My Favorite Workout: BODYPUMP by Les Mills

A few months after I had baby number 8, a friend invited me to come to a BodyPump class at our local YMCA. What is BodyPump you ask? BodyPump is a group exercise (hold on groupx haters, don’t click away yet) class that incorporates light barbell weight with high repetition to build lean muscle mass. PERFECT for those of us who want to build beautiful lean muscles, and aren’t looking to bulk up like the hulk!

I went with her for the first time in the fall of 2014, and immediately fell in love. By the beginning of 2015 I was going to the class 3 times per week, religiously. Not only did I LOVE the class, the environment, and the instructors, I LOVED knowing that the more muscle I had, the more calories I’d burn while sleeping! (This is a great article that shows what happens with BodyPump and long term calorie burn).

If you’ve been lackluster with your workouts, if you want fast action fun, if you want to workout with people that uplift and inspire you, then you need to checkout a BodyPump class in your area and see if it’s right for you. You’ll see in all my pictures that there are men and women of all ages, all shapes, and all sizes attending and benefiting from BodyPump. My intention is to show you what it’s all about so your interest is peaked enough to go try a class out! And no,  I am not at all affiliated with BodyPump or Les Mills… I’m simply sharing something that I love and what has been working for me!

What is BodyPump

  • BodyPump actually started back in the 90’s in New Zealand  and is put out by Les Mills.
  • You can find it in more than 19,000 gyms and clubs and YMCA’s in 100 countries around the world. There are more than 130,000 certified instructors! Wow!
  • It’s a cardio based weight training program that incorporates a barbell and weight plates into a fun 55 minute full body workout.
  • Rather than bulk your muscles up by doing heavy weight and low reps, BodyPump does the opposite! You’ll use low weights and high reps, they call it the REP EFFECT. The REP EFFECT works because muscles are exhausted while using light weight and performing high repetitions.
  • In a typical class, you’ll do between 800 and 1000 reps, and you’ll do it with an instructor coaching you and modeling the movement, in a group class setting – plus you’ll burn up to 560 calories during the class (source).
  • Every three months Les Mills releases a new workout with new music and new timing/choreography. But the foundation is the same. To prevent boredom and keep our bodies/muscles guessing, the instructor will switch to a different release every two weeks.

Why I Love BodyPump

I used to HATE group fitness classes. I tried several times too… but I’d ALWAYS leave feeling ridiculous. Let’s be honest here… this girl (me) is seriously lacking in the coordination department. Keeping up with step and aerobics was incredibly discouraging to me and I simply didn’t like it.  So why am I now proclaiming my love for BodyPump… especially because there IS a flippin step involved? Read on my friend… read on.

BodyPump is predictable. This is PERFECT for those of us that are NOT coordinated. Once you get past the learning curve, you’ll realize the “routine” of BodyPump. ps – the step is NOT used like it is for a traditional step class. We use it instead as a “bench” for working during the chest track, sometimes tricep track, and even the core track.

I love the choreography and timing. The synergy that comes when the whole class is working at the same beat is very motivating! There is seriously a zipping energy that comes from doing the same movements at the same time as everyone else in the room with you! Whereas, if I’m in the gym lifting all by myself, it’s so much easier to cheat on the number of reps because I’m not accountable to anyone. Group synergy is a real thing people!

I love the music! 92% of the time I love the music. It’s energizing, modern and fun! Any BodyPumper can be driving in the car, or walking in the store and hear a BodyPump song and immediately know what part of the class that song is from and start doing the choreography! You can find many of the songs on this big ol playlist on spotify (note that I listen to it outside of class to energize myself… also note that all songs are edited, so if it’s an explicit song on the radio, it’s NOT in BodyPump class).

I love the weights! If your gym has the official Les Mills bars and plates, it’s crazy easy to get your weight on the bar. The bars are only 7 pounds and comfortable to hold. The plates are small, medium and large. The small plate is 2.2 pounds, the medium plate is 5.5 pounds, and the large plate is 11 pounds. You can put up to 6 plates on your bar, so it’s easy to add on weight and challenge yourself as you progress over the weeks and months. OR if you’re not having a fueled day, it’s easy to swap your weight out to make it manageable but challenging.

You can change your body and challenge yourself. This is what I love the most… I love getting stronger, I love changing the composition of my body, and I love the challenge of BodyPump. In the beginning, the challenge was just to finish the class. Now I love to challenge myself by going up in my weight. If my elbow pits aren’t sweating by the end of the squat track, then I know it’s time to add weight to my bar. 😅

Anyone can do this. I see a lot of people aged 60+ doing BodyPump! It is incredibly customizable because YOU do the weight (or even just bodyweight) that works for you! And if you’ve never lifted weights in your life, you can still do this class! There is a LOT of science involved and the certified instructors are trained to teach technique. The classes and choreography is based on science and will work for everyone’s physiology! It’s actually an excellent way to incorporate weights in your life!

I love the community. The people that go to bodypump are positive, encouraging, and great to be around! I love working out besides women (and men) that consistently come to BodyPump. The group fitness structure holds you accountable. It’s pretty awesome to see others lifting weights and I think it helps break that barrier when you see other people pushing themselves, it encourages you to push yourself too.

It improves my mental health. When I push myself and break through my mental barriers by doing 1000 reps in an hour. By finishing the lunge track. By pushing through the squat track. And I’ve got an excellent instructor pushing me, encouraging me, and inspiring me to do better and stick through it. I ALWAYS feel so great when I finish a class knowing that I am a stronger person than I was when I when I walked in that room.

55 Minute BodyPump Class:

  • Warm up – start out with the small plates and then build from there over time
  • Squat track – you’ll do about 80-100 reps in 5-ish minutes and this will be your heaviest weight on your bar and is typically 2-4 times your warm up weight. If you’re new, just double your warm up weight. After several weeks, start doing more weight… you’ll be surprised at what you can do! This is a great way to start your workout!
  • Chest Track – you’ll drop your weight by about 1/3 to 1/2 and use the bar and a step bench
  • Back Track – you’ll use a bar and sometimes a weight plate too. This one always gets my heart rate up!
  • Tricep Track – sometimes you’ll use a bar or a plate, and/or you’ll do dips and/or tricep pushups… I love this one!
  • Bicep Track – pretty straightforward here… you’ll use the bar and/or plates and do approx 5 minutes of bicep curls!
  • Lunge Track – this is the most challenging for me… start with just your bodyweight. In the beginning my goal was to get thru a lunge track without stopping! Then once that’s mastered, I start adding weight
  • Shoulder Track  – you’ll want to use light weight since you’re working such small muscles! I’m always thrilled when I can do 100% of this track!
  • Core Track – sometimes you’ll use the bench and/or plates… working your core is so important!
  • Cool down – always a great feeling!

Tips for Your First BodyPump Class:

Introduce yourself to the instructor and let her/him know you’re new. OR find someone it the class that looks like they’ve been there before. They will happily help you get set up and give some advice! They are there teaching pump because they LOVE it too! So utilize them!

Go light on the weight. Even if you’ve been lifting in the gym, you’ll be doing a LOT more reps than what you’re used to. You won’t be able to squat 150 pounds for non-stop 5 minutes. Go light!! Start learning good technique, increase flexibility and movement, and then you can start adding more weight. There is NOTHING wrong with starting just with body weight if you want to.

Don’t feel self conscious. Here’s the deal. No one is watching what you’re doing (except a good instructor). Everyone is focusing on their own form… talking themselves through the class. If anything, they are proud of you for walking in the room and starting something new and really hope you come back again!

Do the “Smart Start”: For your first class, you can just do the first 4 tracks and then come again in two days and do the first 5 tracks. Then come again the next week and do 6 tracks and so on… build up to the full 55 minute class over a couple of weeks. Do this especially if you haven’t been physically active up until this point.

Be kind to yourself. You’re learning something new. Everyone in that room has been in your shoes before. You’ll get off beat, you’ll have a hard time understanding the clean and press during the back track. It’s OK! Just do the best you can. You’re already a winner because you’re in that room! Don’t give up!

BodyPump Recovery Tips:

STRETCH & Foam Roll: You WILL be sore. To this day I take an extra 15 minutes after the class and stretch and use the foam roller in the gym. When I bump up my weight or push myself extra hard, I will foam roll at night at home too. I own this foam roller and love having it in my home. It’s a must have for me!

Drink Lots of Water: When you lift, you are tearing your muscles (so they can then rebuild even stronger). Hydrating will help flush your body out and help you get rid of those sore muscles faster. Plus it’s just good for you!

 

Take an Epsom Salt Bath: It is a great natural way to  relax muscles. This is the detox bath recipe I use… except, when I’m needing support for my muscles, I use lavender or Deep Blue instead of OnGuard. Just make sure you drink a LOT of water when you take this muscle soak to stay hydrated!

Go Back to BodyPump, even if you’re sore: First of all, who wouldn’t want to go back and hang with the great people at pump. But honestly, I’ve found that the act of moving my body again, even though I’m still and sore, helps me get over the pain and stiffness faster! Don’t wait. Go back. Your body will acclimate faster. If you’re in a lot of pain, just ease back on the weights. But it’s so important to keep going! Plus it’s just such a great environment to be a part of. Go back!

BodyPump is Good For You

Last November I pretty much stopped going to BodyPump because of how busy things were here on the blog. Not only did I miss out on the physical benefits of BodyPump, I really missed out on what it did for me mentally. Even if I leave my house feeling tired and not 100% wanting to go, I go. By the time I arrive I’m feeling more mentally ready. And by the time I walk out of htat class, I am ALWAYS happier, more energized, and empowered. I ALWAYS feel stronger… not just physically, but mentally.

Last month I was finally able to get myself back to BodyPump. I’m now committed to doing it 3 times per week… no matter what! I’m a better wife, mom, and CEO when I have BodyPump in my life. It’s non-negotiable for me now. I am worth it. And so are you. Go find yourself a BodyPump class here.

Are you a BodyPump lover? Share why you love it in the comments below!

Comments

  • Carolee

    I LOVE BodyPump!! I started going over 2.5 years ago (because of you, Cathy!) and am so grateful. It has been one of the best “self care” pieces that has gotten me through the past 3 extremely difficult school years while my husband has been in a very intense Master’s Program. It truly has helped me mentally as well– to KNOW that I can do hard things. Really hard things, like to keep pushing through the squat track, even though my legs are burning!!! I often talk myself through those last few reps with “I am strong. I am powerful. I am capable. I can do hard things!” When I finish class, I feel such a sense of accomplishment. This has changed my mindset and helped me know that I could get through hard things in life, too.

  • Leslie

    I”m a BodyPump instructor (and BodyFlow and CXWorx) and I love this article! I’m sharing it to promote my own classes! Thank you for writing such an informative article!

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