These 7 Fitness Programming Trends Are Bringing in Fresh Ideas

From virtual golf to old grade-school games, health clubs and studios are implementing new programs that keep exercise from going stale.

Do you have the urge to channel your inner athlete to achieve your fitness dreams? To improve your sense of well-being? To play like a kid at recess to reduce stress?

If so, then you can bet your members do, too.

Fortunately, the industry’s fitness professionals and manufacturers continue to set their sights on fulfilling dreams—yours and your members—creating, choreographing, innovating, and inventing to produce new programs and equipment that excites, engages, and offers richly rewarding experiences.

Whether your passion is golf, or HIIT, or mind-body activities, or an NFL-style workout—they’ve got something new for everyone!

Lynx Fitness Club, Boston
TrackMan, East Bank Club, Chicago

Fitness Programming Lynx Top Golf Suite Column

Topgolf Swing Suite at Lynx Fitness Club

Golf aficionados, take note! New Englanders and hotel visitors alike can perfect their game at the Lynx Fitness Club, an upscale, 20,000-square-foot, full-service facility located in Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel. Lynx also is the site of the first and only Topgolf Swing Suite in the region.

This luxurious, 2,000-square-foot golf lounge features three top-of-the-line golf simulators, a full-time director, five Titleist Performance Institute-certified personal trainers, and several classes—all designed to help users master the links.

With the simulators, golfers can play more than 90 popular virtual courses, or use the equipment’s driving range and short-game capabilities. High-speed cameras and patented twin infrared scanners generate precise swing and launch data. Lynx also offers golf-swing analysis and golf lessons, along with some appealing amenities.

“Our suite offers full food and beverage service, lounge seating, and large-screen TVs, providing an amazing social venue,” says tennis director Terence Kozmor.

Meanwhile, in downtown Chicago, golfers can take advantage of the TrackMan launch monitor and golf simulator at the exclusive East Bank Club. Using regulation golf clubs and balls, members can “play” on 25 stunning courses. The system’s software tracks the full trajectory of any shot—from short pitches to long drives—and pinpoints landing positions with an accuracy of less than a foot at 100 yards. It also displays the shot’s 3D trajectory, as well as 26 impact and ball flight parameters, in real time.

PULSE House, Washington, D.C.
F45 Training, worldwide

Fitness Programming F45 Australia Column

F45 strength training

The insatiable interest in HIIT continues, and is inspiring fitness professionals to create ever more imaginative ways to work up a sweat. For instance: PULSE House, which opened last September, is the first and only VersaClimber studio in the nation’s capital. Each week, it offers its members 67 30-minute cardio and cardio-strength group sessions on 37 of its VersaClimbers.

“I believe that there’s no better low-impact tool for strength and cardio training than the VersaClimber,” says Shafer Minnick, the founder of PULSE House. “Because we’re constantly innovating with group fitness, we intentionally seek out tools and methods—such as the VersaClimber—that aren’t often utilized by others.” Now, logging more than 500 class visits per month, Minnick is planning to open new units in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Another HIIT-focused provider, F45 Training, which originated in New South Wales, Australia, has expanded to 1,450 studios in 38 countries over the last few years. Its trademark offering is 45-minute sessions that combine HIIT, circuit training, and functional work, creating constantly changing combinations from more than 3,500 exercises.

Classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday emphasize cardio; Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday are resistance-based; and Saturday is a hybrid. Sessions vary the number of exercise stations used, work/rest time ratios, and repetitions to promote progression. The F45 Athletics and Peak Performance Department, composed of trainers, athletes, and exercise scientists, develop, test, and fine-tune every routine.

“The variation of our programming keeps members challenged, eager to grow, and ready to have fun,” says Rob Deutsch, the co-CEO and founder of F45 Training. “We encourage members to regard fellow exercisers as teammates, working together toward goals, celebrating achievements, and sharing their own successes to inspire and motivate.”

F45 is now introducing stretch-based sessions.

East Bank Club, Chicago
StretchLab, nationwide

Fitness Programming Stretchlab Column

Flexibility stretching at StretchLab

Recovery methods, such as stretching, have been gaining traction for some time to help club members—from beginners, to elite athletes, to individuals in rehab—remain healthy and injury-free, and have quickly developed into a distinct niche.

At the East Bank Club, Performance Stretching is a specialized private service, a form of fascial stretch therapy that’s performed by certified fascial stretch therapists.

During the 30-, 60-, or 90-minute sessions, therapists secure participants to a therapy table with padded Velcro straps, and then position portions of their body into various angles to relieve pressure between joints, release tight muscles, alleviate pain, and improve range of motion.

“We aim to serve generations of members for a lifetime, and believe that recovery is a pillar of fitness,” says Gretchen Collins, the club’s director of fitness. “This service is so popular that we’re currently building a private space for sessions.”

Another testimonial to the growing popularity of stretching is StretchLab, a specialty franchise that focuses, exclusively, on flexibility, and already has 50 locations nationwide. Its certified flexologists perform proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) and dynamic and static stretches on clients, either in private sessions or small groups, to alleviate pain and stress, increase mobility, improve posture, and enhance performance.

“We want to bring attention to, and educate individuals about, the often-neglected practice of stretching, while filling a void in the boutique space among the many HIIT concepts,” says Lou DeFrancisco, the company’s president. “We provide a great option for recovery, flexibility, and relaxation.” StretchLab is an Xponential Fitness brand.

Athletic Conditioning
Tone House, New York City

Fitness Programming Athletic Conditioning Column

Teamwork at Tone House

“Hardcore” describes the crowd that gravitates to the two Tone House facilities in New York City, which offer intense sports-conditioning group sessions that are designed to increase physical and mental health, and to provide a strong sense of community. Tone House workouts have been dubbed “the toughest in New York City,” and participants are advised to “bring their A-game and 100% effort,” and to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Classes start with a team chant and warm-up—a period that’s been described as “arguably the toughest part of class”—followed by explosive and non-explosive exercises, involving resistance and velocity training and, finally, a stretch and another team chant.

The clubs were founded by Alonzo Wilson, a former collegiate and professional athlete, who wanted to give others the opportunity to train like pros.

"Tone House makes you better equipped to do what you love and face your own life challenges with confidence,” he says, “whether you’re competing on the field or court, training for a race, relieving stress from a demanding career, or seeking more energy to play with your children or grandchildren.”

Suspension Training
Mbody by TRX, San Francisco

TRX, the creator of Suspension Training, intent on developing ever more rewarding options for group exercise and small-group sessions, recently unveiled its new Mbody offering at IHRSA’s 38th Annual International Convention & Trade Show in San Diego.

The program includes Mprove, an introductory level for beginners; Mpulse, a fast-paced, cardio-blast routine; and Mpact, a strength- based regimen. Each makes use of TRX straps and training tools; Mpulse introduces cardio equipment into the mix.

TRX’s experts update class content quarterly, and provide clubs with a comprehensive marketing kit, which includes social-media messages, posters, and other tools.

“To remain competitive, clubs must deliver something different, effective, fun, motivating, and safe, but something that’s also goal-specific and speaks to everyone,” says Nick Vay, the vice president of North American sales for TRX. “Mbody nails this. It allows clubs to effectively attract, engage, and retain members.”

Old-school Workouts
Throwback Fitness, New York City

Fitness Programming Throwback Toys Props Column

Toys for training at Throwback Fitness

For some, exercise is “a dreadful and boring obligation,” but does it have to be?

No, argue Ryan Wilke and Brian Gallagher, the founders of Throwback Fitness, in New York City.

Remembering how much they’d enjoyed “playing” when they were young, they’ve created a fitness environment that emphasizes fun, incorporates childhood playground games, and fosters an ambience reminiscent of recess or summer camp. Total-body strength and conditioning workouts—complete with rowing, bodyweight exercises, and games—evoke a sense of teamwork, competition, and nostalgia.

Wilke and Gallagher, who left careers in the finance industry to launch Throwback, recently enhanced their business model to include Throwback Playbook. The new program allows group X instructors to earn a Throwback certification, and, then, lead workouts at health clubs nationwide. The company provides new class content each month.

“Now, clubs can easily incorporate Throwback’s ‘adult recess’ in their schedules to reintroduce a long-forgotten, but still crucial activity, back into our lives—play,” says Gallagher.

SMARTfit, worldwide training

Fitness Programming Smartfit Column

SMARTfit reaction training

SMARTfit, a new form of mind-body activity, takes functional training to a new level by combining cognitive and motor-skills exercise. Utilizing proprietary equipment—its Strike Pods, Pro Trainer, and Multi-Station Trainer—it produces gamified, multisensory programming that trains the brain to function more efficiently, and provides the body with a cardio and strength workout.

The system requires exercisers to complete multiplanar, upper- and lower-body movements over various distances and in different directions. The goals: to improve agility, balance, flexibility, speed, proprioception, reaction time, coordination, focus, and memory. Participants receive instant feedback via tracked results.

“This is the most powerful and efficient reaction training in the world,” says Cathi Lamberti, the founder and CEO of the Camarillo, CA–based company. “It will continue to integrate with mainstream fitness, and I predict that dual-tasking training will top functional training in two to three years.”

Formerly used primarily in rehab settings, SMARTfit is now utilized in individual and group sessions by athletes and exercisers of all ages and abilities at 350 locations worldwide.

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Julie King

Julie King is a contributor to Club Business International.