Body Pump – music, cardio and strength

Outdoor BodyPump class

Outdoor BodyPump class

Body Pump – an exercise class to music using just a barbell. It is a new trend that is spreading fast, with classes in gyms all over America, UK, Australia and beyond. Last week I decided to give it a go.

My local gym now has 2 body pump classes every day, however, it is not easy to book a place. Classes are limited to around 10 people and they get booked up almost 2 weeks in advance. Some members of the gym go 7 times a week, making Body Pump their only way of working out. It is really recommended that BodyPump is done 3 or 4 times a week, with cardio and other resistance exercises being performed on the other days.

What is Body Pump?


Body Pump is a trademarked fitness system developed by Les and Phillip Mills in the New Zealand. Less Mills was an athlete who competed in shot put, discus and weightlifting events in the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1970. After retiring from athletics he opened a gym.

His son, Phillip Mills, developed the first of the modern group-exercise to music systems, but they decided to use Les Mills’ name to promote the systems, of which BodyPump is just one. Phillip Mills was also an athlete, competing in the 110m and 400m hurdles.

Other fitness systems developed by the Les Mills brand are BodyAttack, BodyBalance, BodyCombat, BodyJam, BodySteo and BodyVive. See the pattern? It’s all about the BODY!

Phillip Mills co-produced a book on healthy living with his wife, Dr Jackie Mills MD, called Fighting Globesity – A Practical Guide To Personal Health and Global Sustainability.

Les Mills Pump is a DVD / book product that takes you through the BodyPump moves at home.

So, what does Body Pump involve?

Each person has an adjustable barbell with a set of weights that can quickly be added / removed from the bar. You also use a step box and exercise mat. The step box is used for bench presses and some abs exercises.

The class is pre-planned with a music track and the instructor takes you through each exercise. You tend to start with light weights to warm up, with squats and lunges being repeated in the first exercises.

Then a series of weight training exercises is performed, with bent-over rows, bench press, triceps extensions, shoulder presses and more squats. Some bodyweight exercises are also done, mostly bicycle crunches and push ups.

The class provides a similar level of intensity as a 1 hour kettlebell class – you get a great cardiovascular workout as well as strength training. The weight training exercises really help to tone all areas, especially those areas women like to focus on.

Body Pump is a high energy, high repetition form of weight training. Muscles are left exhausted, muscular failure is experienced near the end. Like with kettlebell classes, you can choose how much weight to lift. The class I attended was split about 70% women, 30% men.

What did I like the most? It was the first time I did a lot of deep squatting since I attended some CrossFit classes. I squatted much lower than the others, but as my current weight training program uses a leg press machine rather than free weights, it made a pleasant change. And it certainly hit some muscles which had been neglected.

What makes it good is that the music and the instruction provide you with motivation to keep working – you do push yourself harder than you would normally do when exercising in the gym by yourself. This is really what makes all exercises classes so effective.

Will I go again? If I can beat the booking queue!

Where are BodyPump classes?

BodyPump Classes in London

BodyPump Classes in London

There are apparently around 4,000,000 BodyBump classes each week around the world, so we cannot list them all here! Les Mill’s has what appears to be a global database of classes here – http://w3.lesmills.com/global/en/find-a-class/.

The class that I attended in Chelmsford, Essex, is listed, which suggests that this is a pretty comprehensive list.

BodyPump Classes in California

BodyPump Classes in California

The map of London, UK, demonstrates how many classes there are now – Bodypump first started on the opposite side of the World in New Zealand! There are also many classes all across California, as pictured. In fact, you can probably find a BodyPump class in most large towns now. So go and get pumping!

Photo credit: Opening Sportweek 2009 by FaceMePLS.

More like this in the Strength Training section

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