They’re everywhere. You see them at the beach and around town when summer weather calls for muscle shirts and tank tops. They’re the bodybuilders, male and female, who have bulked up their muscles through resistance weight training. And if you belong to a gym, you see them in the “weight room,” lifting huge amounts of poundage. You also probably know that strong muscles provide many benefits to the body, but you really don’t want that “look” of a body builder. So, you stick with other methods of exercise – walking, jogging maybe, some aerobics, perhaps the treadmill, and of course a bit of Yoga. Still, it would be nice to get some better muscle strength and tone too.
It may be time to raise the bar – the barbell that is.
As research on fitness continues to provide new information, exercise programs are developed in response to those studies. Aerobics came to be in this way, as a response to research that showed the benefits of increasing the heart rate to overall cardiovascular health. Such is the case with the new BodyPump group exercise program. If you have never heard of this new craze, you should know first of all that it was developed for people like you, as well as sedentary people who get very little exercise at all. It is a resistance weight training program, designed to add muscle strength and tone, along with other great things, but without adding the bulk that so many people do not want.
A very basic explanation of the BodyPump program is this:
- It is 60-minutes of resistance exercise using a barbell, but in a very different way. Rather than focusing on heavy weights, the focus here is on low-weight barbells that are used in more rapid exercise. The idea is to “exhaust” your muscles so that they do not add bulk, just strength and tone.
- You will go through 5-6 specific exercises but do so many reps of each one, you end up having completed approximately 800 reps in one 60-minute session – that’s quite an accomplishment. And these are not horrible to do because the weights you are using are so minimal.
- Music is a key factor in the BodyPump program. All exercises are done to music, for there must be a rhythm. As you become better, you will move up to music tracks that require more rapid movement. The original program, developed by Les Mills, has specific music tracks for all levels or progress.
- While it is normally taught in a group class (good support), once the 6 exercises are perfected, a person can buy the music tracks and, if the self-discipline is there, can continue the program at home. Twice a week is the recommended amount of time.
- There are 6 exercises – squat, chest press, deadrow, clean and press, lunge, and reverse curl. To get in 800 reps, each will require 123 reps. Obviously, newbies will work up to this.
There have been some research studies conducted on the benefits of the BodyPump program, specifically one at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to test its effectiveness, with some pretty positive results. Participants completed the workout 2 times a week for 12 weeks, and changes in weight, body fat, muscle tone and strength, and endurance were all measured. Based upon these studies, here is what you can expect if you make the decision to “raise that bar.”
1. You’ll burn up to 590 calories in one workout
Depending upon how active you are, your daily caloric intake should range between 1600-2400 calories a day, according to federal nutritional guidelines. So, if you want to lose weight, and keep your caloric intake unchanged, you can burn off 1/4 – 1/3 of that intake with your 60-minute BodyPump workout.
The weight loss will be gradual, because the recommended workout is 2 times per week. If you want to speed it up, of course, you can reduce your caloric intake while you work the program
2. You’ll have increased muscle strength
You don’t have to bulk up to have increased muscle strength, and that’s one of the great things about the BodyPump program. But with the increased muscle strength, here’s what medical professionals say are the benefits:
- Your overall metabolism is improved, giving you more energy and stamina
- You tend to have better sleep and improved focus and concentration
- You have better overall health. Studies are now showing that regular resistance training/workouts help to prevent some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, bad cholesterol levels, and hormonal problems.
- The benefits to cardiovascular health have long been known.
- Less Injury: Stronger muscles help the body absorb impacts and traumas. Even if you do suffer an injury it will be less severe than if your muscles were weaker.
3. You’ll have increased core muscle strength
Your core muscles are all of those that are contained in your body’s torso. And as you can see from the photos above, those muscles will get quite a workout with the BodyPump program. Here is how that is beneficial to you:
- Core muscles protect your internal organs. Thus, if there is trauma to your torso, you are less likely to have damaged organs than people who have little or no muscle mass in their torsos.
- Because the core muscles also support the backbone, your spinal column is not only better protected, but it is strengthened. Back pain is far less frequent when core body muscles are supporting the center back and spine.
- You have better posture overall when your core muscles are developed
- You’ll look great at the beach, without being one of those “bulky” people whose looks you do not find attractive.
4. You’ll have great flexibility
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle flexibility is an aspect of health that is often ignored. Flexible muscles are those that have been worked through resistance training. They are more relaxed than the tight muscles that result from lack of a workout. Tight muscles can create problems for your entire body:
- Tight muscles cause back pain. When your hamstrings are tight, for example, they pull your pelvis downward. This puts real stress on the backbone and other parts of you back, causing pain.
- As we age, we lose range of motion, or the ability of the body to move with ease and no pain. As that range of motion is lost, simple everyday activities become very hard – bending over to pick something up; reaching high into the cupboard to get something. Continuing to work those muscles keeps them longer and more relaxed.
- Improved circulation. Long ago in biology class, you learned that nutrients and oxygen are carried to all other parts of the body by the circulatory system. When muscles are tight, circulation does not flow as well, and poor circulation can cause tiredness. When muscles are more flexible, they are relaxed, and circulation is then not hindered.
- Tight muscles cause your entire body to be tight and tense. This is not a good feeling, and tension causes neck and shoulder pain.
5. You’ll have a better overall body definition
Your body definition refers, basically, to your shape. Everyone wants a body with good proportions. While genetics does play some role in body definition, the correct workout routine can overcome many of the “definition” issues you face. Here are some of the definition benefits you will get from the BodyPump program:
- Your shoulders will be better sculpted
- Your waistline will be in proportion to the rest of your body.
- You will have defined but not bulky biceps and triceps
- Your legs will be stronger and leaner
- You’ll have firm glutes and a tight core
6. You’ll have a healthier heart
You know your heart is a big muscle, and like any muscle it has to be exercised too. The way a heart is exercised is by increasing its “rate.” Thus aerobics instructors talk about getting the heart rate up and keeping it up for a sustained period of time; people buy treadmills or elliptical machines for their homes, for the express purpose of getting that heart rate up. Many fitness programs, people wear monitors to check their pulse at its resting speed, and then engage in exercise that increases that rate and keeps it there for a designated period of time. Doing this increases circulation, and medical professionals have long said that exercising the heart this way will keep you alive longer.
Regular weight training does not provide aerobic exercise to the heart. The BodyPump program, however, does. Think about 800 reps in 60 minutes – you are moving fast, and that movement increases your heart rate. And as you progress, you will find that the reps get faster, according to the music tracks that are used. Getting that heart rate up and keeping it there, gives your heart essential exercise.
7. You’ll have support in a social setting
If you join a BodyPump class, it is because you have some fitness goals. You want to improve your overall health; you want to remodel that body definition; you may be middle aged and looking to keep yourself really fit as you age. If you try to meet these goals all by yourself, in the isolation of your own home, it is so very easy to “put it off,” to postpone, to skip “just this one day.” This is one reason why people who workout join gyms. They get around other people with fitness goals and are motivated to keep working on their own. Here are three great benefits of joining a BodyPump class:
- You will learn how to do all of the exercises correctly. There are knee positions, chin positions, and standing positions that are pretty important if you are going to get the full benefit of this training program.
- The music is really great. You can actually listen to some of the tracks online to get an idea. It’s just a fun way to get all those reps in.
- You will have a built-in mutual support system with your fellow classmates and be able to praise each other as you progress and plan some rewards when you make it to the next level.
On the other hand, if you are someone who is self-disciplined and who does not like the idea of being tied down to a set time schedule, BodyPump workouts are easily done at home and require very little equipment – a small mat, comfortable clothing, a barbel, and the purchase of the music tracks. Yes, you should use the music that has been developed for the program, because the rhythms are specific to each level.
If you are still not certain if a BodyPump program is right for you, you might think about finding a class in your area and asking to come in and observe. You’ll get a good feel for the training, the music, and the camaraderie.