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Not sure how to add weight lifting into your routine? Try a Les Mills BODYPUMP class.

While Les Mills BODYPUMP is intended to build strength and sculpt your muscles, it’s also a killer cardio workout, with many tracks spiking your heart rate and leaving you dripping with sweat. Each song track focuses on a different muscle group, with a warm-up and cool-down track opening and closing the class, and requires various weights (heavier for the bigger muscle groups, lighter for the smaller ones). You’ll do a high number of repetitions with lighter weights for maximum fatigue and, ultimately, to get stronger.

The class is one hour long, suitable for all fitness levels and ideal for those who want to add weight lifting into their routine.

BODYPUMP overview

This hour-long weight lifting class takes place in a group fitness studio with an instructor at the front of the class demonstrating movements and form, while performing the reps with you, all choreographed to high-energy (often popular) music tracks.

What beginners need to know

Bring water, and arrive early, because this class requires a bit of set up. (Insider’s tip: This class is very popular. So, during high-traffic times, such as Saturday mornings, arrive up to 30 minutes before class starts to get a good spot.) Many instructors will encourage you to stay through the first four tracks, then come back next time and add on a track, and so on and so forth until you can stay through the entire class—but this is up to your discretion.

Pick a spot near the front of the room so you can see the instructor (and yourself in one of the mirrors, preferably). You’ll need to grab a bench top, four risers (two for each side), a mat to go on top of the bench, a bar, various sizes of weight plates and clips to secure the weights on the bar. You can find all of this equipment in the group fitness area. (Be sure to grab a towel from the front desk, because you will sweat.)

Set your bench on the risers, and set up your bar with “warm-up weight” for the first song, a warm-up track. This will be the lightest bar of the class (usually between 5 and 10 pounds on each side). Lay your additional weights on the ground next to your bench and place your mat on top of your bench. Make sure you leave enough room for anyone in front of you to move back (for lunges, for example). You’re all set!

What a typical class is like

Each class consists of 10 musical tracks: a warm-up track, leg track (the heaviest weighted track of the class), chest track, back track (second heaviest), and triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders, core and cool-down tracks. The instructor will lead you through each track, demonstrating the movements and calling out time cues and various moves. Between each song, there will be a chance to change the weight on your bar, and the instructor will clue you in as to what weight you should load or unload based on the muscle group. Unless otherwise instructed, you will use the bar for every track except core and cool-down, and occasionally you will need hand weights (the instructor will let you know when to get them).

The format

The class works muscle groups in the following sequence:

  • Warm-up
  • Legs
  • Chest (lying on the bench top)
  • Back
  • Triceps (sometimes lying on the bench top)
  • Biceps
  • Lunges
  • Shoulders
  • Core (on the floor or bench top)
  • Cool-down

The moves

The movements comprising the class include, but are not limited to: squats, squat pulses, dead lifts, dead rows, clean and press, power press, push press, chest press, regular and tricep push-ups, tricep kickbacks, tricep dips, plated overhead tricep extension, bicep rows, bicep curls, lunges, shoulder press, rotator raise with overhead extension, crunches and leg lifts.

The crowd

BODYPUMP has a bit of a cult following, with die-hard pumpers coming to class anywhere from three to four times per week. But beginners are always welcome—even if you’ve never lifted a barbell before. The greatest thing about a BODYPUMP class is that you can modify it to meet you where you are at. Need to go lighter on a certain track? Take some weight off. Ready to squat a little heavier the next class? Add a 2.5 on each side! People of all shapes and sizes take BODYPUMP because it’s a great cardio and strength workout—and it’s never boring.

The music

Typically, the music is upbeat and high-energy, with popular songs you can sing along to as you sweat. (Think Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Meghan Trainor, Flo Rida and OneRepublic.)

BODYPUMP ratings:

  • Intensity: Up to 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being really hard
  • Sweat factor: Up to 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being drenched
  • Impact: Usually none
  • Cardio: Yes
  • Strength: Yes
  • Flexibility: In the cool-down stretching track
  • Pace: Upbeat
  • Equipment: Bench top, risers, mat, bar, weight plates, clips and occasionally hand weights
  • Music: Upbeat, popular tunes for high energy
  • Length: 60 minutes
  • Suggested attire: Form-fitting, comfortable clothing you can squat and lift in.

Benefits of BODYPUMP

  • Sculpts lean muscle through high reps with lighter weights
  • Builds muscle to help burn more calories
  • Elevates your heart rate to burn calories
  • Helps with coordination
  • Takes the intimidation out of weight lifting for anyone who wants an introduction

Photo credit: Courtesy of Les Mills