Top Cardio and Strength Training Trends from Fit Pros to Average Joes


(Editors' Note: This sponsored article is part of Club Industry's report, " Cardio and Strength Equipment Trends, Technology, Purchasing and Maintenance." To download this free report, click here.)

The dynamics of the fitness industry make it hard to keep up with all training trends currently in demand. From fitness technology to workouts on-demand and CrossFit to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – all are popular, but what do clients really want? To provide some insight, we reviewed three fitness trends reports that collected data from fitness professionals, studios and fitness enthusiasts.   

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) began surveying the top fitness trends about 13 years ago and launched its first Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends Report in the fall of 2006. Since then, it has become one of the most referenced reports on the topic for the industry. To get a sense of the industry’s strongest trends, we examined the top 10 trends on this list over the life of the survey.  

If you throw out the top two trends on the survey—personal training and employing educated, experienced fitness professionals—as seeming to be a little biased coming from a panel of fitness professionals, the trend with the most staying power is strength training. It has been in the top 10 for 12 of the past 13 years.  

The 2020 edition, however, changed strength training to training with free weights. Why? The term strength training is a broad term. Instead, ACSM uses training with free weights, which is defined as exercises featuring barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells and medicine balls. Body weight training has also been listed in the top training trends for the past seven years and also could be categorized as a type of strength training. Based on this information, the shift within the broad strength training trend (at least for now) is focused on more traditional training tools and methods, such as free weights and body weight exercises, as opposed to using selectorized strength machines.  

So what are the most popular forms of cardio training? If HIIT was first to pop into your mind, you are correct. Again, looking over the history of the ACSM Fitness Trends Report, the first time the ACSM mentions a training type that would be categorized as cardiovascular-based is when is mentions HIIT, which appeared in the top spot in 2014. It has been in the top three ever since. The benefits of HIIT have been researched and validated over the years. From the afterburn effect made possible by EPOC to the most effective workout to do in a time crunch, HIIT is still on top and making an appearance in many programs: Tabata drills, sprints, timed max intervals – all aimed at the goal of producing all-out effort in a short time frame.  

Another survey on cardio comes from MINDBODY. People who work out in a group exercise environment prefer to get their cardio and/or HIIT in a dance or cycling class, according to MINDBODY’s 2019 survey, Fitness in America: Behaviors, Attitudes, and Trends. The report shares that cardio machines are popular cardiovascular modalities for group exercisers, confirming that group classes that implement circuit-style training with bodyweight or free weight strength exercises paired with HIIT intervals on cardio machines have paved the way for treadmills, bikes and rowing ergometers to enter the group training space.  

The third report examined popular training types for fitness enthusiasts by region. Strength training is the most popular activity by city across two-thirds or approximately 67 percent of the United States, according to a study by ClassPass of people who use the company’s services. Unfortunately, strength training was never specifically defined, but if you cross-reference with ACSM’s most recent trends report, you might assume that these classes likely use free weights, kettlebells and barbells as their strength-training tools of choice. It did not appear that classes defined as cardio-based were as popular for those using ClassPass. Yoga was the next most popular with cycling coming in a distant third.  

Speaking of surveys, if you still aren’t sure what equipment or program to invest in next, conducting a member survey might be a good next move. Members like to be heard and acknowledged, and offering them a questionnaire specific to your training space might provide the final direction you need to choose what’s next for your facility.  


Elisabeth Fouts serves as the education coordinator for Power Systems and is their primary content contributor for blogs and articles on a variety of subjects from personal training and group fitness programming to product spotlights and health club operations. She holds a B.S. in exercise science and has more than 12 years of experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor as well as regional level fitness management. Fouts is also a master trainer for PowerWave Master and holds industry group fitness certifications with ACE and Les Mills. 

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.