Although Los Angeles is not on the top 20 list of fittest U.S. cities, it's still the city most famous for the hottest bodies. Recently the IDEA World convention was in L.A. attracting 8,000 fitness professionals and devotees from across the globe and is of the top shows for fitness pros to see where the future of the industry is heading.
As I worked my way around the expo floor, I chatted with several noted fitness gurus to talk shop. What's are the growing trends in fitness?
Long, steady state cardio workouts for weight loss are OUT. There's research up the wazoo showing that "HIIT" (high intensity interval training of burst and recover cycles) will get you fitter faster. From the professional trainer or coach's standpoint, it's considered the holy grail for improving strength, speed and endurance. And, it can burn more fat calories than training in the low intensity "fat burning zone" in a lot less time. Endurance training (steady state, moderate intensity for longer duration) on the other hand mainly just improves endurance.
Has the gen-pop finally caught on? Los Angeles-based trainer Mike Michaels of M2LiveFit says yes. "Everything is going towards HIIT training and away from steady state training," because people get results quicker. HIITs can be done with almost any type of exercise from running, rowing or swimming to weight lifting, but I don't suggest doing it with Pilates or yoga.
Len Kravitz, Ph.D., vetted the research and found that done at the right intensity (you gotta go HARD) and frequency, "HIIT leads to similar and, in some cases, better improvements in less time" than steady state endurance training. But, Dr. Kravitz who is the program coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, goes one step further when postulating on the workout trends to come. He told me, "the future of fitness will be a combination of HIIT and endurance programming in the same workout."
Speaking of, CrossFit workouts may be the epitome of high intensity. Puking during a session is seen as a right of passage in their culture. The first CrossFit gym opened in 2000, so it certainly isn't new, but due to its exponential growth -- CrossFit claims to double it's revenue every 18 months and has grown to 6,100 private affiliates since it's inception -- it appears to be a trend that hasn't peaked yet. Its de-centralized, open source approach makes it free to anyone who wants to do it at home since the "W.O.D" (workout of the day) is posted online for free.
Randy Hetrick, creator of the TRX, another one of the greatest fitness trends of the past decade, says: "The W.O.D. was a stroke of genius. But it's also a double-edged sword. Quality control is tough since it's free to the masses ... It may not be appropriate for everybody."
CrossFit also has its fair share of detractors who cringe at newbies attempting the W.O.D. at home without professional supervision. Many of the CrossFit exercises are highly complex, technical moves that require skill development as much as strength such as Muscle-Ups, the Barbell Snatch and Handstand Push-Ups, to name a few. If you want to jump on this trend, make sure you build up gradually. Dr. Kravitz warns, "people need to get their foundation first," and focus on good form rather than how many reps you can do in a given time frame.
Overdoing it can lead to serious injuries, including exertional rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue into the bloodstream. "It's a classic problem," says Dr. Kravitz, "trying to do too much, too hard and not being ready for it." Of course, exertional rhabdomyolysis can happen from too much exertion doing any type of intense exercise, but CrossFit just happens to bring attention to the potentially life-threatening syndrome with a mascot named Rhabdo the Clown. Sensitivity training? Nah.
Kettlebell workouts are definitely one of the hottest fitness trends on the rise right now. Developed in Russia in the 1700s, kettlebells are just starting to gain real momentum in Western gym culture. Vincent Metzo, director of education for KettleBell Concepts in New York, says it took quite some time to convince fitness clubs that kettlebells were legit and offer valuable benefits not found in other types of training tools. Several studies have come out in the last couple of years confirming the unique benefits of kettlebell workouts. For example, one study showed that kettlebell training can reduce pain in the neck, shoulders and low back and improve low back strength for people who work at jobs that cause chronic pain in those areas (desk jockeys are you listening?). Another study by the American Council on Exercise found that using moderate to heavy kettlebells (12, 16, or 20 kgs) relative to the lifter's gender, size and experience level could burn 20.2 calories per minute, similar to jogging at six miles per hour or biking at 15 miles per hour.
Using lighter kettlebells may at least provide an aerobic workout if not the strength gains of using heavier ones. Laura Wilson, director of programming for Kettleworx, says kettlebells are really fun and can be done by the masses, not just elite athletes. She attributes kettlebells' new found buzz to Hollywood, since hotties like Jessica Biel, Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz and Vanessa Hudgens have allegedly been seen swinging some iron. For kettlebells to really become a mainstay, however, they need to have a legion of qualified trainers who can teach the techniques which are different from and more complex than using dumbbells for example. Dr. Kravitz says that there's always a potential danger in exercises that have "swing, fling and speed components like kettlebells unless you have a great instructor." And sadly, when someone gets injured from improper form, it gives the equipment a bad name, according to Metzo.
If you like staying at the forefront of fitness trends, you've already been doing body weight suspension training with gymnastic rings or straps like the TRX for a while now. There's no denying that trend is here to stay. Randy Hetrick, the man who made TRX a success, believes the next big trend will be the TRX Rip Trainer. It's basically a metal stick with an elastic cord attached to it that creates asymmetrical resistance -- or as one of my boot camp clients lovingly calls it, "the ramrod of pain!" If you play a sport that requires some kind of rotational movement, this will appeal to you. If you haven't tried it yet, it's a lot more challenging than it looks.
Dr. Len Kravitz has two more trend predictions. One are weighted vests, which are his current fixation. He just did a new study on them, although there's plenty of existing research from the military, since soldiers carry 30 to 40 percent of their body weight in their packs. Dr. Kravitz thinks appropriately-weighted vests can benefit everyone from extreme athletes to underfit people and they're safe -- even making you aware of your posture. He's finding that weighted vests make you burn more calories while working out (e.g., hiking, indoor cycling, body weight exercises, etc.). And for his final prediction, Dr. Kravitz says to watch for step workouts to make a comeback. Good news for those of you who missed this fitness phenomenon of the '90s. Having taught step aerobics like a fiend in it's hey day, I should have predicted this too. When I asked him why he thought Step Aerobics would make a resurgence, he simply replied, "because it's just a good workout." 'Nuf said?
The fitness industry is a lot like fashion, where old trends come back into vogue but usually with an updated twist. If it's tried and true, and there's research to back it up, it will be back or here to stay.
What are your predictions for the future trends in fitness? Post your comments below!
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