Gym classes don’t restart until mid-May, but we’ve found something just as good with Les Mills On Demand
We’ve all developed a few new habits in lockdown, be it air-drying our hair, nightly face masks or baking at any opportunity . I can’t see myself continuing to dry my hair naturally when life returns to ‘normal’ but one lockdown habit I will be keeping up is working out with online fitness platform Les Mills On Demand , in particular, Body Pump, the full-body strength class featuring high reps with (relatively) low weights, which I've been doing three times a week since January.
Anyone who was a gym-goer pre-pandemic will be familiar with Les Mills’ high energy gym classes, which were regulars on timetables, with the most popular classes including Body Pump, yoga-based Body Balance and martial arts style Body Combat. Les Mills started as a family-owned gym in New Zealand in 1968, founded by four-time Olympian Les Mill and before lockdown struck, Les Mills’ workouts were available in 21,000 gyms worldwide and 2,000 in the UK, with the likes of Virgin Active and Fitness First offering Less Mills classes.
The only problem with Body Pump in the gym was just how popular it was; getting a slot in the classes was akin to getting a Glastonbury ticket sometimes. In my local gym slots in Body Pump became available 48 hours before the class and often after 30 seconds of booking being open the class would be fully booked. It was fastest finger first and my fingers were not fast enough! This is where Les Mills On Demand comes into its own; you can always do a class even if you only decide five minutes before. Even when in-gym classes kick off again mid-May (and trust me, I’ll be trying to book in) I’ll continue to work out on Les Mills On Demand on my laptop as well and I'm sure I won’t be the only one – the platform which has been available online since 2015 and has over 1,000 videos available (with more added every week), has over 1.1 million users and since lockdown began last March, has seen an 800 per cent increase in downloads.
During the glorious period last summer when gyms were open, and up until the November lockdown forced gyms to close again, I found in-gym Body Pump classes to be just as popular as pre-Covid, but gym-goers were using the Les Mills On Demand platform too, mixing at-home sessions with in-person gym classes and that's what I'm planning to do too – a mixture of on-demand and in-gym workouts.
Here’s why I’ll be sticking with my at-home Body Pump regime even when gym classes reopen
1. It's a full-body workout that isn't boring to do at home
If like me, you spent the first lockdown squatting , lunging and planking in your living room you'll know it can get boring, especially when you’re doing the same online workouts every day. I can safely say I never got bored doing Body Pump at home.
The workout is set to songs (songs from the charts mainly, sometimes old school bangers). For each track in the session, you work a different body part, combining moves such as deadlifts, squats, rows and clean and presses. It’s fast-paced and because you only work each body part for maximum six minutes, there’s never a chance to get bored. Your muscles fatigue for sure, but my mind never wanders.
The workout itself is ultra-effective because it exhausts the muscles using light weights while performing high repetitions, which results in lean, toned muscles. The average hour-long class burns around 560 calories and studies have shown that Body Pump generates a long-term calorie burn that is much higher than a calorie-matched cardio class.
2. The Body Pump equipment is quite the investment
Body Pump fans will be familiar with the necessary equipment for the class; the barbell known as the Smart Bar , £225, the weights you lift , £170 for a full set of six, and the step, dubbed the Smart Step , £160. You can also buy the Smart Bar and weights in a set for £390 . These tems are essential for the sessions but they are fairly costly.
That's not to say you have to use Les Mills branded weight kits if you already have similar equipment at home, but the Smart Bar really makes working out a joy. The weights slot in easily and slip out in seconds so you can transition how heavy the bar is for different body parts with zero fuss.
3. The classes fit into your day
In the gym Body Pump classes ranged between 45 minutes and an hour. On Les Mill On Demand you can pick 30, 45 or 60 minute sessions to fit in with your day, or you can pick specific body party sessions and concentrate on upper or lower body in 15 or 20 minutes sessions.
I sometimes find it hard to gear myself up for a full 60-minute workout at home, but when a session is only 15 minutes it’s harder to find a reason not to.
4. There’s amazing scenery
Among the many live recorded workouts there are some filmed in the amazing New Zealand countryside (among rolling hills and sometimes even on platforms in lakes). No expense has been spared with these videos and it shows. You're transported away from your living room and I spent more time lusting over the locations than I did focussing on how tired my muscles felt.
5. Live class atmosphere
The classes that aren’t filmed outdoors in New Zealand are filmed in front of live audiences around the world, so you get the real class atmosphere and even when I’m on my own, I feel like I’m part of a wider group.
6. Motivating trainers
There are over 140,000 Les Mills trainers in the world, and the creme de la creme is on the On Demand platform. Each online session is lead by a group of trainers, who take turns leading the various tracks. Again, there’s no time to get bored and it’s always fun seeing which trainer will be in your session (though if surprise isn't your thing, you can check the class bio to see who’s leading it)
After a few sessions you start to have favourite trainers – I’m particularly fond of Australian Kylie Gates, who is create director of the programme and always sings along to tracks which keeps me motivated, and Marlon Woods, an Ohio-native who dances around during tracks making squatting serious weight look easy.
7. Variety of classes
As well as Body Pump, Body Balance and Body Combat, the three most popular Les Mills classes, you can also do step class Body Step, HIIT session Body Attack, core workout Core, dance class Sh’bam, Barre, spin session cycling workouts and specific body part workouts with the Trainer Series.
8. There’s a supportive online community
If you miss chatting with people post-gym class about your session, there’s a LMOD Squad Facebook Group, where over 150,000 Les Mills On Demand users share their workouts, stories and experiences for support and encouragement from other users.