Here are some emerging trends and fun classes, along with expert tips on their pros and cons.
A form of body weight training, Animal Flow (developed by personal trainer Mike Fitch) incorporates gymnastics, Parkour and even some breakdancing moves in moves with names such as Ape Reach and Forward Traveling Crab.
Since the workout doesn’t require equipment, you can do these moves at home or on the road, says Tom Holland, author of “Beat the Gym.”
The hitch: You are limited by your own body weight, which makes it more difficult to increase (or decrease) the resistance, says Holland.
Exercises translate to activities and movements you perform in real life, such as picking up and lifting a stack of books on a high shelf, which may be squats followed by an overhead shoulder press, for example.
“Functional fitness uses multiple muscles and joints in purposeful ways so that your body works as a total unit,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery. “You get a bit of a cardio boost from functional exercise as well since it involves both smaller muscles such as your arms along with the large, aerobic muscles including your glutes, hips, legs, and lower back.”
The hitch: If you have weak individual muscles such as your biceps or abdominals, you’ll need to isolate those muscles separately, says Olson.
This high-energy, dance-based workout incorporates light upper body weights in the form of drumsticks. It uses your entire body for a solid cardio workout, says Olson. “It also includes toning exercises that are similar to Pilates. You get both cardio and muscular endurance exercise in one workout session and the fun/enjoyment factor is high.”
The hitch: The light drumsticks don’t provide enough resistance to qualify as a strength workout, so you’ll still need to hit the weight room if you want to increase strength, says Olson.
Foam rollers and other small, therapeutic type equipment take center stage in this class, developed by Sue Hitzmann, a manual therapist. A way to recover from your workout rather than an actual workout in itself, the MELT method can be easily incorporated into one’s schedule and aid in alleviating pain and chronic soreness, says Olson.
The hitch: MELT may work well to enhance recovery and range of motion but don’t forgo your regular stretching routine, says Olson, which should be done at least three times a week.