Have you tried Les Mills Body Balance release 64 yet? What do you think?
Be warned – for the first time in 14 releases I am not giving this one a big thumbs up.
I’ve reviewed every release of Les Mills Body Balance from number 32 onwards. Up until now the only “dud”, in my opinion, was release 39. Since then I’ve almost become a stuck record in my praise of successive classes. Each one has eclipsed the last with its quality mix of music and moves.
Body Balance release 64 doesn’t continue this trend. I’m not saying that it’s a “dud” but it’s certainly the least impressive class in a long time.
Before I go into the reasons why let me just say that as an instructor I always deliver a motivational experience and I wouldn’t share my anything other than positive thoughts with the class.
I say this because there is a worrying trend within the so-called Les Mills “Tribe” at the moment. They only welcome positive opinions that tow the party line. They meet criticism with the suggestion that “It’s your fault. You’re not delivering the magic to your customers.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s have a look at the tracks.
Apart from being a little grumpy that I’ve had to buy this track for the third time, I like this Moby song. It’s up tempo and the exercises are immediately tough getting us warm fast. Using a “sword dance” theme is innovative and interesting. But like many tracks in release 64 it’s “bitty”. For such a short piece of music we change stance eight times. Multiple directions confuse participants however well cued by the instructor.
Tai Chi should flow. This doesn’t feel like it does.
Sun Salutations – BlackBird – Perception Free
After the tough shoulder workout in the last sun salutations with its multiple Crocodile poses, we experience a gentler sun salutation sequence this time. That’s fine after the warming effect of the Tai Chi.
Les Mills encourage Body Balance instructors to use few words and to let the music shine. Unfortunately this version of an old Beatles song is an insipid dirge that fails to enhance the exercise sequence or motivate us to complete it.
Standing Strength – Wonderwall – Pockets Skintight
Another dodgy cover version of a classic Oasis song which I’m not convinced has the right feel for a standing strength track.
I like the first sequence of poses as we flow from Triangle to Extended Warrior 2, building up to an Extended Lunge and finally take flight into Warrior 3. And challenges to our strength and balance come in the creative Wide Squat on Tip Toes sequence.
Then it’s as if the choreographers ran out of ideas or time. Repeating Warrior 2 (that’s what it says in the notes but on the DVD it looks more like a Sun Warrior to me) side to side feels tagged on and again, “bitty”.
Finally a stand out track. An epic feel to the music, a gorgeous flowing sequence from Tree, through Aeroplane and Star Pose, makes for a tough yet beautiful workout. Four repetitions of the sequence mean that we can fully explore these poses and grow stronger with each one. Who else gets a shiver down their spine as we “burst” into Star pose as the chorus crashes in?
Again though the last Star Poses feel as tagged on as the Warrior 2s did in the standing strength.
Hip Openers – Part 2 (On the Run) – Pistol of Zodiac
There are lots of rude words in this song because you can hear the spaces in the singing where Les Mills have “beeped” them out. They’ve even given us an instrumental version as an alternative to make sure we don’t offend those people offended by “beeped out rude words”.
The exercises certainly open the hips and I always love to teach and do Swan pose. But changing from Swan to Kneeling Lunge feels awkward. Perhaps it would be better to push back into Down Dog and then step through into a lunge.
We finish with Modified Half Lotus and Side Bends and if you have tight hips you will feel these moves. Ouch.
A tough abs track with a challenging Firefly Pose with Plank Pull Back gets the sweat pouring from my forehead on to the mat. I like this track but again people have said they find it too “bitty” and “busy”. There are multiple changes of position from lying prone, to plank, back to lying prone, to plank, lying on our sides and finally finishing in a hover.
Personally I don’t feel it’s the multiple changes that are a problem, but the speed with which we have to do them. Some participants are missing half the exercises because they can’t switch quick enough. I can cue the transitions early but that interrupts the flow as well.
A welcome return for the Side-Lying Scissor Legs move. The Pilates Swimmer Sequence burns our glutes. Amazing how such a slow move can have such an instant effect.
We finish with Bridge Pose with Leg Extensions which are among my favourite yoga poses. But I’m worried about the Full Back Bend with Leg Extension option. Advanced Yoga moves like this need careful coaching and there just isn’t time to do this safely. Very few people can do the move anyway – perhaps one or two in a class of thirty. Those that can do Full Back Bend look fantastic but they can “intimidate” the majority.
We finish the back track lying on our backs but this twist track starts in child’s pose necessitating another awkward transition. A very short and fiddly twist sequence set to a truly bizarre song.
It makes me laugh though because although the song’s called “Tennis Court” several of by participants don’t hear, “Let’s go down to the Tennis Court” they think its, “Let’s go down to Tesco’s.”
In my opinion this is the poorest twist track we have ever had.
I knew this great song would appear in Body Balance eventually. We revisit the Tai Chi moves and flow through some exquisite forward bends including the Wide Leg Forward Fold Twist providing a deep intense stretch.
Forward bends hamstrings – Bigs eyes – Butterfly Thread
The hard work in class comes to an end with this short second hamstrings track. All we have time for is a Forward Fold, a chest and shoulder stretch that feels weird in a seated position, happy baby pose and finally the beautiful Extended Butterfly Pose.
Relaxation / Meditation – Sacred Group/Breathing Space – Sacred Earth
Giving us a song to listen to in the relaxation phase is certainly different to the usual instrumental that we instructors can talk over. At first participants welcomed this change but after only a few classes they are asking me to miss it out. You can’t however skip to the second, more tradition instrumental section, because it’s all one track on the CD. So if the song has to go the beautiful haunting piece of music that follows has to go too unfortunately.
Body Balance release 64 is a mixed bag. Awkward transitions, or too many quick changes make it feel “bitty” and some of the songs this time are poorly chosen or bad cover versions. I guess that after 14 outstanding releases one that was less impressive was bound to come along eventually.
Here’s to hoping that number 65 starts another unbroken run of belters then.
Now it’s your turn: A less than positive review will always polarise opinion. Do you agree with my review of Les Mills Body Balance release 64? If you don’t let me know why? Please post a comment or leave a link to your own review.