Muscle training boom is actually about beauty

The Yomiuri Shimbun

People raise barbells at a gym in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

The Yomiuri Shimbun With more and more fitness gyms operating around the clock in recent years, the muscle training boom is more robust than ever. TV programs dealing with workouts have become a hot topic and videos about strength building posted on social media are increasingly popular. Competitions for the most beautiful body lines have been growing in number, making it easier to participate.


Whenever you like

Shortly after 7 a.m. on a weekday, about 10 men and women are pumping out reps on machines at a fitness gym in Tokyo. One of the women, a 31-year-old Tokyo company employee, has been training for four years. It has become her habit to go to office after a sweat at the gym. She devotes herself to her job at a manufacturing company, but she said her work doesn’t always go well in spite of her making efforts.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A woman is instructed by a trainer at a threeB gym in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

“In workouts, I can get a result that matches my effort,” she said.

More and more gyms are beginning to operate around the clock, specializing in muscle training without swimming pools or aerobics studios.

Anytime Fitness, one of the largest fitness chains in Japan, opened its first gym in Chofu, Tokyo, in 2010, and has expanded to about 560 locations nationwide over the past nine years.

Fast Fitness Japan, the operator of the gyms, said its facilities are a good match for 20- to 40-year-olds who want to be able to go whenever they want and focus on muscle training.


TV show boosts popularity

This trend has been accelerated by TV shows and social media. Last summer, NHK aired “Minna de Kinniku Taiso” (Muscle exercises for everyone), in which actors and other TV personalities go through training. The popular series aired its second season in January, and its third season started in July. In addition, a documentary named “Female Bodybuilders” and an information program titled “World of Hobbies” have also featured workouts.

On Instagram, there are 4.4 million social media posts that use the hashtag “#Kintore” (Muscle training) and 1.3 million posts that use the hashtag “#Kintorejoshi” (Muscle training girls).


Competing for the ‘ideal’

There are many users who receive individualized training. At threeB, a personal Tokyo gym that has the latest machines, a male trainer teaches 160 lessons a month. A 33-year old woman who runs an esthetic salon is one of his trainees. She attended a fitness competition about five months after she started training, saying to herself, “I’ve been nearing my ideal body, so I’m up for the challenge.”

In recent years, more and more people have participated in contests like this woman, in which they compete for best body line and beauty. The “Best Body Japan” competition, which started in 2012 with 128 participants, has become one of the Japan’s largest, with about 6,000 people participating last year. In addition, every year sees new competitions, with slightly different criteria, such as costumes and poses.

The stereotype of muscle training being only about traditional body building has also faded, and the new catchphrase “body make” has caught on.

Takashi Okada, 39, an associate professor at Nippon Sport Science University, said: “The boom is continuing due to low-priced gyms, developments in social media and the appearance of competitions that are easier for people to participate in. TV advertisements among other factors have also stimulated the desire to preserve beauty and youth.”

Okada is a specialist in training science and a body builder himself.

“I think it’s also attractive that you can continue training at your own pace,” he added.



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