Celebrated as a “fitness party”, Zumba continues to gain popularity around the world and is certainly here to stay in the UAE whether you’re a Latin music lover or not. We’ll admit to never having warmed to it over the years, but are amongst a small few.
All our friends, their friends, and those friends’ mums can’t seem to get enough of it – probably because it does feel more like clubbing than cardio, and since the franchise includes DVDs and CDs of the remixed party tracks for sale, alongside very funky and flambouyant, Zumba-exclusive active wear and footwear.
Reporting more than 15 weekly participants across 186 countries, you could almost call the Zumba community a cult. That being said, if all its leaders are doing is putting smiles on people’s faces while they Samba and sweat away any extra kilos, then why not.
It’s a cool club to be a part of indeed, but if you’re looking for a workout that’s a little less dance oriented but still has that tight, fun community feel, why not check out STRONG by Zumba, their new trending cardio class.
Founder of the “dancercise” fitness movement, Colombian choreographer Beto Perez, struck gold in the 90s when he came up with Zumba on a whim while improvising in an aerobics class, and now he’s upped the ante by introducing something that’s even more inclusive, especially for those, like us, with two left feet.
STRONG by Zumba is less about copying Zumba’s fancy footwork and sassy Latin dance-inspired choreography, and instead focuses on the more familiar high-energy moves you’d typically find in a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class.
Think athletic conditioning, body weight and resistance training. Knowing Beto though, we reckon this class still has spunk and plenty of loud music to go around. After checking it out at Abu Dhabi’s Tone Fitness gym, we can confirm that of course it does.
STRONG uses fast-paced rhythms like EDM, hip-hop, and fusion genres like moombahton to rev you up and get you in a zone where you are fully focused on the moves instead of counting reps – because there are plenty of them.
Your mind is meant to switch off to allow the music to do the motivating, and Beto has really done his research there. In a 2012 study by Sheffield Hallam University, it appeared that moving in sync with music allows the body to use energy more efficiently.
Other research cited by Scientific American explains that music may distract people from pain and fatigue, elevate mood, increase endurance and even promote metabolic efficiency. We have no idea how many pushups, planks, punches and lunges we tallied in the end, but there was plenty of sweat on the floor as evidence that it was a jaw-dropping, calorie-torching amount.
The aches only came days later. The 45-minute session is typically divided into four parts – Ignite (warm-up and mobility work); Fire Up (heavy, no-rest cardio moves); Push Your Limits (essentially, it turns moves done in the previous section into combos, eg. a squat would become a side squat with punches; and Floorplay (yes, down on the floor core work).
Basically, if Zumba branched into boot camps, this is what you’d get. While a lot of the music genres in the exclusively remixed STRONG soundtrack weren’t particularly our personal preference, you could tell that Beto also spared no expense in curating the body-pushing playlists.
According to Google, apparently Grammy Award-winning super producer Timbaland was involved and the tracks were even reverse engineered to match every move. Fan or not, it didn’t take long for us to get swept up into a good groove (which is very annoyingly typical of any and every Zumba class) and to grind out yet more squats and burpees in time with the bass-heavy beats.
If there’s one thing the studio wasn’t lacking in it was atmosphere and energy – Zumba, no matter the style, just seems to have that effect on people. Students in the room had this strange gleam in their eyes that screamed something like: ‘Bring it on. Nothing is going to stop me from meeting my summer body deadline’.
Some ladies were whooping and clapping in between sets. And that’s the appeal of this class – you’re working as hard as you might in a normal Zumba class but making less of a fool of yourself trying to keep up with an incredibly-cut dancer on stage, and you’re benefitting from both a bit of fun as well as a good strength training burn.
We still don’t care much for Zumba but we’ll be the first to say it – this class puts your average HIIT circuit workout on the back burner because of how cleverly and seamlessly the gang has synced music to movement.
WHAT: STRONG By Zumba
WHERE: Tone Fitness, Co-op Society Bldg, Al Maqtaa (this gym is ladies only)
WHEN: Will return to running five days a week (Sundays – Thursdays) after Ramadan.
COST: Call ahead for package options
CONTACT: Phone 0503168999 or search Facebook: Tone Fitness – Abu Dhabi.