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Since You Asked…

I have received quite a few comments with questions recently about yoga and BodyPump. I thought it would be most beneficial if I answered them in a post in case others have similar questions.


I used to have definition from it [BodyPump] but since I’ve upped my weights it doesn’t seem to be giving me the results it used to in terms of aesthetic muscle definition. I’m not sure if lifting heavier is helping me, or whether it’s bulking up my legs in particular by going heavier with the weights.

I have been teaching BodyPump for three years and taking for around five. Over the course of five years, I have gradually increased my weights as my strength has improved. BodyPump focuses on high-repetition training. For example, in a squat track you might do 120 squats. In my opinion, when you’re doing that many reps the focus shouldn’t be on lifting the heaviest weight possible. I think it’s best to select a weight that feels challenging but doesn’t kill you. And your goal doesn’t always have to be going heavier. Just make sure you feel challenged and aren’t breezing through it. 

Would it be okay to ask how much you lift/weight selections for each track? And do you think that over time your body adapts to Body Pump? Finally (promise!) do you think that the reason your muscles are so long and lean are down to the combination of yoga and Pump, because I’ll be honset, most of the Pump instructors I know, and myself, seem to end up with shorter, bulkier muscles from it.

Warm Up – 10 pounds on each side
Squats – 20-22.5 pounds on each side
Chest – 15 pounds on each side
Back/Hamstrings – 15-17.5 pounds on each side
Triceps – 12.5 pounds on each side
Biceps – 10 pounds on each side
Lunges – 15 pounds on each side
Shoulders – 10 pounds on each side and 5 pound hand weight for everything else

So while I do lift decent weight, I don’t go crazy with it. I find the weight above to be challenging and give me muscle burnout by the end of each track. And about the yoga point…I do credit yoga with lengthening my muscles. If I were just running and doing BodyPump, the shape/appearance may be different. I think it’s important to add in stretching with strength training. Most of my class leaves during cool down stretching.

How often would you recommend as the optimum number of times in a week to do Body Pump? I’ve ranged from 3 to 6 over the years but currently do 4 classes a week.

Honestly, I think 2-3 strength training sessions per week (especially when they’re full-body) is appropriate for most women.


If I wanted to start practicing ashtanga, what would you recommend? Should i just start working my way through the primary series? how long do I hold each pose? 

Yes, just start at the beginning and work your way through. You hold each pose for 5 breaths and take a vinyasa between each (once you get to the seated poses after the standing series). I would recommend attending a led class (if possible) or watching a video when you first start out so you can get a feeling for the practice, the flow of it and how the poses should be performed. After that, it’s so easy to practice at home!

I’m wondering, before you had the series memorized, would you just have a cheat sheet with you? I’d like to start exploring ashtanga but find it just a little intimidating.

Ashtanga can be intimidating at first…especially if you go to a studio and it seems like everyone else knows what’s going on. I used a cheat sheet for months before I committed the series to memory! It takes time and patience to memorize the sequence but once you do it’s an amazing feeling to be able to lead yourself through practice. Just remember, ashtanga is a journey. I’ve been practicing it for a year and a half and I’m still working to perfect primary series.

Did you build that flexibility up from scratch in recent years or were you trained as a dancer/gymnast previously?

I competitively cheered for many years. That required flexibility and tumbling skills…all of which I completely lost after I quit cheering and started running. I came to yoga because my doctor told me my running injuries were a result of poor flexibility and muscle imbalances. Luckily, I’ve been able to regain most (but not all) of my flexibility but it has taken a ton of patience. I still cannot do splits due to my hamstrings!

You have a gorgeous practice. I was wondering, what was your starting point? I am asking because I can barely do wheel. Is there any hope?

See my answer to the question above. Yes, I used to tumble and do backbends and back handsprings but I had totally lost that when I started yoga. My wheels featured very bent elbows! Practice, practice, practice…it will come!

How did you get started with yoga? I am wanting to get started but I’m lost as to where to start…and not flexible at all!

This post includes the story of how I fell in love with yoga and my Y2 Yoga teacher bio also tells the story. You start by going to your first class. And knowing that every single person in the room (including the teacher) went through the “first class” at some point. You do not have to be flexible to practice yoga. You just have to have open your mind to new experiences and be excited about the journey.

I love your questions and comments! Keep ’em coming and I’ll do my best to answer them!


{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Lyn @ FueledBySalad November 21, 2011, 10:05 pm

    Thanks for all the information! I’m hoping to take up yoga (or pilates) some time in the near future, so this info’s really useful. (:

  • Bess @ Bess Be Fit November 21, 2011, 10:14 pm

    I’ve been meaning to ask you about what weights you use for BodyPump just out of curiosity! Glad someone else was wondering as well. You make me want to do more yoga!!

  • Cate November 21, 2011, 11:38 pm

    I’ve never tried body pump OR ashtanga yoga… but I’m going to look for some videos of the primary series because I really want to give it a try!

  • Jacqueline November 22, 2011, 4:22 am

    Great post once again, Jen. You’re doing great work in the world!

  • ~Jessica~ November 22, 2011, 6:40 am

    Thanks ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions – I feel terrible now for taking up an entire post almost by asking so many things!

    We actually lift very similar weights for Body Pump (and I’m super-impressed that you lift that amount while teaching!) – I only lift more for the leg tracks, particularly lunges, which makes sense I suppose given the distances I’ve been running. So I don’t think weight selection is the problem for me. I do stretch a lot, daily (I can’t believe people leave during the cool-down! In classes in the UK I don’t think you’re allowed to do that…) but when it comes to yoga I’m limited to DVDs – there are no ashtanga or bikram classes anywhere within a 100 mile radius – it’s so frustrating. I think the main culprit is my diet though – I just read a post over at One Fit Foodie that pointed out you can’t ‘out-train’ excessive eating and that’s probably what’s happening with me.

    I did suspect I was doing too many Pump classes though – thanks for reassuring me as I was worried about being lazy for cutting down to 3-4 classes a week.

    Ramble over – thanks again!


  • Laura November 22, 2011, 6:49 am

    Great post! My gym just started offering bodypump, and I am so intimidated by it! Hoping to try it soon.

  • Sarah November 22, 2011, 7:02 am

    Thank you!

  • Holly November 22, 2011, 8:01 am

    Nice follow up. I have yet to find a BodyPump class near me but I plan to keep looking. I’d be open to trying it, even if only once a week.

  • Gingrr November 22, 2011, 11:11 am

    Thanks so much for answering all of our questions! We love you!

  • Brooke @ sweats & sweets November 22, 2011, 11:37 am

    Loved this post! Within the next couple of weeks I have some races to do, but after those are finished I’m holding off on running and just focusing on yoga and I wasn’t fully sure where to start. I love Bikram yoga, but wasn’t feeling the peacefulness I was looking for. Thanks so much for answering these questions, its truly helped!

  • Heather @ girlyeverafter November 22, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am pretty new to BodyPump(less than 6 months) and have only increased my weight once or twice depending on the body part. I’m an active runner and do yoga at least once a week so it was great to know that incorporating yoga helped you lengthen.

  • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair November 22, 2011, 4:04 pm

    Awesome post! I wish there was a gym near me that offered body pump. I’m in Canada and haven’t heard as much about it up here? I know my local YMCA does not offer (they offer something called Rep Reebok though which I think is similar) but I think I would love body pump.

    I really appreciate your answers about yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga regularly (about 1-3 times a week) for about a year now. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my practice and it’s so true that yoga just takes practice and that’s WHY it’s called a practice. I’m still extremely inflexible due to my running but I’m working on it!

  • dana November 22, 2011, 9:54 pm

    Great post! I practice Bikram a few times a week and I really enjoy that it’s a series of specific postures repeated each practice. Some may find it daunting, but I love it! I wonder if I would enjoy Ashtanga as well…the Vinyasa ads a little flow to it too.

  • Meaghan@ChooseYourJourney November 23, 2011, 10:24 am

    This is great! I love taking led Ashtanga classes. I have a hard time practicing the series on my own. I give up,lose track of my breaths, etc. I also 100 percent agree with your comments about flexibility. I completed teacher training this year and people constantly tell me how they want to do it but they arent flexible enough or can’t hold poses for long enough. I tell them not to get discouraged. I was probably the least flexible person in my entire training class and even as a teacher I’m often one of the least flexible people in the room! It’s intimidating sometimes but you learn to get over it.

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