Saturday, January 29, 2011

Top Ten Fitness Trends For 2011

It's been a busy January. Unlike some internet fitness gurus I actually train people in the real world, hence this is my first blog of 2011.

Here are my predictions of what's going to be big in 2011 fitness-wise.

Note: Of the top ten trends I have put together, some are things that I like, some are things that I don't personally like but will be popular anyway, and a couple of things are probably wishful thinking on my part - things that I want to be trends. I have also put a list together of things which are already popular and will continue to grow.

Before I get to my list I want to review the list that is put together by the American College Of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Below is their list and my commentary on it

  1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals. Of course they would say that, they are an accreditation organisation. I want this one to be true. Rather than having a system that at one end of the spectrum churns out sports science graduates who don't even know how to squat or deadlift, and at the other end has courses that last a day or two and then suddenly the person is a fitness professional. A profession that lets you deal with peoples bodies, the most sacred possession they have, with the minimal of experience of training. Let's hope this changes.
  2. Fitness programs for older adults. This one has been around for years, and it has never really taken off or come to fruition. Here's why: older adults are not all the same! I have a female client in her 70's who can rack deadlift 60kg from just below the knees, as well as doing goblet squats and a whole range of strength exercises. I also teach a group of older people, where at least 4 of them couldn't get of a chair due to a whole host of problems they have accumulated over a lifetime. And then we have ultra runners like Jack Dennes who is in his 70's completing the badwater ultra. The obvious point is, the population over the age of 60 are not one amorphous group; some are very fit, some are injured, some have trained their whole life, some haven't.
  3. Strength training. How can strength training be a trend?! It should be a fundamental component of any fitness program!
  4. Children and obesity. Another one that has been banded about for years. All attempt I've seen so far to tap into this market have failed.
  5. Personal Training. Of course they would say that. See my list to see a more specific trend. One to one training may well be over.
  6. Core training. Whatever the core may be, there is no definitive definition. Having core training as a trend is like having leg training as a trend.
  7. Exercise and weightloss. Shouldn't this be number 1, every year, forever?
  8. Bootcamps. This is already happening, see my list for how it may evolve. And my previous post on bootcamps here.
  9. Functional training. Whatever this is, isn't a deadlift functional?
  10. Physician referrals. This is a whole other blog post, because the healthcare system is set up differently in the UK compared to the USA, I will write about this another time.
And without further ado, to my list of the top ten fitness trends in 2011.

1. Small group training/ semi private training.

I'm going to make a bold statement. Personal training doesn't work for most people, you might as well do a gym induction and write them a program to go away with, it has about the same success rate. Here's why. Most people only have one personal training sessions a week, if you're lucky they might do two. Then most of these clients don't do any training when they aren't with the trainer or train in a half-arsed way, and then most of these have a few sessions and then stop. Of course, there are some exceptions, but most people follow this route.

The cost of one to one sessions is too prohibitive for most people. That's why they only have one session a week or buy a block and then stop. Small group training makes the sessions more affordable, suddenly a person is paying a quarter of the price, so they can then attend more sessions.

But the most important reason the small group sessions work better for most people is the group dynamic. With all the small group training sessions I have been involved with, there is a sense of group camaraderie, banter between the participants and the instructor, and they are always high energy with everyone pushing everyone else to achieve more. The results from semi private training are superior in my opinion. As an instructor, they are more enjoyable to teach and you end up getting results with more clients. Everyone's a winner.

The semi private training model has been perfected and made popular by the likes of Alwyn Cosgrove and Cressey Performance and has been around for quite a few years. However, it seems commercial gyms have never really gotten a hold of it, and don't know how to deal with it. Are the trainers teaching a class or doing a personal training session they ask? It doesn't fit their payment model. This year might be the year commercial fitness facilities finally grasp the concept, and don't get left behind; as they increasingly are these days.

2. Online training

You can only train so many people one to one, and even in group training environments you can only train so many people per week. With online training, it is possible to have hundreds of clients at any one time.

This guy has 500 online personal training clients

Again, online training has been around for a while. And got a bad name in some circles, as it ended up being the domain of internet gurus who had never really trained anyone in real life. Also the technology wasn't there to begin with. Now anyone, can put together some decent quality videos and post them immediately.

Two recent products seem to have exploited this video phenomenon. Eric Cresseys Show & Go and Mike Boyles BodyByBoyle. I don't own or subscribe to either of these products. But the model is sound, why buy a book when you can get a whole video library as well, either through a one off payment or on-going monthly subscription.

Commercial gyms already have access to the market, but once again are lagging behind. If someone joins your gym and has a one off induction, (and if you're lucky they might get 4 or 5 follow up appointments) but then want to remind themselves of an exercise technique, why not create a video library online. They can still get advice and coaching from the instructors, they two concepts are not mutually exclusive. If a customer wants to buy an exercise program from you or access your virtual gym, why not let them. Sales people and owners of large chains are still enamoured by equipment and museum tours. Your product is not the room full of treadmills, it is the expertise of your staff and how they help clients achieve results.

With an online product, your market is not just the town you live in, but everyone in the world who could benefit from your knowledge. It's time the true fitness professionals took the online market back from the hucksters and keyboard warriors.

3. Crossfit style workouts & crazy gymnastics

There are a few crossfit facilities in the UK, but not that many. I expect a few more will open. But what is more likely is trainers will start to copy the model. Get yourself an olympic lifting qualification, even if you haven't lifted a weight in your life, buy some gymnastic rings, put together a random workout and bingo - you got yourself a class!

There are some good people involved in cross fit, see Kelly Starrett's mobility WOD blog for an example. And we could debate the benefits of high repetition olympic lifting all days. But more troubling, will be the trainers with a little knowledge making people do stupid things. These are probably going to be the same people doing bootcamps in the park. Don't worry if you've got the hip mobility of a wooden table and a bad back, these clean & jerks and hand stand back flips should sort you out.

Crossfit does make women hot

Conditioning workouts can be great, and crossfit does seem to produce an abundance of hot women. But appropriate movement screening and exercise modalities to suit the individual should be considered.

Or are the women of crossfit hot before they even start?

Again, commercial facilities could create their own version of this and invest in their staff training, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Who cares: hot women do crossfit, that's all we need to know

4. Bootcamps

Yes, bootcamps are already a trend. See my post here. In 2011, I think the market will become more segmented and commercial facilities will try to get in on the game about 2 years too late.

There already is some market segmentation, with bootcamps for women only like Fit For A Princess. This year there will be more of this. Rather than just military bootcamps, there will be weight loss bootcamps, kids bootcamps, sports bootcamps etc. Of course, the exercises you will do in all these bootcamps will be exactly the same! Run around the park, do some burpees, crunches, plyometric lunges and press ups.

Workout in the park: Bootcamp Peter Griffin style

Bu the people running these know they are onto a good thing. No equipment, no personal training rent, no individualised program, no building needed. Why make £40 an hour from one person, when you can get 20 people and charge them £10 each, that's £200 an hour for shouting at people in the park. Job done.

5. Corrective exercise & mobility.

With all these cross fit style workouts and bootcamp randomness there are going to be some injured people. The trainer well versed in corrective exercise and mobility will be positioned to deal with this. These days, it's rare for me to see anyone who hasn't been injured in some way. May be its just the people who get referred to me, but in  nearly every consultation I have some kind of back, shoulder or knee injury is mentioned. Almost every week someone says to me in passing 'I've got a shoulder/ knee/ back / problem what exercise should  I do for it.'. The correct answer is, it depends. I'm not going to give you some random exercises without assessing it and getting some history.

With regards to this I recommend Charlie Weingroffs DVD 'Training = Rehab Rehab = Training'. Use the functional movement screen, the selective functional movement assessment, the joint by joint approach and the core pendulum theory as your blue print. Again I can't recommend this DVD highly enough.

Even if you don't use this, have some type of systematic approach to it, I have no problem blending the work of Janda, Sahrmann, McGill, and Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains. Be the go to person.

This is one of my wishful thinking trends. I still see trainers giving people crunches and knee side to side...sigh.

6. Indian Clubs/ Power Clubs

The most popular exercise of the Victorian era is due a come back. I first saw 'bear clubs' mentioned on (the place I bought my first kettlebell from) about 6 years ago. Since then Indian clubs have been threatening to be the new kettlebell, but have never quite broken through.

Indian Clubs

There is now at least one training organisation (Premier) in the UK offering a one day course in 'power clubs', see the video clip below. I haven't done this training course, but I may well do.

The name 'Indian clubs' has always been dragging them down, if they'd called them 'hardcore MMA conditioning clubs' or 'fat loss skittles' then they'd be mainstream already.

The potential for shoulder rehab work, mobility, as well as conditioning, make these are versatile tool.

7. Yoga, breathing, meditation

Yoga makes a comeback every few years with a different emphasis. Sometimes its as a cardiovascular power workout like Ashtanga, sometimes its purely as a stretching class and sometimes its a bunch of folk in a super heated room overstretching their ligaments.

The current comeback will be based around breathing. In this ever increasing  sedentary and stressful world people are breathing in a very poor way. Recently, I've seen quite a few people breathing high up into their chest and shoulders, and they were unable to breather into the diaphragm or abdomen when I first demonstrated it, they had lost the ability to breathe properly.

The benefits of meditation and breathing correctly are well known. Many people are still reluctant to go to a class on meditation, but they will go to a yoga class, where they can get many of the same benefits. Though, I think in 2011 we may even see a rise in meditation classes. Good yoga instructors can combine breahting, stretching, mobility and quietening of the mind into one seemless narrative.

Here's a good article on the benefits of meditation.

And this is an article on breathing I like by an RKC and yoga teacher

He may be meditating peacefully now, but how's he going to get back to dry land?

8. Intermittent Fasting

The only nutrition trend to make the list. Fasting has been around since forever, but as a product it's hard to sell. You tell someone not to eat for 24 hours, they don't really need a diet plan or supplement for this. There's nothing to sell them.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has started to get an underground internet following which may well go mainstream. Brad Pilons ebook Eat Stop Eat is very good and covers some of the science, the website leangains has a good following and most recently Christian Thibaudeau on T-nation has come up with at least two fasting protocols. And rather than saying eat nothing, they've linked it to a supplement protocol, which makes it more marketable. And once somethings on t-nation its only a matter of time before someone copies and pastes it. True story: I have seen a PowerPoint presentation given by a training company to group of people as part of a Fitness Industry Association seminar that had sections in it copied and pasted from t-nation. Now the information was good, but it shows that the people running training companies don't know anymore than anyone else with an internet connection.

When intermittent fasting goes mainstream expect it to confuse the public and the mainstream media. For years, the message to eat breakfast and  eat 4-6 small a day has been a mantra in the fitness industry. Suddenly, the message will get confused, when someone starts saying, actually you don't need to eat breakfast, and may be try eating nothing for 24 hours?!

Of course, the 'eating small and often' and the 'intermittent fasting' approach both work, just to add to the confusion the public will have about this.

9. Vertical pole

Pole dancing has never gone mainstream. However, as I mentioned in the complete history of fitness part 1, at least one company is offering vertical pole classes to men and women. And if anyone at pussycat poles wants to invite me to try the class and write a review, I'm more than happy to give it a go!

All you need to do is put one of the vertical poles in a crossfit style circuits and call it a  'gymnastic core conditioning pole' and you got yourself a trend.

10. Everything will continue as before.

The biggest trend of 2011 will be inertia. Commercial chains will do what they've always done, offer their members one to one service in the sales blurb and then ignore them. Rely on an underpaid, undervalued and minimally qualified workforce. And continue to sell memberships like you're buying some double glazing off of a guy in 1983. Keep investment low, and have facilities over reliant on cardio machines and resistance machines that they have had for years. And a whole group of personal trainers with spikey hair and shaved legs will continue to say 'awesome' too much and will become bootcamp & crossfit experts as well.

If only Rollerball was going to be one of the fitness trends of 2011

Trends that will continue.


Already popular. I didn't realise until I recently sent some staff on a zumba course, that it is a 2 day certification that anyone can do. No fitness qualification needed. They show you a few moves and then encourage you to free style and add in your own moves. Like most fitness courses, everyone passes regardless of how bad they are (remember the ACSM number 1 trend). Which means, you could go to class taught by someone who is a trained dancer and it will be great and inspiring or you could go to a class taught by someone who dances like you Nan at a wedding. Either way, expect there to be more zumba instructors than participants by the end of the year. Kerching!


Popularity will grow because they work when done properly.

It goes without saying, if your instructor can't do a clean or snatch or turkish get up and doesn't know what a hip hinge is, go somewhere else.

Excuse for another crossfit woman picture

Boxing/ MMA

Either in small group format or as part of the bootcamp. Either way 'tap out' have got a lot of clothing they need to sell.

Suspension training, TRX, fitkit

Becoming part of mainstream gyms at last. Gymnastic rings are the cheaper option.

Wrap Up

Well those are my predictions, lets see if I'm right.

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