STRONG by Zumba: A Journey

I have always been passionate about teaching my classes, but STRONG by Zumba has taken that passion to a whole new level. It is revolutionary and so refreshing; it incorporates HIIT based moves synced to music that helps to drive each move. The master trainer, (and my fitness idol) Ai Lee Syarief is a driving force in the success of the class. She not only demonstrates fantastic technique, but leads with energy and finesse. She is truly an inspiration to all instructors out there.

I will always remember the first time I ever took part in a STRONG by Zumba class and how fantastic I felt after completing it. I remember thinking after the hour long session, ‘I’ve finally found the class that was made for me’. It had everything – combat moves, varied exercises, fantastic music and high intensity. One of the UK’s master trainers, Natalie Constanti led the training; like Syarief, her technique was an absolute inspiration to me. I went away from the day feeling so energized, ready to learn all of the first quadrants that were given to me and excited to bring this new class to the YMCA gym.

STRONG can be taught via two different formats. Either a 45 minute class consisting of three quadrants or a 60 minute class consisting of four quadrants. What are quadrants I hear you ask? Quadrants are the driving force of intensity in a STRONG by Zumba class. Quadrant one, named ignite, initially extends the warm up, incorporating more lower impact/toning moves whilst standing and on the floor (such as plank holds for example). Quadrant two, named fire up, then raises the intensity completely, including more plyometric exercises. Quadrant three, push your limits, combines exercises to make them much more complex but lowers the intensity slightly, and then Quadrant four, floorplay, focuses on mat work, mainly core and upper body exercises.

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There is an element of fierceness to this class that I haven’t experienced before. It forces me to lead it with such attack and purpose and it feels so lifting to see people’s faces each time they experience a new move or routine. Despite the hours of practice outside of work, I feel so energized by the class, not only for my own fitness in practicing the routines, but especially for those that attend the class. I get to provide them with something new and fun every single week.

The newest routines are always getting tougher. In the latest new release of a Quadrant 5 routine, parts involve press ups progressing through to plank jacks and then adding in various speedy boxing combinations to get the core working also. As always, I practice these whilst at home, on my ever malting rug, training myself to land softly with squat jumps or burpees so as not to disturb the apartment below. Depending on your strengths in fitness, some quadrants are more difficult than others – I am finding, because of my natural lean towards HIIT training, I am relishing the more difficult plyometric type quadrants whereas Quadrant 4 relies more on upper body strength which I have really started to focus on both as an instructor and for my own goals for the last two years or so. Admittedly, my strengths do not lie in this area and I really have to work at getting stronger. Yes, despite what some class goers might think, I am far from a machine! But as always, the end target is to be the best that I can be and push myself to that next level. This I carry forward into the class for my participants.

STRONG by Zumba is becoming bigger and better by the day with Steve Aoki now becoming involved with working on new tracks for each Quadrant. Originally Timbaland started working on the tracks and showed that STRONG was a force to reckoned with. In the UK alone, thousands of people have attended the training dates, including myself, to become an instructor. These are led by the UK master trainer Natalie Constanti who is leading a masterclass on Saturday 25th November in Nottingham.

STRONG by Zumba classes take place at the YMCA gym on Tuesdays at 12.15pm – 1pm and Thursdays 5.30pm – 6.30pm.
I also teach elements of the class every other Wednesday at 5.30pm – 6.15pm in the Zumba class shared with Maria.

By Emma Sleight, Duty Manager and Fitness Instructor

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