Feature Article - November 2017
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Fitness on the Move

Equipment Evolves With Programming Innovation

By Rick Dandes

HIIT Still Popular

Olympic lifting is trending, Maloney said. "It's crazy and through-the-roof popular. Crazy to the extent where we had to change our entire facility's landscape to accommodate all the people who wanted to be in that area. To provide platforms for Olympic lifting and power lifting, we have an Olympic power lifting event that brings people to our facility from all over the state of Indiana. And we're not even a sanctioned meet. On that end you'll see your free weight plates, basic steel weights, dumbbells and kettlebells."

Why is Olympic lifting so popular? Maloney believes it's due to the resurgence in interest around CrossFit training. CrossFit games are big on TV, you can find programs anywhere online, and a lot of the programs are highlighted around Olympic lifting. "So it's made young females, and anywhere up to older males and females, want to be able to power their workout," Maloney said. "And all the while they're taking pictures and putting them on Snapchat or Instagram. Social media is helping to drive this interest."

Meanwhile, HIIT continues trend up, and usually requires many different pieces of equipment, such as battling ropes, sandbags, barbells, ankle weights, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, sleds and more.

Although traditional cardio is still the most popular form of exercise, suspension systems or modular rigs have become very popular for both large and small facilities. Modular designs allow packages for both large and small areas. Along with this is group HIIT training including: group hand cranking, cycling, air bikes, CrossFit type exercise, including repetitions on a suspension rig, and Ninja Warrior-type training.

"We have seen a big uptick in facilities asking us for functional training tools like kettlebells, slam balls, wall balls, heavy ropes, and plyo boxes," said Ryan Damon, vice president of global sales for a San Francisco manufacturer of fitness equipment. "The demand from the marketplace is ultimately what drove us to start making these products ourselves. That said, the biggest change that we've seen over the past five years revolves around the increased demand for education and programming assistance. Without the knowledge of how to use and best adapt each tool to a specific user's need, the tool is pretty useless. So, as exciting as it is to see so many new products hit the market, we think that education is will always be the most cutting-edge 'product' that differentiates one brand from the next."

'Smarter' Workouts

The continued migration toward networked touchscreen consoles has become a staple in modern fitness facilities, Mocherman said. "Today's consoles provide exercisers with a far more personalized workout and entertainment experience, while giving the operator better tools to communicate with their members and better data to manage their fleet of equipment."

Damon agrees: "Equipment is getting smarter every year with the addition of upgraded touch screens with built-in artificial intelligence, which not only recognizes users but also stores biometric data and syncs to wearables and other consumer apps. This personalization and biometric feedback is a nice thing to have for members and facilities, but it's not all that useful unless you know what to do with it.

"I think the companies that are going to win biggest are the ones that learn how to leverage the data to drive better, more personalized, relevant and engaging experiences for individual members," Damon added.

The other trend Damon noted is in the notion of using your own bodyweight to create a human-powered machine vs. a motor-driven machine.

The other big shift in gyms is seen in strength training (outside of functional training zones) and the advent of "CrossFit-style" zones. The surge of platforms and general power lifting type activities has continued to grow over the past 12 to 18 months.

While Damon has seen growth in human-powered treadmills and bikes, Olympic platforms and more, he cautions that not everyone finds success with this equipment. "I think the operators who are most successful with new and innovative equipment are the ones that are using it in programs and classes in smart ways," he said. "Fusion programming is big right now. Whether it's dance Pilates, cardio boxing, TRX yoga or simple mixed-modality programming, operators are trying to find creative ways to win over prospective members and 'out-do' studios with experiences that go way beyond the 'aerobics' of yesteryear."

The operators that offer programs built on strong educational foundations with systems that allow operators to plug in new coaches as needed will likely be the most successful in the end, Damon said.