Fitness tools (like old school dumbbells), ideas and even clothes (ahem, leotards) come and go, but the desire to innovate and train smarter persists. Sometimes a new method evolves into a trend that shapes the way we exercise. Other concepts prove to be mere fads, briefly flaring up in popularity before fading into oblivion.
Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) polls fitness professionals worldwide to help determine what is likely to be part of the next phase of fitness development—and what's likely to be phased out. The resulting survey of 20 fitness trends indicates the direction that training is heading around the globe. From their list for 2014, here are seven of the top ideas you can expect to see influence your workout this year, along with an example of each from the STACK archives. It's everything you need to stay ahead of the athletic curve. All you have to do is provide the sweat equity.
1. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
What It Is: Bursts of intense exercise broken up by brief rest periods form the foundation of HIIT. The method's main selling point is that it delivers many of the benefits of traditional steady-state cardio in far less time. The ACSM says HIIT routines usually take less than 30 minutes.
The Good: Get the results you want in less time, so you can get in, get out, and get on with your life.
The Bad: While these workouts won't actually kill you, they'll make you feel like you want to die. And all that time you save might be lost if you spend 15 minutes after the session catching your breath and/or vomiting.
2. Bodyweight Training
What It Is: Exercises like Push-Ups, Pull-Ups and other moves where the only resistance is your own body weight. This style of training is cheap, requires minimal or no equipment and can be done anywhere with a floor (and if you don't have a floor, exercise is the least of your problems).
The Good: If you're creative and willing to push yourself, you can save big by not having to pay for a gym membership.
The Bad: It can get boring if you're used to the gadgets and contraptions of a traditional fitness center. As you struggle to bang out one last rep of Push-Ups or Pull-Ups, onlookers may think you're having a seizure. And don't forget about the ever-looming danger of someone filming your fitness fail.
3. Functional Fitness
What It Is: Defined by ACSM as "using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power and endurance to improve someone's ability to perform activities of daily living." Functional Fitness focuses on movements like Farmer's Walks, Bent Rows and Push-Ups, which closely mimic common movements in our everyday lives—like carrying two heavy suitcases, lifting a toddler out of a car seat, or getting up after you fall.
The Good: Reality-based fitness, applicable to your life. You'll be able to do all the stuff you do outside of the gym even better.
The Bad: Nearly everything you do in the gym has an effect on your life outside of it, and if you're training like an athlete, you're already mixing isolation movements (which aren't "functional") with compound movements (which are). Unless you're doing this.
What It Is: After stagnating for a few years, yoga—which ACSM defines as all types of yoga, from ultra-hot Bikram to far-more-gentle Kundalini—has been gaining ground in the view of fitness fiends, and it was ranked the 10th most important fitness trend for 2014.
The Good: Yoga's benefits are well documented: from the obvious (increased flexibility and strength) to the surprising (did you know regular yoga practice can lower bad cholesterol and make you happier?) A 20-minute yoga session could even increase your mental sharpness, according to information out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain.
The Bad: Chanting and "Om"-ing can be a little much. Also: Gents, if you're going to wear baggy shorts to class, always, always ALWAYS wear boxer-briefs (preferably ones reaching mid-thigh) underneath. When you try your first headstand, you'll immediately know why.
5. Core Training
What It Is: Increase your core strength with workouts that "typically include exercises of the hips, lower back and abdomen." Expect to use items like BOSU balls, wobble boards and foam rollers.
The Good: A strong core is a must for every athlete. It's important for everything from swinging a baseball bat to carving down a mountain on a snowboard. Also: Train hard enough and you'll be able to do your laundry on your abs.
The Bad: The realization that you spent an hour at the gym wobbling, bouncing and planking while others ran and lifted heavy objects. Most big lifts, like Squats and Deadlifts, engage the core, so you may not have to dedicate an entire training session to it.
6. Circuit Training
What It Is: Similar to HIIT but less intense, circuit training involves performing a sequence of exercises (usually six to 10 moves) back-to-back-to-back with little rest in between. It'll jack your heart rate up higher than the traditional "10-reps-then-rest" scheme.
The Good: Hits every muscle group in your body within a short amount of time. Fast tempo delivers some cardiovascular benefit too.
The Bad: Circuits can require equipment from all over the gym, and nobody likes the dude who shouts "I'M ON THAT!" to somebody attempting to use their squat rack while he's doing Bicep Curls halfway across the room.
7. Sport Specific Training
What It Is: Exercises or programs done to improve a player's ability in his or her sport, but not necessarily to improve overall fitness. An example would be a baseball player who dedicates time in the off-season to increase strength in his core so he can hit with more power. This helps him develop more power in specific movement patterns, which could increase his abilities when he heads into next season.
The Good: Returning from the off-season faster and stronger is sure to catch your coach's eye, which will hopefully result in more playing time.
The Bad: Focus on only sport specific moves and you're liable to develop imbalances in your body that can lead to injuries. Y'know, kind of like this dude.
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