The most popular sector of the fitness industry is without a doubt group fitness classes.
These classes promise big results and rely heavily on fitness buzzwords like 'toning' and 'firming' in their marketing. Perhaps most effective in their marketing is the promise that you can get all the fitness results with minimal effort.
One of the biggest issues with fitness classes is that you are never going to get sufficient correction on your movement. There are too many people and the instructors are often clueless about exercise technique. Now, this is fine if all you're doing is a spin class, where the demands on your joints are quite low.
However, a lot of these classes are beginning to market themselves as 'strength and conditioning' (nope) and as a result are incorporating more challenging movements like push-ups and lunges. This would be a positive thing, save for the fact that the average person's attempt at these exercises results in grinding their joints into oblivion.
And don't look to the instructor to help you out here, as their own technique tends to be severely lacking too. Safe to say that long term participation in these classes could mean a trip to your local physio.
The Novice Effect
Now, if you're a beginner to exercise, these classes will increase your fitness, and even your strength to a small degree. However, that's not much of an achievement when you consider that ANYTHING that is even mildly challenging will make a beginner fitter.
If you have been doing nothing but sitting on your ass up until now, any kind of exercise will constitute as progressive overload to your body, thus causing it to adapt. This is due to a physiological phenomenon know as the novice effect.
The Honeymoon Is Over
However it won't take long for the effectiveness of these classes to drop off. This is because the majority of these classes:
1) Are completely random in their content
2) Do not become more challenging over time
This is critical because two of the most important principles to a successful training programme are specificity and progressive overload. This means that a training programme needs to be specific to a goal (which means no changing exercises constantly) and it needs to progressively load your body more over time - meaning that you need to actually move some heavy weight.
The other option is to graduate from 'exercise' to 'training'. This will require you to follow a logical and progressive training programme that addresses your goals. You will be able to actually gauge your progress based off objective data (e.g. the amount of weight you lift on week 4 is greater than week 1). You should also take the time to learn how to perform the basic compound strength training movements like squats, deadlifts, benches, presses, and rows.
There's nothing scary about these exercises, and you will grow to love them when you see the results they bring. The key is to learn safe and correct technique from the start. You can seek out information on correct technique via my YouTube channel, or get in contact for personal training.
In order to avoid fully playing into the arrogant powerlifter stereotype that I usually inhabit, I am willing to concede that training is not for everyone. Some people just aren't willing to push themselves as hard as they'd need to get fit, strong, and muscular. Or they simply don't care about being any of those things. And that's completely fine. In this instance, a spin class is going to be better than nothing, especially when we consider the growing obesity epidemic.
However there's already an abundance of options for people who just want to move around and sweat a little. This article is meant to help those with a drive to succeed, who have been duped into believing that a Zumba class can get them where they want to be.
My training services are for people who want to optimise their results, and I can get you there with a progressive and logical training plan.