One of the worst parts of being the youngest of three boys was getting all of their hand me down clothes. I mean, free clothing is great and all, but after getting stuff that was really well worn by 2 active boys who are 6 and 4 years older than me left me with stuff that looked, shall we say, less than crisp.
I think I was the only kid in the late nineties wearing jeans with no back pockets and flared legs. While that may sound like a cool thing today, at the time it wasn’t something that was stylish and probably lead to more points and snickers than they should have.
While those jeans may have been the hotness a decade before I was wearing them, and may have had some flavour about a decade after I was in them, there was a window of lameness where they weren’t in fashion, and I was right in the middle of that window. Maybe I was just the original hipster, or my parents didn’t want to spend money on any new clothes that I would just outgrow again, but either way, they weren’t working for me.
We could say the same thing about a lot of stuff we see in the gym. A lot of what is done has been done before, but wound up falling out of fashion for some reason or another, only to come back into popularity at some point in time.
When I first started workout out, getting some specific machine that could target a muscle very precisely would be the best thing possible to see muscle growth, and having big arms from lots of direct training was cool. Then suddenly, machines were the devil and did nothing for you, and if you had big arms you were a meathead who didn’t know how to do anything other than curls. Now, machines are useful again, and arm training is en vogue in some circles.
Obviously this is just one small example of the microcosm, but w could look at a lot of other elements that could fall into that concept. Stuff like heavy compound lifts were the main method of training at the beginning of the 1900s, and then went away for isolational bodybuilding styles of training, and now powerlifting is massively popular.
Skinny jeans are all the rage now, but they were also popular in the 70s and 80s, and probably at some point in time before then. Maybe I should have just been born 10 years earlier or 10 years later and I would have fit in with my hand-me-down jeans.
What we see tending to come back into fashion in the gym is the stuff that consistently produces results. Trends will come and go when something new comes along, but over time, if they stop producing the results people are looking for, the population will move on. Remember Tai Bow? It worked when people started to do it, but eventually, without any change in the challenge or progressions to the workouts, they stopped producing results for people, and they moved on.
So how do we know what is going to be popular in 5 or 10 years? What about in 20? There seems to be a 20 year cycle in fitness, and likely also in other elements like fashion, architecture, etc, but consistently in fitness you’ll see stuff that was popular 20 years ago coming back again, as sort of a throw-back workout with some new colours or marketing, and producing new results.
Powerlifting is really cool now, but what happens when all of the powerlifters get injured and don’t want to spend as much time under crushing weight? They’ll likely move towards bodybuilding. We’re starting to see a bit of that now, but it will likely ramp up in another 2-3 years.
5 years ago, kettlebell training was EVERYTHING, and to be fair it’s still widely popular, but it’s not getting as much coverage as previously, so to be honest it’s popularity as a result of how often it’s being discussed is waning. What’s next? Barbell training or other forms of explosive conditioning elements. Think strongman training, Crossfit, calisthenics.
Balance training and single leg training on unstable surfaces was massive about a decade ago, but then fell out of popularity for heavier bilateral work, but now people are starting to get into some single leg work on a more frequent basis, maybe due to overcoming injuries from heavy bilateral training, or just wanting to train hard without as much of a crushing fatigue from heavier bilateral training.
Everything comes and goes in circles of popularity. What I’ve outlined above aren’t hard and fast predictions to hang your hat on, but just guesses on what’s going to be popular based on historical observations. I’ll likely be wrong, but I don’t think anyone really cares. Other stuff will come up out of no where and become popular, which will skew everything, but as with all trends, they’ll either sink or swim, and if they’re not producing results for people, the trendy thing will be gone pretty quickly.