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.)