If you have reached a fitness plateau or you are just getting bored of the same weekly routine, there are a number of activities you can take advantage of which will help shock those muscles into action and push you forward both physically and mentally.
You may think yoga is overly spiritual and a 'women only' zone but there are many physiological benefits to be obtained through yoga class and they are not in any way gender specific. While breathing exercises are an integral part of yoga classes, they are designed to relax you (and we could all use a little bit of relaxation come mid-week). If the idea of relaxation combined with muscle strengthening is hard to wrap your head around you should try a class before making a firm judgement on the matter.
Yoga is linked with improving coordination, flexibility, balance and strength; all of which are fundamental to success in the sport and fitness world. You can also benefit from improved sleep quality, weight loss and stress relief. Yoga is the perfect workout alternative to rest days as it can help relieve muscle and joint pain and keep you mentally focused on training. It has also been associated with improving joint range of motion even in individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
The new craze to try is hot bikram yoga which involves performing ~26 poses and 2 breathing exercises in a room at temperature of 40.5⁰C for greater improvements in flexibility and increased calorie burning. If you intend to give this a try be sure to keep yourself well hydrated!
The athleticism of gymnasts is ridiculously impressive. The functional strength, body control, power, coordination and flexibility of these athletes is something that we can all aspire to. And what is the optimum way to get the impressive fitness and physique of a gymnast? Train like one.
There are plenty of adult gymnastic classes available which cater for both beginners and ex-professionals. If you don’t fancy going to a class, practising controlled bodyweight exercises at home is a good place to start. Planches, L-sits and handstands are all excellent positions to promote muscular endurance and functional strength. If you are unsure of these exercises, view our article on Build Muscle with Bodyweight Exercises.
Dancing is a full body workout and great calorie burning activity. There is a style to suit everyone depending on what you want to gain from your class.
Ballroom classes are great for social reasons but they also help to improve posture which is necessary if you want to show off the amazing physique you are working hard for. Latin is an energetic, fast-paced form of dance which burns calories and tones the mid-section particularly well. Both dance forms require precision, coordination and muscle strength making them a great alternative to the usual workout routine. You only have to look at the transformations in body composition on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing to see the potential in adding this workout to your weekly routine.
Ballet is renowned to be a meticulously difficult activity which requires extremely high levels of strength, power, flexibility, balance and body control. This is a great addition to a weekly routine if you think that your muscle strength is no longer being challenged by the same routine even when increasing resistance. Ballet will recruit even the smallest of muscle groups which would otherwise be overlooked in gym training.
Zumba has stormed the nation over the past few years and the craze is backed by results. It is one of the highest calorie burning classes around at the moment and the inclusion of weighted dumbbells within the routines makes for an even more challenging experience!
Mixed Martial Arts
Even if you never intend to step foot in an octagon, MMA training can be an amazing way to get in shape! Many studies have also shown that training in martial arts can reduce stress and improve mental stability.
There are 7 primal movements that humans perform and even if you didn’t know this, you will recognise them as the movements you do at each machine in the gym in a bid to strengthen your muscles, improve coordination and increase your range of motion! The movements are; pushing, pulling, lunging, squatting, bending, twisting and walking. MMA training encompasses all of these primal movements without you even realising. If your gym workout is becoming a bit tedious, you want to meet new people or you want a fun and effective way to burn fat, this could be perfect for you!
The explosive power of boxing and kick-boxing combined with the enduring strength needed for grappling make MMA training a great choice for improving your functional strength and the combination of partner skill training, interval training and high intensity cardio sessions make it very effective at improving cardiovascular health and efficiency.
The ability to stay balanced on your feet and control body positions on the ground is vitally important in MMA. Balance and coordination are also the foundation for powerful strikes and take-downs, so development of these attributes are key in good fighting technique.
Flexibility is such an important part of martial arts. Passive flexibility is necessary for grappling, because the more mobile you are, the more submissions you can perform and the more work your competitor/partner has to do in order to submit you. Active flexibility is necessary because it combines strength and control with flexible movements that are used in fighting and dynamic flexibility is important if you want powerful and high kicks.
This form of exercise is convenient (you can storm passed everyone on the commute to work), cost-effective and time efficient because if you have to get from A to B on foot, you may as well do it at pace!
The benefits from this workout lie mostly in the improvements to cardiovascular health and stamina. However, it is also an excellent low-impact workout for those prone to lower leg injuries. The exaggerated movements of power walking make it a great fat-burning and full body toning activity.
If you plan on giving power walking a try this winter, be sure to buy a great pair of running shoes and wrap up warm!
Aside from being more adventurous than your average workout, indoor rock climbing will provide you with new challenges to face and conquer. The physiological benefits associated with indoor rock climbing are:
- Improved cardiovascular efficiency
- Increased muscular endurance
- Increased upper and lower body strength
- Improved coordination
- Increased core strength
- Enhanced grip strength
- Improved balance
- Enhanced mental alertness
- Fat Loss
The calorie burn possible from an hour session of rock climbing rivals many common workout forms. It is also a great activity to get involved in if you like to be constantly active even during recovery. When you are not scaling the walls you can be partnering someone who is and feed them the rope so that they can climb. This keeps your upper body working at a relatively low intensity and keeps your heart rate up...especially if your partner falls off the wall and you have to tighten the rope to catch them!
Spinning classes are a fast-paced high intensity indoor cycling class which will push your cardio to new heights! You will increase your VO2 max, improve the muscular endurance of your legs and strengthen your core by regularly attending spinning classes. The social aspect of the class provides great motivation and the indoor bikes are supportive and reduce the pressure on lower limb joints. You can start at your own pace and work on progressing to higher resistance, speed and endurance.
Swimming is a perfect alternative to training on land if you want to mix things up in your routine. It is a great form of endurance training which reduces the impact on joints. This makes it ideal for those suffering from joint diseases or injuries and is often used in the recovery process for acute injuries.
Swimming can be adapted to suit all fitness levels by varying strokes, speed of lengths, number of lengths and introducing resistance equipment such as weighted blocks, flippers and floatation devices.
Training in water promotes the development of lean muscle, improves aerobic capacity and can act as pain relief for back pain, joint pain and muscle cramps.
If you are thinking of trying out a new form of exercise or you require a push to motivate you in your current training regime, try a pre-workout supplement to give you the focus, energy and muscle pump you require to make the most of your workouts.