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A New Year, a New Workout

Fitness pros give their picks for the hottest exercise trends for 2008.
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Workout Trend No. 3: Core Training

Core training refers to exercises that strengthen and condition the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and back -- an area that ACE research scientist and trainer Comana says is often in critical need of attention.

"In most people, the body has literally forgotten how to activate core muscles, which is one reason we see so many back problems and poor posture," Comana says.

Too much sitting -- especially while hunched over a computer -- tends to lengthen back muscles and shorten core muscles, so that when we stand or walk, our bodies don't get the support they need. That means we slouch, shift our weight, and cause muscle imbalances that can result in pain.

Thompson says core training typically includes exercises that concentrate on the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen, "all of which provide much-needed support for the spine," he says. 

One of the best ways to strengthen core muscles, Fleming says, is to use the Swiss Ball -- also known as a stability ball, or Bosu Ball (see below). Other core-strengthening exercises likely to gain popularity this year include push-ups and sit-ups. Also, Fleming says, there are "one-legged exercises, such as a bicep curl, done while standing on one leg -- which increases stamina while it strengthens core muscles."

Workout Trend No. 4: Fusion Fitness

This form of exercise blends two or more activities into one session -- and it's a concept ACE sees as a major fitness force in 2008.

"It's the merging of traditional and nontraditional exercises, and it's also a blend of cardio and toning and conditioning -- and it really helps you maximize your outcome from each session," Comana says.  

Among the most popular fusion classes, says ACE, are yo-cycling, a blend of yoga and stationary cycling; and Yogalates, a blend of yoga and Pilates.

Workout Trend No. 5: Swiss Ball/Bosu Ball/Stability Ball

These large balls (think mega-sized beach ball -- about 35" around) are inflated with air, then used while doing a variety of exercises that increase muscle tone and help with balance.

"You can sit on it, do bicep curls on it, use it to do push-ups," Fleming says. "It can help strengthen core muscles, as well as aid in developing better balance and better stability overall."

She says that these balls, along with free weights, are the only equipment she advocates using.

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