The fitness industry has come a long way since the days of Jack LaLanne -- or Richard Simmons, even. Today's exercise regimens go beyond the simple weightlifting, cardio work or aerobics. You can forget about the leg warmers altogether.
And while many people find the traditional gyms perfect for their fitness needs, there are a growing number of local studios, trainers and programs that engage niche markets and provide alternative exercise options. Here is a look at four fitness programs that might be right for you.
What it is: What it is: Founded in 2001 by Burr Leonard, the Bar Method merges interval training, isometrics and dance conditioning with the guidance of physical therapists into a one-hour full-body workout. It is an industry leader in the rapidly growing niche of barre-based fitness. Think ballet, without all the arabesques and plies.
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The fitness philosophy: Safe, challenging, workouts that are expertly taught, fun, empowering and highly effective at toning and slimming down students' bodies.
Best for: "Any person over 14, male or female," says Jennifer Hoekstra owner of The Bar Method Fresno, which opened in 2013. While the majority of the studio's clients are women, men do the bar method, too. "They have said to me, it is the hardest workout they've ever had," Hoekstra says.
Defining movement: While not necessarily an exercise, the Â“tuckÂ” is an essential part of the Bar Method. The Â“tuckÂ” engages all three core muscle groups and puts the spine in a neutral alignment and helps retrain the postural muscles for a taller, longer body.
What the expert says: Â“The teachers are very knowledgeable. They connect with the students. They correct the students,Â” Hoekstra says. Â“It really is a total body, one-hour workout.Â”
More info at: (559) 573-3333, www.fresno.barmethod.com
What it is: What it is: CrossFit is a full-body conditioning program that combines high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, plyometrics, gymnastics and body-weight movements. Exercises are constantly varied and performed at relatively high intensity. CrossFit is also the community of people who do the workouts together. ItÂ’s also become a competitive phenomenon, with the Â“CrossFit Games,Â” which are held each summer.
The fitness philosophy: CrossFit workouts are based on individual needs and intensity. Or, as a quote on the chalkboard at Effectus CrossFit reads: Â“Fitness is not about being better than someone else. ItÂ’s about being better than you used to be.Â”
Best for: Those bored with the Â“Globo gymÂ” experience. Or those simply looking for a new challenge.
Defining movement: The Burpee. Done in any number of variations, the standard Burpee involves a squat, a plank and push-up. Typically done to exhaustion.
What the expert says: Â“The program is designed for anyone and everyone, making it the perfect application for any committed individual, regardless of experience,Â” says Max Melchor, head fitness professional with Effectus CrossFit and No Limit Fitness.
More info at: (559) 412-2861, www.nlffresno.com/effectus-crossfit
What it is: TRX Suspension Training was developed by Randy Hetrick, a Navy SEAL who was looking to keep in peak physical condition while on missions in places with little access to traditional fitness equipment or training space. Like on a ship at sea, perhaps? The system has been incorporated into the conditioning routines of every military branch Â— and is now available to us civilians.
The fitness philosophy: The human body is an integrated system. TRX works to build functional strength, endurance, balance, coordination, flexibility, power and core stability.
Best for: Anyone can benefit from TRX Â— not just athletes and soldiers. The system, which uses a set of resistance bands, is versatile and exercises can be adjusted with simple body positioning. So, using the same set of exercises, individual workouts are adjusted to be appropriate to the fitness level, while remaining sufficiently challenging. Seniors especially benefit from the balance aspect of the training.
Defining movement: The atomic push-up; like a normal push-up, only your feet are suspended from the ground and you draw your knees in to your chest after each rise.
What the expert says: Â“I started TRX training when I was 50 pounds heavier with no core strength to speak of,Â” says Shannon Kurtz, a group exercise instructor at Centerpoint Athletic Club, part of the Sierra Sports Club Family. Â“ItÂ’s been integral to achieving my fitness goals.Â”
More info at: (559) 225-3250, www.centerpointac.com
What it is: Zumba calls itself a Â“calorie-burning dance fitness party.Â” Created in the 1990s by Colombian dancer/choreographer Alberto Â“BetoÂ” Perez, Zumba uses choreographed dance moves set to (mostly) Latin and World music. Sessions are typically an hour long and taught by licensed instructors. The routines feature a variety of songs at various tempos for low- and high-intensity interval training.
The fitness philosophy: Exercise in disguise.
Best for: Those who might be new to exercise, or bored with their old routines, according to Tiffany Pelletier, a personal trainer and Zumba instructor with TiffanyÂ’s Fitness. Over the years, specialized Zumba classes have been created to target specific groups Â— children and senior citizens, for example.
Defining movement: While individual sessions are choreographed based on the music, there are some official Zumba moves like the Â“Beto shuffleÂ” (a basic step for Merengue) and the V step.
What the expert says: Â“Zumba fitness is a fun, lively atmosphere, where people tune in and feel the music,Â” Pelletier says. Â“The idea is to keep the body moving and have fun while doing it!Â”
More info at: (559) 859-8547, www.tiffanyskidmore.com