Exercise has many perks—and you want them all! Flat abs, toned arms, and a tight tush, plus a burst of endorphin-fueled energy and a calmer, less-stressed mind. But it's hard to get that range of benefits from any one type of workout.
Enter fusion fitness—workouts that combine at least two different disciplines (boxing and Pilates; running and strength training; or yoga and cardio, to give just a few examples).
"Fusion classes are hugely popular because they make the most of your time at the gym," says Pat Soley, group exercise director at The Sports Club/LA in Los Angeles. The fresh mix-ups not only challenge your muscles in new ways, ramping up your calorie burn, but also keep you motivated by spicing up been-there-done-that routines.
Even if your gym doesn't offer these combos, you can still multitask your way to a leaner body and happier mind on your own. Here's how.
Your dream combo: Boxing, Pilates, and dance
Get it with: Piloxing
This hybrid class—which mixes the badass athleticism of boxing with the beautiful sculpting of Pilates—is on fire and spreading fast, thanks to its cultlike following (Glee star Heather Morris is a fan of this workout). Participants wear weighted gloves or go bare-fisted through a series of high-intensity intervals that switch seamlessly between boxing, standing Pilates, and dance. "People come back because they have fun and see results fast," says Viveca Jensen, creator of the Piloxing Academy in Los Angeles.
Try it: Check piloxing.com to see if any of the 900 certified instructors nationwide are teaching at a gym near you or are available for private lessons, or try a DVD. Some workout tips: Put power into your punches by using your whole body, not just your arm. Extend your arm fully (be careful not to lock your elbow), tighten your core, and twist your hips with every rep. For more power, exhale as you throw each jab.
Your dream combo: Running and strength training
Get it with: Tread
Popping up in big fitness clubs and boutique studios across the country, Tread fusion classes combine fast-paced treadmill intervals with muscle-building resistance training in a high-energy group environment. Because you're alternating between the treadmill and strength moves every 10 minutes, your metabolism gets fired up and stays in high gear for an entire hour, says Christopher Slevin, founder of Sweat Garage in Los Angeles. The result: You can burn anywhere from 600 to 1,000 calories in an hour.
Try it: No Tread classes at your gym? Go at it solo on a treadmill. Complete this pyramid three times: Jog comfortably for a minute, run faster for a minute, then sprint all-out for a minute—with no rest in between. After the third pyramid, reduce your speed to a slow walking pace and do 20 reps each of walking lunges and lateral side steps (on both sides). Do the entire sequence three times.
Your dream combo: Yoga, cardio, and core conditioning
Get it with: ZenCore
When you combine yoga with functional and plyometric strength exercises, you get improved strength, flexibility, and balance. Maryanne Blake, creative director at Reebok Sports Club/NY in New York City, who developed the class, says it targets specific body parts with sequences that begin with a yoga pose (to prep the body), then transition into dynamic moves (to raise your heart rate and strengthen muscles), and then flow into a restorative pose (to stretch your body). It wraps up with meditation, leaving you feeling strong and calm.
Try it: Classes and DVDs that blend yoga with other disciplines are super popular and easy to find (Body Band Yoga, Core Fusion, and Kickbox Yoga Fusion are just a few). Here's a fusion sequence you can try at home: Start in a boat pose (think V-up position) and hold it for five breaths. Roll back so you're lying on the floor and do a full situp. Grab your knees and gently rock down and up a few times, then roll onto your feet and jump off the ground. Reverse the motion and continue rocking and jumping for one minute, then lie back down and extend both legs and arms away from your torso to give your entire body a stretch. Repeat two or three times.
Your dream combo: Low-impact cardio and strength training
Get it with: Aqua boot camp
The pool isn't just for Dara Torres wannabes or aquacizing grannies. "Water workouts improve endurance and strength without impact, so it's a great alternative to traditional cardio," says Ellis Peters, a former U.S. swim team coach and an aqua boot camp instructor at Equinox Sports Club in New York City.
"It's also perfect for runners and other athletes who want to maintain fitness while nursing injuries." Armed with foam weights and noodles that provide resistance, boot campers tone their upper body and core while raising their heart rate with sprints and jumping jacks.
Try it: You don't need an instructor to make a splash. Head into shoulder-deep water and run in place. Get your knees high and pump your arms (the resistance of the water will tone your upper body). Warm up, then increase the pace and sprint for 30 seconds. Recover for 15 seconds, and repeat the sequence five times. Or try this ski-mogul drill from Mark Hendricks, group fitness manager at Equinox Sports Club in Greenwich, Connecticut: In shoulder-deep water, hold imaginary ski poles in both hands, jump up, quickly raise your knees toward your chest, then land. Continue quickly for 30 seconds. Recover for 15 seconds, and repeat the sequence five times.