Dirty – Review of Les Mills Body Combat release 68

A tough workout wouldn’t you agree?

Body Combat release 68 gets results. High calorie burn. Streams of sweat. Fatigued, trained muscles.

Definitely one of the hardest physical work outs in the history of the programme.

A pity then that 68 is dull, repetitive, and boring. Over reliant on one or too genres of “sick beats”. The programme directors have sacrificed the fun that used to be Body Combat’s signature, for the sake of the work out.

I’ve been tolerant and supportive of the new direction they’re taking Body Combat – the dumbing down of the combos in favour of repetitive moves, the floor work, the removal of Katas, the removal of “fun” tracks.

But this is a step too far. And in my opinion (and it’s just that – my blog, my opinion) this might be the worst release ever. Only a couple of tracks rescue it from that accolade.

Let’s have a look at it track by track.

Review of Les Mills Body Combat release 68

Upper body warm up – Freak – Steve Aoki, Diplo & Deorro (feat. Steve Bays)

The start of the work out should be powerful and uplifting. Perhaps a tune you can sing along to. Something to motivate you for the 10 tracks that follow.

Freak is a dull, uninspiring, monotonous dubstep dirge with nothing to grab on to lyrically. A good range of punches get you warm but they’re buried by the awful music.

Lower body warmup – Break The Rules – Anonymous Hotel

More like it.

A tune you can sing along to. Words we instructors can latch on to and turn them into motivational cues. “I don’t want to go to school. I just want to break the rules.” Still “sick beats”, which is the musical theme of the class, this one is much more powerful than the woeful first track. If they’d swapped these tracks round things would have started better.

We hit the floor in the warm up once again for some press ups and planks. I imagine this is a permanent feature of Body Combat now.

Combat 1 – Push – Kronic / East Movement / Savage

Seventy odd repeated jump kicks with a few lunges chucked in to relieve the monotony. Set once again to a truly “sick beat”. And I use the word sick as it’s meant to be used, and not as a hip alternative to “awesome”.

Dull. Repetitive. Boring. And people have injured themselves trying to do so many jump kicks so early in the workout. Yes there are low options, but it’s still too much too soon even for the seasoned veterans.

In 14 years of teaching Body Combat I’ve never removed a track so quickly. I mixed this track out, at the request of my participants, after only two weeks.

The low point of this release.

Power training 1 – On My Way – Jupiter Soliloquy

A more traditional Body Combat track. Pounding beat with a melody you can hum or sing. A simple combo that lifts the heart rate.

Combat 2 – My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)- 2 Chainz

Karate blocks and roundhouse kicks. I like the build up of the side kicks. First one. Then two in a row and finally three. Tough on the legs. A good work out for the glutes . Back on the floor for tricep press ups and planks.

A good all round track.

Power training 2 – Dirty (Metrik Remix) – Dirtyphonics

A return to dubstep beats, this one is catchy and the “Move Dirty. Dance Dirty. Talk Dirty,” lyric demands the addition of “Fight Dirty.”

This one works. Fast hooks and jabs.

But what about those jumping squats at the end? A bit of High Impact Interval Training tagged to the end of the track because Les Mills are paranoid that they’ll face an exodus from Body Combat to HIIT programmes like Insanity and Metafit.

Body Combat used to be a unique format. Why make it similar to GRIT and Body Attack? Won’t that increase the risk of people thinking it’s interchangeable and not unique?

Combat 3 – She Got It (Club Mix)- Vandalism & Angger Dimas

Not quite as dull as track two. But if dull had a scale of one to 10. Track 2 would score an impressive 10. “She Got It” would come in close second at eight or nine.

So that means it’s still dull. And once again the music doesn’t help to lift the moves.

Twice before Dan and Rachael used this kick combination (side kick, front kick and back kick), Shut Up and Drive in release 34 and Let Me Entertain You in release 41. Both previous incarnations were boring too. This wasn’t third time lucky. Best consign this combo to the bin in future.

Muay Thai – The United Vibe – Scooter

And then release 68 explodes. Becomes Body Combat again. Sets the roof on fire.

The programme’s most prolific artist rescues the release and blasts us back into orbit. It’s repetitive for sure, but here’s a perfect example of how an awesome piece of music can motivate you through repetition.

We first saw this track in release 35 and it’s welcome back any time.

On the quarterly workshop for 68, the trainer shouted at us somewhere around track 4, “What’s the matter Scotland? You guys are usually so mental. So loud. So mad! What’s wrong?”

When the sound of “The United Vibe” almost blew the speakers the trainer finally heard the Scottish response she’d been looking for. That says a lot about this release.

Power training 3 – Out Of My Hands – Olympic Daydream

If Scooter’s Muay Thai track is an example of music masking repetition, this track eight is an example of a piece of music that can’t.

More endless and samey moves. 128 jabs is undoubtedly a great work out for the shoulders. But it’s also deadly tedious.

And there’s something just wrong with this music. The beat feels off. The melody, such that it is, is so far back in the mix as to be inaudible. The vocal sounds discordant. It reminds me of some 1970s prog rock where the drum beat is in one time signature and the melody is in another.

A poor track 8.

Conditioning – Turn Down For What – DJ Snake & Lil Jon

Great core conditioning. I like the side crunches. They work. They get results. More “sick beats” though, adding to the lack of variety of this music selection.

Cool down – I See Fire – Sol3 Mio

Wow. A cinematic, epic finale. A powerful cool down with a New Zealand Haka feel. Gorgeous.

So not the best Body Combat release.

I wonder.

Is the dumbing down of the moves and the increased repetition because Les Mills are also using these releases for their virtual and on demand classes now? Are they compensating for a lack of “Live Instructor” in the virtual classes?

The lack of variety in music underlines the repetitive nature of the release rather than helping to motivate you through it.

Dan and Rachael have succeeded in increasing the intensity of the Body Combat workout. I understand there is more to come. I truly hope they don’t lose the fun and the variety and the unique feel that previously set Body Combat apart from other exercises classes.

Now it’s your turn:

I fully expect many of you to disagree with my review of Les Mills Body Combat release I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

11 thoughts on “Dirty – Review of Les Mills Body Combat release 68

    1. I agree. Track 6 is the worst ever. And I do not like the “new” releases. They are too simple and dull. BC has been the love of my life for the last 14 years, not anymore. Good workout, but there’s no passion whatsoever. And that is so sad!

  1. Let me start by saying I am the “Freak” participant/instructor no one wants to acknowledge exists … meaning I know I am expressing a minority opinion from the get-go and never have been or will ever be a promoted poster child for the program or musical taste. I am not known for my hardcore “love the burn,” “push it to the max” (even if my heartrate monitor says I do), “die for results,” dominating personality.

    I don’t do techno, dubstep, or EDM (and don’t recognize many of the other genres listed) anywhere except during my combat workouts at the gym. I am, however, probably doing more to fight globesity (in a statistically very obese and vulnerable demographic and part of my country) than the big city superstars coaching the supermodel type millennial (cross)fit freaks the program is targeting.

    I fell in love with the program overseas many years ago when it was delivered as primarily sweaty fun with at least some fitness/martial arts street cred. I rank a solid “I” in the DISC profile system and have no aspirations of becoming Dan/Andres/Les Mills Jr, even if I truly admire their fitness, discipline, dedication, passion, and results and know that there are some people out there who do. I am, when it comes down to it, an egghead high school teacher who dons my Combat alter ego for 2-3 hours a week, and am never going to convince anyone that I could step into any fighting space and come out conscious (though at least PM Justin Trudeau taught me that looks can be deceiving … sometimes it’s the number of hits you can take, not deliver, that matters).

    I’ll also be honest, I’ve been taking hits left and right since the transition to the new program era. Dropping numbers (loss of regulars without pickup in newbies), a gym demographic of older, bigger, often physically illiterate and inexperienced participants, increased competition with On demand virtual workouts featuring presenters with skills and charisma I will never possess because of age and time constraints (this is not my day job, nor could it ever grow to be where I live). I’m trying to sell music that isn’t native to the participants who show up (or, even, if I’m honest, to the younger adults who request and DJ music at the school dances I chaperone at) … but I will acknowledge that I live in a cultural “backwater” by global standards.

    Every time I do one of the old era workouts with peppy, pop-py warmups and more varied combos, I practically cry with nostalgia and longing … which is why earlier this year, I swore off ever doing so again (seriously). When the local LMI distributor had a “fire sale” to sell off all its remaining old DVDs at ridiculously low cost, I didn’t buy a single additional one. Why? Because those days are over. That is not the direction or intention of the new era workouts. To continue to falsely advertise the program to participants with material that will never see the light of day again in new releases is dishonest and working against the PD’s vision, even if my immature “millenial heart” (stuck in an older body) would love to let out a millennial whoop during a new era combat class to the current pop songs being played at the local high school dances (but only BodyPump seems to have the pull to license). Old Era BodyCombat is the Ex who dumped me for some younger, sexier, cooler chick with the hot body 😛 So now, it’s time to let go of that old relationship, burn or delete the photos and love letters, and either kiss and makeup with the new boy in town or move on.

    Let’s be honest He’s aggressive and more dominant/masculine. He doesn’t have an authentically cinematic or joyous heart. He hates cheese (sometimes it feels like he’s a little insecure, to be honest) even if the demographic he says he’s interested in is laughing at Kung Fury on Netflix on the weekends. He’s decidedly less multidimensional – forget the dates with sushi, or Indian, or Thai food – this is a meat and potatoes every night kind of guy, with protein smoothies in the morning for breakfast before a chemically stimulating pre-workout to power through another board-breaking martial arts drill session. He *will* judge you if he sees you having a novelty drink at Starbucks or Ice Cream/Donut after class or on the weekend to celebrate the win or treat your children, because he’s in the middle of his 21 day “eat clean” cleanse. That doesn’t mean he’s not loveable, but I’ve decided it’s healthier for me to quit trying to change him to be more like the guy I fell in love with, and either accept him as is or move on to make space for the folks who actually do love this stuff. If Les Mills wants to win the “already fit” market share (who always want to go harder, faster, sorer, and seem more likely to move on to GRIT or Crossfit than stay with BodyCombat long term) instead of creating new market share, so be it. When Rach says “If you want to get cut, you’re going to have to bleed a little,” she’s talking to those people, not my participants who are suicidal or are wearing long sleeves and wrist bands to hide the (non-suicidal) self-harm they do to endure a lifetime of hearing too much of this perfectionist, end-result-at-any-cost attitude.

    Which brings me to release 68. This is the first release for my “basic”, formulaic, non-standard personality that actually made some kind of sense and had a first-listening/viewing appeal.

    Track 1a is an artist (if not a song) that younger people I know listen to, and is consistent with new era expectations/flavour … ie. if you don’t like this song, you’re not likely going to enjoy Combat music in general, these days. Physically it gets the job done for the upper body.

    Track 1b is the bone they threw to the old school instructors and participants who like tunes with words we can actually hook in to and remember/request once this release period is over. Once again, it covers all the basics physically.

    Track 2 is North American flavour – the music goes over well here, even if I realize it’s not really standard in Europe. It’s physically repetitive and very few of my participants take the actual jumpkick option (most are step kicking or staring slack-jawed) but it does drive the heart rate and sweat/mouth breathing up early on.

    Track 3 – a song that’s melodic/catchy enough that it doesn’t need Rach delivering it to make me like it. It’s the right challenge level for this point in the workout for any of my new participants – they feel successful and usually get it all by the end – choreo works well with recognizable musical transitions/themes.

    Track 4 – Fallout Boy. Enough said (musically, for Les Mills and people this side of the Atlantic). The fact that it’s got good, progressive, badassy choreo also helps.

    Track 5: Choreographically boring, and barely rescued musically by the tune … for me the track is saved by the spectator chanting going on … “Dirty! Dirty!” (this is the time for me to crank the stereo volume and focus on performance/theatrics). Still, despite my “move/turn the body” coaching, most of my new participants ask for help or express frustration with trying to get the necessary speed.

    Track 6 – not a fan of the music or the unvarying combo per se, but the repeated musical delivery of “she got it” is something my younger female participants seem to enjoy/hook on to. For me, this is another track that is saved in the video/my first impression by the fact that Rach is delivering it, firing abs exposed, with lots of enjoyable performance banter.

    Track 7: Hallelujah! My new beau has noticed my wandering eye and nostalgic heart and has decided to do his best old school impression of my ex. I hope I’m being unbiased when I say that everyone seems to enjoy this track, whether they’re new or old school.

    Track 8: Choreographically boring, but no argument that it is physically effective work for the arms/shoulders. That said, very few, if any, of my participants actually hang on for the whole thing/128 jabs, even regulars who went to every class in the one month release period. Come to think of it though, neither did Rach 😛 I’ve just come to accept, that like the pushups, I’m doing it to be a role model, not an instructor. It’s their “stand and gawk at Kate Slee” moment. Musically, it does have that “celebrate the victory of making it this far/last push” flavour and I use it to congratulate particpants, quote Ali, and bathe in my own moment of relative enjoyment/relief that I’ve taken another one home.

    Track 9: Great workout, good song. This is one of the more overall effective ab workouts we’ve done in a while with lots of options for everyone.

    Track 10: My love/hate track. I personally LOVE it. Every little thing about it. I have the version with the chanting, so the haka aspect feels natural. It makes me think of the global culture/connection of Les Mills and the place it comes from. It makes me think of that viral wedding haka video (if that doesn’t make you first stare dumbfounded and then mist up with emotion with the bride, and the beauty of the message translated in the subtitles, you’re not human 😛 ). It makes me think (I’ll be honest) of my beloved Ex and the “Lord of the Rings” tracks and cooldowns in those older releases. I’ve gotten my regular participants to “buy in” (even if they’re still skipping pushups and plyo jumps) and they all do the dramatic “flourishes” with me (even if they think it’s weird or don’t understand why).

    I’m not saying 68 is a release that will fly and land well everywhere, but it’s a release that’s given me just enough badassery and melodic/memorable musical relief to cover the simplified choreo (which can get really boring as an instructor, even though it theoretically gives me more time to coach technique … which still doesn’t seem to be landing/heard with and by my participants, regardless) and make me hold out just a little longer with this new guy for cupid’s arrow to strike/sink in. It’s a release that will be a go-back/burned to CD as emergency disc at the club when my mp3 player dies.

    I’ve previewed 69 at Les Mills Live and know it’s effective if not infectious, but there did seem to be hints from Dan that maybe 70 will bring something more/new/different. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hold on a little longer (and use the time to investigate, practice and maybe certify in some new formats that engage my heart and wandering eye). If only I could dance …. If I could repay the program with one gift I’ve learned from teaching young people, it’s that, in the end, feeling (emotion/care/love/affection) trumps facts with this generation. People don’t remember and re-read great works of literature for the superb grammar/punctuation , they remember and love it for the emotional journey it took them on and the very human lessons/experiences it taught them (the fact that they become more literate and intuitively punctuate better is just a welcome side effect). There needs to be trust built for people to buy in to the message/technique/lesson you’re trying to sell. People want their program to immerse them in and reflect who they are and aspire to be. Program 68 did that for me (thank goodness!) in as much as any new era release has. Here’s hoping it’s not the last.

    1. I love the new releases. It’s BodyCombat not body shuffle pretend to fight. The old ones are just so dancy compared to these. Repetitive yes but tough and get the job done without the cheese.

  2. I agree with a lot of Roger’s comments on 68, especially track 2 being mixed out pretty quickly to be seen never again I think.

    Yes, jump squats at the end of power 2 track seemed out of place and a gesture towards the HIIT brigade (some people choose to grab a drink at this point and wait for the next track). Track 6, although I find it terribly boring, proved a hit with a set of my participants that loved to “Kiahhh!” on each of the 3 kicks (I think they weren’t around when we did Shut up and Drive), so perhaps the music is somewhat motivational for some people.

    Yes, United Vibe arouses the motivation in the room and it’s a good MT track, in contrast with most of the other tunes in this release so Roger, I think you’re spot on.
    Track 8 I found mundane and so did the participants with all those same jabs…zzzzz

    Agree about track 9, it’s brilliant and I felt stronger doing this track 6 times a week! Same for the cooldown, how atmospheric and flowy, loved it!

    I think it’s a shame BC has become less fun (it really has) to perhaps adapt easily to On Demand, and has become more like a business product. A lot of the spontaneity from the earlier years has gone and yes, repetition now plays a big part with the need to be innovative and keep up with other trends. My participants crave tracks to which they can sing along and lose themselves in the workout, music being a MAJOR part of their class experience so it’s a shame that we’re awash with nondescript “sick beats”!

    I fear my passion for the programme is probably based more on nostalgia, knowing I can pull out previous tracks before too long and keep the crowds happy but this isn’t right! We spend and invest so much time learning a release/going to workshops/team teaching and to mix out after only 2 weeks is ridiculous. I’m trying to Stay with the Fight as hard as I can.

    Great review Roger.

  3. I’m totally with you here. For about 5 years I was doing combat four times a week and just couldn’t get enough of it. Over the last 18 months I’ve been doing fewer and fewer combat classes, switching to attack where I can. I always found attack too high impact, but now combat has the more high impact stuff too I feel I might as well do attack (with low options) where the music is fun and I can lose myself in it, unlike the mainly awful music that we have to endure in combat now. I can deal with repetition in the moves up to a point if the music’s good, but the boring moves and music are just too much. I’ve only done 68 once but I can say that without doubt it was the worst release I’ve ever done. I’ve not been back to combat since and if things keep on this way I’ll only be going to classes when the instructor’s mixing back to old releases. I know I’m not the only one at my gym to feel this way.

  4. I agree with much that has been said about the boring repetitive moves and music. I am one of those die hard who’s been doing combat for years but now I don’t look forward to the the new releases any more I just wait until we can mix the old favourites back in. The fun and singalongs have disappeared- I go to combat for a fun workout with fitness thrown in, but it’s becoming more of a chore when there’s a new release, something I thought I would never say. Interesting comments about the influence of on demand – hadn’t thought of that, but I’m willing to bet it’s true. I don’t want a hardcore workout I want to sing kick punch and laugh my way to fitness.

  5. Ever since the floor work started, I feel like Body Combat is becoming a side show to Attack. Unfortunately. It is now following more of an attack format. It is going to be more difficult to mix tracks now with them shifting jump kicks all over the place. And as much as I love The United Vibe, I really don’t like it when they bring back old songs in new track numbers and with different choreography. They did it some 3 times with Don’t Need (T7,5 and 6!). Duplicates of Set You Free, Action and so many more. Very disappointing. Still, I do the new release and go back to the better releases once we can mix and match.

  6. Track 2 actually came back in my gym after mix out. I wasn’t sad to see it again, either. Sometimes when the tracks feel super repetitive, I wonder if some aspect of it has been edited out in the gym class presentation. This is something I do notice when I watch some videos online – some of the impact gets taken out in our classes maybe to make the class easier, but then it just feels like you’re doing 80 of an identical move even though there was initially more.

    This release has one of my favorite lower body warm up tracks. I don’t mind the lower body being the more fun of the two, because sometimes I’m doing BodyCombat first thing in the morning, or after a very very challenging day. I’m not necessarily 100% wide awake when the first beat drops, so I just kinda go through the motions. Once that lower body beat hits, WHAT! Wake up and have some fun!! Thinking of the reverse, for example, with “Freedom” as upper body warm up, I really love that track, but then the lower body one is kind of “meh” and so I just sort of fall back down after being hyped up by the upper body track.

    Anyway, to be perfectly honest, I like it all and so I often can’t be used as a gauge for what’s working and what’s not. I can usually enjoy it either way

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