 pm

    I’m going to have to give these DVDs a try. It’s actually been on my Amazon wish list since it was rated a top 10, but I went with Physique 57 instead. I’ve been using Physique 57 for the past 2 months, which I know isn’t that long, but I’ve been a little disappointed in my results. Maybe this is what I need.

  2. Sharon
    February 28, 2011 / 11:26 pm

    Physique 57 isn’t bad…a nice change from my typical routine, but again I’m not a huge fan of the bar method and for me personally I don’t think it’s the most effective at fat or calorie burning…though I imagine it’s great for muscle sculpting. I know a ton of people who swear by Physique and have gotten into amazing shape, but I couldn’t do the basic Physique class without some cardio in addition if I wanted to see results, which is why I enjoyed the Core Fusion Cardio mix and am excited for their Bootcamp launch:)

  3. Sharon
    February 28, 2011 / 11:34 pm

    oh and PS even though Fred isn’t super into “sweating till you’re soaked and breathing till your heart feels like it is going to explode”…not gonna lie, with the right instructor, right music, and right mind-set, sometimes there’s no better feeling (or way to get your mind off stress), and you can only get it from a high-impact cardio, spin, or similar class…but everything in moderation:)

  4. March 1, 2011 / 10:24 pm

    Love this interview! Core Fusion completely transformed my body and my life. I quit my gym membership actually because my workouts weren’t producing any results, and with Core Fusion I had results within 2 weeks. Now it has been 15 months since I started and I can’t imagine ever being without this workout.

  5. DD
    March 2, 2011 / 8:27 am

    I am a Core Fusion DVD devotee. I used to have the cardio til you drop mindset, but then I started hearing about Core Fusion, and I decided to give it a try. I started November 2010, and I now do the workouts 3-4 times a week with a Spin and a run 2 days a week. Bootcamp and Yoga Flow definitely get your heart rate up, and I sweat doing every one of the DVDs. I wish I had access to Core Fusion clases, but if you really focus on your form and follow Fred and Lis’s instructions doing the DVDs, the work out you get is fabulous! In addition, my balance and strength has improved significantly. I’ve heard that 2 more Core Fusion DVDs are coming out, and I can’t wait to work them into my rotation. Core Fusion has changed my body in ways that I really never thought possible. I’m grateful that the DVDs are available to those of us who can’t take the classes live (going to Miami in April for business, and I’m going to Exhale for at least one or two classes), and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  6. March 2, 2011 / 12:19 pm

    Love seeing that Fred keeps his workout fresh beyond just Core Fusion he also does yoga, cardio and stretches on his own. That right there sounds like my kind of workout.

    Wondering if it is recommended to try Core Fusion in a class room before diving straight into the DVDs?

  7. Mia
    April 19, 2011 / 11:19 am

    I am a recent Core Fusion addict 😉 I live in Sweden so I don’t have access to live classes. I just found the other day. They have streaming core fusion classes, and I have just heard that they are in the process of installing a permanent camera in one of the Exhale studios, so there will be several new core fusion classes online every week. Just wanted to let you know 😉

  8. September 30, 2011 / 3:59 pm

    Get your core right first and the rest will follow

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