Everything you need to know about Les Mills workouts and how to get started
Talking all about my favorite group fitness brand, Les Mills, today.
Les Mills workouts are world class. Hands down. In fact, it was about 11 years ago that I first walked into a Les Mills group fitness class and my world changed forever, even if I didn’t know it at the time. I had never lifted weights before, I had never been a regular group fitness participant before, and I had certainly never had a workout routine that I liked — having merely just pounded the treadmill several days a week as a means to sweat — so sad. Fast forward to today, and I am certified to teach three different Les Mills programs (BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK and CXWORX), have attended multiple Les Mills trainings and workouts, I work in the fitness industry, I’m a NASM personal trainer, and I share my love for Les Mills far and wide whenever I get the chance. And it all started with Les Mills BODYPUMP.
Because I’ve written about Les Mills group fitness workouts for years on the blog, and I continue to get a lot of questions about the topic, and I wanted to do a full post with some information on the brand and the workouts. Let’s do it!
Everything you need to know about Les Mills workouts and how to get started
*While I’m a certified personal trainer and Les Mills instructor, these opinions are solely my own and are not to be used as prescriptive advice for you and your situation. It’s always best to seek the help of a personal trainer before you begin or make changes to your workout routine. Also, this post is not officially associated with Les Mills. It’s all me and my own thoughts from years of experience.
What is different about Les Mills workouts than other workouts?
The full experience, really. The music is amazing. The moves are choreographed to fit with the music, and the programs have a specific essence — so while you generally know what to expect, the moves and combinations continue to change to keep your body guessing during every workout.
Not only that, but the programs are safe. And they are based on research to get you the best results — with tons of professionals working behind the scenes to create everything seamlessly. And basically, there’s just something different about how the classes are laid out, and you will notice the quality from the second the music starts and the well-trained instructor begins coaching you.
What kind of programs does Les Mills offer?
The Les Mills programs include a little bit of everything, for basically anyone …
- BODYPUMP – Full-body resistance training with a barbell and weight plates
- BODYCOMBAT – Martial arts using bodyweight and no equipment
- BODYATTACK – High-energy sports conditioning using bodyweight and no equipment
- BODYSTEP – Aerobic and strength using a step and weight plates
- CXWORX – Functional core training using weight plates and a resistance band
- GRIT Series – High-intensity interval training, strength, cardio and plyometrics using various equipment
- BARRE – Ballet-inspired core strength using small weight plates
- SH’BAM – Welcoming party dance using bodyweight and no equipment
- BODYJAM – Super fun dance using bodyweight and no equipment
- BODYFLOW – Yoga, Tai Chi, mind/body using bodyweight and no equipment
- TONE – Strength, cardio and core combination for all levels using weights and a resistance band
- RPM – Cycling using an indoor bike
- SPRINT – High-intensity interval training on an indoor bike
- BORN TO MOVE – Youth
Where can you find Les Mills workout classes?
You can find Les Mills classes at gyms around the world that pay for the Les Mills license (I teach at 24 Hour Fitness, but many other gym chains have the programs too). Or you can access most of the programs via Les Mills On Demand (or Les Mills+) streaming service from your own home or on the go. This service is amazing and you can read my full thoughts in this post, “Review of Les Mills On Demand streaming workout service,” or just head to the site and start a free 30-day trial with my unique referral link. (This is a limited time offer and is such a great deal, so sign up today and share it with a friend too!)
Where does the name Les Mills come from?
Les Mills is actually a person, and the namesake of the New Zealand-based group fitness company. Les Mills was an Olympic athlete, and his children and grandchildren are still running the company today. Operations are mostly in New Zealand, with a U.S. office in Chicago too.
Who can do Les Mills workouts?
Literally anyone. When I look around at the members of my classes, you have people of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and abilities, and everyone works to their specific level. I mean it. There are options for everyone in most of the Les Mills classes, outside of a couple of the classes labeled high-intensity interval training, like GRIT Series and SPRINT.
Can you do Les Mills classes if you are pregnant?
Yes! I taught Les Mills BODYPUMP until I was 27 weeks pregnant, and then I continued to take the class as a participant until about 35 weeks pregnant. I wrote a full post on “How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant” with more information.
But basically, if you don’t have any complications and are already a regular exerciser, you are safe to do many Les Mills programs while pregnant. You should avoid CXWORX core training after the first trimester; you should avoid Les Mills GRIT Series and SPRINT and should probably avoid BODYCOMBAT as well, due to all punching and kicking, which may not be ideal when you have relaxin in your joints. You can do the dance programs, BARRE, BODYSTEP with no step (you don’t want to risk falling), BODYATTACK without the jumping, BODYPUMP, RPM and BODYFLOW without the twisting or prone positions.
You can do what feels right, leaving out the crunches, twisting, high impact and anything that feels like too much for you or anything that makes you strain your core. Just listen to your body and talk to a prenatal trainer if you can.
Can you do Les Mills workouts if you are postpartum?
Yes! But take it slow. I waited seven months or so after giving birth to take BODYATTACK, and while that may seem super extreme, I know it was the right decision for me. I didn’t want to do too much jumping or running, while I was still recovering internally. And now, I’m feeling better than ever and back to teaching the program too — it was worth the wait.
However, you can do all the cardio programs without too much jumping or core work (I would NOT do Les Mills GRIT Series or SPRINT for at least four months or more postpartum). And you can definitely do BODYFLOW and RPM. I returned to BODYPUMP maybe three months after giving birth, and I used very light weights and sometimes just bodyweight and built back up. I would NOT recommend going back to do full hour classes shortly after giving birth either. Start very small, with 20-30 minute Les Mill sessions maybe twice a week after you’ve passed the two-month postpartum period, and go very easy. Your insides are still healing.
And check out this post, “Five things no one tell you about postpartum exercise,” if you need more information on that topic. When in doubt, be cautious and conservative.
Which Les Mills classes are best for beginners?
I always think that BODYPUMP is a great place to start. If you are new to BODYPUMP and head to a gym to take the class, I highly recommend showing up early and talking to the instructor beforehand and letting them know you are new. You can even use an empty barbell or bodyweight your first time and leave after the first four tracks too. You’ll want to know how to squat and deadlift before heading in, so work on those two movement patterns using the hip hinge.
Other than BODYPUMP, RPM is a great place to start for cardio, because there is no impact, you are on a bike the whole time and there is absolutely no pressure to know what you are doing in a dark cycle room.
You can give BODYATTACK and BODYCOMBAT a try, but know that the combinations may be a bit confusing and you can take out all the impact and shoot for finishing the first half of class only. I would not try GRIT Series, BODYSTEP, SPRINT or BODYJAM to start, because these are a little bit too advanced with choreography or difficulty level.
I think it’s also great to try out some of the beginner basic Les Mills classes on Les Mills On Demand before heading into a gym, so you know some moves and have the foundation to build on. There are a lot of helpful tools on there to get you going safely.
How can you add Les Mills workouts to your week?
If you are currently already exercising but want to add Les Mills into your routine, I would suggest starting with one extra Les Mills class a week to replace one day of weight training or cardio. You can sub BODYPUMP or GRIT Strength for a weights day, or you can sub in BODYATTACK, SPRINT or GRIT Cardio for a cardio day. And if your week is already full with workouts, you could try doing BODYFLOW on your active recovery or rest day or adding CXWORX to the end of a cardio or weight training day, although you shouldn’t lift weights after CXWORX because your core is fatigued.
If you aren’t currently working out, I’d recommend starting with 30 minutes of BODYPUMP twice a week, with two days off in between, and also doing 30 minutes of cardio, via BODYCOMBAT or BODYATTACK. You would want to shoot for 3-4 sessions a week of no longer than 30 minutes for the first few weeks, then you can add on duration and sessions from there.
Sample beginner week
- Sunday: Rest
- Monday: 30 minutes of BODYPUMP (tracks 1-4)
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: 30 minutes of BODYCOMBAT or BODYATTACK with NO impact or jumping
- Thursday: 30 minutes of BODYPUMP
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: 30 minutes of BODYFLOW or CXWORX or BARRE
How can you become a Les Mills instructor?
This is how I got my start in the fitness world, as a side hobby when I was holding down a full-time public relations agency job. You can find the instructor trainings event calendar on the Les Mills website and sign up and attend. You have to pass the training, then submit a video of yourself teaching the program you trained on for a full pass. After that, you find a gym with a Les Mills license and audition for a teaching spot. You can read “How to become a group fitness instructor when you have a full-time job” for more information on that.
I would highly recommend taking a ton of Les Mills programs and classes before attending training. If you don’t have access to a Les Mills gym, you can do the classes via Les Mills+ (Plus formerly On Demand) too. (Try On Demand for 30 days for free using my referral link.)
One more thing, you can go through the process of training even if you don’t want to become an instructor. I actually know several people who have done this, and they learn more about the program they love and also learn some amazing ways to connect and lead. I’ve come away a better person in all areas of my life from every Les Mills training and workshop that I attend — (especially the Advanced Instructor Module 2, which was so hard and so valuable).
How do you stay certified with Les Mills as an instructor?
Les Mills goes to great lengths to come up with new moves, choreography and music for each of its programs every three months — so four times a year — and these are called “releases.” In fact, you can see how long a program has been around by the number release it is on. For instance, we just launched BODYPUMP 110 and BODYATTACK 105 in the San Francisco Bay Area in June 2019.
To remain certified by Les Mills and to be able to teach in a licensed facility, you have to be subscribed to “autoship” with Les Mills, meaning you pay for your quarterly release kits, which are delivered to you digitally (and you watch the continuing education and learn the release). Some gyms will pay for your release kits, but if not, they are only around $35 per program, per quarter, I believe, and they are totally worth it.
How can you get started taking Les Mills workouts?
Start today! Les Mills On Demand is such an amazing way to start experiencing the Les Mills difference — and you can do it with no gym equipment to get started as well (then, if you find that you stick with it, you can invest in a barbell, resistance band and yoga mat).
Les Mills On Demand offers more than 1,000 workouts and suggested workout schedules to fit all your needs, so you can follow a plan based on your goals and ability levels. Once you’ve got the feel for the workouts, you can find a gym with a Les Mills license near you, head in, make connections, be part of the community and get addicted like the rest of us. 🙂
That should do it for now! If you have any other questions about Les Mills group fitness or group fitness in general, please leave them below. Have an awesome day!
Other posts you may like
- Review of Les Mills Smart Tech equipment and Les Mills Smartbar (and a promo code)
- How to be a polite group fitness participant
- How to show appreciation to your favorite group fitness instructors
- 15 things you should know about working out when you’re pregnant
- What is BODYATTACK: BODYATTACK 101 overview and first-timer tips
- What is BODYPUMP: BODYPUMP 101 overview and first-timer tips
- What is CXWORX: CXWORX 101 overview and tips for first-timers
- Review of Les Mills Barre
- Review of Les Mills GRIT
- What I learned from taking time off from teaching group fitness
- How to learn Les Mills group fitness releases
- Five things no one tells you about postpartum exercise
- How to modify a BODYPUMP class when you’re pregnant
P.S. Don’t miss out on your chance to try Les Mills On Demand for free for 30 days using this link.
Questions of the day
How was your weekend?
What was your last workout?
Have you ever tried a Les Mills class?
What’s your favorite Les Mills workout?
I threw it back to BODYPUMP 87 for my solo workout this morning – forgot how hard that “Sweet Nothing” lunge track is!
BODYSTEP is still my all time favorite, but I have fallen hard for BODYATTACK from LMOD – it’s so much fun!
Lindsey, my friend! Sweet Nothing is one of my ALL-TIME favorite tracks. You are making me want to do that one — too bad I have to teach BODYPUMP 110 for the rest of this week hahaah. 🙂 SOOO glad you are enjoying BODYATTACK too!! Train to teach it??? 🙂
Hi Ashley. Very interesting article. I have had experience with Les Mills programs for years. Of course I have been doing RPM classes on regular basis. I did a month of Sprint classes for a month. It was muchote intense than RPM which I enjoyed but the extra cost wasn’t worth it with RPM . I did a few bodyflow classes. Those are extremely good for stretching. One thing I might add is age. I don’t consider myself a normal 77 year old senior bit have been in the gym most of my life so feel confident that I am physically able to participate in any class. I would advise a senior in rather good physical shape but new to the gym to go forward very cautiously.
Great advice, Richard! You are an inspiration! I’m so glad you tried out SPRINT — that’s interesting that it was an add-on at your gym. I would also say that everyone new to the classes should be cautious. Thanks, as always, for reading.
I’ve been taking Les Mills classes for years and I have to say I’m bored with them now 🙁 I feel like all the releases are basically the same thing but new music. And I hate how the music is covered! Biggest pet peeve! I also hit a plateau with body pump and never figured out how to go up in my weights. But after going to another gym that doesn’t use Les Mills I realize how challenging and high quality the Les Mills classes are. I did Les Mills on demand when I was PP and it was a great resource, but again, felt so repetitive and the cover music just kills me. You know what I mean? Any advice? I’ve been going back and forth about signing up at 24hr fitness…
Hi Alie — I totally get it! And yes, I know, I know — YES, there is a lot of repetition in BODYPUMP specifically, and you don’t want to do BODYPUMP more than 2-3 times a week anyhow, because that’s way too much. The good news is that there are a couple new moves that have been introduced in BP, more bodyweight and plate work as well, which keeps the body guessing. If you start to work on greater range of motion in squats and push-ups, you’ll see new results with BP too. I also find that doing GRIT Strength once a week instead of BP makes you perform better in BP (I don’t do this, but when I did, it worked hahh). Finally, I would say if you don’t overdo it with Les Mills classes, just a few a week, you don’t get sick of them. I guess I don’t mind the cover of the music, because I use covers for the barre classes I teach too. No workout is perfect, but if you find you enjoy Les Mills, and know the price is definitely right because they are included in a gym membership, it is a good deal. 🙂
Loving LMOD! Barre and BODYATTACK are my favorites so far. The dance ones are fun too once I stop feeling weird about dancing in front of the dog in our guest room hehe ?
hhahaha I LOVE Sh’bam and it puts me in the greatest mood — and you know the rules “always dance like no one is watching”!! 🙂
Such great information in this post! I know I am going to have to re-read some of this because it all seems so helpful. I have been doing mostly Pilates, but I have been looking for some strength training and I don’t have time/options for a gym with my work schedule. I think I might have to give Les Mills a try. I remember reading your original post about this (I think it was your PP workouts) and thinking it sounded like a good option, but I totally forgot about it until this post.
Also, thanks for giving a sample for beginners! It’s helpful to have an idea of where to start when there are so many programs available.
Hi Morgan! Yes, it can be totally hard to make it to the gym for the right class times, that’s why Les Mills On Demand is so helpful — I especially like the 30-minute workouts, which may be good for you before or after work. Hope you give it a go!! 🙂
How do you make your own schedule with all the workouts on les Mills on demand?
Hi Ashley, You could create your own calendar and plug in for each day, if you don’t want to follow the plans that they have listed. You could also have a group fitness instructor or trainer who knows you help you make an appropriate schedule. Maybe use Google calendar? Shoot for 4-5 workouts a week depending on your goals, and do a mix of resistance, cardio and flexibility. Does that help?? I’d recommend just using the ones LM created! 🙂
Thank you for the information!!
You are welcome, Jennifer! Happy working out! 🙂
Can you explain the numbering system to me?
Will any of the workouts expire and no longer be available? If so, is there a way to save favorites forever?
Are there real time classes with the trainers or are those only available through private gyms?
Thank you! I’m loving my LMOD!
Hi Sarah! The numbers for the workouts are called “releases” and that is the number of different workouts released for each program. BODYPUMP 100 is the 100th different version of BODYPUMP released by Les Mills. Instructors use this to keep track of the workouts, and it helps Les Mills On Demand users know how new a workout is. I believe Les Mills takes the super old releases off every quarter, and I don’t think you can save them. The Trainer Series is new, and those are only on Les Mills On Demand for a short time, and I actually haven’t tried them. Hope this helps! 🙂