14th January 2017 has been a date long marked in some people’s fitness calendars – mine especially. Why? Because Body Pump – the biggest fitness class in clubs around the world – will be launching Body Pump 100. The original barbell workout celebrates 25 years of group fitness with a global launch for its latest release – instructors quite literally across the world will be teaching Body Pump 100 to their classes for the very first time this coming Saturday 14th January. So whether you are reading this in France, the USA, Dubai, Italy, Thailand or Australia – you will be able to be part of global fitness history – and if you’re in London you can do it with me! But for those who have never experienced a class – what is Body Pump and what has made it so internationally successful? And why have I chosen to dedicate over 8 years to training, learning, and teaching Body Pump and how has it changed my own personal fitness? Let me tell you….
The “Les Mills World of Fitness” gym was opened in Auckland, New Zealand in 1968 by Les Mills himself – an athlete who competed in 4 Olympics representing New Zealand. His son Phillip also represented NZ for 10 years in track and field and as a result their gym was frequented by many athletes – most of whom took part in strength training. Seeing this, Phillip decided to create a Group Fitness class that was more athletic than the stereotypical “leotards and leg warmers” (in his own words) classes and created a dumbbell based class that soon became so popular that using such a huge volume of dumb bells wasn’t practical, so along with his wife Jackie (also a former NZ athlete and gymnast) Phillip created a barbell and step based class to offer all the same benefits as regular strength training in the gym. Thus, the early Body Pump was born.
Jackie herself had been incorporating weight training into her regime through her gymnastic career and so was well aware of the benefits weights could bring to women in particular, but knew that many women shunned weight training due to fear of “bulking up” or looking masculine. Body Pump was therefore designed specifically to ensure it catered for and appealed to men and women, and was achievable with results being reached through relatively low weights for high repetitions. Phillip and Jackie were on board with “strong is the new skinny” long before it became an Instagram hashtag, and the results people were getting from taking part in regular Body Pump classes were speaking for themselves. That, combined with the group training environment and the latest music as a soundtrack meant the class exploded in popularity – firstly in New Zealand and Australia, followed by the US and Europe. Now, over 15,000 clubs around the world offer Body Pump classes.
I personally discovered Body Pump in 2001 when I first moved to London. Growing up, my Mum had attended fitness classes at our local leisure centre (you can read more about how these experiences shaped my early views on fitness and body image here) so the idea of taking part in a fitness class didn’t fill me with dread, and I got so bored on my own in the gym and achieved so little as a result that I decided to work my way through the list of classes on offer at the gym I joined when I first moved here. Again, I had seen my Mum weight train when I was younger (and lose a large amount of weight and completely change her body as a result) so the idea of picking up weights wasn’t terrifying to me. In those early days of Body Pump I was very much a 1kg on each side of my bar kind of girl, but my regular participants will vouch that I lift quite a bit more than that nowadays….! However, I won’t ever forget my beginnings as a shy newbie in those Pump classes, so I strongly empathise anyone in my classes going through that same experience – I am always genuinely in awe and full of appreciation for anyone joining me for their very first Body Pump experience and will always try to motivate and encourage them as best I can.
I fell in love with Body Pump for pretty much the exact reasons that the Mills family created it. I loved the music, I had a great time in class, and my body looked better than ever for doing 3 Pump classes a week. I was shifting weight that refused to budge through cardio alone and not only that my figure was changing – my waist was smaller, my bum was higher and my upper body was leaner. I knew then that Body Pump would always have a special place in my heart! At the end of 2007, I did my Body Pump Initial Module Training to become an instructor myself, and by March 2008 I was fully qualified to teach. I was petrified at first and kept thinking people wouldn’t take me seriously, and yet at the end of every class I was on a high that would last for hours. Eight years down the line and that hasn’t changed. I always said to myself I would teach until I didn’t enjoy it any more, but I still genuinely love teaching Body Pump. What amazes me is that every release (there are 4 per year, one each quarter) delivers something different – not just the music, but some innovation or twist on a well known move that pushes both me and my participants to the next level of fitness – keeping them interested but also delivering continuous results through regular attendance. Les Mills employs a dedicated team of sports scientists and researchers to continue to develop the programme and make sure it is at the forefront of group fitness workouts, despite many many competitors arriving almost constantly – there is a reason Body Pump is still the world’s most popular group workout 25 years down the line. Think of the fitness fads that have come and gone – yet Body Pump has, and continues to go quite literally from strength to strength.
I do a lot of my own strength training in the gym (along with cardio workouts) but it is Body Pump that helps me maintain my lean figure all year round. If it wasn’t for Pump I probably wouldn’t have even got into strength training – I had no idea what a deadlift or tricep extension was before a Pump class and I definitely would’t have had the guts to venture into the free weights area of a gym and lift had it not been for my Pump training. I may not be the slimmest, the youngest or have a full six pack – but one thing I know to be true is that I am strong, and this is because of Body Pump. I am passionate about delivering this programme because it has changed me, changed my body and quite possibly changed the direction of my life and career. I started out in the fitness industry by teaching fitness classes – had I not taken that leap to become an instructor I could well still be stuck behind a desk doing the 9 to 5. But instead I get to train, coach and motivate people every single day, and work on my own fitness at the same time.
Above on the left – pre Body Pump and on the right me in 2016 – teaching 4 Body Pump classes a week.
But what about other Les Mills UK instructors? Denise Burr is a Les Mills UK Trainer, Presenter and Regional Training Co-Ordinator, and is one of the amazing instructors featured on the international Body Pump 100 instructor training DVD. So how did she feel being asked to travel to the other side of the world to represent the UK Body Pump family, and indeed strong women everywhere?
“When I was asked to be part of the Les Mills UK filming team for BodyPump 100 in Auckland, New Zealand, it was a dream come true. BodyPump has been a huge part of my life for over 10 years and the opportunity to be part of this epic release is truly a high point in my fitness career.
Auckland was absolutely buzzing, and full of people who had travelled from all other the world to be part of this landmark filming experience. It was amazing to see so many different nationalities, looks and sizes, all with one thing in common – Body Pump! We heard lots of inspirational stories from class members about how Body Pump has changed their lives, mentally and physically, and what it meant to them to feel part of a group of people dedicated to getting strong, healthy and feeling better about themselves. And many of those of members are planning on becoming instructors in the near future. Standing on stage with the Les Mills UK team teaching Track 4 is something I will never forget. We all knew we were there to represent every instructor in the UK and we were determined to do them proud!
This release is something completely different from what we’ve seen before, from the actual filming (over 20 presenter teams from all over the world, hip hop dancers and light shows) to the way the DVD has been put together. The music has a fresh sound and there are some new moves and tempos. Even 25 years later, Body Pump can still come up with some surprises! Here’s to the next 100 releases.”
So hopefully you can see, from both my words and Denise’s, that Body Pump is as loved by its army of worldwide instructors as it is by its thousands of participants across the globe week in, week out. The launch of Body Pump 100 celebrates strength – physically and in numbers – you don’t reach a 25th anniversary without being damn good at what you do. I can’t and won’t say too much about the 100 workout itself other than it fills me with genuine excitement to be up there at the front of a class delivering it in just a few days time, and to be part of a global, life-changing fitness experience. You’ll love the music, the moves are well researched, effective and challenging, and you’ll see results in your body you didn’t think possible. Body Pump changed my body and my life, and if Les Mills and I could help other people feel the same way then that’s worth 25 years’ worth of squatting, curling, lunging and pressing!
If you’re London based and a member of Virgin Active you can join me at Virgin Active Hammersmith on Saturday 14th January at 10am and 3pm (see my Instagram account @wildcatfit for further details!) to be one of the first people in the world to experience the epic Body Pump 100 – but don’t panic if not. If your gym offers Body Pump then it will be offering a 100 workout and a chance for you too to experience this incredible workout alongside people around the world. Remember to share your experience of the workout socially using the hashtag #100strong – and here’s to another 25 incredible years!