11 Unusual Workouts You Probably Haven't Tried

Full length of fitness class and instructor doing pilates exercise

It used to be if you wanted to slim down and tone up, you had just a few choices: lace up your running shoes, go for a swim, ride your bike or hit the weight room. But these days, the fitness universe contains nearly endless options, from doing yoga with your pup to acting out your inner rock star in aerobics class. So if you’re feeling uninspired by your current exercise routine, check out some of these alternatives, then get out there and give them a try!

1. Capoeira

Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that combines combat moves, dance moves and special rhythmic music in a game-like format. It’s still not well understood how and where capoeira originated, but one theory suggests it was developed by African slaves in colonial Brazil. Its practice involves acrobatics, agility, flexibility, speed and strength. Depending on the class, students may also learn about the history and philosophy behind capoeira and be introduced to -- and in some cases even play -- the specialized instruments, such as the single-stringed berimbau, that create the rhythmic background to the practice. Beginners are welcome at classes but should expect a challenging workout that will build solid physical fitness and coordination over time.

Woman Dodges Capoeria Kick

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2. AcroYoga

AcroYoga combines the practice of yoga with partner acrobatics in an unusual, challenging workout that helps you connect with others and build trust, strength and flexibility. Co-founded by Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer in 2003, AcroYoga classes have three main elements: acrobatics practice, healing arts practice and yogic practice. During partner work, you’ll be in groups of three or more, with a base, a flier and a spotter. You’ll truly feel like you’re flying when you’re up in the air in upward bow pose, balancing on your belly on just your partner’s feet. Sessions include partner massage, such as Thai massage, and therapeutic flying. In the latter, also called inverted aerial massage, the flier remains passive, while the base uses gravity, stretching and touch to open areas of the flier’s body.

Doing Yoga Together In A Studio

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3. Doga

You love your dog and you love yoga, so why not do yoga with your dog? That’s what inspired actor and yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman to create Doga in 2002. Teitelman claims that by doing poses with your dog, you can deepen the bond you share. The practice includes massaging your pet, doing poses and deep breathing. Poses range from seated meditative postures in which you lay your hands on your pet and focus on your breathing for a few minutes to more challenging poses like Warrior III or a plank pose with your dog on your back. You can find Doga classes in many cities, but you can also purchase Teitelman’s DVDs or watch her videos online.

Yoga girl with her dog

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A mutual love of fitness and music inspired Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom to create POUND, a full-body “cardio jam session“ that combines drumming with fitness techniques from other disciplines like Pilates and aerobics to burn calories and build strength and stamina. Holding lightweight exercise drumsticks called Ripstix, participants pound out rhythms from rock to dubstep in an interval-style sequence that raises then lowers the heart rate for the ultimate fat-burning workout. “We’ve built the class to not only be a really physical experience, but a really musical experience,” Peerenboom says. “It’s a really unique experience that makes you sweat, obviously, but also takes you into a whole different realm of rockin’ out.”

Zumba or Jazzdance - young people dancing in studio

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5. PiYo

Combining Pilates and yoga in a routine with fluid, nonstop movement, PiYo promises to sculpt your muscles, increase your flexibility and burn fat in each session. PiYo uses only your body-weight resistance, and there are no jumps or other high-impact movements, so it’s a good option for those with injuries. Co-developed by fitness expert and best-selling author Chalene Johnson and workout, diet and supplement company Beachbody, PiYo is a home-based workout program consisting of eight routines on three DVDs. That makes it a convenient option if you prefer or need to work out at home. If you like the social aspect of a class, however, you can also find PiYo classes taught by certified instructors at many local fitness studios.

Pilates Class

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6. Krav Maga

Developed in Israel in the 1940s, Krav Maga was the official hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli army. This martial arts method emphasizes using the body’s instinctive reactions to defend against an attack. Now studios are popping up all over the U.S., and even the average Joe (or Jane) can learn to protect himself (or herself) like an Israeli soldier while getting fit in the process. “We have people who don’t necessarily come in for the self-defense aspect; they come in for the training that we do,” says Santa Fe-based Krav Maga instructor Matt Kennicott. During a typical hour-long class expect a warm-up and stretching followed by kicking and punching technique instruction and lots of drills, including “exhaustion drills,” which are meant to do just that -- exhaust you. “You definitely leave class sweaty and exhausted and feeling like you’ve accomplished a lot,” Kennicott says.

Handsome man in white doing tai chi

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7. Doonya

Touted as “your happy workout,” Doonya is a new workout regimen that uses Bollywood dance moves to crank up your heart rate and burn fat while putting a big smile on your face. Think of that final scene in “Slumdog Millionaire” in workout clothing. In a video that explains the workout, co-founder Priya Pandya describes Doonya as a “nonstop, high-energy, cardio, strength-building exercise program that combines dance and fitness in a perfect combination.” With easy-to-learn choreography, Doonya is suitable for beginners as well as more advanced exercisers. If you’re in the New York area, you can attend classes at Doonya’s only freestanding studio. Otherwise, pop in a DVD or access free short workouts online in the comfort of your own home.

Related: Find out more about Doonya.

Cheerful fitness class and instructor doing pilates

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8. Polga

You know a fitness craze has staying power when it becomes part of a fusion workout. In this case, it’s pole dancing that’s being paired up with yoga to give it a whole new appeal. According to the Pole Dance America website, Polga is a total-body workout that builds strength and flexibility, improves range of motion and enhances balance and coordination. Classes are one hour in length and suitable for beginner to advanced exercisers. A Polga class is similar to a power yoga class, except that it’s done using a pole to facilitate stretching, strengthening and alignment. Polga classes aren’t currently widely available, but Polga founder Carla Mock offers a Polga certification program, which will hopefully increase the availability of instructors and venues.

Yoga instructor helping student in row of women

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9. Aerial Silks

In-the-know fitness enthusiasts are flocking to aerial silks classes, inspired by scenes from Cirque du Soleil performances in which skilled aerial dancers climb, spin, drop and contort themselves on sheets of fabric high above the ground in sequenced routines that take years of practice to perfect. While rookies won’t be running off to join the circus anytime soon, aerial silks classes can help anyone develop a solid fitness base. “It’s really an all-over incredible workout -- and fun,” says Pamella Inveen, trainer and founder of Gig Harbor Yoga Fusion in Gig Harbor, Washington. Inveen says participants can expect to gain core and upper-body strength and boost their cardiovascular fitness. Novices need not worry -- aerial silks classes are progressive. Beginners will learn basic climbs and develop the necessary strength before moving on to more challenging skills, Inveen says.

Anti-gravity Yoga, man doing exercises in the park

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10. Punk Rock Aerobics

If playing air guitar in front of a mirror in your living room when no one’s watching has been your sole way of channeling your inner rock star, things are about to change. Termed “the exercise sensation created for the misfit,” punk rock aerobics classes give you an arena in which to act out your rock-star fantasies with other like-minded individuals while getting fit at the same time. Developed by Boston-based graphic artist Maura Jasper and Hilken Mancini, co-founder of the Girls Rock Campaign Boston, punk rock aerobics classes use cinder blocks as weights and are often held in nightclubs during off hours. Classes include two 20-minute “waves” of both choreographed and freestyle moves, followed by 20 minutes of strength work -- all performed against a backdrop of blaring punk rock favorites.

Related: Find out more about Punk Rock Aerobics.

Teenager dancing

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11. Thug Workout

If the four walls of the gym are too confining for you, take it to the streets -- and parks and playgrounds -- with the Thug Workout. Don’t expect any groundbreaking fitness concepts here: The Thug Workout uses basic body-weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and squats, but you’ll learn how to get a workout anywhere using many types of natural and man-made objects found in an urban environment -- such as picnic tables and telephone poles. You’ll also get some, ummm, colorful commentary by hip-hop collective Ruff Ryders, which developed the program and DVD. Keep in mind the Ruff Ryders aren’t certified fitness trainers, and there is little instruction on technique. The Thug Workout is a good option for those who have a solid fitness base and want some new ideas for their next workout in the ’hood.


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What Do YOU Think?

Have you tried any of these out-of-the-ordinary workouts? Which ones? After reading, which of these unusual workouts are you going to try first? Do you know of any other uncommon workouts we may have missed? Describe any atypical workouts in which you may have participated so others can have the opportunity to try something new.

Balancing on Feet

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