Once viewed by some operators as merely a passing trend, functional core training has quickly become a revenue-boosting fitness movement at many fitness facilities, especially since it most often is provided through personal training, small group training or larger-scale group exercise classes.
The transition of functional core training from fad to mainstream has been gradual but consistent. The past nine IDEA equipment and programming surveys documented increases in abdominals classes and core-conditioning classes, says Douglas Brooks, the director of education at RealRyder International, Santa Monica, CA. Growth has come as fitness professionals and members have gained a better understanding of the core.
“Education and programming drives product sales,” he says. “Logically, it would follow suit that with this continued emphasis in equipment used to train the core would come a better understanding of how to train the core. The industry has moved away from isolated core training to training the core in an integrated fashion, considering the science of fascia and its contribution to movement.”
Crunch Regional Group Fitness Director Kendell Hogan agrees that ab work is “no longer just about getting a six-pack.” At Crunch, New York, multiple group exercise classes address functional core training, including BodyWeb (which uses the TRX Suspension Trainer), Transformer (which uses the three-dimensional rubber tubing system called the Core Transformer), BOSU Body and BOSU Bootcamp (which focus on strength and balance work on the BOSU Balance Trainer), and Ab Attack (which features both standing and floor work). These classes are so popular at Crunch that many times they “sell out,” meaning that there isn’t enough equipment for everyone who wants to participate.
“It’s definitely more popular now, and there is a direct correlation between the education that instructors are currently able to provide and the increased amount of equipment and knowledge that are now available,” Hogan says. “Instructors have been able to show through creative exercise selection and verbal instruction the importance of functional core training.”
It is a similar story at Yakima Athletic Club and YAC Fitness in Yakima, WA, which had a complete return on investment of their functional core training equipment in just six months. The clubs have offered small-group and large-group training for more than two years and launched TRX Team Training Camp, a small-group boot camp using the TRX, last November.
The camps have been “wildly popular,” says Carrie Sattler, who is general manager of both clubs.
“We have always understood that total body movements and combined movements will target the core—but how to put that into a program is what has been always missing,” Sattler says. “With the TRX Suspension Trainer coming into the industry within the past few years, we found the tool that we knew we needed to pull everything together in a more comprehensive way.”
At the RealRyder Cycling Studio in Brentwood, CA, members get a full functional core workout using a variety of equipment, including the Core Transformer, the TRX, dumbbells, stability and medicine balls, mats, and, of course, the RealRyder bikes.
The studio holds between eight to 10 classes per day with about 10 to 25 participants per class, depending on the time of the day, says Rachelle Ambrose, general manager of the studio.
“In our studio, our entire focus is core and functional training—along with cardio,” Ambrose says. “Some of our classes are just on the bike, some integrate the Core Transformer, and some integrate body-weight strength training.”
With various pieces of functional core training equipment available, Linda LaRue, creator of Crunchless Abs and the Core Transformer, advises that all clubs offer some kind of core training to members, whether through personal training or group exercise.
In fact, if clubs do not begin offering this programming, the bottom line may suffer, she says.
“Functional core is now considered an essential part of any and all group or one-on-one training programs,” LaRue says. “That’s because all movement begins first and always from the core. Not offering essential core-movement programming would place a club at a distinct marketing deficit regarding having a well-rounded program.”