R.I.P LBT? Re-energising a classic
The classic 'Legs, bums and tums' body conditioning class doesn't need to be relegated to the history books. But, says Greg Sellar, it does need a makeover if it is to remain a viable way to work out and justify its place on the group ex timetable.
'Legs, bums and tums' as a class format is obsolete. It's not functional enough, doesn't work you hard enough, nor does it achieve the one thing most members attend it for – fat loss.'
There's a lot of debate about this class at present: it seems to still be popular, but is it for the right reasons? Most of the participants who go to these classes look much the same as they did 10 years ago, and some seem to use it as a gentle detour on their way to the coffee shop.
I can hear the cries now; 'that's not my class', 'well, I certainly don't do that' and 'we work really hard in legs, bums and tums classes'. If this is true, then fair enough – well done!
For the rest of us, it's time to get serious about a group exercise class that served us well in the late '80s and throughout the '90s, but which seriously needs a makeover if it's going to remain a viable way to work out and justify its place on the group ex timetable.
A group exercise class that doesn't make an effort to change yearly on the basis of new information, new training methodologies and developing research needs to go back to the drawing board. Body conditioning – which for the most part has remained the same since its inception – is no exception.
With myriad new training ideas applicable to this genre, such as peripheral heart action (PHA), tabata intervals, H.I.I.T, dynamic balance, propulsion and more, it's little wonder that instructors who are still participating in doggie leg lifts, isolated hand weight work and sitting on balls might sometimes be commanding less respect than they could be.
Out with the old, in with the new
So, if we are in agreement that the LBT class has untapped potential, what do we need to do to overhaul it? The following steps will inject a massive shot in the arm of your existing class;
Step 1. Get rid of the name – if you want to be taken seriously as a fitness professional, one who has studied their trade and knows more about fitness than a pre-schooler, lose the 'tummies' and 'bums'. We'll never move forward as an industry and have doctors and physiotherapists recommending their patients to us if we're dealing in five-year-old speak.
Step 2. Include a greater cardio element to the muscular endurance work – make the class a total package. You'll still be conditioning your body with large, explosive movements that will test the heart rate as well as being a shock to the muscles. Movements like tuck jumps, burpees and single leg hops will condition the muscles as well as the cardiovascular system. Don't assume body conditioning is solely low impact, as some of the impact on bones and joints will provide more conditioning in the long run than static squats and lunges.
Step 3. Start from the top down, not the bottom up – why do we always assume that; a) people are going to get most things wrong in class, and; b) we need to constantly provide low options for every movement? The fact of the matter is that most people get most things right in class and if they do get a couple of things a bit wrong, it's certainly not enough to do any damage. Participants need time to gradually improve. Secondly, they can do the harder options for the most part and should only be given lighter options as a final resort should they reach real fatigue. The constant dumbing down for the 'average' participant does them no favours at all. Better that someone tries for eight half-range push ups on the toes and stops after four (provided they can do so with good form), than start and finish all eight on their knees. In the first instance the person is testing and learning their limits, in the second, they are coasting.
Step 4. Lose the aerobic curve – when I did my initial training, it was all about warming people up (usually doing exercises that were inappropriate to the workout they were about to embark on), before following a bell curve over the main body of the class and bringing everyone down in muscular strength and endurance (MSE) and stretching. Sadly, most group exercise classes have never progressed beyond this. If you want real results, study after study has shown that higher intensity interval work (both with bodyweight-only and equipment, cardio and MSE) will provide faster results in less time. Our timetables are littered with 60-minute classes that work counterintuitive to this notion. In a nutshell, if you can do it for 60 minutes, it's not hard enough!
Step 5. Be answerable and provide measurable results – if you were a PT and you didn't provide visible results in three months, chances are you'd be fired. However, in group exercise people are willing to attend the same types of class for years on end with no real physical results to show for it. They'll plateau after an initial six weeks of making gains, and that's about where it ends. They're no fitter or stronger six years into doing something unless they change their training in some way.
As an instructor, it's your job to provide a great experience, but also to deliver results. In my fitness fx program – blast fx – we give a challenge to participants every four weeks within a 16-week cycle. We use the same exercises performed for approximately one minute at maximum repetition. We do this over five exercises, with class members recording their score. The expectation is that they improve over the cycle and can see the numerical improvements as a result of doing the program. It's measurable and provides a great motivational tool for retention.
Body conditioning wouldn't have lasted on timetables across the globe unless it had something to it. You can dress it up however you like, but at the end of the day, it needs to look a little more 2012 and less 1992. The two following PHA combinations highlight some of the exercise selection I'm currently instructing in my blast fx classes.
Greg was named the IFS International Presenter of the Year 2010 and is program developer for blast fx by fitness fx. He is a Master Trainer for the brands GRAVITY on Total Gym, BOSU®, LIVESTRONG Indoor Cycling, Gliding, Kranking and JUMPYBUMPY and works with Nike as a Nike Training Club Instructor. For more information visit www.gregsellar.com