This is a basic outline of different classes taught throughout the country at local fitness clubs and gyms and suggestions for frequency of classes, what muscles are worked more than others, etc.
So... you want to take a class but are not sure which one to start in or if you will be able to hack it? The good thing, there are TONS of classes with varying exercise types to choose from. The bad thing, you have to know what you are getting yourself into before you get in there.
As a personal trainer and an aerobics fitness class instructor, I see it (and hear it) all the time - you go to the gym following your New Years Resolution, you are pumped and as soon as you get there, you freeze. Dead in your tracks. The size 0 girls, the large, muscular grunting guys lifting more than you weigh, the clanking of the weights and the loud music pumping out of the aerobics room - it's more than you bargained, or psyched yourself up for. NEVER FEAR!!
We will help you navigate what to do, where to be and how to feel and trust us... NOBODY is looking at you! They are more concerned with how they look! (Unless you are walking on the treadmill backward or spontaneously fall off a piece of equipment - then maybe they would look at you!)
This is a guest post written by Tiffany.
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POPULAR GROUP FITNESS CLASSES
Weight-Lifting Cardio Classes
These classes go by many different names - you may see them listed as Cardio Pump, Body Pump (LesMills), Body Works (LA Fitness), Cardio Tone, etc.
- Premise: Using a weighted bar and/or dumbbells you will move quickly through toning and muscle-building exercises, keeping your heart rate higher than a tradition weight lifting session.
- Benefits: 60-minute classes typically burn more than 600 calories. This is a great workout, especially for those that do not have access to a personal trainer - with a qualified instructor, you will target every muscle in your body using exercises that are targeted for each! Look for fat burn and toning with this class.
- Disadvantages: If you have never worked out before or have little experience with lifting weights, you may find it difficult to learn the proper lifting technique. Tell the instructor beforehand so they can give you some extra attention and help - don't worry - they will be discreet! The other disadvantage - If you are looking to build lots of muscle - this probably isn't the class for you! You will tone, but you won't see your muscles growing in this class.
- Frequency: I would recommend this class 3-4 times per week. DON'T take it back to back - you will want your body to recover from the weight lifting involved in the process!
Step Aerobics Classes
This is pretty straight forward - most classes are listed as step although I have seen some as "varying heights" classes.
- Premise: Cardio class where you control the height of your step with "risers" - patterns and routines are choreographed to music throughout the class.
- Benefits: Exceptional leg toning and cardio workout, similar to a workout on the Stepmill or Stairmaster.
- Disadvantages: You have to have some coordination for this class - I have taught many step classes but will admit, I am not the best! People either get it or they don't. Also not a fully functional full body workout - you do move your arms, but unless you have weights, it's not the same.
- Frequency: Take this class 2-3 times per week. It's incredibly great cardio, so try to mix it in with your weight training if you like it! (And maybe skip it after a hard leg workout!)
There are all sorts of names for these classes, but essentially they are the same!
- Premise: Circuit-based class with little to no equipment that may take place inside your gym or outside in the parking lot, a grassy area, etc.
- Benefits: Typically is a full-body toning workout designed to promote fat loss. Depending on the instructor, very few of these classes are ever the same - less boredom!
- Disadvantages: If you are new to working out, you may want to start elsewhere. Depending on the class and the instructor, it may be harder than you are ready to undertake and any slacking on your part during the class could be discouraging.
- Frequency: This is another one like the Body Pump classes in terms of frequency so 3-4 times per week is sufficient with ample rest time. Substitute similar classes if you would like (like Body Pump).
- Premise: Yoga - Focuses on stretching and methods of breathing. Pilates - Focuses on toning and methods of breathing.
- Benefits: Relaxation, stretch, and toning! Need a little stress relief - it's right here!
- Disadvantages: Unless it's a fast-paced class (which some are), these shouldn't count as your cardio.
- Frequency: I use these classes in my "down" time or recovery time (especially yoga). You will know what your body needs!
Water Aerobics Classes
Don't be fooled! These are not all for "Old People" (sorry, no disrespect meant)! If you find the right class, you will be challenged beyond your expectations!
- Premise: Using water as resistance, and a few pieces of equipment, full body workout designed for toning and stretch.
- Benefits: Great for those with knee or joint problems! Between the soothing water environment and the relief of stress on the joints than on land, Water Aerobics can be a great choice.
- Disadvantages: Some classes can be just too easy! Find one that works for you - many gyms can tell you which instructors seem to teach a more advanced class or if there are classes that are graded in terms of beginner, intermediate or advanced. The other obvious disadvantage - if you can't swim, make sure it's not a deep water class!
- Frequency: Whenever you would like! I really like to take this class when I am tired or am incredibly sore from a hard workout the day before.
Cardio Dance-Related Classes
You will see a lot of variation in dance-style classes at gyms in your area. You may be familiar with Zumba, a Latin-based cardio dance program, some of you may have a hip hop class that your gym offers. You may also see classes listed as Latin Sizzle, Latin Groove, Jazz Funk or simply Cardio Dance.
- Premise: Dance your way to fitness! A cardio based class that typically does not use any weights focusing on burning calories and increasing your cardiovascular health.
- Benefits: If you are moving the entire time, similar to the way a Zumba class is taught, 60-minute classes typically burn more than 600 calories. Other dance-related classes like hip hop may provide quite a few breaks and you may burn about 400 calories during this class/workout. If you are just getting started and have a good deal of weight to lose, this is a great class to start with. While you won’t get strength training in this class, you will get acclimated to moving your body and have fun doing it!
- Disadvantages: There are a few disadvantages to a class like this if this is all you have time for in the week. You won’t get any strength training in this class (unless there are weight incorporated somehow) – you will need to set time aside to incorporate a strength-based class or incorporate a weightlifting routine on your own.
- Frequency: I would recommend this class 2-3 times per week, serving as a pure cardio class. It’s also a fun class to take as a way to “shake” up your normal routine.
You may see classes listed as Kickboxing, Cardio Kick, Club Box or even by the trade name, TaeBo.
- Premise: Combine martial arts style training with high energy music and choreographed routines.
- Benefits: This class will not only let you trim down, but it’s a great way to tone your lower and upper halves using body weight. Push-ups, punches and “speed bag” intervals are great for your upper body, while kicks, squats, and thrusts are incorporated for toning your lower half.
- Disadvantages: There are really no disadvantages to this class that I can really speak of. Just make sure that you pay close attention to the steps and each piece of choreography because you may be running into your neighbor if you aren’t careful!
- Frequency: Although this class is mainly cardio, it does do some toning for you. I would encourage you to consider taking a break from lifting legs the next day. Lift chest and back or arms – trust me – your legs will thank you.
You may see classes listed as Spinning, Indoor Cycling, RPM, Fast Track, etc. (I’m a little biased about spin since I am a spin instructor! I’ll try to be objective though!)
- Premise: Using a stationary, upright bike with variable tension, you perform speed and tension intervals on the bicycle set to music.
- Benefits: This is a great cardio and lower body workout. Be prepared to work your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes! You really shouldn’t be gripping the handlebars for dear life, so if you feel some tension in your neck, check your posture next class.
- Disadvantages: The obvious – the seat! Most will experience slight discomfort with the seat during and after their first few classes. Gel seat covers will alleviate some of the discomforts, but rest assured that your body should be used to it by the 3rd or 4th class.
- Frequency: Same advice as the kickboxing class – While this is a cardio class, you will definitely feel the work in your legs. Especially if you adjust your tension accordingly. I would encourage you to consider taking a break from lifting legs the next day. Lift chest and back or arms.
Find what works for you! I love to take classes on days that I don't want to "think" about my workout or need some added encouragement of a group where I know I won't quit! What is your favorite aerobics class?
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