Does your regular workout include crawling like a crab, or rocking about in a hammock? If it doesn’t, you could be missing out.
Fitness trainers are adopting quirky routines to keep people training and make training fun.
So you can now choose between ‘high-altitude training’ in a low-oxygen chamber; go ‘anti-gravity’ and hang upside-down from a hammock; or sign up for combine training that involves ‘natural’ forms of exercise like dragging, lifting and throwing, to replicate the kinds of workouts we’ve been missing since our hunter-gatherer days.
Most of these new workouts promise to improve core strength, flexibility and coordination. Doctors warn, however, that the higher fun quotient comes with a higher risk of injury — and is not the right fit for everyone.
“Even the most dedicated gymrats get bored of a fixed routine, so it’s important to try different workouts to mix things up, but this must be combined with expert supervision, adequate rest and the right nutrition,” says Mumbai-based fitness and health coach Kunal Sharma.
“Ideally, such sessions should not last more than 30 minutes and you should never begin a quirky workout when you are sleep-deprived, since the risk of injury is higher.”
Doctors suggest you watch out for red flags too. “Signs like profuse sweating, nausea and light-headedness must not be ignored. Look out for swellings, and stop as soon as you spot any,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Tejas Upasani. “While some muscle soreness is normal, you should be able to differentiate between soreness and pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you you’ve gone too far. It’s really, really important to know your limits.”
This involves working out in a hypoxic chamber where the oxygen levels have been reduced to the levels generally found in mountainous terrain.
“Lowered oxygen levels raise the metabolic rate and help burn calories faster. They also help retain muscle mass while only burning fat, making for a more toned body,” says Ketan Ashar, technical director of Mumbai’s QI gym.
Watch: A high-altitude training workout
Another important aspect that needs to be kept in mind is following the right diet plan. “A balanced diet, adequate rest and intensive training is the basic principle we follow in our sessions,” says QI’s head nutritionist, Hemal Ghedia.
It worked as a quick fix for Mumbai medical student Shruti Pandey, 23, who wanted to shed the sudden weight that she had gained from binge-eating junk food while studying. “Simulated high-altitude training helped me shed 4 kgs in 15 sessions,” she says.
These workouts are fun because they involve a series of dynamic quadrupedal movements, mimicking animal postures. “The freestyle workout increases mobility, stability, endurance and neuromuscular development because you are alternately crawling, stretching, squatting and jumping,” says certified animal flow trainer Samrat Sen from Kolkata.
The concept was created by American fitness expert Mike Fitch in 2011 and trainers from his US-based fitness chain travel to India regularly to conduct workshops. Sen explains that it can be easily combined with other workouts and is an exciting group activity. “It needs no equipment, can be tailor-made to suit your needs and is easy to keep even on vacation,” Sen says.
Watch: Mike Fitch demonstrates animal flow
“The aim of suspending yourself is to create a natural traction position where you use your own body weight to exercise,” says Nital Raval of the Biorhythm training studio in Pune. “The position helps reactivate the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. It may look tough, but it actually involves no acrobatics or gymnastics.”
Pune businessman Devendra Anand, 48, would agree. When he got bored lifting weights at the gym, he decided to try the anti-gravity workout a year ago and says it also helped ease a lingering lower back pain caused by poor posture. “Doctors had suggested physiotherapy, but with the new workout, the pain became less and less over six months and eventually disappeared. I feel more flexible and agile and I’ve continued my training because it’s really fun.”
Watch: Where did anti-gravity fitness come from, and how does it work?
This workout is aimed at getting your body to do real-life activities in real-life positions, to build strength, balance, core development, mental agility, flexibility, coordination and cardio-respiratory conditioning, says Abbas Ali, celebrity fitness expert and founder of the Bodyholics combine training gym.
“Our ancestors’ bodies were always in motion. Combine training makes you replicate the same actions of, say, hunting or farming by pulling weight sledges, hammering tyres to simulate chopping wood, and rope-work that resembles the action of drawing water from a well,” Ali says.
For fitness enthusiasts like Shikha Dubey, 27, its all about upping their fitness game. “After three months, I can now do 20 burpees or squat thrusts which are not at all easy, and that’s really motivating,” she says.
Watch: A peek into the paelo workout
Based on fluid movements and acrobatic suspension, Tonal Resistance Exercise (TRX) may look more like a circus stunt than a full-body workout, but this body weight training programme has a tough-as-nails pedigree. According to Arun Singh, fitness manager at Epicuria gym, Delhi, the workout was developed almost 20 years ago by a former US Navy Seal as a way to stay in shape on the go.
“The system revolves around straps inspired by those on parachutes. They stretch, but also offer graded resistance, making the workout scalable across fitness levels,” says Singh.