What is Les Mills BODYPUMP?

Published January 5th, 2022

BODYPUMP is the original barbell group fitness class, bringing this athletic high rep strength and resistance-based workout to thousands of members around the world.

Available in 55, 45 and 30 minute formats, BODYPUMP offers a full-body workout to help tone and strengthen your entire body.

What does a class look like?

A BODYPUMP class differs based on the class duration. The full 55 minute class features:

  1. Warm Up

  2. Squats

  3. Chest

  4. Back

  5. Triceps

  6. Biceps

  7. Lunges

  8. Shoulders

  9. Core

  10. Cooldown

Personally, I prefer the more modern 45 minute format – I feel this keeps the intensity higher, and for me, burns the same calorie count as the 55 minute format.

Release 102 and earlier would simply drop Triceps and Biceps, but since release 103, we are given combo tracks to ensure the whole body stays in the workout, so have:

  1. Warm Up

  2. Squats

  3. Chest

  4. Back

  5. Triceps / Biceps

  6. Lunges / Shoulders

  7. Core

  8. Cooldown

And since release 118, we have also been given a Functional Strength track that can replace the Lunges / Shoulders track in the 45 minute format too. And 118’s was a superb track and one that I’ll bring out again.

Throughout your BODYPUMP class, you can expect to complete 800 to 1,000 reps. Yes, that’s right, not a typo. High reps, and lower weights. Les Mills even researched, studied and published the findings of the results of this sort of training, and trademarked The REP Effect, becoming a foundation of the education of the program. If you’re out on the gym floor, your weight selections can head towards triple digits – but your reps and sets stay low. Research has shown that the faster nature of BODYPUMP, compared to high weight low speed training, expends more energy, and can help improve bone density.

BODYPUMP sees you decrease your weights significantly, but push stamina and drive through long high rep sets. Each set includes different timing patterns to help recruit muscles differently, and alter their time under tension, and works with the highs and lows of the music to build, peak and recover. With superb control on timing, a quality range of movement, and progressing your weight selection, you can find challenge, strength and tone with long-lasting changes to your body, health and fitness.

Each track’s purpose is pretty clear by its name: did you know that you’ll do squats in the Squat track? And work the Chest in the Chest track? Easy to follow, hey?

The Triceps / Biceps and Lunges / Shoulders tracks in the new 45 minute format alternate and integrate recruitment in a single track. These tracks keep the class’s intensity higher, still hits a full body workout, and makes the class feel concise and focused. After teaching the 45 minute format for most of my BODYPUMP teaching career due to COVID-19 restrictions and timetable changes, I can hand on heart say I prefer the format. It packs punch, and never loses its momentum.

The new Functional Strength track focuses on posterior chain activation, and while we’ve only seen two of these tracks, with so many of us failing or struggling to correctly recruit and activate through compound movements, offers an opportunity to bring focus to glute activation with simple yet effective movements. When I was recovering from some sciatic issues due to inactivity during Melbourne’s 6th lockdown (yes, 262 days we had locked down), glute activation exercises were most beneficial in helping reduce pain symptoms, and when going back to weight-based training like squats and lunges, regular glute exercises helped me increase weight capability beyond I had been pre-lockdown.

Weight selections

“How much should I have on my bar?”

This is a really common question, and there’s no straight answer. What I might find light, you might find really heavy. Or what I find heavy, you might think is a walk in the park.

The basic rule is that everything is based on your warm up weight: a light to medium barbell, and occasionally a single medium to heavy plate. What you think is light-to-medium is up to you and your strength: it may be 2.5kg on each end, maybe 3.75kg on each end, or if you’re just starting BODYPUMP, maybe even 1.25kg on each end.

When moving to the squat track (track 2), newcomers should double their warm up weight, where regulars can go 2 to 4 times their warm up weight. Things can vary release-to-release too – some squat tracks can feel more intense than others: in one release you may be able to go 3 times, but another only 2.5 times your warm up weight. BODYPUMP 118 introduced the bar front squat to group fitness classes, and encourages members to shave a fraction off for that – your instructor should always let you know clearly and concisely what’s about to happen in a track so you know what to prepare and lift.

On to chest, it is usually a third off your squat weight, and sometimes with handheld weight plates, and your bench for pushups. The way this track gets structured can pre-fatigue you in different ways: sometimes you start with the bar to pre-fatigue for pushups, but other times start with bodyweight exercises to pre-fatigue for the bar.

For the back track, your bar stays around your chest weight, or with a little extra. It’s a power and strength track with drive – you want your bar to challenge you, push that heart rate up, and help you push and pull against gravity.

For the remainder of the class, your weights vary based on the class format and individual track. But each track has recommendations based on warm up weight: “around your warm up weight, maybe a little less”, “around your warm up weight, maybe a little more” – it’s all a guide to help you understand the track’s intensity.

Just to re-cap, start with your warm up weight, add more for the squat track, a third off for chest, a smidge more for back, then the back half varies greatly release-to-release. But a good instructor will use this basic formula to guide you through your weight selections.

I like to encourage members to challenge themselves: if they can complete every rep with ease, then why not add an extra 1.25kg on each side of the bar? If your form starts to falter, or you struggle early in a set, maybe you need to take a little weight off.

The big thing to remember when selecting your weights is the number of repetitions you’re in for. Track 2, we’re about to do squats – but we’re not doing 3 rounds of 12 reps – we’re doing 6 minutes of non-stop squats at different timings and patterns to build pressure that helps strengthen and tone the legs and glutes. If you use your normal gym floor squat weight, you’ll fade out within the first round. It’s a different way to train: high reps, lower weights, and with varied timings and time under tension. 

When teaching a BODYPUMP release, I try to teach for 4 weeks – or 5 or even 6 if it’s a cracker release. The reason here is for measuring improvements. Track 3 is always the Chest track in BODYPUMP – but it varies from release to release. Is it a tough track with the bar, or could I add more weight? By teaching the same release for a few weeks, members can start to lock in their head what weights to select – and when they can put on more for that added challenge and gain. Due to the differences between weight selections in each release, if tracks change every week, it becomes really hard for members to measure their progress.

Why do I love BODYPUMP?

BODYPUMP creates an energy that is simple electric. It makes you feeling strong and ready to tackle anything – and when paired with a room full of people all pushing, pulling and lifting together, it elevates your own experience and input.

I love the Les Mills group fitness classes – the combination of exercise to music creates such a powerful training method. It’s choreographed – but not like a dance class, but riding the highs and lows of the music for recovery, power and strength. This is what makes Les Mills classes magic: music is vital to the experience, and you work with it, not just as a background performer.

BODYPUMP has given me more confidence in my strength – and this carries over in to other programs. It is a superb compliment to additional resistance training (not a replacement for it), but for those uncomfortable with their own resistance training on the gym floor, helps these members build strength and tone in a group fitness environment.

It is also great to add BODYBALANCE to your schedule to help with your flexibility, mobility and recovery, which in turn will help with your efforts in BODYPUMP. Les Mills Tone's cross training nature will also help with dynamic and functional core control, ideal for a solid foundation for resistance training. Les Mills Core is another superb accompaniment to any training program too.

How long have I been teaching BODYPUMP?

I have been teaching BODYPUMP since release 108 in early 2019. We are just about to get BODYPUMP release 120.

I had done BODYPUMP when I was a member before my instructing days back in Adelaide, but since becoming an instructor (and gyms having capacity limits for classes), staff always are the one to give up their spot to a member. It was actually Les Mills Tone that gave me a greater love for resistance training and made me feel that I had capability to teach a strength-based program: weird mental thing, I know, but it’s how my head works.

Where can I do BODYPUMP?

BODYPUMP is available at gyms around the world.

You can also find BODYPUMP on Les Mills On Demand.

Find out more about BODYPUMP at www.lesmills.com/bodypump. Want to come to one of my classes? See my regular class schedule on this site

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