At the Spectrum Club in uptown Santa Barbara, a group of about 15 women ranging in age and fitness level follows instructor Cathleen Clarke’s quick transitions. They execute squat after squat with barbells over their shoulders then fly to a new move and new muscle group. As the class ends, an “oh, we made it!” can be heard followed by an agreeing laugh. Everyone is sweaty, tired, but spirited.
These women just finished a BodyPump class created by Les Mills International. Les Mills is a global fitness trend that has captivated Santa Barbara with its group exercise programs designed for consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness. The contagiously upbeat music and highly trained instructors don’t hurt either.
Les Mills International is named for New Zealand Olympian Leslie Mills, whose son, Phillip Mills, created its famous exercise-to-music group fitness classes. Les Mills offers 10 programs: BodyAttack, BodyStep, BodyFlow, BodyVive, BodyCombat, RPM, BodyJam, Sh’bam, CX30/CXWorx, and BodyPump.
The classes are taught in more than 13,000 clubs in 75 countries. The uptown Spectrum, just one area gym with Les Mills’s pre-choreographed programming, offers BodyPump and CXWorx. According to Spectrum General Manager Cindy Capra, these classes are representative of what members can expect from Les Mills’s programs.
BodyPump is a one-hour, high repetition barbell weightlifting class. The movements are accompanied by 10 songs, and each song signals work on a different body part or muscle group. Continuous reps and fast transitions raise heart rates, lending a cardio element to this weightlifting class.
CXWorx launches at Spectrum the first week of November. This 30-minute core workout includes six songs, which focus on different aspect of your core, again through quick transitions and many reps. Les Mills workouts target large muscle groups, and that means burning more calories.
“[Participants] can go to any club — including other Spectrums in Los Angeles, including other clubs that carry Les Mills programming — and they have the exact same track and this exact same CD playing,” said Capra.
This consistency benefits both instructors and students. Instructors do not have to spend hours planning classes and ensuring every muscle group is worked; they can concentrate on teaching the class effectively. As for those taking the class, “They know what to expect,” said Capra. “They can focus in on execution versus, ‘Oh my god, where are we going next?’”
To keep programming current, a new CD is available for each program every three months. BodyPump’s 79th CD will be released soon. If an instructor went back to CD 45, the program would be the same, but the songs, timing, and moves would differ.
The Les Mills program also demands that instructors meet strict criteria. Spectrum teachers did 18 hours of training over two days to learn the CXWorx material. These intense training sessions not only maintain uniformity within standards and teaching but also provide one lesson that Capra and instructor Clarke agreed on: empathy. Instructors know what their students are going through.
These pre-choreographed classes take creative pressure off instructors and result in safer classes. Not every instructor has a background in kinesiology, suggested Capra. Les Mills’s master trainers can show how to teach classes safely and effectively.
“I think there’s still value for [free-form], creative classes,” added Capra. “You need to have balance. I think if you only had pre-choreographed classes it might take away from the instructors who really love to design their own stuff and add their own flair.”
Capra attributes Les Mills’s popularity in Santa Barbara to its consistency, the success members feel after completing the class, and its difficulty. “[BodyPump] is more popular than anything else we have,” said Clarke. “In Goleta, we offer eight or six classes a week, and they get packed.”