I like to think that I can pop and drop it like the best of ’em in a dance cardio workout, but I’ve never been particularly excited about trying a Zumba class. No shade to Zumba—it’s just that the hip-swinging, arm-waving choreography in Zumba classes isn’t the kind of dance cardio I gravitate toward, and that’s OK. I am the opposite of the red dress emoji lady and the Latin-inspired dance moves intimidate me. While I love high-energy workouts, I’d usually rather snag a spot in my regular indoor cycling or kickboxing class than shimmy my way through the saucy beats in a Zumba class.
But when I heard that the brand’s new class, STRONG by Zumba, is more HIIT, less Salsa, I was game to give it a shot.
STRONG by Zumba is the first non-dance based class from the fitness brand. The newest of all Zumba classes revolves around high-intensity interval training, but still focuses on moving to the beat. Think of it as boot camp choreography…a bass that puts you in a squatting trance.
Last week I laced up my sneakers and headed to a special media preview of the new workout. Here’s what went down.
STRONG by Zumba is definitely more boot camp than booty shake—but Zumba regulars will love the party vibes.
Courtesy of Zumba/Alexa Tucker
As soon as I walked in the room, I saw the neon purple lighting and smiling faces. The space still had that party vibe Zumba is known for, and it was clear that this was going to be a more accessible approach to a high-intensity interval class.
The 45-minute workout is divided into four sections, or quadrants as they’re called during the class. We started with a warm-up (quadrant one, called Ignite), which was focused on prepping your body for the workout by raising your heart rate with moves like jumping jacks, as well as incorporating some mobility work with moves like leg swings and dynamic hip stretches.
Quadrant two, known as Fire Up, incorporated moves like punches and squats, and there was pretty much zero rest in between exercises. Quadrant three was called Push Your Limits, and added to the previous exercises turning them into mini combinations (like side squats combined with punches). While there’s active recovery involved here, you really never stop moving. Finally, quadrant four, Floorplay, had us planking and crunching on mats to really work our abs (as opposed to the total-body focus in the first three quadrants).
TBH, this class is way less intimidating than a traditional boot camp workout. It’s the boot camp for non-boot campers, so to speak, and it’s a strength-training party for regular Zumba dancing devotees. “We knew something was missing in the HIIT world and that we could combine our music and fitness expertise to do something that has never been done before in fitness—using music as the main motivator in a high intensity workout,” Alberto Perlman, the CEO of Zumba, tells SELF. “In this program, music is no longer an afterthought, and it actually motivates you to do more, work out harder, and see bigger results.”
Dance cardio can be a fantastic workout, but incorporating strength and interval training adds even more benefits to your fitness routine. Strength training not only makes you feel strong AF, it also helps with weight-loss goals. Lean muscle mass takes more energy for your body to maintain, so the more you have, the more calories your body burns at rest.
Did I burpee when the bass dropped? Yes, and it was freaking awesome.
Courtesy of Zumba
There are many HIIT and strength classes that incorporate killer playlists, but what’s unique about STRONG by Zumba is that the music is specifically timed to the moves. The workout was developed first without music, and then tunes were added and “reverse engineered” to be exactly on beat, the Zumba pros at the event explained to me. Oh, and they partnered with Timbaland to have him create some exclusive songs for the workout, NBD.
The on-beat pattern was definitely noticeable throughout the entire workout, so even though it’s not technically dance cardio, I’d call this class…rhythmic. There were dance-y moves seamlessly woven in between traditional exercises like jumping jacks and lunges, plus some boxing-inspired punch and kick sequences that I was very into.
The class went by pretty quickly for me, which is saying something—even though I enjoy HIIT classes, I’m usually a major clock-watcher during them. The one thing that can usually get me through a tough class is good music, and STRONG by Zumba definitely had that going for it. It wasn’t the most challenging bodyweight workout I’ve ever done, but I still worked up a solid sweat—and I’m well aware that not every workout should require a crying-on-the-floor-in-a-puddle-of-sweat level of effort.
Courtesy of Zumba
The class also had that signature Zumba class energy in its favor—it felt like an encouraging, judgment-free zone, which to me, seems like the hallmark of a Zumba class in the first place. Plus, it was pretty much modifiable for all levels, whether you’re new to fitness or a seasoned pro.
The workout isn’t available everywhere yet, but it’s available in major cities like NYC, LA, Chicago, and Miami. It’ll roll out in more cities nationwide as more trainers get certified, so look out for it to hit your gym soon (this handy Zumba class finder can help). For boot camp enthusiasts, it’s a way to add some fun movement to your routine, and for Zumba class lovers, it’s a way to add some all-important strength training to your workouts. Win-win, no matter how you like to shake it.
SELF – Fitness