For the last 15 years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have conducted surveys with thousands of professionals around the world, to determine health and fitness trends for the following year.
The survey for 2021 experienced a 40% increase in responses, making this 15th annual survey the most impactful in the industry’s history.
“Interestingly, in the top 20 trends for 2021, body weight training was listed as at number three. Body weight training appeared for the first time on the trends survey in 2013 (at no. 3) and was in the no. 2 position in 2017, no. 4 in 2018, and no. 5 in 2019 before dropping to no. 7 in 2020. Body weight training did not appear as a survey trend option before 2013 because it only became popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world within the last decade. Using a combination of variable resistance body weight training and neuro-motor movements using multiple planes of movement, this program is all about using body weight as the training modality. Body weight training uses minimal equipment, which makes it an inexpensive way to exercise effectively.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal
So, what is your current bodyweight training repertoire?
Are squats, lunges, or push-ups part of your routine? Perhaps you incorporate planking and burpee exercises with variations like timing the movements or adjusting tempos. For many group trainers, whether from a group exercise or personal training background, the challenge lies in finding time to create diverse exercise variations. Consequently, bodyweight workouts may feel repetitive and uninteresting.
As this trend continues to grow, catering to individuals at different fitness levels becomes crucial—from those embarking on their fitness journey to those who no longer push their bodies to the limit. Offering options and modifications can be challenging when instructors or trainers have rigid workout plans. If a modified version feels ineffective, individuals may struggle to stay motivated. Boredom often leads participants to lose interest and find it hard to consistently challenge themselves, as modifications can sometimes make them feel as if the exercise has been simplified, which is not motivating for adults aiming to improve strength and endurance.
How does an instructor create a variety that provides appropriate levels to cater for different needs?
It begins with developing a bodyweight exercise that starts relatively easy and then slowly increases in intensity. I refer to these as sequences and the reason why I call them this is because the exercise will start in a basic movement pattern. Then it will be layered to progress to a completely different exercise. To initiate the process, I decided on the starting position:
- All fours
The next step is to decide if I will begin with an upper or lower body movement. For example, in the standing position I could begin with a lower body action, like a forward lunge on the right leg. After this, I can add an upper body action like lifting the arms to the side. The next layer could be a rotation of the torso. To sum up:
- Forward lunge on the right leg
- Add in the arm action (which adds an element of coordination)
- Add in rotation (adds a change in plane)
I can then add a lunge to the side, or a balance action so that the leg performs a circumduction or a hip hinge like a single leg deadlift.
Embracing Diversity in Fitness Levels
The sequence slowly adds more and more elements of lower and upper body actions that require more coordination, balance, strength, and endurance. As I progress, I always encourage people to choose if they want to work harder, or stay with what they are comfortable with. This means that people choose the progression. Having to provide a modification because the exercise was started at a level that was too hard.
The importance of continually and progressively overloading the muscles cannot be overstated. As we navigate the evolving landscape of fitness trends and the surge in popularity of body weight training, the need for thoughtful progression becomes paramount.
Strategic Progression for All Levels
Progressively overloading muscles is not merely about increasing the difficulty of exercises. It’s a strategic approach that ensures individuals at various fitness levels are appropriately challenged while avoiding the pitfalls of monotony and disinterest. Implement carefully crafted sequences that start with basic movements and gradually intensify. This empowers participants to choose their level of progression.
This method fosters engagement. Also addresses the diverse needs of those embarking on their fitness journey to seasoned individuals adjusting their routines. The ability to provide a spectrum of options and modifications ensures that everyone, regardless of their fitness level, finds the workout accessible and effective.
Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate an environment where participants are motivated to push their limits, fostering strength and endurance improvements. As the fitness industry continues to evolve, the timeless principle of progressive overload stands out as a fundamental element in ensuring sustained interest and growth.