Fitness Trends: Hot or Not?

By Scott Weiss, D.P.T., A.T., CSCS

With summer just around the corner, many people are focusing their energy on getting back into shape. Unfortunately, what used to be a simple trip to the gym has now turned into a roundabout of trial and error, checking out each of the new classes and workouts that keep popping up. Variety is both fun and beneficial, but while choosing which activities best suit your needs, also remember to be wary of the trendy workouts topping the charts. Here are my recommendations:

Boutique spinning studios attract hundreds of thousands of women a year due to the high caloric burn and sweat that is induced in one 45 to 60 minute class. With high prices and sign-ups before each class, there is also a level of commitment and exclusivity, making the spin studio the place to be.
Why it’s HOT: With both high energy and high caloric burn, one spin class will make you feel like you can take over the world. Spin classes are a great way to get people interested in activities such as real cycling and biking, which are great functional sports that can be done anywhere in the world.
But might be NOT: If you replace all of your workouts with only spinning, you could potentially find yourself reaching a fitness plateau. Keeping your fitness routine the same day after day will only keep you working the same muscles, leading to muscle imbalances and a halt in your desired weight-loss. If cycling is your only form of exercise, you will develop a specific body type with calves and thighs dominating. Tight abdominals, short hip flexors and a hunched posture is not good if you have a history of Lower Back Pain (LBP). This is definitely something to keep in mind if you are thinking about trying a spinning class.

This method of working out has recently seen a huge surge in popularity. Based on short intervals of high intensity, high energy with a typical work/rest ratio of 2:1, HIIT workouts are known for getting your heart rate high and burning a massive amount of calories in a small amount of time. People are using HIIT not only for aerobic training but for weight training as well. HIIT for muscular training manipulates the time of both the positive and negative contractions on the muscle, elongating the negative portion.

Why it’s HOT: Touted as one of the top fitness trends of 2014, HIIT is praised for increasing your metabolism and being an accessible workout for all. HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to burn calories and are therefore a great program for weight-loss. When trying to lose weight, it is important to focus on the total calories burned in one session, and keeping to a regimen of burning 300 to 500 calories per session for the majority of the week – whch is definitely doable if you stick to a HIIT routine.

But might be NOT: In order to get the best possible outcome from HIIT, you need to make sure that you maintain proper form and keep your work to rest ratios consistent. Failure to do so can mean that certain muscles may be feeling too much strain and, on the flipside, can also mean that you can find yourself ignoring muscle groups completely. Sculpting these workouts by yourself is one of the upsides of HIIT, but without an instructor you may not be hitting all areas of your body. When doing workouts by yourself, make sure to also keep your program well-rounded. HIIT workouts can lack excitement and may even seem boring. You can try to avoid this by including functional weight training, balance, and flexibility exercises as well.

This full-body workout has been made extremely popular in the past couple years, especially in tandem with trendy diets such as going paleo or vegan. This “prehistoric” approach to fitness combines body weight exercises with cardio and weights to make your body go through the ultimate test. With CrossFit gyms popping up in every city there is no doubt that people swear by the routine, but is it really as beneficial as many say?

Why it’s HOT: Men and women alike tend to love the small-gym culture, along with the fact that anyone, any age can do it. It is also praised for its full-body complete workout that keeps you from getting stuck in the dreaded workout rut. CrossFit combines Olympic lifting, acrobatic training, gymnastics, martial arts and functional movements, creating some of the best physical workouts in the world. One must: you need a great trainer for this form of exercise. Understanding the technique for each of the movements is paramount for acquiring the skill.”

But might be NOT: There have been many recent reports of injury coming directly from CrossFit training. These injuries are minor sprains and strains of muscle tendon and ligament, but there have also been reports of severe dislocations and even spinal cord injury. High intensity, high volume, and complex skill can make CrossFit a stage for injury. The intensity of the techniques involved requires a higher amount of force than almost any other fitness regimens. I usually see one person every few months injured specifically from CrossFit, but then in contrast, others I work with have changed their lives with CrossFit.

While yoga has long been a mainstay in the fitness world, hot yoga has recently gained a strong following. What makes hot yoga different? The room is heated to upwards of 100° for the duration of the 90 minute class, which makes participants sweat like they’ve never sweat before. One plus is that if you already know basic yoga flow you can jump right in, unlike some other activities which require a little period of learning and adjustment.

Why it’s HOT: Well, the room literally is! The increased heat makes your muscles, tendons, and ligaments have more elongation, allowing you to assume the postures more easily. Devotees also say they feel much lighter after a good class, in both mind and body. The great sweat you develop during a class of hot yoga allows you to release all of your toxins, which explains the amazing feeling you’ll have once it’s over.

But might be NOT: No matter how slow the movements are, exercising in a 100° room can definitely cause discomfort for some. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded is not uncommon although increased elasticity is the whole reason for hot yoga, you need to be cautious and not overdo it. The heat can trick people into pushing themselves too far which can result in injury.

Scott Weiss D.P.T., A.T., CSCS is a licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer in the state of New York. He is also a registered exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning specialist, and advanced personal trainer with over twenty-five years of experience. Scott possesses both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate in physical therapy. His affiliations and certifications with all the major certifying bodies domestically and internationally like the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS), American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), American Society of Exercise Physiologist (ASEP), allow him to be a consultant to collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes as well as a trainer to the stars. Throughout his career he had the pleasure and good fortune to work with some of the world’s elite athletes. These include several United States Olympic Teams, National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL) and the New York Liberty-WNBA. In 2012, Scott was selected to be a member of the United States sports medical team for the Olympic Games in London where he provided emergency medical and physical therapy services to the U.S. Sailing Team. He also served as part of the USOC sports medical team in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games. His company is Bodhizone or Human Performance & Sports Physical Therapy in New York City.

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