June 9

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What to expect from a BodyPump class

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Of all the Les Mills-inspired exercise formats, BodyPump is probably the most well known. On the group fitness scene for almost 30 years, 'Pump' has become a staple on many gym's timetables. The format is simple - take basic weight training moves into a class environment. With pre-choreo­graphed routines and motivational music, the aim is simple. That is, to get women into using weights and men into the 'female-focused' world of the group fitness studio.

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In a BodyPump class, you'll generally burn over 400 calories. Additionally, you'll tone every major muscle group and improve your stamina. What's more, you get to enjoy some great music and the camaraderie of the class.

Since the early 1990s, millions of people worldwide have enjoyed the benefits of a regular BODYPUMP exercise class.

Studies conducted at the University of Auckland show BodyPump classes really do work. They get your body fitter and stronger.

Introduction to Les Mills BodyPump

Joanne, a 36-year-old mother of 2, has been attending BodyPump classes twice a week for 8 weeks. She has been delighted with her results. "I find the classes very motivating and the music really picks me up. I've toned up my muscles and my body fat is heading in the right direction - down."

A BodyPump class simply takes many of the weight-training exercises from the gym floor and uses their benefits in a class environment.

However, unlike the gym floor where exercise can be a little unstructured, BodyPump classes are pre-choreographed and set to music.

That means, that no matter where in the world you are, you know what to expect when you turn up for BodyPump.

A typical BodyPump class

The class starts with a warm-up and the instructor introducing you to the main lifting movements of the class. Here, the emphasis is on technique and safety to set you up for the workout ahead.

Once the body is warm BodyPump launches into the large muscles in the legs.

Squats, which are brilliant for developing good leg muscle tone, take place in time to some different music. This is a great burn for the legs, especially if you decide to up your weights. Earlier we talked about motivation and how a group class can help.

Sometimes with squats and lunges, we need all the motivation we can get. In this supportive group fitness environment, it is easier to push ourselves.

BodyPump class details and structure

While your legs rest and recover from the satisfying after-burn the class switches to the large muscles in the chest.

Once again how hard you go depends upon you. This is followed by plenty of 'cleans' and 'presses', which are for the back, and legs but work the whole body.

If you think the fun stops here then you're in for a surprise, as the triceps are then worked and then finally the biceps. The feeling in your upper body is amazing, but back to the lower body we go.

More leg work with lunges. Just as you think there's nothing left to give, you next launch into a shoulder workout.

The final working track in BodyPump is for the abdominals and core. Usually, on the gym floor you may be inclined to do 2-3 sets and possibly stop just at the point of the feeling of burning in the tummy. Not so in BodyPump - this class pushes you through this to really extend yourself.

Finally, BodyPump concludes with some stretching to help recovery.

What are the major benefits of BodyPump?

BodyPump is a resistance-based class, which burns calories and makes you fitter and stronger.

This is important for people wanting to lose or maintain their weight.

The benefits of combining resistance training with cardiovascular training are a potent body shaping exercise strategy. This extends to those who simply want to strengthen their muscles.

The important thing to consider when choosing an exercise programme is how the muscles are worked. BodyPump trains all major muscle groups in sequence. Resistance exercises you'll perform include squats, presses, lifts and curls.

Does it cater for all fitness levels?

You can push yourself with 'heavier' weights to acquire an amazing burn, or you can start light and work at your own pace.

This is the beauty of the balanced nature of the class.

For example, Joanne uses lightweights and paces herself, whereas John chooses heavier weights and really pushes himself. The fitter and stronger you become the more weight you can lift (within reason), or more reps you can perform.

Unlike the gym floor where exercise can sometimes be a little unstructured, BodyPump classes are pre-choreographed and set to some pretty motivational music

For beginners, you can simply start with no weights, or rather use a light bar. It is suitable for men and women of all levels of fitness. BodyPump is a low to non-impact, resistance-training programme using barbells and easily adjustable weights.

How long does each class take?

Each class lasts for an hour, but many people do some pre-BodyPump work such as on the cycle, stepper or treadmill for 30 minutes beforehand.

Depending on your gym and the timeslot, shorter versions of the class exist too. You might find 30-minute 'express' formats or 45-minute versions.

How much does it cost and is it worth it?

Most gym notice boards will have details of when and where classes are available.

The cost of a class varies but can sometimes be free or discounted to gym members.

The variety that the BodyPump class provides, in terms of catering for varying fitness levels, having a wide range of cool music and also vastly different choreography (there are actually well over 100 different BodyPump routines), make BodyPump one of the best fitness and calorie burning classes on the market.

One or two BodyPump classes a week, to complement your weight training or cardiovascular programme can have some great benefits.

Muscle power

Remember that your muscles are the most metabolically active constituents of your bodily tissue. Simply put, the more lean mass (muscle) you have, the more efficient your body will become at calorie combustion.

BodyPump capitalises on this by design. With its emphasis on weight lifting, you'll be overloading muscles. Consequently, your muscles will grow and gain strength.

But don't worry, be­cause of the high number of reps and the combined cardiovascular aspect of the class, you won't end up looking like Popeye.

If you're new to the workout, the main problem you're going to face is deciding what weight to put on the bar. Listen to your instructor for guidance and recommendations. Since you'll be working for around 5 minutes per muscle group, perhaps go lighter than you think for the first couple of classes.

In a short space of time you could have lifted a weight more than 100 times - so don't try to show off and lift a fully laden bar. This becomes a particularly im­portant consideration when it comes to biceps curls and triceps for the upper arms.

You could soon find your muscles protesting, even screaming back at you.

So don't feel em­barrassed if you look around the class and re­alise that you have the least amount of weight on your bar. It's better to build up slowly over several sessions and progress your strength accordingly.

As for those who want to show off and load as much weight on the bar as possible, take my advice. You could be in for a nasty shock the next day, as the DOMS kicks in.

The class structure

After an initial all body warm-up, BodyPump works its way up and down the body in terms of exercise selection. The larger muscles of the legs are hit first with squats. Then you get a short break as you unload your bar. Chest and back get attention through compound moves such as bench presses and cleans.

Structure of a 60-minute Les Mills BodyPump class contains 10 tracks

The full 1-hour format of a Les Mills BodyPump class contains 10 tracks, always in the same order

After exercising the large muscle groups of the arms and legs, we introduce smaller, isolation lifts eg. tricep and bicep curls.

Next, you'll adjust your weight selection again before attempting more leg work and shoulder exercises.

BodyPump is a simple and effective for­mula

The idea of collective weight training is a good one, and you can certainly feed off the atmosphere in the class.

If you need a bit of encouragement to pick up a bar and lift, then this is the class for you. It's a good all-rounder too — a class that will develop strength endurance and have a secondary ef­fect on your cardio system.

For the untrained, it's a great introduction to weights; for the trained, it's a good general conditioning ses­sion and brilliant for one of those days when you're not feeling quite up to putting your­self to the test in the gym on your own.

With BodyPump you can switch off mentally and let the instructor, atmosphere and music get your body into gear.

After effects

You'll probably be a little bit sore and tight the next day. Or a lot if you're not pre­conditioned to weights work.

Due to the variation of range and tempo, you'll work deep into the muscle. These variations recruit more muscle fibre, as the slower lifting and lowering paces combat momentum.

What is it you love about BodyPump? Let me know in the comments below, and I hope to see you in a class soon!

Paul Stokes Perth Personal Trainer Sports Nutritionist Group Fitness Instructor Massage Therapist

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs. He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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