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Apr 19, 2017

One interesting thing about the fitness industry is that media and non-industry friends are always asking about the newest, latest, great workout product or program. For some reason when it comes to the commercial fitness industry it seems like we're always on the lookout for the 'next big thing' whether it's a product like the TRX or branded program like CrossFit; as a result we often overlook what really works to establish a foundation of good health: consistent exercise and smart nutrition choices. 

Fitness is only part of the puzzle, other lifestyle habits like nutrition, amount of time spent sitting, sleep, hydration and total amount of daily physical activity all play important roles in helping to create optimal health. When it comes to which exercise program works the best, here's what ALL good, educated fitness professionals know: EVERYTHING works, if you do it the right way and you adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors at the same time.  

That said, it is fun trying to predict future trends. When I first picked up a kettlebell in 2003 I know it was going to become popular but I didn't think I'd be able to buy one at big box retailers. When I did my first CrossFit workout in 2005 I thought it was a fun, challenging workout to provide the benefits of high intensity training but I never thought that we would be watching CrossFit competitions on TV. The point is that I can sometimes tell when things are going to be a popular fitness trend but I underestimate how popular.

14 years after picking up my 1st kettlebell and I'm still swinging away

Whenever I’m at a large fitness event like the IHRSA trade show or IDEA World Conference I always ask colleagues and other attendees about any new equipment or trends that are catching their eye. As people tell me about the products or programs they’re noticing, or sharing their ideas for what the next fitness trend will be, one thing always occurs to me: rather than always looking for the next ‘best thing’ in fitness we should be focusing our efforts on doing the basics right. From Ashtanga yoga to indoor cycling to Zumba it seems as if the popularity of fitness is at an all-time high yet we seem to always be looking for the next trend. 

It can be tough to guess exactly what will happen in the future (if I could do that I’d be working on Wall Street or fleecing the casinos in Vegas) but here are my best educated guesses on the fitness trends we’ll be seeing over the next year or two.


1.  In 2017 the online workout-video-on-demand category will expand as companies evolve from offering pre-recorded workouts to providing instructor-led workouts live-streamed from a popular studio in real-time as they’re happening. Popular video-on-demand service The Daily Burn is leading the way in this category allowing three friends in a living room in Decatur, Georgia to follow along with a live workout being taught in a studio in mid-town Manhattan.


2.  What is old is new again. Thanks to products like the Mace from companies like Onnit one of the recent trends has been a return to ‘ancient’ strength training techniques used by the original generation of strongmen and militaries. Various militaries, like Germany in the 1700s, were the first to popularize group fitness as a means of preparing soldiers for battle. The Mace is a heavy tool used for hand-to-hand combat but it also creates an extremely effective way to train for total body rotational strength. Yes, my first glimpse into the future is all about new tech and this one is all about a return to ancient techniques; but when it comes to fitness there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution meaning different modes of exercise will be attractive to different types of people.  

The one arm press was made famous during the era of physical culture; Arthur Saxon could lift over 200 lbs. (95-ish kilos) with one arm.

3.  Social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and Facebook Live provide fitness professionals with the opportunity to promote their individual brands and connect with thousands of people around the world. Over the next year we will see more trainers use social media platforms to extend their ability to get people moving. In addition we will start seeing trainers and fitness models who have cultivated a strong social media presence (think tens of thousands of followers) leverage their extensive networks of followers to create revenue streams for themselves by promoting various fitness products.


4.  Building community through health clubs. One reason why Starbucks has been so successful (besides selling legally addictive stimulants) is because it creates a third space that is neither work nor home but a location to hang out, spend some time catching up with a friend or a good book. Health clubs provide the same opportunity; they're not just a place to get sweaty but they create a community of like-minded individuals interested in exercise. Ok, I'm biased because I met my wife at a health club


5.  In the coming years we will see more health clubs and fitness equipment companies align their products and services with popular professional sports leagues. UFC Gyms, which allow members to exercise in an environment that replicates how MMA stars train for competition, are experiencing rapid growth both in the United States and internationally (listen to All About Fitness podcasts episode 16 with Rob McCullough, the director of fitness for UFC Gyms and episode 18 with Tamar El-Guindy, the VP of international franchising for the company). Also in the MMA realm, Reebok, a major sponsor of the UFC, has licensed their name to Power Systems for a line of high intensity strength training equipment. In addition, there are rumors that a health club company may be a partnering with professional sports teams to develop health clubs branded with the teams from each particular market. Last year a consulting client told me about the development of NFL-themed health clubs and I have been on a non-disclosure agreement so I haven’t been able to talk about it, but as I was writing this blog this announcement about Jerry Jones opening Cowboy Fit was released. This is happening and is going to be AWESOME! 

 Health clubs and studios aren't just for sweating, they're a great place to connect and hang out with friends.

Who knows if all or any of these will become popular; if I could actually predict the future then I would have invested all of my savings in the stocks of Amazon or Priceline, each of experienced a fifty percent increase in value over the past year.