Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm Here to PUMP (clap) You Up

Hi, I'm Janet, and I'm a cardio addict. So, it may be surprising that today's topic is a strength training class, BODYPUMP. I always disliked strength training in high school and college because I was scrawny. I couldn't lift as much as my teammates, and we always worked out in pairs, so having to adjust the weight down on the machine when it was my turn was difficult for my inner competitor. And then about a year ago, I discovered BODYPUMP, a barbell strength training class put out by New Zealand-based organization Les Mills (not to be confused with the LSU football coach).

**Climbing onto soapbox** Before getting into the specifics of the class, let's talk about why strength training is important. First off, for you ladies, I'm not talking about bulking up to bodybuilder form. In the words of Hans and Franz, "hear me now and believe me later," but you WILL NOT gain mass (a.k.a. "get bulky") simply by lifting weights, even heavy weights. Bulk is created by testosterone, which we simply don't have enough of to create that effect. Here are some of the ways strength training will get you results that cardio won't:

  • Fat burning - strength training creates "afterburn," where you continue to burn calories for 1-2 hours after your workout. In addition, once you've created muscle, it takes more energy for your body just to support those muscles. For every 3 lbs of muscle, your body burns 120 calories per day just doing NOTHING!
  • Look and feel great naked - in the words of my friend Krissa, "Skinny people look good in clothes. Fit people look good naked." It works wonders for your confidence too. A 2006 study showed that after a 12-week strength training program, women's body image improved significantly. Nothing is more attractive than confidence!
  • Stay in the game - stronger muscles protect our joints from injury. This is especially important if you play sports or do high-impact cardio training that wears on your joints. It's also increasingly important as you age. **Stepping down from soapbox**
So, back to BODYPUMP itself. Get there early because this class is always crowded, mainly because it's one of the group fitness classes that draws both men and women. Yes, even Adam likes BODYPUMP! I know, men hesitate to step foot in a group fitness studio, but PUMP is different. Adam said, "I always though I was strong, but this class is hard. It's a different kind of strong." 

Like other Les Mills classes, the format of BODYPUMP is the same each release. There are 10 tracks (songs), each with a specific purpose. The music is great - a combination of songs you recognize (from many genres) and lesser-known techno/dance-type music. We work muscle groups mostly from large to small:

1. Warm-up 
2. Squats  
3. Chest 
4. Back 
5. Triceps 
6. Biceps 
7. Lunges
8. Shoulders
9. Core
10. Cooldown

You will do the same workout for about 4-6 weeks before your instructor begins changing up some of the tracks. The repetition allows you to benchmark where you are and see progress from class to class in terms of how much you're able to lift. 

Your instructor will give you guidance for how much weight to lift for each track based on your warmup weight. If you're new, start out small, with maybe 5 lbs. on each side of the bar. This is the lowest weight you should have on your bar throughout class. 

The music and moves are "choreographed" just enough to keep your brain active, but not so choreographed that they require any sort of rhythm or coordination. Also form is really important to avoid injury and to work the correct muscles. Pay attention to your instructor for guidance on certain moves. 

Ready to try a class? If you're in the KC area, multiple 24 Hour Fitness and YMCA locations offer BODYPUMP. You can also find a class using the Les Mills class locator tool

No gym near you? Group fitness not your thing? Need to work out on your own schedule? There is also an at-home workout program available for purchase. Check out the Les Mills PUMP banner here.

So here's BODYPUMP in a nutshell:

Format - Group Fitness or in home
Calories Burned (average)  - about 400 in class, plus afterburn
Sweat Factor - 6 (on a scale from 1-10)
Prerequisites - none
Equipment - all required equipment is provided by the gym or is available through the in-home program (step with 4 risers, barbell with various weight plates, mat), but weight lifting gloves are incredibly helpful also.
Fitness level - any
Impact level - minimal
How to fit in - learn the Les Mills lingo:
  • Release - a full workout, numbered sequentially, a new one is put out by Les Mills each quarter. We are currently on BODYPUMP 84. Use it in a sentence: "When does the new BODYPUMP release come out?" or "I like the music from Release 82 more than the music from Release 83."
  • Track - a particular song, with its corresponding moves. Use it in a sentence: "The shoulder track we did today was really difficult."
  • Launch - a quarterly party when the newest release is first debuted at a club. They begin with a 15-minute technique presentation and are attended by personal trainers. If you're brand new to strength training, this is a great option to ensure you're starting off on the right foot. At 24 Hour Fitness, membership is NOT required to attend a launch event, so please let me know if you'd like information on when the next one is.
Have you tried PUMP? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and remember:


  1. Sooo amazing - I heard from a reader who has been a long-time cardio queen like me that this post has convinced her to start integrating strength training into her workouts! She's going to kill those last 10 lbs and then some! Melishia - you rock!! Please keep us posted!

  2. Hello,

    I have a question about your blog, could you please email me? Thanks!!