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On Fire – Review of Les Mills Body Balance release 74

This workout is “On Fire”.

Intense enough so you can feel the stretches and the strengthening of your muscles to come away feeling you’ve worked hard. But not pushing into silly moves territory.

Readers of my recent Body Combat reviews will know I’ve not been keen on the past few releases. It seems the program directors have sucked out the fun and variety that makes Combat unique in the name of keeping up with fitness trends. Fortunately, the Balance choreographers haven’t felt the need to mercilessly tamper with a proven format.

And yet Body Balance release 74 still feels fresh, challenging, and according to the feedback from my participants, popular with people of all ages.

Let’s have a look at the tracks.

On Fire - Review of Les Mills Body Balance release 74

Tai Chi Warm Up – On Fire – Raleigh Ritchie

Much slower than tai chi warm ups of the past, this track benefits from the reduced tempo and lets you feel the moves deep in your muscles.

I’ve always been a fan of the arm circle move, and the bird’s tail inner thigh stretch, and it took a few tries to nail the slow pace. Sounds a bit daft to say a move is easy to do when it’s faster, but that’s the experience here. Never before have I felt such a deep connection to the exercises in a tai chi warm up.

The music is a little weird with some strange sucking popping noises that some people decided sounded like bodily functions. Once you get past that, the music fits the moves perfectly.

Sun Salutations – Stay – Kygo feat. Maty Noyes  

A powerful sun salutation routine with the added challenge of two sets of striking cobras during each sequence. A few weeks passed by before everyone could manage these without dropping to their knees. A great example of how people with different abilities can feel included and progress at their own pace.

Great music with an interesting synth melody, but for me it was the occasional drum role that powered the sequence along.

Standing Strength – Never Be Like You – Flume feat. Kai  

A long-standing strength track and perhaps the most switching between poses I’ve ever experienced in Body Balance. In just under 8 minutes we seldom hold any pose for more than 16 counts. It feels vibrant and fluid. Constant change. Constant movement.

By the time we reach the middle 8 in the music our quad muscles are screaming out for a break. We transition into the triangle and the strength focus turns to a stretch focus and we feel exquisite relief for a few seconds before the strength work starts again.

The last moments alternating between sun warrior pose and extended warrior showcase Body Balance at its most powerful.

Balance – 7 Years – Lukas Graham

A gorgeous 4 minutes of balancing with a perfect progression of poses. People find the track challenging despite its brevity. The wobbles set in and I catch people smiling as they try to avoid having to drop their foot to the floor.

And a gorgeous song. See how the lyrics “Once I was 7 years old…soon I’ll be 11 years old” progress with the poses. As the person in the song gets older we move through the balances.

Hip Openers – It’s Strange – Louis The Child feat K. Flay

A simple seated sequence of modified half lotuses and another synth oriented song. Feels good to be on the floor after the last three tracks and these stretches work.

Hip Openers – Bad Blood – NAO

A second hips track and we move into a kneeling quad stretch. This is too tough for many people even if they double up their mats so we modified this one to swan pose for those wanting an alternative.

An interesting burst of movement at the end as we lift up into downward dogs and lunges.

Core abs – Fast Car – Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

A familiar song starting with some deceptive abdominal exercises on our knees before the killer moves hit us in the chorus. We only perform 6 reps of the plank, knee elbow, 3 legged dog, knee elbow, plank sequence but your heart rate rockets and the sweat starts to drip.

The second half of the song is effectively simple bicycle crunches, but add those little double crunches in on the beat and your abs will quiver.

Short, sharp, hard and a hummable song.

Core Back – Lush Life – Zara Larsson

Have we ever seen so many bridge poses and variations in Body Balance before?Never.

Tough, challenging, your core is going to rebel by the end of this sequence. The 16 reps of the pulsing one-legged bridge is a game changer. They designed the full back bend in the middle to offer us a rest from the hard work but most people can’t do it and simply crumple back to the floor.

Great catchy Zara Larsson song too.

Core Back –  Lay It All On Me  – Rudimental feat. Ed Sheeran

” If you’re hurting. If you’re hurting,” goes the tune. You will be if you do these pointers and press ups you’re going to be sweating like a tap.

By the end of this track we’ve worked our core for just short of 13 minutes. A real core conditioning focus and one many people have noticed in the results they achieved.

Twists – Scars – James Bay

We need the gentle twists in the first half of this catchy song. Lying supine we regain our breath, stretch and allow the heart rate to return to resting beat.

For the second half, as the music beat gets louder, we move into the more challenging lunge twists. A traditional Body Balance twist track but carried by an awesome song.

Forward Bends and Hamstrings – Monday – Matt Corby

Some intense hamstring stretches to finish the workout. Pyramid pose it hard enough. Most people have to bend their knees a little.

But revolved triangle is a belting pose. One that allows us to flirt with the boundary between pleasure and pain. Always one of the most intense standing stretch poses, it’s good to see this back in Body Balance after a long break.

Relaxation/Meditation – Schein Und Widerschein – Deuter 

And a beautiful relaxation track featuring the sounds of nature before the music builds and wakes us up for the rest of the days ahead.

One of the places I teach at recently built a new studio with mood lighting. Put on the green tone and the sounds of nature in this music let you imagine you’re lying on a warm sunny hillside.

A perfect end to a solid, challenging, uplifting and all round satisfying Body Balance release.

Your turn:

What do you think of my review of Les Mills Body Balance release 74? Why not leave a comment below or share it on social media.

Watch it Burn – Review of Les Mills Body Combat release 69

It only lasted 2 weeks.

Dull uninspiring music, tedious repetitive moves.  A release sucked dry of any fun factor.

And before anyone rounds on me and says, “But you’re the instructor. You have to sell the release. You have to champion the release. If the participants don’t like the release it’s your fault, not Les Mills, ” let me say three things.

First, this is my blog and it’s my opinion and I can say what I bloody well like. My opinion is Body Combat release 69 is poor. Poorer than 68 and I thought 68 was poor too.

Second, and my participants will back me up on this, I always put 100% into my presentation and coaching whether I like a release or not. I’ve stuck up for the new format. But I can’t ignore what my participants tell me. 

Which brings us to the third thing.

I listen to my participants. They told me it was dull. They told me the music was uninspiring. They asked me to ditch release 69.

It only lasted two weeks.

Let’s have a look at the tracks.

Review of Les Mills Body Combat release 69

Upper body warmup – Everybody Stand Up – Bombs Away feat. Luciana

Track one should motivate and inspire. We need uplifting music. Something with lyrics to latch onto. Once again a Body Combat release opens up with a flat dubstep dirge.

What happened to the catchy lyrics from songs like “I knew you were trouble” (BC59), or “Blow me one last kiss” (BC58) or the hummable “Back in time” (BC55).

The punches, hooks and uppercuts are fine for an upper body warm up but the music is all important at the start and this one fails again.

Lower body warmup – Nuclear (Dillon Francis Remix) – Zomboy

The idea of trying different tempos of music in the same track is interesting and adds variety.

But again the music is a dull drum and bass. At times it’s hard to even catch the rhythm and match the moves to the music. It frustrates the participants.

Combat 1 – I’m Alive – Shinedown

A good solid rock track. This feels like Body Combat again. Strong combos attached to driving music. And some lyrics to turn into cues, “Save yourself.”

I felt something was missing from the chorus. We perform a roundhouse kick every 8 beats and nothing else. I guess the programme directors wanted up to focus on the power of the kick and that’s fine.

But could we not have added the roundhouse to the jab cross hook double knee combo we’d learned in the verse?

Power training 1 – Good Times – Sigma & Ella Eyre

Throughout Body Combat history in track 3 we’ve heard big pounding techno dance beats and sing along songs.

They warned us on the training for release 69 the dance was being replaced by a more “urban” sound. Good Times is a catchy song.

But it feels light weight. As a result, the music doesn’t carry the repetitive nature of the moves.

We’ve had tracks just as repetitive in the past but the pounding techno dance music carries the repetition. This music doesn’t.

 I like it. I found myself singing it during the day. But it was one of the first to go at the request of the participants.

Combat 2 – Say My Name (Dual Thieves Remix) – Peking Duck feat. Benjamin Joseph

The only song from release 69 still in my mix. It’s a hard leg conditioning track and whilst the music still falls into the dull category, it works better with the moves.

When it comes down to it all we do are lunges and kicks. But your butt and legs will be screaming at the end of it.

Power training 2 – Count On Me (Andy C Remix) – Chase & Status

Here’s the track with the so-called time trial. A new innovation for Body Combat. We perform the jab, upper, hook combination and build up the power and speed until we encourage the class to go off the beat and punch as fast and in whichever direction they want.

Great in theory. Some people just stop at that point with a confused, WTF look on their faces. Others wave their arms around like they’re trying to flag down a fleet of helicopters.

The music is another dull drum and bass dirge which doesn’t help with the intention of freestyle movement.

A complete waste of time and an opportunity.

Combat 3 – Wine Dem – Henry Fong

I’d like to meet the people who went out and bought this music (apart from instructors like me who had no choice).

The lyric sounds like, “What kind of wine is this?”

The music sounds like a terrified animal being waterboarded with wine.

I don’t mind the moves. Again the participants said it was too repetitive. We’ve had tracks that are more so. Another example of crap music being unable to carry the choreography.

Muay Thai – Testify – Steve Hill & Klubfiller

Not a bad Muay Thai track. Relentless moves but again the music is nothing but a drum and bass on repeat.

Give us a melody for goodness sake.

Power training 3 – Watch It Burn – Camo & Krooked feat. Ayah Marar

Like track 3 no more pounding dance anthems, here we have another urban song light on power. More cries of repetition from the participants.

As I write this review I realise more and more there’s nothing wrong with repetition if the music can carry it. This music can’t.

The lyric of the song, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” didn’t motivate the class. Rather it spoke their feelings about the release.

Conditioning – Bring ‘Em Out – T.I.

A tough kick ab track. It works and it hurts. Dull music. Again.

Cool down – Rise Up – Andra Day

Many people commented they liked the music in this track more than any of the others in release 69. It is haunting, almost beautiful. It cleanses us. A great finish to a disappointing release.

It only lasted 2 weeks.

What are the program directors doing to Body Combat? They say they are following fitness trends. Do current fitness trends say you can’t have fun anymore?

Body Combat was unique because it was different. The only workout that takes you out of the real world and puts you into a martial arts movie. Take away the fun, make it the same as GRIT and Body Attack and it loses its identity.

Without its unique identity, it’s easier for people to switch to another similar class.

I believe we’re going to see big changes to the Body Combat format in release 70. I hope Dan and Rachael bring back the fun and the elements that set Body Combat apart from other workouts.

Let’s put release 69 behind us. It only lasted 2 weeks after all.

Boom Boom – Track list for Les Mills Body Vive release 41

Here come some more spoilers so beware! Here’s the track list for Les Mills Body Vive release 41.

You’ll be working out to this in January 2017.

Look away now if you don’t want to know.

Track list for Les Mills Body Vive release 41

What Les Mills have to say about Body Vive 41: The music is always a highlight of every BODYVIVE 3.1 release, but word on the street is that this one is a winner! We train legs and control through weight transfer in Track 2 to the driving sound of Greyhound, then bring attention to speed with control in Salute.

Now it’s your turn:

What do you think of the track list for Les Mills Body Vive release 41? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

If you want more spoilers you can click on the links above to see the music on Amazon. They won’t be exactly the same mixes because Les Mills often edit the tracks, and some are Les Mills cover versions and not available commercially. But it will give you a good feel for what’s on its way.

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.