Fitness professionals like their equipment—from “tried-and-true” to “oh, so new.” And equipment companies like to fill convention halls with fresh gear to help trainers and clients hit their goals. Of course, fitness pros also enjoy new gadgets for the pure thrill of them—and will sometimes go for equipment that targets a fun goal over a hypertrophy goal, for example.
We talk to trainers about their favorite tools and techniques and profile some of the most fascinating fitness products hitting the market this year.
All About the Wearables
Past years have seen breakout fitness equipment stars such as the Nintendo® Wii™, the Step®, the Pilates reformer, the TRX® Suspension Trainer™, the slide board and even the Shake Weight®. This year the star seems to be a category—wearable technology. While fitness trackers, pedometers, heart rate monitors and smartphones have been around for a while, the diversity of features and capabilities in this group is exploding.
Wrist-worn smartwatches and trackers have evolved into distinct “wearable” categories. And CNET now divides its favorite tracking devices into four discrete headings: best fitness tracker, best smartwatch, most stylish fitness watch and best GPS running watch (Stein & Graziano 2017).
It’s no longer enough to count your steps or measure your heart rate; today’s wearable trackers can correct your form, help you count reps, provide a fairly accurate caloric burn rate, stream notifications to you, recognize a new range of exercises (including yoga moves), detect motion on multiple axes, store freestyle exercises, deliver quantifiable strength data (for free weights, pulleys or even body weight) and send payment reminders. Even our language has evolved to keep pace. Ten years ago it wasn’t common to hear gym-goers discussing OLED touchscreen displays and motion sensor setups (gyroscope, magnetometer and accelerometer) that track movement in a 3-D space, much less understand what those terms meant, but now this kind of discussion happens in Facebook groups that appeal to fitness lovers.
Want some neurostimulation with your workout music? For about $700, you can get Halo Sport headphones that stimulate your motor cortex during athletic training. This increases the excitability of motor neurons, putting your brain into a “hyperplasticity/hyperlearning” state. In plainer terms, your headphones can potentially help you accelerate gains in “strength, explosiveness, endurance and muscle memory” (Fingas 2016).
Some trainers don’t want the bulkiness of headphones, so they prefer earbuds. Headphone specialist Jabra comes through with a headphone that has a heart rate tracker built into the part that goes in the inner ear. Want to calculate your VO2max while walking a mile? The earbuds can do that, plus sync up with your phone apps to offer voice-guided workouts. Or you can skip the app and get another Jabra model that has an automatic rep-counting mode, plus tracked and timed cross-training exercises built in (Sawh 2016).
Probably geared more toward personal trainers than group fitness leaders are two tech products that are not exactly wearable yet are closely aligned because they’re designed to touch the body. One is a phone-sized apparatus called the Skulpt® Chisel; when placed on different areas of the body, it measures body fat and muscle quality via a small current to both the muscle and its surrounding fat. The other is a muscle and joint pain-relief device from Omron® that attaches to the body via gel pads which provide heat and/or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (Sawh 2017; Omron 2016).
Water Yes, Pool No
Whether you call it hydro-inertia or dynamic-fluid resistance training, equipment made with water (vs. for water) is so cool, it’s hot. For example, Surge® has a new, 30-inch water-filled training device that looks like an oversized razor clam with handles. Trainers use it with clients who need a workout with balance and stability components to further challenge their core and movement patterns. Since it’s up to the user (or trainer) to determine how much water goes into the device, the level of difficulty can be altered even if the exercises stay the same.
For those who prefer their equipment to be more like a round clam, the popular Kamagon® Ball is a destabilized handheld weight that uses water to create resistance.
For lots more on this topic, please see “What’s Hot in Equipment: Fitness Pro Favorites” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2017 print edition of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.