CrossFit. Spinning. P90X. These days, the new, new thing in fitness seems to pop up faster than you can say “Fitbit.” Meanwhile, working out has never been so scientific, technologically sophisticated, and just plain engaging. And that, of course, is a good thing: The more workout options you have, the better those options are, the lesser the chance you’ll burn out from boredom. (Just one…more…mile.) To help you make sense of this new, new world, we compared where fitness has been with where it’s headed. Here, we present the most innovative workout trends and technologies most likely to succeed and help take your game to new levels—in 2014 and beyond.
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NEW: SELF-LIMITING MOVEMENT
Movement—simply, being able to move athletically and without restriction—is becoming one of the biggest buzzwords in fitness. The better you can move, “the more likely you are to have less fat, more muscle, better cardio, and impressive flexibility,” says Mark Cheng, Ph.D., a human performance specialist in Los Angeles. Of course, all exercise involves movement, but most people have lost the ability to move correctly. Sitting at desks in front of computers causes muscle imbalances, poor posture, and, subsequently, bad movement patterns during exercise. As a result, you won’t get as much out of your workouts and can injure yourself. “Self-limiting” exercise is the prescription. These are movements that require “complete engagement,” according to Gray Cook, the founder of Functional Movement Systems, a group that educates trainers on movement pattern screening and assessment. Think about pushing a sled or performing an inverted row (where you hang underneath a bar, body parallel with the floor, and pull yourself up). If you can’t do the exercise with near-perfect form, you won’t be able to do it at all. If your hips are too high pushing the sled, you won’t be able to move it, and if your hips sag on the row, you can’t pull yourself up far enough. So what happens? You recognize your weaknesses, work to correct them, and customize your training. Movement-focused exercise is already popular in adventure races and mud runs, and in the obstacle courses you see on hit TV shows like American Ninja Warrior. These courses aren’t just great tests of fitness, but look like something out of Spider-Man. On a novice level, exercise classes are prescribing more movements associated with children’s games: Bear crawls, tree climbing, and carrying logs are all functional ways to build strength, stamina, and mobility while making training feel less like work and more like play.