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Hottest Workouts | 2013

The Most Popular Fitness Workouts of 2013

Take a look at Shape's roundup of the hottest workout crazes everyone was talking about in 2013!

A Whole Lotta Tabata

Tabata-style training continues to be popular, says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery. And for good reason! This four-minute, fat-burning workout can provide more fitness gains than an entire hour spent on the treadmill (if done right).

The original Tabata protocol consists of 20 seconds of absolute maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times total. Studies show this style of training can burn up to 15 calories a minute, making it one seriously effective way to shed pounds and increase your fitness level.

If you haven't tried it yet, give one of these 10 Tabata routines a try today!

Core Training Continued

Core training continued to be a primary focus in fitness programs this year. "We know more and more how important strength and core training are for maintaining muscle mass and giving us better balance and lower risk of injuries when we undertake other activities such as sports," Olson says.

And we're not talking about crunches. The core training trend is evident in programming for popular workouts such as Tough Mudder, CrossFit, kettlebell training, and bodyweight workouts. So skip the floor work and carve your core with multimuscle movements like the ones you'll find in this killer kettlebell workout.

Mud Runs and Obstacle Event Training Programs

Mud runs and obstacle course events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Dirty Girl, Diva Dash, Zombie Runs, etc. have continued to grow in popularity this year, says Jessica Matthews, MS, fitness expert and associate professor of exercise science at Miramar College. While it wasn't a new trend, we did start to see more event-specific training programs emerge in 2013, with many fitness professionals offering personal and small group training to help prep potential race participants, she says.

"Since these events typically incorporate a variety of obstacles (everything from crawling under a wire to scaling walls), it's important that individuals train properly and focus on developing the specific skill-related parameters of fitness, such as power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and reactivity to ensure safety and success come race day," Matthews says.

New Ways to Warm Up

"As new research continues to emerge, how we approach the beginning of our workouts continues to shift and change," Matthews says. "While not entirely new, in the last year, there's been greater focus on dynamic warmups that include both myofascial release (typically in the form of foam rolling) and dynamic warmup exercises/movement prep to improve joint range of motion in order to create more efficient workouts and decrease the chance for overuse injuries," she explains.

Forget those old-school toe touches and side bends—Matthews recommends starting your next workout with some foam rolling exercises to help reduce tension and alleviate potentially problematic muscle tightness, and following it up with a series of dynamic movements to allow the joints to move through a full range of motion. "Preparing the body [like this] for the activity to come helps to ensure a more effective warmup and, subsequently, a more effective workout experience," she says.

Next time you are gearing up for a training session, improve your performance with this dynamic warmup.

Greater Focus on Health and Fitness in the Workplace

This trend has been steadily growing, but workplace wellness has been front and center over the past year with the new health care policies that will take effect in 2014. "With the Affordable Care Act going into place on Jan. 1, 2014, employers over the past year have taken a great interest in investing in workplace wellness programs and initiatives to build a happy, healthy workforce that will help them to keep rising healthcare costs down," Matthews says. With everything from on-site fitness classes, health coaching services, health seminars, activity breaks, and standing workstations to discounts on gym memberships, race registrations, and workout apparel to intranets filled with quality health and fitness resources that are just a mouse click away, companies are investing resources into ensuring the health and fitness of their employees, she says.

Not sure what kind of health benefits your employer offers? Talk to an HR representative to find out what kind of programs you may be entitled to participate in as an employee.

Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training remained popular this year both in traditional and primal-style formats (such as Equinox's Animal Flow workout), says Carol Espel, senior global director of group fitness and Pilates for Equinox Fitness Clubs.

From basic movements like push-ups and squats to the more complex sprawls, crawls, and climbs, using your own body weight can be one of the most effective ways to achieve your fitness goals. "Bodyweight-only workouts are highly successful and continue to be because they are so challenging as total body workouts. The body's ability to change in terms of gaining strength and endurance is much faster than traditional weighted workouts, so participants get the quick results they are after," Espel says. And, don't expect this trend to disappear anytime soon—this approach to movement will be around for a while, she says, because it's results-based and works fast.

Get in a great workout anytime, anywhere, using the best piece of equipment of all—your own bodyweight—with this No-Gym All-Over Toning Plan.

More Metabolic Training

The popularity of metabolic conditioning-style programs such as CrossFit, kettlebells, and HIIT (high intensity interval training) remained constant this year as more programs and classes utilized the term to describe their high-intensity, metabolism-boosting workouts. "Metabolic training continues to thrive because it's so quick to bring results; many participants are hooked," Espel says. "The high-intensity interval training formats are here to stay because, when utilized fully, they burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time," she says.

Turbocharge your metabolism and sculpt lean muscle all over with this at-home MetCon3 workout!

Barre-Fusion Workouts

The barre trend is still thriving, and this year saw many studios and classes incorporating a fusion-style approach to keep programming fresh, exciting, and even more effective. "Many programs upped the intensity this year by adding things like 'mega-reformers' and cardio elements to progress the workout and keep participants engaged," Espel says.

Kick up your barre routine with this four-in-one-fusion plan—the kickboxing ballet workout!

The CrossFit/Paleo Connection

"There's no denying that the CrossFit/Paleo trend has grown in popularity over the recent years," says American Council on Exercise spokesperson and exercise physiologist Jacque Ratliff. While CrossFit has been gaining in popularity for several years, 2013 saw a rise in the correlation between Paleo diet fans and CrossFit devotees. "CrossFit is 'constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity' and many CrossFitters follow a Paleo diet that rids the body of processed food including dairy and grains," Ratliff explains.

While you don't have to do CrossFit to follow a Paleo plan (or go Paleo to do CrossFit), this prehistoric-inspired plan centered around a low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber, and healthy fat-rich diet seems to work well for many CrossFit enthusiasts.

Whether or not to go Paleo or do CrossFit should be a personal choice, but many find that the group support and motivation of fellow CrossFit trainees could help them stay on track better than dieting solo.

Training Like an Athlete (Even If You Aren't One)

Bootcamp-style sessions expanded this year into a new realm of training—one that was even more focused on sports conditioning and athleticism. The trend this year was training like an athlete, or sports conditioning classes geared toward the average Joe, Ratliff says. "With trainers gaining more knowledge on strength and conditioning drills for all sports, classes that help those nonathletes train like athletes are making their appearance in fitness centers around the country," she says. These types of sports conditioning classes include mobility/stability warmups, followed by strength training, and also incorporate metabolic conditioning to improve cardiovascular endurance.

Want to try it for yourself? Check out pro snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler's stamina-building and core-strengthening workout. Even if you never have plans to try snowboarding, your body can still reap the benefits of training like one!

More on Shape:
Fifteen Simply Brilliant Healthy-Eating Tips
The Best Way to Torch Fat on a Treadmill
Twenty-Two Weight-Loss Tricks That Work

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