What is Involved in a Typical Zumba&Reg; Workout?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Zumba® is a type of aerobic workout that focuses on dance moves and interval training to provide heart-pounding exercise. This type of exercise class does not require any previous dance experience, though it certainly can be helpful. A typical Zumba® workout will involve a series of short dance steps that are repeated in time to up-tempo music.

A Zumba workout may incorporate hip hop dance moves.
A Zumba workout may incorporate hip hop dance moves.

Traditionally, a Zumba® workout uses Latin dance music and dance steps, but many teachers prefer to mix up styles and songs with international music, rock and pop classics, and even hip hop. Most classes begin with a few slower songs that are used to lead the class in warm-up stretches. This part of the class is very important, as proper stretching can prevent injury throughout the fast-paced workout. After the main section of the workout is completed, students may go through a similar stretching session to help cool down the body.

Zumba uses dance moves to provide an aerobic workout.
Zumba uses dance moves to provide an aerobic workout.

The majority of a Zumba® workout is comprised of watching the teacher and mimicking his or her steps. With each song, the teacher will perform a series of relatively simple dance steps that the students follow simultaneously. There are usually 3-5 series of steps per song, and they may be performed to align with certain parts of the song. The series are repeated over and over until the song ends. Once a new song begins, new steps are introduced.

Unlike a choreography class, Zumba® teachers do not stop the class to demonstrate the steps, then have the students repeat them. Instead, the students need to follow along as best they can, learning how to mimic the teacher's steps while he or she is performing them. One of the easiest ways to learn this type of mimicry is to focus on the footwork of the teacher first, being careful to move as he or she moves. Once a student is confident in the footwork, he or she can try adding the synchronized arm, hip, or head moves as well.

One of the best things about a Zumba® workout is that the fast pace prevents anyone from paying attention to what other students are doing. Students are generally so focused on following the teacher, they can't waste time worrying about their comparative skill. Zumba® teachers are notoriously enthusiastic, and many take it upon themselves to make classes as fun, silly, and extreme as possible. This makes this workout a great opportunity for stress and tension relief, as well as being a good place for people that want to work on having a positive self-image.

For people with health concerns, it is important to remember that a Zumba® workout is heavy aerobic exercise. Even workout fanatics can find themselves panting and needing a break after just a few songs. If dizziness or nausea occur, students shouldn't be afraid to take a break, get some water, and sit out a few songs. Completing a full Zumba® routine is something to be proud of, but it may take a few weeks of classes to reach that level.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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