Fitness trends for 2015: Bodyweight training tops the list

The plank position is one of the best bodyweight training exercises to work the abs, shoulders, and legs. photo: amy plevin

With the start of the new year, many of us have resolved to make fitness a priority. And whether we are longtime gym rats or just starting a new wellness regime, the array of workouts can be overwhelming. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has published its annual survey of more than 3,400 health and fitness professionals worldwide to guide us in the top fitness trends for 2015.

Bodyweight training is the next big trend according to the survey. Anyone can do it because it uses minimal or no equipment and focuses on basic exercises such as push-ups, lunges and squats, mountain climbers, and planks. According to New York-based trainer and fitness instructor Jason Tran, quoted on the Well+Good website, bodyweight training “is a full-body workout that can be done anywhere, using no equipment. It’s also very efficient — it’s highly effective in burning calories, increasing your metabolism, and building strength and endurance.” Tran’s 15-minute workout includes squats, mountain climbers, plank jacks (holding a plank position while you jump your feet apart and then back together like a jumping jack), lateral lunges, and burpees (formerly known as squat thrusts). Bodyweight training can be done alone or with help from a personal trainer, and is often incorporated into group fitness classes.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), last year’s most popular fitness trend, comes in second on the list. HIIT involves alternating short, intense bursts of exercise with short periods of recovery. Gym-goers have really taken to these workouts because they can be done in as little as 20–30 minutes and incorporate both aerobic intervals as well as strength training. HIIT workouts often use many of the same moves as bodyweight workouts but include weights or other equipment. One form of a HIIT workout can include Tabata training where you complete a 20-second burst of intense activity like a sprint on a stationary bike, followed by a plank or squat, followed by a 10-second rest with the goal of completing eight rounds.

Circuit training, which is similar to high-intensity interval training but done at a lower intensity, has moved up in popularity. This type of workout consists of completing a set of 6 to 10 exercises one after the other in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a specific number of repetitions or for a set length of time before taking a quick break and moving on to the next one.

Strength training, whether with machines or free weights, is still very much a part of the fitness landscape. Most fitness experts recommend including strength training as part of a fitness program for all physical activity levels, ages, and genders (unless you are injured). The other key components of a balanced workout are aerobic and flexibility training.

The ACSM survey also found that more fitness buffs are turning to educated, experienced personal trainers for customized workouts. Group personal training, where personal trainers train two or three people at once rather than one-on-one training, is another trend for 2015, which makes economic sense both for the trainer and his or her clients.

Yoga, ever popular, is still on the list, including power yoga, Bikram, Kripalu, Kundalini, Hatha, and others, all of which focus on a specific set of postures or poses designed to stretch and strengthen the body. Some forms of yoga also place a strong emphasis on proper alignment, breathing and meditation.

Fitness programs for older adults are growing in number as Baby Boomers age, and functional fitness, or strength training designed to improved balance and the ease of daily living — such as lifting free weights from the floor with bent knees as you might lift a heavy grocery bag or grandchild — is tied into this trend.

While core training, or moves that strengthen and condition abdominal and back muscles, has moved down on the list, most trainers believe that a strong core is critical to any workout or physical activity that requires strength, agility, and speed, including running and HIIT workouts. Exercising the core includes working the hips, lower back and abs, such as crunches, planks, and using weights, and helps to improve the overall stability of the trunk. Core training often uses equipment such as exercise balls, BOSU balls, and wobble boards.

If you’re not a gymgoer, outdoor activities rank high, including everything from hiking and running to kayaking and bootcamp classes.

And, in addition to boutique studios that specialize in one specific type of workout such as ballet barre training or indoor cycling (spinning), a new trend not mentioned in the survey but gaining traction is treadmill training or indoor running. High-intensity treadmill studios devoted to runners are opening across the country, and clubs like Equinox on Union Street offer classes such as Precision Running.

So no matter what your age, interest, or fitness level, make 2015 the year to try a new workout.

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