Why Group Training is Popular
Perhaps nothing is as effective for a beginner than the group training format. Dance style group training was born in the late seventies as a part of the aerobics boom and an alternative to running. Rhythmic aerobics peaked in the eighties and also birthed a billion dollar empire of home fitness videos. Dance style aerobic plateaued in the 90's but the core concept of motivational, classroom style fitness was still implanted. This paved the way for a plethora of group training style formats that would go on to become staples in modern fitness like spin, Pilates, Tae bo, and now due to the high intensity craze, Cross Fit and bootcamp style workouts.
Why is group training so popular? Because the only motivation you really need is enough to get in the car and go. You can go to class and not think about having to push yourself. That's your instructor’s job. Studies also show people workout with much more intensity in the competitive and social nature.
So are you considering group training and don't know where to start? Most big gyms offer a huge variety of group training styles. But which are best for you? What are the pros and cons for both?
Although the aerobic craze is over and most ladies are now leaving their leotards at home, dance style aerobics is still, to this day available and better than ever. Unlike in the past aerobics instructors are now including more strength based components into their workouts, offering toning or pump classes. This isn't necessarily better than a traditional strength training program for building muscle and strength, buts it's better than nothing. And remember, a good old fashion 1 hour step aerobics class is still one of the top calorie burners.
There's something about spin classes that people love. This is a stationary bike class where you have an instructor lead you through an intense "imaginary" bike ride of hills and sprints included with continuous, long duration. This was one of the first cardio classes that started including "HIIT" style intervals that can build muscle and increase metabolism. It's also low impact for those with bad knees. The Cons? Well, for one you will definitely need to include strength training especially in the upper body. Also sitting on that little seat can be very uncomfortable.
TAE BO/ Fitness Kickboxing
Similar to spin, fitness kick boxing incorporates a lot of anaerobic flurries into the training. Also hitting pads and bags is a form of resistance training. It's important to also note that many fitness kick boxing classes are really good about including a lot of calisthenics and more strength components. The drawback is that, due to the natural anaerobic component of martial arts and combat, those that do not already have an aerobic base might have trouble. Kick boxing classes are hard to scale down, not impossible, but harder. Many people don't realize just how cardiovascular kicking and punching is. It also wouldn’t hurt to find a fitness kick boxing instructor that actually has a martial arts background. There are a lot of technical cues and skills that go along with punching and kicking that you will need to know to prevent injury.
Cross Fit has become such a phenomenon that there are a lot of Cross fitters who believe that it's the end all, be all of fitness. Not quite. I've heard this before. I assure you something else will come along, but it's clear that Cross fit is here to stay. Cross Fit is awesome in the fact that when it's prescribed right, it tends to blend a strength component and a cardio component together pretty well, which can be very functional and more convenient. Also most Cross fit gym can be very welcoming and the members often develop lifetime friendships and the motivation is contagious during an intense Cross fit workout. Cons? Well, for one it's not very hard to become Cross Fit certified. A weekend course and a couple thousand bucks will do. This could affect the quality of your workout. Safety? Well, Cross fit, just like any weight training can be done safe or done poorly. I've found that some new Cross Fit coaches seem to struggle with making their workouts scalable to meet the fitness level of a new poorly fit client. My recommendation is to find a Cross Fit trainer who is ALSO certified with another fitness style.
This is another form that is very popular among women. It has been shown to improve mobility and surprisingly, increase strength due to some of the isometric holds. Unfortunately it's not the highest calorie burner and doesn't seem to AS effectively elevate the heart rate as high or build cardiorespiratory endurance as much as other classical forms of cardio.
Group training will be around in some form or another forever. I envision two hundred years from now when we're all dust and bone people doing some form of group training while peering out some window port, looking down on the earth in some orbiting space station city.
Humans are social creatures and if you've ever had trouble getting motivated, find your flavor of group training and go for it.