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Why Men Are Ditching The Weights Room

August 2017Words by Mr Jeremy Kingsley

Illustration by Mr Tommy Parker

For everyone from athletes to soldiers, physical training has persisted for decades as a simple product of lifting progressively heavier metal to build strength plus running sprints to keep the body lean. It’s a routine the modern commercial gym was built around in the Pumping Iron era of 1970s Venice, California, and it has bored countless men to death – or lethargy, at least – ever since.

Navigate the class schedule at your nearest upscale sweatbox, however, and you’ll see how things are changing. Many men are ditching the weights room and the track in favour of bodyweight exercises such as calisthenics (think press-ups, pull-ups, leg raises and handstands), gymnastic strength training and strong yoga, which can be performed in the gym or at home. Growing interest has meant that classes in “animal flow” or “primal movement” at Blok, Equinox and Third Space are now among their most popular draws, and the big boxing gyms are loading up on monkey bars and dangling TRX bands, ropes and rings to satisfy demand.

This shift is partly down to our exposure to different kinds of physical activity through social media. But top-level training, built on a more scientific and less dogmatic approach, has changed dramatically in the past five to 10 years, inspiring mere mortals to follow suit. Basketball player Mr LeBron James has put his sporting success and healthy mind and body down to yoga, a practice Arsenal FC and the All Blacks rugby team have built into their training programmes. Meanwhile, mixed martial artist Mr Conor McGregor works with voguish movement guru Mr Ido Portal.