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New Variety in Classic Exercise Modalities

exercise modalitiesAs research continues to show the value of exercise for health, people are seeking new ways to move to capitalize on the benefits of regular workouts. Traditional exercise modalities, such as running, cycling and calisthenics, always will be popular because they are simple, accessible and easily available to most individuals. Standard workouts, such as riding a bike and then lifting free weights, aren’t going away – ever – and that’s a good thing.

While exercise should be a habit, performing the same workout day after day, month after month, can lead to fitness plateaus and a potential slump in motivation and adherence. But now, there are so many different ways to exercise, so it’s easier to mix it up and benefit your body and your mind. It’s not just the conventional modalities of cardio, strength and flexibility anymore – today there are mash-ups, combos and novel modes.

If you are a member of a health club, fitness studio or local recreation center, it should be easy to jump into these new workouts. If you exercise at home, check out online streaming workouts or sign up for a special class in your community to take advantage of innovative ways to get your sweat on.

And remember, while it’s smart to try new workouts, no pressure if you don’t like them. If Zumba isn’t your thing, or you hate kickboxing, or whatever, then don’t do them again.

When it comes to exercise, you need to like whatever you do, or it’s unlikely that you will stick to it over time. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? To remain fit and healthy, exercise needs to be consistent, so if you never want to get in the pool again, that’s fine. Keep your eyes (and mind and body) open to trying some of the new variety in classic exercise modalities, and you might just surprise yourself and find a new favorite or two!

Check out these exercise modalities and incorporate one, or more, into your workout routine!

HIIT it Hard!

High-intensity interval training is all the rage – and has been for some time – with no signs of slowing down. If you haven’t heard, interval training combines higher intensity bursts of 20-60 seconds or so with recovery periods of 10 seconds to three minutes long. The duration and number of intervals can vary, along with the prescribed intensity level (such as 85% of your maximum heart rate for work intervals), but the basic format is to alternate rigorous sessions with lighter intensity for the duration of the workout.

HIIT often combines cardio and strength, such as in a boot camp, Tabata workout or obstacle course training. CrossFit emphasizes strength moves, but at a rapid pace, which could constitute cardio. And some CrossFit WODs incorporate cardio intervals on the stationary rower or Airdyne bike.

But HIIT also can be just one or the other – Spinning is cardio-only, but is ideal for HIIT, and the new Max Trainer from Octane Fitness is all about HIIT.

While HIIT is definitely challenging, it is supremely popular because it efficiently burns calories, increases stamina and stimulates metabolism.

Combo Craze

Combining exercise modes, such as Spinning and yoga, for instance, has become increasingly popular in the past several years. The rationale is that if one style is good on its own, then adding another fun style can make it even better. Some combinations work better than others, and there is no limit to what you can do on your own, but here are a few that we’ve seen:

  • Piloxing – Fusing boxing and standing Pilates movements, this is cardio and core all out. Some sessions include plyometrics and/or barre exercises (more on that later).
  • Warrior Sculpt – Combines yoga with strength work to maximize challenge and benefits.
  • Ride and row – Integrates an indoor cycling session with a period of rowing.
  • Cycle and barre – Exercisers cycle first, then target their lower body and core with precise movements at the barre.
  • PiYo or Yogalates – Blends yoga poses with Pilates movements.
  • Dance and strength – Zumba Toning includes dance moves and strength training exercises with weights.
  • Circuit workouts – Exercisers perform at various stations, such as treadmills or rowers, and then transition to strength training exercises, all timed and organized to optimize conditioning. Think Orangetheory.

Certainly, there are lots more, and they can be a fun way to vary your routine and encourage fitness gains. If you’re nervous to try something new, recruit a buddy and take her/him along with you. You may discover a great addition to your regimen.

Strength Revolution

No longer just about how much you can bench press, strength training has changed over the years to emphasize more functional movements. So the emphasis now is on multi-joint, multi-muscle movements, like squats or lunges, versus the old-school standard seated leg extension or let curl, for instance.

Exercisers are taking advantage of free weights and cable and pulley multi-jungles where they have unlimited range of motion and can work in all planes of motion to push, pull, hinge, rotate and more. TRX suspension trainers are a great example of working with only body weight to get stronger. It incorporates lots of pull-ups, planks, push-ups, squats, lunges, jumps and other calisthenics.

People today are waving battle ropes, swinging kettlebells, pushing sleds, jumping on plyometric boxes and flipping tires to build total-body strength.

Dance, Dance, Dance

While dancing used to be something you just did at nightclubs or weddings, now it has become a legitimate exercise style. Zumba transformed dance into group sweat sessions where the fun factor is emphasized over the “workout.” A Latin Dance sensation, Zumba now has several formats, including Zumba Toning (see above), Aqua Zumba (in the pool), Zumba Step and Zumba Gold (for older adults), among others.

Newer to the scene is BollyX, which is a dance workout based on the music and dance of India’s film industry, called Bollywood. Like Zumba, BollyX is all about having fun dancing, while sneaking in cardio.

And LaBlast capitalizes on the ongoing interest in ballroom dancing with a partner-free workout that incorporates choreographed moves from jive, foxtrot, tango, lindy hop, quickstep and more. It also has a line dance version, which is a partner-free way to do disco, foxtrot, sambo, paso doble, etc.

Inspired by ballet moves, barre classes and studios are proliferating rapidly as well. Designed to work the lower body and core and to train like a dancer, barre sessions emphasize strength and flexibility, so while you’re not actually dancing, you are working like a dancer.

Water, Anyone?

If you’re bored swimming laps, and water aerobics isn’t your thing, take another look at the pool, where things have changed. Now you can cycle in the water, just like Spinning, but with hydrostatic resistance for challenge and the benefit of keeping cooler. It’s low-impact but high intensity.

Speedo also has a new program called Water Xtreme, which takes HIIT to the pool. It uses special accessories in the water for added resistance, combined with exercises like squats, lunges and push-ups on deck for a boot camp experience.

Another new water workout is Cardiowave, in which you use a unique floating fitness mat/platform to perform balance exercises, squats, lunges and more. Some classes add accessories, such as resistance bands and medicine balls for more intensity, and others incorporate yoga and Pilates moves.


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