Bodypump: All Your Questions, Answered

Bodypump Guide

@lesmills/design by Cristina Cianci

If you’re interested in strength training but don’t know where to begin, look no further: Bodypump might be your portal to entry. “Bodypump challenges all major muscle groups with higher reps and lighter weights to help develop lean muscle,” says Katie Duffy, a Chicago-based Bodypump instructor. The classes build full-body strength through various barbell-lifting exercises to the backdrop of energizing music and a motivating trainer. Here’s everything you need to know about Bodypump before your first class, according to instructors.

Meet the Expert

  • Katie Duffy is a certified Bodypump instructor who also holds certifications in personal training, group exercise, and more. 
  • Michael Glynn, DPT, is a physical therapist based in Chicago.
  • Donna Walker is a certified personal trainer, certified fitness nutrition specialist, and group fitness instructor of Bodypump and other classes.

What Is Bodypump?

Bodypump is a brand of resistance training classes developed by fitness company Les Mills International, taught at gyms and studios across the country. Bodypump uses a science-backed recipe to strengthen muscles by doing high repetitions with low-weight barbells. Each class has different sections, called tracks, that focus on specific muscle groups so you can sculpt and tone your entire body.

Type of Class: Low-Weight, High-Rep Resistance Training


Bodypump is based on a formula called The Rep Effect, says Duffy, which incorporates many repetitions with low weights at varying speeds and intensities. “It’s a tempo-based workout,” says Walker. “The various tempos elicit muscle fatigue and adaptation.” This strengthens and tones your muscles without the need for heavy weight lifting. 

Best For: Low-Impact Muscle Toning


Bodypump’s high repetitions work your muscles to the point of exhaustion. This creates microscopic tears in the tissue that rebuild stronger and leaner while going easier on your joints than heavier alternatives. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the slow burn also builds muscle endurance by training the tissue to keep working against resistance over long periods of time. This differs from more traditional weight lifting with heavier dumbells and lower reps, which fatigues your muscles more quickly and builds bulkier muscle mass, says Glynn. 

What to Expect During a Bodypump Class


Classes range from 30 to 55 minutes, with up to ten five- or six-minute tracks per class: full-body warm-up, squats, chest, back, triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders, core, and a cooldown and stretch, says Walker.


As the tracks suggest, you’ll do squats, lunges, tricep dips, bicep curls, push-ups, presses, deadlifts, planks, and more using a barbell with adjustable weight plates and an aerobic step platform, both of which are provided at the studio. Expect to do up to 1,000 reps in a class at varying speeds, often in time to the beat of energizing music like a choreographed routine. Your instructor will demonstrate and cue proper form and what equipment to use throughout the class. If it’s your first class, show up 15 minutes early to chat with the instructor about the upcoming workout, set up your barbell, and ask any questions you have, says Duffy. 


You can also take a Bodypump class at home during the pandemic and beyond through Les Mills OnDemand (starting at $9.99 per month) and fitness centers with virtual options. Any weights will do the trick, says Walker, so don’t worry if you don’t have a barbell on hand. 

Benefits of Bodypump

  • Develops lean muscle: High reps fatigue your muscles, so they grow longer, leaner, stronger, and more toned than before.
  • Increases muscle endurance: All those reps train your muscles to perform against low resistance for long periods of time, rather than getting tired or giving out quickly.
  • Burns calories and raises metabolism: A Bodypump class will get your heart pumping and keep your muscles working to burn more than 500 calories, says Duffy. And this study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal found that regular resistance training can boost your metabolism so that your body burns fat and calories more efficiently even when you’re not exercising.
  • Low impact: You’ll use lighter barbells than in traditional weight lifting, which is easier on your joints.

Safety Considerations

While Bodypump ’s use of lighter weights mitigates some risk of injury from overuse or dropping heavy barbells on an unlucky foot, there are still some safety considerations to take into account. If you’re new to resistance training, Walker encourages starting with four tracks, then adding another each week to build up strength, endurance, technique, and confidence without risking an overuse injury. Duffy also advises easing into it. “If you don't feel comfortable taking a 60-minute class, stay for 30 minutes,” she says.

Good form is key to preventing injury, and your instructor will guide you through proper technique throughout the class. “It's important to start with lighter weights, so your body understands how to perform the movement properly,” says Duffy. “I take time before and/or after class to go over specific movements if a member needs help with it.” 

So what’s the right weight for you? “The resistance should become taxing for the last three to four reps, but at the same time, allows you to maintain proper form,” says Glynn. “For example, if you are shooting for 20 reps but at the twelfth rep you start compensating with other muscle groups or improper form, it is better to lower the weight so that you can achieve your desired amount of reps properly.”

Les Mills recommends taking up to three Bodypump classes a week with days off in between and suggests cardio workouts on those off days to supplement resistance training. Walker advises listening to your body--if you’re feeling pain, modify your movements or take a break.

Bodypump vs. Weightlifting


Bodypump’s low-weight, high-rep formula diverges from traditional weightlifting, which involves lifting much heavier weights for much shorter intervals—think 70 to 100 reps per exercise in Bodypump, versus three sets of 10 reps per exercise for weightlifting. Bodypump focuses on toning and lengthening muscles, whereas heavier lifting develops bulkier muscle mass. It also comes down to preference and experience: Bodypump is more beginner-friendly, but if you’re no stranger to strength training and want to take it to the next level, weightlifting might be more your speed. 

 

What to Wear to Bodypump


Dress in comfortable athletic clothing that doesn’t restrict your joints or mobility. “As with any form of exercise, wearing appropriate clothing to move in is key, like tennis shoes and athletic wear,” says Walker. “You’ll be breaking a sweat, so dress accordingly.” Come prepared with a water bottle and towel to stay hydrated and dry.

 

The Takeaway

Bodypump is a type of resistance training class with high reps and low-weight barbells. A single class targets each of your muscle groups for a full-body strength workout that’s easier on your joints than heavier lifting. Bodypump can tone muscle, improve strength endurance, and burn calories during and after class by boosting your metabolism. If you’re new to resistance training, though, build up to a full class by starting with shorter sessions and lighter weights. 


“Always consult with your doctor if you have pre-existing conditions that may keep you from working out. But once you are cleared, Bodypump is safe for everyone,” says Duffy. “It’s easily adaptable at home and at the gym, which is a huge benefit with the world we are living in today.”

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