Urban Reform: The new strength facility doubling up as a wellbeing service to transform lives in Manchester

Urban Reform is taking the spirit of home workouts, cranking up the intensity, refining the focus - and making us a fitter region as a result.

The Manc The Manc - 1st September 2021

In April 2020, everyone in Manchester seemed to come to the same conclusion – it was time to get fit. 

The world was closed for business and everyone was cooped-up inside until further notice. There had never been a more ideal time to shed some pounds and pack on some muscle. 

Demand for fitness equipment was insane. Dumbbells, exercise bikes and yoga mats all vanished within a matter of weeks, meaning people had to improvise.  

People filled water jugs to use as weights, used resistance bands instead of cable machines, and hit the tarmac instead of the treadmill. 

And it worked.


Those who embraced a street-style fitness regime saw some of the best results and found the workouts more fulfilling – and it’s this raw, urbanised form of training that Urban Reform has been running since setting up in 2018.

Inside the industrial unit on Pollard Street is where it started for Urban Reform.


Fitness fanatics were flipping tyres, swinging kettlebells and throwing about heavy weights, and although seemed a tricky task, people who’d never lifted in their life were squatting like pros and doing walking handstands. But that’s just the way things are at Urban Reform – progress is fast.

People went to the facility looking to transform their lives, and within weeks, they knew more about themselves and their bodies than ever before.

“We want people to leave the gym feeling good about themselves,” co-founder Dean Ashton tells us.


“Our ethos is to educate people so they can take full ownership of a healthy lifestyle with simplified and tailored programs [and] we offer the right info, at the right pace, at the right time – it’s as simple as that.”

Urban Reform was set up by Dean Ashton and Ricky Gibbins, and began life offering outdoor fitness programs.

Personal Trainer Dean decided he wanted to bring fitness to the doorstep of the Manchester community, and so he started conducting classes in car parks and green areas – which would grow in attendance almost every week – and meanwhile, on the other side of town, Ricky was running an enormously-successful Personal Training business that transformed lives from his home garage.

The pair decided to put their heads together, merge their respective followings, and set up Urban Reform – a fitness centre that retained a grassroots feel while offering a more holistic kind of service.

“Our ethos is to educate people so they can take full ownership of a healthy lifestyle.” / Credit: The Manc Group

“PT businesses can be narcissistic sometimes,” Dean says.


“They can push vanity and perfection. We wanted to do it right. We wanted to utilise our skills of understanding people and put them into Manchester – using fitness as a way to help people develop a balanced lifestyle, keep fit and healthy.

“As fitness trainers, we’ve got a duty of care to busy people living and working here, which is why we’ve brought in staff in different areas, including mental health specialists, transformation coaches, weightlifting coaches, lower back pain experts, trainers adept in helping young and older adults, and nutritionists.”

The multifaceted fitness centre has been a smash-hit with Mancs throughout 2020 and into 2021, with programs in physical and wellness transformation having been hosted both online and on site, depending on tier restrictions. 

“During COVID, we offered online services that have proven extremely popular; such as online exercise plans and videos,” explains Dean. 

“And after lockdown, all our classes were fully booked – now, we want to grow and develop.”


Both Dean and Ricky’s determination to support the mindset of busy city centre lives has led to a number of collaborations with businesses to support the resilience of staff on a wider scale across Manchester.

Dean continued: “We’re launching a new service at Exchange Quay with AJ Bell to offer a wellbeing service for all their staff, as well as working with Capital and Centric to provide services for their residents.

“We are now located in a new facility near Piccadilly Train Station that’s double the size of our current venue, and it’ll have a focus on creative fitness, strength and offering consistent wellbeing messages.”

Urban Reform is has a number of packages to engage all levels, including physical and mental transformation programs, strength-based classes, urban fitness outdoor bootcamps, and even weight lifting programs that teach beginners to lift like a pro. So whether you’re brand new to training, or a top level athlete, the team is more than equipped to support everyone and provide the highest level quality.

Urban Reform is has a number of packages to engage all levels / Credit: The Manc Group

There’s just as much focus on the mental side as well as the physical.


“Every one of our coaches are put through a mentorship program which involves mental health courses, so they can recognise anxiety and depression,” Dean explains

“Mental health first aid is essential in this line of work. As a PT – you’re a support worker, too [and] you need to understand or be aware if someone is struggling.

Thousands of Mancs found solace by working out in their gardens or streets during lockdown, and Urban Reform is taking the spirit of this training, cranking up the intensity, refining the focus – and making us a fitter region as a result. 


Urban Reform’s open day is taking place on Saturday 11 September, and you can find more information by heading over to the website here.


There’s also a chance for one lucky fitness fan to bag themselves a 12-week transformation program worth £1,000.

You can find more about the competition and get your entries in here.

Featured Image – The Manc Group