Shake It Up

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Stuck in a fitness rut? Tired of the same old bench presses, runs, and sun salutations? The New Year is always a good time to try new things. These five off-the-beaten-track workouts may not be quite as unusual as underwater cycling classes, but they should help shake up your routine—and make your 2017 fitter than ever.

  1. Battle Ropes: If you’re looking for a workout that will pose a real challenge to both your muscles and your cardiovascular system, find a place to try battle ropes. Nothing like the jump ropes that have gotten boxers into shape for decades, battle ropes are thick and heavy and can be up to 100 feet long. You’ll usually find them anchored to a pole or beam. The idea is that you hold the end of the rope and vigorously move it up and down, creating waves along the length of the rope. It sounds simple, and it is—but it sure isn’t easy. Slamming the rope uses your abs, shoulders, legs, back, and biceps, along with a lot of the little muscles that stabilize your body. In addition, the intensity works wonders for your cardio endurance.
  2. Rowing: What exercise is lower in impact than cycling but provides even more of a calorie burn? Indoor rowing! (According to the ExRx website, max effort cycling burns 699 calories per hour, while max effort rowing burns 737 calories per hour—both calculated for a 150-lb person.) Once tucked away in the corner of the gym and overlooked by everyone but former high school crew team members, rowing machines have migrated to the group fitness rooms of gyms across the country. And why not? While cycling uses mostly legs, rowers work out their legs, arms, and back, strengthening the whole body.
  3. Team and Buddy Workouts: Runners may have running partners, and lifters rely on their workout partner for spotting, but a new breed of team and buddy workouts is injecting competition and/or cooperation into the fitness mix. There are many different ways to buddy up—you and your workout buddy can create (or hire a personal trainer to create) a workout that includes exercises for two. Things like medicine-ball passes, high-five push-ups (give each other a high-five at the top of each rep), and even the wheelbarrow help keep both of you strong. Or introduce a competitive element and have one partner do a plank or wall-sit for the entire time it takes the other to do a set of a different exercise. Gyms are getting into the act by splitting cycling and other classes into teams that compete against each other; the results are displayed on a big board for everyone to see.
  4. Animal Flow: If you’ve ever done a bear crawl or crab walk in gym class, you’ve had a taste of Animal Flow. This bodyweight program uses controlled actions on all fours to give you a workout designed to increase strength, flexibility, and joint mobility. You may find yourself loping across the room like an ape or flipping a leg back to create a scorpion’s tail. The “flow” comes in when you begin to link the various movements together. Animal Flow can be a stand-alone exercise class or can add spice to your warm-up routine.
  5. Workout Apps: Not all tech fitness trends revolve around wearable tech like FitBits. Workout apps are starting to come into their own. They make a lot of sense—more customizable and portable than a DVD but just as convenient, workout apps are a great tool for our time-crunched lifestyles. TouchFit GSP (iPhone only) adapts to your fitness level and gets more challenging as you progress. Or check out FitStar (both Android and iPhone), which offers both traditional workouts and yoga. Apps generally offer positive and motivating fitness experiences that are personalized—it’s  like having a personal trainer in your pocket.

Always check with your health-care professional before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Miriam Wolf is an ACSM-certified personal trainer, a health coach, and the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter. Her favorite lifts are the bench press and the dead lift.

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