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The great fitness rort

Has the fitness industry lost its way?

Has the fitness industry lost its way? Photo: James Alcock

I'm starting to suspect that the booming fitness industry is growing fat on a diet of protein shakes and a load of hot air.

Nowhere was this better demonstrated than at the recent Australian Fitness & Health Expo at Darling Harbour in Sydney.

Think dozens of stands filled with salespeople with fully shaved and tanned bodies selling the biggest tubs of protein and creatine to every singlet-wearing Australian with sleeve tattoos and a "fully-sick" One Direction haircut.

My key takeaway from the show was how much the industry has lost its way now so much of it is about selling more and more stuff to help you look like someone from the cover of 'Muscle & Steroids monthly'.

But you know what? As the industry peddles an increasing amount of junk (research group IBIS estimates Australians spent $3.7 billion on fitness and weight loss services this year), I think all the masses really want are two simple things - to slim down and tone up.

The nuts and bolts of it is that women prefer a lean, toned man, and men prefer a slim, toned woman. And it doesn't take protein, pills, and machines to do it. It takes healthy eating and efficient exercises.

So, if I had a stand at the expo, I'd buck the trend and just tell you about six exercises that you should be incorporating into your program that will keep you lean and toned from head to toe. And here they are:

Bodyweight Squats Male or female, if you're not doing some sort of squats in your exercise program, then you are not exercising. From your glutes and quads to your hamstrings and calves, squats test them all. All day we sit down and stand up, which makes squats one of the most functional movements one can do at the gym.

Burpees An exercise that includes a squat, leg thrust, push up, jump forward then a vertical jump is one of the most comprehensive moves you can perform. It's rare to see people performing burpees in the gym – but when you do, understand that that individual is pushing him/herself to the limit.

Pull-Ups One of the best upper body exercises doesn't require any expensive equipment. Pull-ups work your lats, biceps, shoulders, and more. The guy at the gym with the biggest guns isn't the one to be admired - it's the one that can do the most pull-ups.

Skipping Rope A $10 jump rope could be the best, yet least expensive fitness investment anybody can make. Skipping rope is challenging, and it also burns a s%%tload of calories. Try 100 reps, try 200, and then try 300 and you will see that it is as high intensity as running sprints. And if those are easy? Do double skips, and get ready to blow your body away.

Push Ups Skip the bench press and chest isolation, and start doing more push ups. Incline, decline, plyometric, tricep, Swiss Ball – they are all amazing variations of the good ole push up. You work not only your chest but also your shoulders, triceps, core and quads. Push ups still work.

Curl – Shoulder Press Efficient exercises include compound movements, and a curl into a shoulder press is just that. It's pretty self-explanatory, as you perform a standing curl in the first movement, then raise the weights over your head with a shoulder press. Finish the exercise with the eccentric phases in bringing the weights down.

One by one, try to incorporate these exercises into your program, and if you fancy a great workout, do them all with a simple circuit: 15 squats, burpees, pull-ups, 200 jump ropes, finished by 15 push-ups and curl-shoulder presses performed in a row. Try one, two, three or even four rounds with a one minute rest between and you've done a full-body circuit that would challenge any person at the Expo.

I doubt my hypothetical stand at the expo would have been busy though, because people are too busy paying big bucks for an imaginary (but well marketed) magic pill. So how about trying some hard work instead?

What do you think is the biggest waste of money in the fitness industry?

Please note: the author originally misidentified the Australian Fitness and Health Expo as the FILEX Convention. We apologise for this error, which has now been corrected.

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163 comments so far

  • Gyms. You've got all the weights you need in your own bodyweight. You've got all the cardio machines you need in your own legs.

    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 11:49AM
    • Barbells and dumbells help... alot, not sure how you work your shoulders and traps with your bodyweight unless you can do a handstand pushups.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 12:44PM
    • Shoulders? Find something higher than you that's within reach, haul yourself up. Or locate a heavy object and lift it above your head. If you must, buy purpose designed weights for less than a months gym membership.

      But pay through the nose monthly? Unnecessary, time consuming and frequently counterproductive.

      No need for gym memberships, just a little imagination.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 1:13PM
    • Who ever wrote this article has no clue and shouldn't be commenting. You're obviously threatened by guys with big ripped muscles.

      Protein shakes are vital especially if you are trying to gain clean muscle weight. You cannot gain decent muscle weight without protein shakes, I've learnt that the hard way and will swear by protein shakes. If your goal is not to gain a lot of muscle mass then you don't need to intake the same amount as say a body builder would. Show me a successful body builder that doesn't take protein shakes and prove me wrong.

      Even people who are trying to lose fat and slim down need some degree of protein intake. Protein helps you feel fuller and makes you less prone to 'snacking'.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 1:58PM
    • i think a lot of ppl are willing to pay for fitness to be motivated. without a sum coming out of their balance every fortnight, some ppl don't get the motivation to exercise.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:02PM
    • Peter 1:58pm,

      I think you missed the part where the author wrote "I think all the masses really want are two simple things - to slim down and tone up."

      Honestly, if you are going to insult and disparage people you really should get your facts straight beforehand.

      The author is right in two ways - most people aren't interested in massive muscle bulk and protein shakes are not required to achieve a lean & toned outcome.

      As to needing a gym - only gym I would ever go to anymore is a climbing gym. Climb for a few hours and tell me you haven't worked every muscle in your body.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:30PM
    • Peter, you have no clue. Protein powder is in no way necessary for muscle gains. Here's a tip, you will grow more muscle eating REAL food - chicken, steak, quality carbs and fats. All those people thinking eating over 200g of protein per day is necessary to build muscle are way off track. All they are doing is putting on fat due to an over excess of calories, and somehow think its all muscle. Here's another tip if your waist is expanding you are getting FATTER. All the fat guys in the gym doing curls with you gut sticking out further than your chest - it's not attractive!

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:49PM
    • Why do guys, or girls, want to bulk up anyway?!?! It intrigues me, for about 2 seconds - get fit not big - you don't see many huge 90 year olds.....

      Gym junkies - pfft

      A bunch of failed athletes trying to get girls.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 3:03PM
    • Peter - whoever wrote your reply clearly has bad eyesight and really shouldn't be commenting.

      This article has nothing to do with building muscle and getting ripped. It's about the vast majority of gym-users who have no interest in becoming enormous meatheads or simply don't have the time, but still buy protein shakes as if it's some sort of helper in the quest to be not fat and unhealthy.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 3:20PM
    • @Peter,

      Thanks for letting us all know you're a superficial and vacuous himbo. Maybe you work on your muscles all day so you can compensate for jealousy you feel for all those people who can spell and count?
      Just a thought sport ;-)

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 3:25PM

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