Body weight training will be the top sports trend of 2015, survey says
Survey reveals new and old fitness trends for 2015
In this era of new-fangled exercise contraptions, disco-like gym classes and fitness fads with fancy names, it's perhaps ironic that the top fitness trend for 2015 identified by health and fitness professionals has been practised for thousands of years.
Body weight training, the backbone of strength training for the Spartans of ancient Greece and US Special Operations troops, will be the hottest trend next year, according to an annual survey by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Think push-ups, planks, dips, lunges and squats - exercises that use your body weight as the source of resistance.
"It's no surprise to see body weight training claiming the top spot this year," says Walter Thompson, the lead author of the survey, which is now in its ninth straight year. "These kinds of exercises provide the benefit of requiring little to no equipment, and are incorporated into many fitness programmes that are popular."
CrossFit, TRX suspension training and boot-camp workouts, for example, make use of body weight training. Bret Contreras, author of the 2013 book Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy, contends that body weight training is the most convenient type of resistance training.
"If you learn to use your body as a barbell, then you'll always have the ability to obtain a great workout," he says.
Appearing for the first time in the trends survey in 2013, at No3 and ranked second last year, body weight training took over the top spot from 2014's first-time entry, high-intensity interval training (which, in fact, employs many body weight exercises in its routine).
Yves Vanlandewijck, of the faculty of kinesiology and rehabilitation sciences at KU Leuven in Belgium, says he is not surprised that high-intensity interval training has been overtaken.
"There have been many anecdotal reports about elevated injury rates with high-intensity exercise (compared with moderate intensity), and that probably would discourage some people from engaging in this activity," he says.
The survey was completed by more than 3,400 health and fitness professionals worldwide, including Hong Kong. The top 10 trends for 2014 remained in the top 10 for 2015, albeit with a slight reshuffling - which suggests that these are, indeed, trends, rather than fads.
Conversely, some trends that appeared to be strong for several years have dropped off the list: Pilates, indoor cycling, stability ball, balance training and the Latin dance workout Zumba.
"Some of the survey respondents still argue that the persistent sluggish economy has influenced the results of this survey, and that training programmes requiring expensive equipment or technical instruction are not supported because of the increased cost," writes Thompson.
"Others argue that Zumba, indoor cycling and Pilates have run their useful course," he notes in the study report, published in the November/December issue of Health & Fitness Journal.
Body weight training, Thompson says, has been used for centuries but only became popular - as a defined trend - recently, when gyms and fitness professionals repackaged it to give it modern appeal.
It's not just limited to push-ups or pull-ups. In the 2011 bestseller You are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, elite Special Operations trainer Mark Lauren describes 125 of the most effective bodyweight exercises.
Lauren offers workouts that are perfect for the office worker, or any exercise-resistant person who wields the classic excuse, "I have no time to work out." The book also has a very popular spin-off app that presents his coaching in high-definition video. It's like having a personal trainer in your pocket.
Lauren explains that most weight training exercises isolate only certain muscles, requiring a fairly small portion of your body's total muscle mass, unlike body weight exercises that incorporate many at once.
Body weight exercises have the added benefit of being much more demanding of core strength than exercises that require weights and machines.
"Body weight exercises also use motions that keep you safe from the many chronic injuries, like joint problems, that come over time with weightlifting and other unnatural exercises which have little functional value in our daily lives," he says.
Lauren has strong words for those who rely on fitness equipment to keep in shape.
"Do you really think that we evolved or were created to require machines in order to stay fit?" he asks.
"It's lack of knowledge about your own body's potential that drives modern mankind's endless demand for useless fitness gimmicks," Lauren says.
Top 10 fitness trends for 2015
For the ninth straight year, the American College of Sports Medicine has surveyed thousands of fitness professionals worldwide to forecast the coming year's fitness trends. Here's what the experts predict will be hot for 2015.
Body weight training (2014 ranking: 2)
With minimal equipment needed, this "back to basics" fitness philosophy is affordable, convenient and efficient.
High-intensity interval training (1)
HIIT consists of a circuit of alternating short bouts of hard work and rest, and completed in about 30 minutes or less.
Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals (3)
As more people pursue health and fitness, the demand for fitness professionals grows - and along with it an interest in regulation and accreditation of these experts.
Strength training (4)
This is ever-popular because it's an essential part of a complete exercise programme for all physical activity levels and genders.
Personal training (6)
As more professional personal trainers are educated and become certified (see trend no. 3), they are increasingly more accessible in all sectors of the health and fitness industry.
Exercise and weight loss (5)
You can't have the latter without the former if sustained weight control is your goal.
Yoga seems to reinvent and refresh itself every year, making it a more attractive form of exercise.
Fitness programmes for older adults (7)
Health and fitness professionals are creating age-appropriate fitness programmes to keep older adults healthy and active.
Functional fitness (8)
This involves using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. It's closely related to the previous trend.
Group personal training (9)
Training two or three people at a time makes economic sense for the trainer and the clients.
The five best body weight exercise apps
FitStar Personal Trainer
Want a personal trainer but can't afford one? This slick app is a fantastic alternative. With dynamic HD videos and coaching from American football legend Tony Gonzalez, you have a personal trainer in your pocket 24/7. Choose from personalised programmes for losing weight and gaining strength - they continually adjust to your feedback, goals and capabilities, so you're always challenged. The basic plan, which offers two sessions a week, is free. Upgrading to a premium subscription for HK$38 a month or HK$318 a year is well worth the price.
Bodyweight Training: You Are Your Own Gym
This app could be the kick in the butt you need to get in shape, with its military-like voice and video instructions inspired by the same techniques used by the US Special Forces. Fitness instructor and bestselling author Mark Lauren teaches more than 200 exercises grouped into push, pull, legs, core or whole body. Pick a standalone workout or follow its 10-week fitness programmes tailored to all fitness levels.
500 Bodyweight Challenge
Personal trainer and natural movement expert Greg Brookes teaches 10 body weight exercises then challenges you to doing 50 reps of each against a timer. There aren't any variations, so it could get boring after a while.
Bodyweight Training Anatomy
If you're not only into training but also understanding the science of it all, this app is for you. Based on the popular book of the same name by Bret Contreras, the app features 19 exercises that target various body parts and has full-colour anatomical illustrations and an interactive muscle identifier - so you know exactly which muscles you're working. Bonus exercises for the chest and back, core and legs are available via in-app purchase.
New York Times 7-minute Workout
Released in October, The New York Times worked with an expert to create the Advanced 7-Minute Workout. It offers animated illustrations of the exercises, as well as a timer and audio cues to help you get the most out of your seven minutes. No download required - it plays from your internet browser.