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Exercise classes are a great way to make your workout more fun, plus the instructor will keep you motivated for longer than you might manage alone. However, it can be daunting when you’re not sure what to expect from the class. Here we run through the main types of classes you’ll find in most gyms and explain what to expect from these different exercise classes.
Great for: People who want to build muscle, but find lifting weights alone boring
What to expect: BodyPump is a weight-based class designed by the Les Mills brand of exercise classes. While there are a variety of different Les Mills classes found in gyms all over the world, BodyPump is by far the most well-known and widespread class format by the brand, so you’re likely to find a class in a gym near you. BodyPump is popular because it offers the chance to build muscle and tone up while also raising the heart rate for the ultimate in fat-burning, and all with the group spirit of an exercise class. The class works all main muscle groups through a series of eight tracks, so you can target muscles in your upper and lower body throughout the hour-long class.
Tips & Advice: Arrive about 10 minutes before you’re the class starts to set up your step and gather your weights, and be sure to let the instructor know that you’re new to BodyPump so that they can advise you about weights and technique. It’s also best to go easy on the weights for the first class or two, and then work up to challenge yourself once you know what you can manage
Great for: People who want to work up a real sweat
What to expect: Spinning is a cycling-based class performed on stationary exercise bikes. The instructor will lead the routine, which will include different speeds, different levels of resistance, standing on the pedals to cycle, and up and down movements to coincide with the backing music. While the instructor will tell you when to increase speed and resistance, you can and should control your level of intensity to suit your ability or fitness level, with the advantage of spinning being that you can keep up with the class while going at your own pace.
Tips & Advice: Make sure to adjust the seat height and positioning to suit you as an uncomfortable seat can lead to back and knee injuries; ask a class member or your instructor if you’re not sure how to adjust it. And, you’ll get seriously out of breath and hot and sweaty during a spinning class so a big bottle of water and a towel are an absolute must.
Great for: People who want a choreographed cardio class
What to expect: Step aerobics is a cardio-based exercise class which uses raised platforms (steps) as a basis for a choreographed exercise routine including kicks, steps and knee lifts. While all step classes will help you to burn fat and calories, the class will vary in speed and difficulty based on the height of the step used. With a low step, the routine will involve more complicated moves backwards and forwards over the step to create a more dance-like routine to increase the heart rate, while a higher step will involve a slower routine, but will work the butt and leg muscles more. If you lack co-ordination, low-step classes might be difficult to follow at first, but if you’re good at remembering dance routines then low-step classes will be perfect for you.
Tips & Advice: During your first class it might seem frustrating if you keep getting the moves wrong, but you’re still burning calories, and the rest of the class were beginners once too, so within a few classes you’ll get the hang of the routine with no problem.
Great for: People who want to improve core strength, flexibility and balance
What to expect: Pilates is an exercise involving slow-paced, controlled movements normally performed on cushioned mats. Focus, efficiency and concentration are some of the core principles of Pilates, which emphasizes the importance of perfecting the correct moves in order to reap the benefits of the specific exercises. The class may also involve the use of hoops and different-sized exercise balls to challenge your resistance and balance. Pilates is also said to be an excellent exercise method for those suffering with lower back pain, and, while there is limited evidence as to its effectiveness at helping to ease pain, Pilates shouldn’t aggravate the pain like other exercises might.
Tips & Advice: Make sure you’re wearing soft and comfortable layers for your Pilates class, and avoid pants with a thick waistband as this may irritate you when you’re doing exercises while laid on your back. If you have pain or an injury, be sure to tell the instructor so that he or she can offer alternative moves for you if necessary.
Great for: People who want greater flexibility, toning, and with a focus on mental wellbeing
What to expect: One of the most popular exercises in the US and across the world, yoga takes a holistic approach to exercise, focusing on improving mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving the flexibility and strength of the body through a series of controlled exercises, breathing, and meditation. The practice of yoga as an exercise includes stretching and holding the body in a series of dynamic poses as you move from one position to another, and often classes will end with a period of meditation.
Tips & Advice: Some of the positions might be difficult to start with, especially if you’re not very flexible, but the instructor should give easier options for these more complicated moves
Great for: People who love to dance and want a fun workout
What to expect: Zumba is a dance fitness class which often includes elements of salsa, merengue, mambo and hip-hop as well as more aerobic-style moves, like jumps and knee lifts. After a warm-up track, your instructor will lead you into dance routines to high-energy tracks that will get you moving, and really get your heart beating. Zumba classes prioritize having fun, so expect lots of arm waving and clapping, as well as some sexy salsa moves to the slower Latin-influenced tracks, making it a guaranteed mood-booster!
Tips & Advice: Do your best to follow the moves but don’t worry if you get a little confused or left behind, you’ll still be burning lots of calories, and, after a few weeks you’ll get to know the songs and be able to follow the moves better
Which classes have you tried? Let us know your favorite exercise classes by commenting below!