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What's Trending in Fitness: Three New Ways to Shake it Up

By Devin Wicks

Editor's Note: Devin Wicks is a long-time contributor to Realjock and the creator of our Strength Foundation 12-week program. He is riding in this year’s AIDS/Lifecycle—and he is still looking for sponsors. Check out his profile.

Whether you’re gearing up for some summer fun or training for your favorite winter sport south of the Equator, now’s the time to freshen up your workout and push yourself with some of the latest fitness training techniques. If you haven't changed it up in a while, there are some new ideas floating around the gym that you might want to try. Check out these three new fitness trends that will help you develop that perfect physique.  

Metabolic Training 
Once the preferred workout reserved for elite athletes, this form of training has moved from the strength and conditioning rooms of your favorite athletic team to your local gym. This intense approach to conditioning is guaranteed to shake up your workout and leave you stronger, fitter and more cut.   

What is it?: Metabolic training, made popular by P90X videos and Crossfit training centers, uses multi-muscle, multi-joint (a.k.a compound) exercises strung together in a timed, circuit-style routine to create an intense workout. In these workouts, you perform classic strength and conditioning exercises at a high-rate of speed with very little or even no recovery. In most cases, you’ll be training total body movement patterns focused on speed and explosiveness. So, if you’re looking for intensity, you can’t do much better than a metabolic workout. 

Benefits: The biggest plus to this workout is the after-burn (otherwise known as the excess post-oxygen consumption or EPOC) you experience. For many years, we’ve been under the assumption that to effectively lose fat you must train at lower intensities, in the so-called “fat-burning zone.” In this zone, your body primarily utilizes fat as its fuel source. So, it seems to make sense that you would want to train here. However, as we’ve progressed in our understanding of the effects of training on the body, we’ve begun to focus on the after-effects of working out. Recent studies have found that the more intense your training, the more calories you burn overall—even several hours after your workout. And, since fat loss is really a game of calories in versus calories out, the more calories your body consumes overall, the more fat you’ll lose. Who wouldn’t want that? 

Things to watch out for:  This workout has two potential drawbacks. This first is the sheer intensity that you’ll experience with this style of training.  Most people aren’t prepared for the type of intensity they encounter their first time through. It’s critical that you spend some time doing some basic strengthening before attempting a metabolic workout. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself left in a heaving puddle on the floor, or worse—with a severe muscle or joint injury. 

The other thing you want to watch for with this workout is the increased likelihood of repetitive use injury. Since most of these workouts are structured for high-repetition movements, if you’re not careful to adjust your workout frequently, you’ll start slipping into a pattern of overtraining and creating muscle imbalances. Make sure to vary up your movements and start off slow. For an example of this style of training, check out our RealJock article on metabolic workouts.

Martial Arts Style Training
The boot camp workouts made popular in the early millennium have given way to the next level in themed total-body training programs based on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitions.   

What is it?: These programs, which have grown in profile because of the popularity of Ultimate Fighting competitions, are ground in the various styles of martial arts such as Muay Thai, jiujitsu, wrestling and tae kwon do. Participants engage in full-contact movements with a sparring partner using kicks, strikes, throws and wrestling techniques to get their partner to submit.   

Benefits: Rarely will you find a training style that encompasses such a diverse amount of movement. Classes often include various fighting techniques coupled with traditional training methods like push-ups, squats and core work. These classes are usually structured to train an athlete to withstand the physical demands of a competitive fight that has several three to five-minute rounds. This means you’ll be training at or near your maximum intensity multiple times during your session. 

The large variation in training also adds to the desired muscle confusion response we all look for in the ideal workout. It helps keep you stimulating muscle growth effectively while preventing the types of repetitive use injuries we see in standard training practices.  

Things to watch out for: As with any intense training protocol, you need to know your limits. Jumping into one of the classes without giving your body the appropriate time to adjust is just asking for serious injury. You also want to watch out for those classes where the instructor’s only goal is to take you out. True martial arts training is very layered and is completely focused on technique. It requires skill to perform those moves, so you’ll want to find a class that teaches to a high level of detail in a safe and effective way. 

Body Leverage Training 
Want to elevate your workout and really challenge yourself to move in a new way? Consider adding a twist to your training by incorporating a TRX, JUKARI Fit to Fly or Antigravity (aerial yoga) workout to your routine. 

What is it?: This type of training encompasses a wide variety of new classes and training systems with the common theme of body weight suspension conditioning.  With these systems, you’ll train total body movement patterns using primarily your weight as the resistance and the equipment to assist (or challenge) in various ways. 

Benefits: Suspension training is the ultimate functional fitness workout. It focuses (with the use of specialized equipment) on training in an unstable environment. By challenging your body to stabilize as you work, you engage a wide range of muscles and force your body to deal with its own weight in a controlled way. It’s a great way to train muscle strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and joint stability.  These system also allow you to find your fullest range of motion, helping you to maximize each rep you perform in a relatively safe format. 

Things to watch out for: Most of us haven’t trained with Cirque du Soleil or Ringling Brothers Circus, so knowing how to effectively use our body is a bit of a mystery. There is a learning curve involved in this type of workout. These workouts require a high level of body awareness and, until you are familiar with how to use this equipment, you’ll likely not realize its true benefits. Because of this, you’re also more likely to injure yourself by attempting something you might not be ready for. If you want to add this to your workout mix, make sure to look for qualified instruction and give yourself a little time. Before you know it, you’ll be auditioning for O in Las Vegas! 

Now, get out there and shake things up a bit!  You’ll get out of your rut and your body with thank you for the added challenge.

About Devin Wicks: Devin Wicks (ACSM-HFI, USAW Club Coach) is creator of the RealJock Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout program and the fitness operations director at the University of California, Berkeley, where he acts as specialty strength coach for some of the university's premier sports teams, and is coordinating a pioneering new campus employee wellness program.