The way you train now may look completely different from in the past. Based on new research and other developments, the strength and conditioning industry is rapidly evolving, which directly affects how you work out and improve your performance.
Trends typically begin at elite performance facilities and gradually trickle down through the ranks. To help you get some insight into where the industry is heading, we compiled seven fitness trends for the new year.
Trend 1: Rebirth of Barefoot/Minimalist Training Shoes
“Over the last 8 to 10 years, we’ve seen some fluctuations in barefoot and minimalist shoe trends, all of which highlight the fickle nature of the fitness industry. Initially when the trend began, everyone was sold on the idea, since the research was pretty clear that barefoot mechanics were not only ideal for optimizing performance, but also for reducing risk of injury and joint pain. After a few years, injuries began mounting quickly as people tried to jump into extreme barefoot training conditions without any adaptation or foot and ankle preparation.
“As a result, the minimalist trend began to fade and companies started producing maximalist shoes and shoes with greater cushioning as a way to counteract the issues people were experiencing from barefoot training conditions. However, educated strength coaches, trainers and therapists realize that the barefoot trend wasn’t the issue. It was the lack of physical preparation.
“I believe we’re going to see a shift back to the minimalist and barefoot trend, only this time it will be applied in a more strategic fashion as coaches understand that their athletes need to be physically prepared and trained to reap the noteworthy benefits of barefoot-style training.”
—Dr. Joel Seedman, exercise physiologist and owner of AdvancedHumanPerformance.com
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Trend 2: Mobility Optimization vs. Mobility Maximization
“I believe and have high hopes that, we’re going to see a shift in how we approach the concept and training of mobility. For the last decade, strength coaches, therapists and trainers alike have fallen prey to the idea of increasing mobility in an almost endless and indefinite fashion among their athletes. Unfortunately, this has created an undesired trend with athletes producing excessive range of motion and sacrificing stability and structural mechanics for the sake of gaining greater mobility.
“Rather than focusing on increasing mobility, the goal should be to optimize mobility by finding the appropriate balance between increased range of motion and structural stability. Professionals in the field of sports science are beginning to understand this, and I believe we’re going to see a very different approach to how we go about addressing mobility and improving movement mechanics. Let’s hope it’s not a trend that comes and goes, since it’s one that actually deserves to stick around for the long haul.”
Trend 3: The Rise of Hybrid Coaching
“The rise of the hybrid coach is happening in both the sports performance and fitness communities. Having a coach or physical therapist who deeply understands and has mastered the field of high-performance training, but also has an education and background in injury prevention and rehabilitation can be one of the most game-changing tools for any athlete.
“I may be a bit biased as a physical therapist who considers himself primarily a strength coach, but let me tell you, the idea of creating a dynamic environment for athletes, taking the best of your education, background and skillset to enhance sport-specific skills and transference of injury prevention is going to be a game changer in keeping athletes healthy and functioning better than ever on the field, and also in the weight room.”
—Dr. John Rusin, strength and conditioning coach specializing in sports performance physical therapy and rehabilitation; owner of drjohnrusin.com
Trend 4: Greater Focus on Athletic Yoga
“What I’m seeing is an increase of athletic yoga or corrective-type classes. With the posture problems and tightness our young athletes are facing, and because our older population wants to continue to train and perform, we are seeing the need to offer corrective sessions where we spend 20 to 30 minutes on making sure folks can move and recover better. Performance or athletic yoga assists with patterns of movement and gets our bodies working the way they were intended, which creates greater performance and durability.”
—Mark Roozen, elite strength coach and owner of the Coach Rozy Performance Center.
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Trend 5: Crawling Exercises Become Staples in Workouts
Crunches and Sit-Ups are officially dead. We have covered this many times over the last year. Almost every expert avoids these two core exercises and their variations.
An increasingly popular way to train the core is with crawling patterns, such as Bear Crawls. Ben Boudro, owner of Xceleration Sports, believes crawling exercises will increase in popularity in the new year.
Crawling patterns are great for a number of reasons. They’re essentially a moving Plank, so you get a great core training component. But also, crawling teaches you to brace your core while moving your limbs, which closely resembles how you use your body in sports. Also, crawling exercises improve mobility, and they can be used in conditioning workouts.
All in all, expect to see more crawling exercises in your workouts in the coming year.
RELATED: 5 Fitness Trends That Took Over 2015
Trend 6: Technological Revolution in the Weight Room
Fitness trackers are taking over the world. It’s easy to tell how popular they’ve become. The FitBit App rose to number 1 on the most-downloaded chart on Christmas Day. That’s a lot of people getting FitBits.
Almost every piece of wearable tech has some sort of fitness-tracking capability, whether it’s the FitBit, Apple Watch or other available products. As of now, tracking capabilities are limited to steps and heart rate, and value in a weight room has been mixed. I tried the Apple Watch and found that its heart rate monitor was not reliable when I performed strength exercises.
However, you can expect these products to improve and that they will become essential workout companions. One lesser known product that might provide some insight into the future is the Metria IH1. It provides more accurate fitness tracking data by assessing skin temperature as well as movement.
Also, expect more technology to invade the weight room. At the 2015 NSCA National Conference, fitness companies placed a huge emphasis on revolutionary ways to track performance during a workout. For example, we demo’d products that could track the speed of a barbell. The data was used to measure total power output, which could be compared among teammates to create a competitive environment. This kind of tech might not make its way into your local gym, but it’s sure to be featured in higher-end performance facilities.
Trend 7: Neck Training Becomes a Workout Requirement
As you probably know, concussions are a huge problem in sports—especially in football. Although most concussions heal with no long-term consequences, even a minor concussion can keep an athlete off the field. And a severe concussion or multiple concussions can ruin an athletic career. Athletes need to do everything in their power to protect their brains from this serious injury.
The easiest way to do that is by strengthening the neck. Although greater neck strength doesn’t guarantee to prevent concussions by any means, strong neck and head muscles can help stabilize the head during impact, reducing forces transmitted to the brain.
The neck has long been an afterthought in workouts—often not trained at all, expect that to change. Athletes in contact sports should be required to train their neck and head muscles. Is this a foolproof solution? Absolutely not. But if it improves your odds of preventing a concussion or reducing its effects, it is definitely worth the effort.
RELATED: 8 Exercises to Strengthen Your Neck and Shoulders