By Dr. Mercola
In a world where many are not only time-crunched but where their smartphones and tablets are virtually extensions of their own bodies, technology-infused fitness represents the latest innovation to help you stay fit.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly clear that challenging your body at the peak of your performance max for short periods, known as high-intensity interval type training (HIIT), is one of the best and most efficient ways to get in shape.
As a result, many are thinking “outside the treadmill” and trading in their hour-long jogs for quicker, more efficient workouts like Peak Fitness, CrossFit, plyometrics, kickboxing, and kettlebell workouts, for example.
One of the newcomers on the block is Fitwall, an innovative vertical training program that combines standard bodyweight exercises performed on a unique training apparatus, in a technology-savvy studio.
What Is Fitwall?
Fitwall is a vertical training modality that is essentially a 7-foot-tall tower attached to the wall, with four stationary rungs for your feet and four tiers for grip. Each Fitwall is attached to an iPad that allows you to monitor your heart rate and exertion level during your workout.
Available only at select fitness studios (and in a handful of private gyms run by professional football leagues, the US military and Olympic Training Centers), Fitwall allows you to perform over 900 different exercises.
The most common workout program involves 14 movements including squats, leg extensions, calf raises, pull-ups and hip rotations, performed while clinging to the wall. An average Fitwall session, which is 40 minutes long, is said to be more effective than regular gym workouts, typical group classes or even working with a personal trainer.
The fact that the workout is mostly done while you’re gripping a vertical wall is certain to add intensity and challenge your body and core muscles in unique and beneficial ways.
How Bodyweight Exercises Can Enhance Your Fitness Routine
However, you certainly don’t need a Fitwall to do the bulk of the Fitwall workout, as the majority of these exercises are bodyweight exercises that can be done either in your home or at your local gym (albeit on the ground instead of hanging onto the wall).
Exercises that use your bodyweight for strength training allow you to strengthen and tone your muscles virtually anywhere, with no fancy exercise equipment or gym membership required. Examples include:
- Jump squats
- Mountain climbers
When performed on the Fitwall, the intensity is significantly increased, but you can also tweak the intensity by slowing down your movements (such as for push-ups and pull-ups) or performing the exercises on an unstable surface, such as a BOSU ball or exercise ball, which will force your core muscles to work harder to keep you in balance.
You can actually turn just about any bodyweight exercise into an extremely effective HIIT workout with a bit of creativity. For instance, you can turn ordinary push-ups into a high-intensity workout by performing:
- Plyometric push-ups: Once your sternum touches the floor, hold your position and breathe for about three seconds, then perform an explosive push upward.
- Three minutes of push-ups: It's quite simply, how many push-ups can you do in three minutes? You need to have good technique, good form, and a strategy. If you go all out, you'll lose your energy and likely won't last for three minutes. So go at a pace of about 80 percent of your total ability, and when you can't go any further, rest for 20-30 seconds; stretch, and then resume.
- The handstand push-up (highly advanced): Facing a wall, place your hands at a 45-degree angle about one to two hand-lengths from the wall. Kick your legs up. You can use the wall to stabilize you as you perform the push-up. Breathe in as you lower yourself to the floor, and breathe out as you push yourself up.
A 7-Minute High-Intensity Workout Using Just Your Bodyweight, a Chair and a Wall
While Fitwall does appear to be a novel and intriguing way to exercise, the best exercise program for you is one you’re going to stick with. Not only is Fitwall only available in very limited locations, but it can also be costly at $120 for just four sessions. Although this does compare favorably to the cost of a personal trainer, the take-home point to remember is that cost and lack of access to a gym or fitness class are not impediments to fitting in exercise to your regular routine; you can get in a good workout that doesn’t cost a dime and can be done in just minutes a day when you use HIIT.
A recent article in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal,1, for instance, shows how you can fulfill the requirements for high-intensity exercise using nothing more than your own bodyweight, a chair and a wall.. Best of all, this science-backed routine only requires a seven-minute investment, as the program calls for as little as 10 to 15 seconds of rest between each 30-second exercise, which should be performed in rapid succession. One of the added boons of this 7-minute program, shown in the video above, is that since you don’t need any equipment, you can easily take this routine with you when traveling.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel room that doesn’t at least have a chair in it. When done at the appropriate intensity, which should hover around 8 on a scale of 1-10, the following 12 exercises equate to doing a long run and a weight-training session. The exercises are ideally done in the following order, as this allows for opposing muscle groups to alternate between resting and working in each subsequent exercise.
Harnessing Technology to Boost Your Exercise Performance
The other alluring aspect of Fitwall is that it’s technologically advanced, allowing participants to monitor their exertion levels, and even check in for class, via an iPad. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it’s actually very easy to access many top-quality workouts that you can do virtually anywhere. With tens of thousands of health apps already on the market, and more coming daily, this is one fitness trend that’s likely going to be around for a while.
The great beauty of these apps is that they’re inexpensive or free and allow you to have personal trainers, exercise images and entire fitness programs right at your fingertips, so you can take control of your health. If you want even more ideas for creating an excellent HIIT workout that, in many cases, you can do right at home, give any of these six bodyweight apps a try:
- You are Your Own Gym ($2.99)
With over 200 video demonstrations and quick workout options, this app lets you craft a customized workout for your skill level. You can either build a workout from scratch or pick from their quick workouts, which have 81 different combinations per difficulty level.
- 500 Bodyweight Challenge (Free)
This app has videos with exercise demonstrations along with challenges designed to, well, challenge you. For instance, one challenge will have you complete 50 jump squats in seven minutes. The user interface is clean and simple, allowing you to focus clearly on your workouts.
- Gorilla Workout ($0.99)
Gorilla Workout, which was named the iPad Health & Fitness app of the year by Apple, has 175 different bodyweight workouts with 40+ unique exercises. You can choose from four different fitness levels along with signature workouts to get fit. Every exercise also has real-life video and text descriptions.
- Boot Camp Challenge ($3.99)
Get lean, strong and fit with Boot Camp Challenge. It features over 200 exercises and beginner to advanced routines. Plus, it has beat-sync technology, which means it will match the tempo of your music to your workout.
- Fitness Trainer HD ($1.99)
With over 450 exercises (more than 10 of which are bodyweight or home-based), Fitness Trainer HD has a workout for everyone. Each exercise has video and photo instructions, along with how-to tips.
- Sworkit Pro (Free)
This app provides randomized circuit training workouts that you can do anywhere. You choose the length of your workout and the area of your body you want to focus on (such as upper body, core, cardio, full body or stretching), and Sworkit designs a customized routine instantly.