Fitness Trends: Worth the Hype?

Featured Article, Fitness, News and Advice
on May 8, 2014
fitness trends

With summer just around the corner, many of us are focusing our energies on whipping our butts into swimsuit-ready shape. Unfortunately, what used to be a simple trip to the gym has now turned into a roundabout of trial and error, thanks to the ever-changing crop of fitness trends that keep bursting onto the scene. From Soul Cycle to Pure Barre to Zumba, the choices for getting fit are endless. Where to begin? While variety is both fun and beneficial, it’s important to also be wary of the trendy workouts topping the charts and select an activity that bests suits your needs. Below, licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer Dr. Scott Weiss gives us his opinion on what’s Hot or maybe Not

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Barry's Bootcamp in New York

An instructor leads a sweaty HIIT-style class at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York.

This workout method has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the past year or so. Consisting of short, high-energy intervals with a typical work/rest ratio of 2:1, HIIT workouts are designed to get your heart pumping and scorch a massive amount of calories in a small amount of time. According to Dr. Weiss, “People are using HIIT for not only aerobic training, but weight training as well. HIIT for muscular training manipulates the time of both the positive and negative contractions on the muscle, elongating the negative portion.”

Why it’s HOT: Touted as one of the top fitness trends of 2014, HIIT is praised for increasing your metabolism and being an accessible workout for all. “HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to burn calories and are therefore a great program for weight-loss,” explains Dr. Weiss. “When trying to lose weight, it is important to focus on the total calories burned in one session, and keeping to a regimen of burning 300-500 calories per session for the majority of the week- which is definitely doable if you stick to a HIIT routine.”

But might be NOT: In order to get the best possible outcome from HIIT, you need to make sure that you maintain proper form and keep your work to rest ratios consistent. Failure to do so can mean that certain muscles may be feeling too much strain and, on the flip-side, can also mean that you can find yourself ignoring muscle groups completely. Sculpting these workouts by yourself is one of the upsides of HIIT, but without an instructor you may not be hitting all areas of your body. “When doing workouts by yourself, make sure to also keep your program well-rounded,” adds Dr. Weiss. “HIIT workouts can lack excitement and may even seem boring. You can try to avoid this by including functional weight training, balance and flexibility exercises as well.”

Spinning Class

Soul Cycle is one of the nation's trendiest spin studios

SoulCycle is one of the nation’s trendiest indoor cycling studios.

Boutique spinning studios, such as SoulCycle and FlyWheel Sports, attract hundreds of thousands of women a year due to the high calorie burn and sweat that is induced in one 45-60 minute class.  With high prices and limited spaces for each class, there is also a level of commitment and exclusivity, making the spin studio the place to be.

Why it’s HOT: With both high energy and high caloric burn, one spin class will make you feel like you can take over the world. Dr. Weiss adds, “Spin classes are a great way to get people interested in activities such as real cycling and biking, which are great functional sports that can be done anywhere in the world.”

But might be NOT: If you replace all of your workouts with only spinning, you could potentially find yourself reaching a fitness plateau. Keeping your fitness routine the same day after day will only keep you working the same muscles, leading to muscle imbalances and a halt in your desired weight-loss. “If cycling is your only form of exercise, you will develop a specific body type with calves and thighs dominating. Tight abdominals, short hip flexors and a hunched posture is not good if you have a history of Lower Back Pain (LBP). This is definitely something to keep in mind if you are thinking about trying a spinning class,” Dr. Weiss advises.

Cross Fit

Crossfit gyms have exploded in popularity over the past few years.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program that includes functional movements performed at high intensity that are constantly varied.

This intense, full-body workout has exploded in popularity over the past couple years, with CrossFit gyms cropping up in cities across the country. This hard-core approach to fitness—which combines body weight exercises with cardio and weights—has garnered a cult-like following of clients, who swear by the routine as the ultimate workout. But is it really as effective as many claim it to be?

Why it’s HOT: Men and women alike tend to love the small-gym culture, along with the fact that anyone, any age can do it. It is also praised for its full-body complete workout that keeps you from getting stuck in the dreaded workout rut. “CrossFit combines Olympic lifting, acrobatic training, gymnastics, martial arts and functional movements, creating some of the best physical workouts in the world,” Dr. Weiss says. “One must: you need a great trainer for this form of exercise. Understanding the technique for each of the movements is paramount for acquiring the skill.”

But might be NOT: There have been many recent reports of injury coming directly from CrossFit training.  These injuries are minor sprains and strains of muscle tendon and ligament, but there have also been reports of severe dislocations—and even spinal cord injury.“High intensity, high volume and complex skill can make CrossFit a stage for injury.  The intensity of the techniques involved require a higher amount of force that almost any other fitness regimens,” Dr. Weiss explains. “I usually see one person every few months injured specifically from CrossFit, but then in contrast, others I work with have changed their life with Cross Fit.”

Hot Yoga

Bikram yoga

Bikram Yoga consists of a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises performed in a 105-degree room.

While yoga has long been a mainstay in the fitness world, hot yoga has recently gained a strong following. What makes hot yoga different? The room is heated to upwards of 100° for the duration of the 90 minute class, which makes participants sweat like they’ve never sweat before. One plus is that if you already know basic yoga flow you can jump right in, unlike some other activities, which require a little period of learning and adjustment.

Why it’s HOT: Well, the room—literally! The increased heat allows your muscles, tendons and ligaments to have more elongation, enabling you to assume the postures more easily. Devotees also claim that they feel much lighter after a good class, in both mind and body. According to Dr. Weiss, the great sweat you develop during a class of hot yoga allows you to release all of your toxins, which explains the amazing feeling you’ll have once it’s over.

But might be NOT: No matter how slow the movements are, exercising in a 100° room can definitely cause discomfort for some. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded is not uncommon, and, as Dr. Weiss adds, “increased elasticity is the whole reason for hot yoga, but you need to be cautious and not overdo it. The heat can trick people into pushing themselves too far which can result in injury.”

Meet Dr. Scott Weiss, D.P.T., A.T., CSCS.: Dr. Scott Weiss is a licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer in the state of New York.  He is also a registered exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning specialist and advanced personal trainer with over twenty-five years of experience. Scott possesses both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate in physical therapy. In 2012, Scott was selected to be a member of the United States sports medical team for the Olympic Games in London where he provided emergency medical and physical therapy services to the U.S. Sailing Team. He also served as part of the USOC sports medical team in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games.