Fitness is an annual multi-billion dollar industry.

That’s a lot of money up for grabs. So you’d think there would be tons of innovation happening as big players vie for more market share.

But the reality is there is very little meaningful innovation and massive amounts of novelty.

5BX – was a program from 1961 that was developed for the Canadian Air Force and went on to become popular worldwide. 5BX contained 5 basic exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and running in place.

Nautilus – In the 1970’s Arthur Jones build a fitness empire with the innovation of a elliptical cams in place of round pulleys. Same exercises, same basic machines, just a cam instead of a pulley.

Soloflex – Another huge popular success that simply replaced iron weights with heavy-duty rubber bands for resistance. Same exercises, done the same way, but with rubber bands.

Bowflex – Next came a wave of machines that used flexible polymer rods for resistance. Same exercises, no rubber band or cams.

P90X – 5BX meets Amway. A mash of dozens of common exercises promoted by multi-level marketing. Does at least a half-billion in sales!

CrossFit – 13,000 gyms offering hour-long, very frequent workouts containing dozens of exercises chosen from (according to Wikipedia) “barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, jump ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, plyo boxes, resistance bands, rowing machines, and various mats.” So, expect some push-ups, sit-ups, and running in place, just like in 1961.

Basically, the “innovation” in 60 years of fitness has mostly been in marketing, with the occasional variation in how 50lbs of resistance is generated. (Did I mention ‘Total Gym’ where the resistance involved rolling Chuck Norris’s bodyweight along slanted rails? Wow. Almost Mars-landing tech there.)

5BX Program
Nautilus Biceps Machine
P90X Program
Cross Fit

Where is the Future of Strength Training?

Well, the junk marketing will likely be around at least a few more decades.

But fitness innovation is already making inroads. Millions of people are wearing Apple watches and Fitbits to track their heart rate, distances covered, calorie burn and other metrics. Millions also track their sleep patterns.

This is an emerging sector called ‘personal metrics.’ That’s where the important future is.

Even a guy like me with a pessimistic outlook on the fitness marketplace can see it’s only a matter of (too many) years until people actually wake up to the value of strength metrics.

Eventually your watch, wrist band, or other device will tell you:

  • your average and peak bench press power (and every other exercise you do)
  • your rate of strength growth on each muscle group
  • your rate of strength recovery and how it’s impacted by other exercise activities
  • the effect of exercise volume on your recovery
  • the effect of exercise intensity on your recovery
  • the effect of your sleep on all the above
  • the effect of your total calories on all the above

If all of that isn’t enough to look forward to, there’s another huge benefit. All those other “innovations” in equipment and routines will actually be measurable with objective metrics.

That will be a giant B.S. detector.

Novelty has its value in life. But strength training fitness is important and it deserves to be practiced like cardiology is. Fact-based, empirically tested, objectively measured parameters that are proven to deliver positive results at a predictable rate.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Ralph

    Hey All,
    Check out the technique this professional arm wrestler uses for his static preacher hammer curls, very interesting. We could learn a thing or two from these guys.

  • Thanks for posting this, Ralph.

    It’s a smart way to load your biceps doing a Static hammer curl. He moves his forearm parallel to the floor (even a bit past) so he’s doing it the honest way and getting 100% of the load.

  • t bolton

    talking about training devices on the market what does anyone think about the Bullworker
    which is sort of similar to Sct using isometrics 7 second holds perhaps people cannot get to
    a gym or want to train at home does anyone think this might be an alternative to static contraction
    training .

  • Personally, I always liked the Bullworker because it had a sliding gauge so you could quantify your effort. I just wish they made two models; one up to 200 lbs and another up to 1,000 lbs.

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