Top Sightings at IHRSA 2016

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When I was a kid, few things were more exciting than the day the Sears catalog arrived in the mailbox. I would spend hours flipping through endless pages filled with the newest toys. As an adult, I feel the same way about the annual IHRSA  (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) tradeshow, where fitness companies and exercise equipment manufacturers introduce their latest and greatest products.

Here is my annual list (in no particular order) of cool things from this year’s IHRSA tradeshow. It is virtually impossible to cover ALL of the booths at the trade show, but these are the products that stood out as either new innovations or cool updates on existing designs.

Terra Core by Vicore

The Vicore Terra Core is a new platform-based fitness product that should be eagerly embraced by group fitness managers around the country who struggle with how to store a wide range of equipment—steps, stability balls and BOSU balance trainers, for example—in the same studio. Vicore first caught my attention a few years ago with their line of benches made with air bladders. The Terra Core is, in my opinion, a game-changer. It is approximately 1 meter long and has a flat air bladder that allows you to stand on it while keeping your feet in a relatively neutral position. Handles make it possible to use it as a weight; it also features attachment points for resistance bands. Whether in a group or one-on-one setting, the Terra Core can be an effective way to add much-needed variability of movement into exercise programs.

Trigger Point products and systems can help clients relieve muscle tightness and improve joint mobility. This year, Trigger Point is launching a new series of massage balls that make it possible to focus on areas not easily accessed by their Grid roller. The MB5 Massage Ball is soft yet study and is effective for releasing areas such as the lats, adductors and quadriceps. If you have clients who experience tissue tightness in hard-to-reach areas, consider the MB5.

Self-powered Treadmills

The self-powered treadmill trend was started by the extremely popular Woodway Curve treadmill, which was one of the first to have a self-powered feature combined with a unique curved running deck that allows for a more natural foot strike during high-speed running. Now TechnoGym and Matrix Fitness have also introduced self-powered treadmills, while Cybex introduced a self-powered Arc Trainer called the SPARC. The Incline Treadmill by the Stairmaster division of Core Health & Fitness was one of the most interesting self-powered treadmills at the tradeshow, but it has not yet been released (so we can’t link to it). The models on display in the booth were near production-ready and the designers were on hand to solicit feedback from attendees on what can be tweaked for final production. Research by Stuart McGill and John Cronin has found that strongman exercises, such as pushing a sled and farmers’ walks, can be a great way to increase total-body strength. The challenge, however, is that you need a lot of space for these movements. The Incline Treadmill provides a unique solution because it uses magnetic resistance to provide the overload for pushing. It also makes it possible to load up the arms with weights, which allows the user to do loaded carry exercises like farmer’s walks or suitcase carries.

Updated TRX Suspension Trainer and a Branded Training Rig

2014 marked the 10-year anniversary of the TRX Suspension Trainer. Two years into their second decade of making people sweat, the mad geniuses at Fitness Anywhere have updated the suspension trainer with adjustable foot cradles and anti-microbial handles. In addition, the company has partnered with Aktiv Training Solutions to develop a TRX-branded training rig that can be built in a variety of configurations based on size, programming needs and, of course, budget. Founded by former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick, who needed a way to stay in shape in dangerous parts of the world, the team at TRX prove that you do not need to make radical changes to a product—the simplicity of the TRX is the key component to its effectiveness. 

Johnny G, the inventor of Spinning, the original indoor cycling program, has developed a new product for the mind-body market. The incline plane of the In-Trinity platform can help increase the range of motion of certain movements in yoga, while making other body-weight exercises easier or more challenging based on how the body is aligned relative to gravity. The only challenge I see is space constraints for storing the platforms; however, I think this is an intriguing idea with many cool group fitness applications.

Redesigned Dumbbells

Change happens when creative people look for ways to do things more effectively. For instance, the basic shape of the dumbbell has remained the same for well over 100 years, but some companies like Sorinex, Rogue Fitness and Nu Fit Corp are changing the way we use hand-held resistance. Placing the handles in the center of the mass, for example, can change the reaction of the involved muscle and connective tissue, allowing you to create more innovative, multiplanar movement patterns for your clients and classes. 

There is a lot of interesting research on the benefits of vibration training, but until recently vibration platforms were large, cumbersome devices. If you want the benefits of vibration training combined with a portable device that can easily be moved around a facility or carried to clients’ homes, the Pro5HP portable vibration platform is something you should consider for your business. All of the goodness of vibration training in a small, portable piece can help you boost your bottom line by providing science-based solutions for your clients.

My favorite fitness products are intuitive to use and the new FitRUCK is one of the best examples I’ve seen in a long time. The folks at Hyperwear have come up with a way to combine the weights of individual Sandbells into a larger sandbag-type device that can also be worn as a backpack. The FitRUCK has pockets that secure individual Sandbells in place, along with thick zippers and buckles that make it possible to carry it as a backpack or used as a sandbag.

Founded more than 40 years ago, Total Gym was one of the first products that provided a way to turn your own body weight into all of the resistance you needed for strength training. Founded by industry legend Tom Campanero, the company is now being run by his son Jesse who has been on a tear creating products like the Jump Trainer (introduced last year) and this year’s Row Trainer. The cool thing about the Row Trainer is that even though it uses your body weight for resistance, which is increased by raising the incline, it also provides measurements for distance and wattage so you can monitor your clients’ or participants’ work rates.

Exercise Die by SPRI Products

Trainers and instructors looking for some creative ideas for clients and classes can thank the folks at SPRI for creating a dodecagon (which means twelve-sided, thank you Google) die with exercises and repetitions on each side. If you need an idea for an exercise and how many times to do it, simply roll the die and bang out the number of reps it tells you to do. It even includes a side for a 55-second recovery interval, which is a key component of a successful workout. (This product is so new that SPRI did not have a link for it on their site.)

Mergers and Acquisitions

Though not a specific product, some significant changes have occurred in the fitness industry over the past year, which were on display at this year’s tradeshow. Reorganized during 2015, Stairmaster, Star Trac, Schwinn Fitness and Nautilus (commercial) are now owned and manufactured by one company: Core Health & Fitness. Recently, Life Fitness, which is owned by the Brunswick Corporation, purchased Cybex, which is a manufacturer of both strength and cardiovascular equipment. Another big move in early 2016 saw Nautilus (a company separate from the commercial products owned by Core Health & Fitness) purchase Octane, which is a manufacturer of commercial fitness equipment. In 2014, Trigger Point, founded by Cassidy Phillips, was sold to Implus, a manufacturer of footwear and athletic gear; this acquisition should provide greater resources for distributing an awesome product line of myofascial release tools. Last year, Mad Dogg Athletics, the owner of the Spinning brand, made the decision to have it s bikes made and distributed by Precor. And Precor purchased Queenax in 2015 to add its Modular Functional Training system to its product line.

On the education side of the industry, Neil Spruce, the original founder of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), got back into the fitness education business with the purchase of PTontheNet.com and PTA Global from Fit Pro. And in 2015, Ascend Learning, the current owner of the NASM personal trainer certification, purchased the Aerobics and Fitness Association of American (AFAA) to add a group fitness certification to its portfolio of professional education solutions. It’s not 100 percent clear what all of these moves mean, except that it shows that the fitness industry, which is based on providing health solutions to end users, is in great shape and attractive to outside investors.

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