It’s March, which means that the drudgery winter is finally waning and warm weather is right around the corner and everyone’s eyes are on college basketball. For many of us in the fitness industry, it also means attending the annual International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) conference and trade show. IHRSA is where manufactures go to display their latest product innovations and where health club operators decide what equipment and programs they’ll purchase for their facilities. IHRSA always offers a wide variety of interesting new products and programs that could impact the fitness industry in the coming months and years. This year’s trade show took up most of the Los Angeles convention center and it was a challenge to see all of the vendors. For this reason, this is not an exhaustive list of all the new products and programs that were presented, but these are the ones that caught my eye because they could change how we deliver fitness to the consumer.
This is one of those products that makes you think: “Why hasn’t someone developed this sooner?” The ActivMotion Bar is basically a hollow tube with ball bearings that shift as the bar moves. This creates two different types of challenges: 1) maintaining stability to keep the bearings from moving—moving a weight more slowly keeps the muscles under tension longer, which can help develop strength; and 2) controlling a shifting mass involves the elastic fascia and connective tissue, which can improve the strength of the entire myofascial system.
Spartan Race Workout Programs on a Stairmaster Stepmill
If you’ve ever done a Spartan Race or similar type of obstacle course event, you know how physically challenging it can be and how important it is to properly prepare for the event. The Stairmaster Stepmill, which is basically a staircase treadmill, is an effective way to train indoors for the challenges of an obstacle-course race. Stairmaster has worked with Spartan Race to add six course profiles to the pre-programmed workouts. If you train in a gym for an obstacle course race, you can hop on a Stepmill, select a course profile and perform a workout that mimics the hill profile of an actual Spartan Race.
With the introduction of its unique grid foam roller and strategies for reducing adhesions in the myofascial system, TriggerPoint has changed the way we improve our soft-tissue extensibility. Now TriggerPoint has combined the benefits of the grid pattern with a hand-held roller that allows you to focus on specific areas experiencing tightness or adhesions. The pressure of the STK felt great after a long day of standing in a trade show.
A longtime leader in the body-weight training category, Total Gym used this year’s trade show to launch their new Jump Trainer. The Total Gym Jump Trainer builds explosive power and develops lower-body muscle mass with two primary movements, the squat and squat jump. Uniquely designed to facilitate plyometric exercises leveraging both linear body-weight resistance and variable resistance with elastic bands, the Jump Trainer produces both concentric and eccentric loading of the muscles. This allows users to accelerate and decelerate quickly during a squat jump in a safe, controlled manner. Able to accommodate all levels of fitness, the Jump Trainer supports the spine during traditional squat exercises, which makes it possible for users to comfortably control the descending and ascending phases of the squat. This also provides the opportunity for advanced variations including single-leg squats and staggered-stance squats.
Free Motion Magnetically Loaded Cable Machine
When the Free Motion cable-cross was introduced more than 10 years ago, it changed the way fitness professionals use cable machine exercises with their clients. Now the designers at Free Motion have created a machine that uses magnetic resistance to create a challenge. The two benefits of magnetic resistance: it focuses on the concentric, shortening phase of muscle action and it can measure power output with each movement. The model on display at the trade show is a prototype and the final product is still in development, but it looks like Free Motion will once again revolutionize how trainers use cable exercises.
Long an innovator in new cardiovascular products, LifeFitness has introduced a rowing machine that uses water to create the drag or resistance for an effective rowing workout. The GX Trainer is specifically designed with a shorter footprint, so it can be used in group-fitness and group-conditioning programs. The display measures distance and power and the resistance offers 16 different settings, creating a number of intensity options not offered by other rowing machines.
Many high-intensity training programs feature box jumps as a key exercise for improving strength and power. The challenge is that having a number of jump boxes is expensive and can take up significant amounts of floor space. With this ingenious yet simple design, SPRI has introduced a jump box that provides three different heights (depending on which side is on the floor) with one piece of equipment.
What do you get when you combine a professional strength and conditioning coach and a rocket scientist? The Core Stix. Developed by a NHL conditioning coach and a mechanical engineer with experience designing rockets for the space shuttle, the Core Stix makes it possible to strengthen the body in a standing position. Many upper-body pushing and pulling exercises require an individual to lie down or sit on a bench, which may not translate to enhancing the performance of an athlete who needs to utilize upper-body strength in a standing position. The Core Stix provides a wide variety of training options for both athletes and the average consumer interested in ‘toning up and losing weight.’
It’s always fun to see innovative new products that disrupt how we do things in the fitness industry. The JBell is the dumbbell reinvented. The handle for the JBell is in the center of mass, which creates a novel way to perform strength-training exercises. While I like the concept and the feel of placing the handle directly in the center of mass, and the design is simply stunning, I didn’t have the opportunity to work out with the JBells, so it’s tough to determine whether or not they’ll having a lasting impact.
Move Strong is a company that makes a fitness cage, as well as a variety of equipment for body-weight and strongman training. Their latest innovative products is the Dynabell, which combines the benefits of dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls into a single piece of equipment. The design creates a variety of options for holding the weight, each one providing a different way to challenge the body. When you have former weightlifting champion and Team USA bobsledder Ingrid Marcum developing programming for your product, you’re doing something right. Keep your eyes on these guys.
If you are a personal trainer looking to make your services stand out from the competition, you can now offer blood testing for your clients. Long used by elite athletes, blood testing can help determine the most effective training and nutrition strategies for your clients. You are NOT responsible for drawing your client’s blood—they go to a lab, which takes the sample and then analyzes it to identify how your exercise and nutrition plans are influencing your physiology. This information can be used to help your client make healthier nutrition, lifestyle and exercise choices.
While not exactly a fitness product, proper hydration and recovery strategies are essential for seeing results from a workout program. Pre- and post-workout drinks can play an important role in getting the most benefit from an exercise program. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Blender Bottle (I’m drinking from one as I write this) and the Sport Mixer features a new compact, ergonomic design that makes it easier to hold and carry in a gym bag.
As always, I’m like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to playing with new fitness products at IHRSA and it’s fun to share my favorites. Keep your eyes open for how these products can help you enhance or change the way that you deliver your fitness services.