Why You Should Try BodyPump for Strength Training
You've probably already heard that strength training is an important part of an exercise regimen. Strength training builds lean muscle, which can then help burn calories more efficiently and can prevent or reduce chronic diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and depression. Unlike aerobic exercise, strength training can be kind of boring. Other than rotating around the weight room, you are relatively stationary during your workout, unlike aerobic exercises, like running, cycling, or team sports that can provide nice scenery or social interaction. Strength training doesn't have to be a lonely, boring workout. One great example is BodyPump by Les Mills™.
What is BodyPump?
BodyPump™ is a strength training class that is part of the Les Mills™ line of group fitness and training programs. The class uses barbells (and some dumbbells in a choreographed resistance training workout. An instructor guides you through every major muscle group with a specific routine set to music. These sections of the workout are called tracks. The entire class, from warm up to stretching, lasts an hour. Generally, the class will follow a particular routine for a couple months or so until a new routine is released. Often instructors will mix and match previous releases after six weeks to keep the class fresh. According to the BodyPump website, each body part performs 70 to 100 repetitions, totaling up to 800 repetitions in a single class. Rather than loading up a barbell with the most weight you can possibly lift, the workout uses more repetitions with a bit lighter weight to build lean body muscle. The workout is more about building strength than big muscles, which is perfect for those that want to be strong without looking like a competitive body builder (ladies, I'm talking to you).
What can I expect from a workout?
First and foremost, expect to sweat. I recommend some weightlifting gloves if you are like me and have particularly sweaty palms. Having a towel close by is also a great idea. If you are self conscious about doing squats or lunges in front of someone else, you may want to find a spot close to the back of the room. People generally are only focusing on themselves in the mirror or the instructor, but when I first started going to the class, I was a bit uncomfortable knowing there was someone behind me.
Your first time in a class can be a bit intimidating if you've never been to a weight lifting class or if you are unfamiliar with strength training in general. I was fortunate to have an experienced friend go with me the first time, so she could explain the equipment and go through the structure of the class. If you are the first of your friends or family to try the class, talk to some of the other people in the class or the instructor. Everyone I've met, especially the instructors, are really helpful and are happy to share their insights. In case you are shy or just want to know before you go, here is a list of the equipment you'll need to set up:
- Step bench and four risers (two for each side). You'll use this for the chest track and sometimes for lunges and abdominal exercises.
- Barbell and weight plates. You'll want to set up your bar with warm-up weight, which is something light like a 5-lb weight on each side up to a 10-lb weight on each side. Because this is for a warm up, you want to make sure it's light enough to just get the muscles moving and the blood flowing. You'll want some extra weights to use for the rest of the workout.
- Mat. Some gyms provide mats or you can bring your own yoga mat or towel to use. The mat is good for the abdominal track as well as putting on your bench for the chest track (it's much nicer on the back).
- Dumbbells (optional). I prefer to use dumbbells for the shoulder track rather than just the weight plates from the barbell. I also like having them handy for the bicep track if the barbell is getting too heavy.
You'll want to set your bench up in front of you with two risers on each side. If you are shorter than 5'2", just put one riser on each side; if you are taller than 6'2", you may want to add an extra riser to each side. I usually put my mat on top of my bench top to be ready for the chest track (which is the second track in the whole routine).
I keep a hand towel and a water bottle handy at all times. I use my towel to wipe sweat and to use as padding on the barbell for squats. I find the barbell to be very uncomfortable on my back when doing squats, so I use my towel, but you can also purchase pads that are easy to pop on and off the barbell. Some of the tracks have some cardio components to them, so having a water bottle is a must to keep hydrated.
Keep your extra weights and dumbbells to the side of your bench so you can quickly swap them in and out between tracks.
Types of exercises
Although the routines change every couple of months, many of the same exercises are used or rotated in and out of routines. For example, every routine has a squat track and it's the first track you do. The triceps track, however, may rotate exercises like dips, tricep push ups, tricep presses, kick backs, and lying tricep extensions (skull crushers). Aside from these tricep exercises and squats, the following are regularly seen in routines:
- Lunges, both stationary and plyometric (when you move a leg forward or backward to lunge and then return to standing position and repeat, sometimes alternating legs)
- Bicep curls
- Bicep rows
- Rows (for the back)
- Upright rows
- Overhead presses
- Chest press
- Push ups
- Side raises or lateral raises
- Rear lateral raises
- Shoulder presses
- Planks, including side planks, leg and arm extensions, or moving "around the world"
- Crunches, sometimes with weights, and cross-body crunches (sometimes called bicycle crunches)
Finally, expect to have fun. I find this class to be a great way to relieve stress on top of improving my overall health. The music is usually chart toppers with some more classic songs thrown in as well. I admit to singing along to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" while doing squats (don't laugh, it's a guilty pleasure). I can also say that my posture has improved and I feel stronger. When I regularly go to class, I feel great and clothes fit better.
So, what are you waiting for? Go try it out!