PT on the Net Research

Body Pump Classes


It seems that the "pump" type classes are becoming more and more popular. However, I have noticed that the classes encourage the participants to use light weight and then perform a high number of repetitions. Isn't this just endurance training? And if so, what results can a person expect to get? I notice a lot of people that take these types of classes seem to have a lot of overuse type injuries. What is the max number of reps a person should perform without stopping?


Great question! Body pump classes are an excellent way to get resistance training and cardiovascular exercise done at the same time. Meanwhile, participants have fun and are encouraged by their peers to keep attending. Please remember that any type of activity that gets people moving has merit!

Overall, most participants in body pump classes are looking for a body composition change, predominantly body fat loss. Given this, these classes help promote change by using acute variables that include high repetitions and low resistance. This is a form of strength endurance, which is achieved by performing 12 to 25 repetitions at 50 to 70 percent of an individual’s maximum effort. This type of training increases tissue vascularization, structural integrity of connective tissue, increases metabolic rate, improves lean body mass and decreases body fat. The amount of reps a person should perform without stopping is an individual concern. A person should only perform to the capacity that they can properly control the weight and the range of motion. Depending on an individual’s goals, repetitions vary by the desired adaptation. For instance, if a person wants more hypertrophy, he or she would increase the intensity, lower the repetition range to nine to 12 reps per set, and perform about three sets. Repetitions, sets, intensity, tempo and overall volume play an important role in regards to the desired adaptations. Individuals within each class are given the autonomy to decide how much weight they want to use and have the choice to cease an exercise if they cannot continue or do not wish to. In regards to the question about overuse injuries, most people, regardless of their training style, encounter overuse injuries due to their neglect of flexibility and their inability to properly stabilize their body. If an integrated flexibility program is utilized before and after a workout, then the chance of injury is greatly decreased. Most overuse injuries are due to muscle imbalances.

Typically, muscles prone to shortening, such as the soleus/gastrocnemius, adductors, hamstrings, iliopsoas, pecs and lats, stay shortened and as a result, the kinetic chain breaks down. Remember, a tight muscle can cause the nervous system to fire incorrectly, resulting in altered reciprocal inhibition, synergistic dominance and improper joint movement. A prime example of a common muscle imbalance is an anterior pelvic tilt. This is indicated by a forward hip tilt and the lumbar spine hyper extended. If the psoas is shortened and tight, this results in altered reciprocal inhibition of the glutes. If the glutes, the prime movers involved in hip extension, are inhibited, the nervous system will not be able to recruit them properly. When this happens, the nervous system has to call upon the next best thing: the hamstrings. This is termed synergistic dominance, when a synergist takes over the role of a prime mover. The hamstrings can perform hip extension, but they do not have the proper mechanical or neurological characteristics to sustain this type of activity. Therefore, synergistic dominance will eventually lead to an injury or a breakdown in the kinetic chain, for example, a hamstring tear or strain. By incorporating flexibility, such as a psoas stretch, these problems can be avoided. Listed below is an example of an integrated corrective flexibility routine that can be performed before and after an aerobics class.

Overall, body pump classes are an effective and excellent way to get people moving! Remembering that an assessment for muscle imbalances and an integrated flexibility program should supplement exercise, any type of resistance training can be effective.