Thursday, 26 May 2011

De-Constructing Group exercise: Part 1 - BodyPump

Hello everyone, especially the bus-drivers of Singapore!

"Im not telling you where this bus stops.... ever!"

I would like to take a few moments at the start of this blog to pay tribute to the skill, manner and professionalism of this elite group of people. For those of you who know me and my humour, you may have guessed that i am actually TAKING THE PISS.

So I am on the bus (don't ask - i just was), the journey is horrible... I won't mention ethnic groups to avoid seeming racist but there were groups of ******* and ******* people in this bus, rubbing next to me... touching me. One ****** gentleman even had the audacity to casually throw his arm up to use the overhead handle, thrusting his arm-pit near my newly-shaven face. The smell was, well.... pretty FUNKY. To be honest it was f*cking gross.

Anyway, 45 minutes later (all on my feet BTW) i'm ready to kill someone. I ask the bus driver where the stop was for my destination. He looked at my as if i had just shown him a severed hand.

Top O' the morning to Ya!

Driver: "No, No stop"

NW: "Where is the stop for Turf City?"

Driver: "No, No stop"

NW: "Ok, where is the stop nearest to Turf City, so i may walk the remainder of the journey?" (I turn into a polite englishman abroad when i'm very annoyed and my language is excellent!)

(Take into consideration, i have told myself if he says 'No, no stop' again, i'm ready to take him out... and probably the rest of the bus)

Driver: "No, No..........."

NW: "Arrrrrrrggghhhhh!!!!! f*ckin' hell. Do your job!"

The bus stop i wanted was literally 3 short stops down the road with a massive TURF CITY THIS WAY!!! sign at the bus stop. I was so annoyed and confused.

This got me thinking about people and their jobs. 

Do you really like your job?

Do you actually go into work and give your absolute best to that job every day? This bus driver knew his route, he does it every single day of his life, yet he didn't want to help me... i feel sad that he goes through his day/life with a shitty attitude to bus passengers' questions. It is an easy job - drive the bus and answer people's travel queries, but he couldn't even do that.

I hope he dies alone... wet and very cold (preferably in pain). I would gladly show him the correct stop for the nearest hospital/morgue - should we be on the same bus at the very same time that he is dying.

"Don't just be in your job/field/industry.... Be into it"

I have borrowed that from Martin Rooney's last blog... awesome fitness coach, you should check his stuff out. Love what you do and its amazing how days at "work" fly by.

Todays blog is slightly controversial and it will look at the 'dangers' and some of the short-comings of group exercise. When writing this i spoke to a few of the GroupX guys in my current gym. Let me say this before i go any further... They are (all the group exercise colleagues i have had the pleasure to work with) amazing people with a passion and skill to train large groups of people at the same time. They also entertain (something which i have been told that i dont do!) and excite their crowds into getting in shape. Im a fan of group X instructors... I certainly couldn't do what they do.

Whats not to love about 2 shiny people training in the rain? Double awesome.


I have tried this class a couple of times (literally twice) and thought it was good, challenging and useful. I understand how someone would include it into their weekly/monthy training schedule... i dont really understand the freaks that do 3-4 BodyPump classes a week (i think thats a recipe for disaster) and dismiss all other forms of exercise as inferior to BP.

The good - BP will give 'almost' a full body workout and it hits different tempo's which is good for basic strength and certainly improved muscular endurance. The fact that people will really end up 'loving' this class is a good thing (loving exercise will mean people will return and stay fit) although many become 'addicted' and miss out on other great forms of training. I will admit, as a concept i like BP a lot... but my argument would be that most people who take it should firstly be individually screened in exercise technique so that participation becomes safe for both client and Instructor. Unfortunately this doesn't happen.

The bad - When i say 'almost a full body session' I mean there is often no 'direct' hamstring tracks, which could lead to strength imbalances in the lower body with multiple BP classes per week/month. Yes there are deadlifts, but they way they are taught in the class emphasises the lower/upper back... which leads me to my final point. Technique. Also, most of the exercises are performed in one movement plane (Frontal); where the body should be trained through all 3 (Frontal, Sagittal and Tranverse) for a fully complete training program.

If i'm wrong on anything so far, Please call me on it? I want to know what you think.

The ugly - The main reason i would be a nervous wreck taking a class is because (as a PT) i'm meticulous about proper exercise technique (everyone should be!).

I can't believe this was a promotional picture to entice people into BodyPump!

Lady 1 (far left) seems ok, not sure why her feet are so close? (But no major worries)
Lady 2 (centre) will have a bad neck in about 4 weeks time from cranking her head up to watch herself
Lady 3 (right) looks like she has a bent back... but who cares! Its a great tune and there are 2000 more reps to go!! wooooppp wooooppp!!! The reason why she goes to the back of the class is probably because she is not very good exercise and wants to hide from everyone else in that particular class.

I genuinely believe that 'some' people go into classes to hide, especially the guys/gals in the back rows. They are not confident on the gym floor (for numerous reasons) and slip into a class where all the attention is seeked/demanded by the front row groupies - wearing the latest Les Mills Body Pump kit and matching headband/wristband set.

                      Front row 'BP groupie' with Les Mills sleeveless zip top and matching lady gloves... sweet!

Meanwhile, back in the local commercial gym.....

WOW! check out the tekkers on grandma! (front row left)... that looks high quality.

I honestly could have fun with this all day, but that would be un-productive. The catch about taking a class of 25 people is that you have to keep the show going. As an instructor, it is nearly impossible to keep a class full of people energised if he/she was continually correcting the weakest links of the group. How could you possibly know if someone in the back row was performing an exercise correctly with this view?

Answer: You can't even SEE the back row!

One more problem I have with BP (and warrants a blog of its own) is the depth of squats that are taught. Every time i look into a class i see shallow squat patterns (often with too much weight for the prescribed 3 minute tracks) which WILL lead to overworked Vastus Lateralis (side of quads for the lay person). In my experience, general PT clients i assess will struggle with the deep squat pattern because they are too tight, so i can assume the Group X/class crowd are no better. Every 'Pumper' i have had foam roll on their VL has nearly burst a spleen in pain. Its not a coincidence, Its a trend.

Foam rolling is not nice if you have tight VL (from shallow squat technique)

BodyPump Solutions

My goal of this blog was:

a) Make people laugh
b) Share some fitness knowledge
c) NOT to rubbish BodyPump as the devil!

therefore, my solutions for those who go to multiple BP classes per week would be:

1) Back off from 1 class per week and work on soft tissue/flexibility instead, Or take a Yoga class? It will result in a less painful and injury free future as well as promote better technique all around.

Read this for more info

2) Foam roll and stretch before and after classes. Stretch what feels tight.

3) If unsure about anything, ask the instructor to keep an eye on you when you take the class, they will be happy to oblige (although you may face a fight with a 'BP groupie' for his/her front row space!)

This blog is getting lengthy so i will leave it and create Part 2: Spinning/RPM. Also my conclusion about group exercise/classes and what classes i think you should be doing.
I can't resist one more.....

"Look at me love... I can rep out barbell rows and take the piss the same time... woop woop, feel the burn!!

Please leave comments at the bottom, i love hate mail! Share with Facebook friends if you like this :)

1 comment:

  1. maybe the bus driver doesn't speak English!!??

    You Definitely made me laugh!! LOL



Add your wise words below...