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Retro Fitness: '80s Workouts Make a Comeback, From Jane Fonda to Buns of Steel

The All-Time Most Effective Retro Workouts!

We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!

When we think about retro trends, we generally get a nostalgic twinge for fashion (leg warmers!), hairstyles (teased bangs), TV shows ("Growing Pains" and "Punky Brewster"), and toys (Cabbage Patch Dolls and Shrinky Dinks).

But recently, we read about an up-and-coming health club chain (60 locations and counting) called Retro Fitness, which is totally '80s-themed. Kind of brilliant (they play "Rocky" and "Sixteen Candles" on a big screen in the cardio room). This got us thinking about old-school, leotard-clad workouts.

Here's an homage to our faves (complete with hilarious video) and what you can learn from them:

Buns of Steel: Minimal equipment, mucho rhythmic movement and leg warmers. Oh, yeah, and if you're as bold as host Tamilee Webb, you can wear a belted THONG leotard. "You're seeing more of this calisthenics-style workout coming back into fitness," says Eric Casaburi, founder of Retro Fitness. "It's drills and constantly changing the workouts. Our trainers use this theory a lot to get Retro members the best workout by keeping the body guessing and progressing."


Move that works: Leg lifts (leg warmers optional). Variations of this move are now staples in Pilates classes — to achieve lean, dancer-like legs. For more inspiration check out Bridget Moynahan's Sexy Leg Workout. Eat your heart out, Tom Brady.

To get a little deeper into the '80s, keep on reading!

Get in Shape Girl!: The ad for this fitness kit aimed at young girls (cassette tape, streamers on sticks and, of course, pink sweatbands) would have us singing and dancing our way through "Smurfs" commercial breaks. "Get in Shape... GIRL! You know the feeling!"

Move that works: Jumping rope. You can burn major calories (10 per minute!) while getting a great butt workout. Check out this jump rope routine from our fitness blogger Erin Kurdyla.

The Firm: When it debuted in 1979, The Firm (here's a link to a classic video) was one of the first workouts to combine aerobics AND weights for a complete cardio and strength workout. They call it "Synergy Training." These days, hybrid workouts — like Pilates/boxing (Piloxing) and Yoga/Spinning — are all the rage, and for good reason.

Why it works: The hybrid approach not only keeps you more engaged, it also allows your heart rate to fluctuate, which boosts your metabolism more efficiently than, say, a long, slow slog on the treadmill. In addition, as we've said a bazillion times before: It's essential that women strength train to keep their bones strong and their bodies injury-proof.

Jane Fonda: The first lady of fitness deserves a category of her own. "Jane Fonda pioneered the workout movement with dancer-inspired exercises that create lean curves using only your body weight as resistance," says fitness legend Molly Fox of San Mateo, CA. "The emphasis on posture and core strength was way ahead of its time."

Why it works: It's key to have an arsenal of no-equipment-required moves you can do ANYWHERE, whether you're at home, on vacation, or holed up in your office working into the wee hours of the night. Use SELF's Workout Builder to DIY your ultimate Fonda-approved body weight workout.

What's your favorite "vintage" workout? Jazzercise? Sweating to the Oldies? Do tell . . .

Ready to get your sweat on? Read these stories from

Image Source: WireImage
Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 6 years
I still have the Jane Fonda Aerobics VHS tape. I pop it in sometimes for a change of pace. It's an amazingly good workout.
missy1632 missy1632 6 years
I still have my Get in Shape Girl set!!!! I LOVE it! I sometimes wear the headband! hahaha.... and almost every time I go to work-out I say 'Get in Shape Girl'... in a corny peppy voice. hahaha. I still remember the cassette- even though I haven't listen to it in years. Things like shadow boxing and pretending to climb ladders. haha Oh and also I wanted to note someone missing... DENISE AUSTIN! And also Jazzercise with Judi Sheppard Missett... I still have videos of Denise Austin and Jazzercise... I really like my Jazzercise tape... It's a 20min toning tape and it really works! It's great! I also just started doing callanetics with another old video... wow, what a workout!!! It's kind of like the barre method. Retro rocks!
lauren lauren 6 years
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