The Zumba phenomenon has taken the world by storm as parti- cipants shimmy, swivel their hips and get jiggy in the name of fitness.

The Latin-inspired dance workout may no longer be among the top 20 worldwide fitness trends, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2017 survey, but there is still a strong following for this carnival-like workout.

Now, hoping to ride on Zumba’s success, its creators have come up with a new exercise programme called Strong by Zumba, aimed at taking your cardio experience to the next level.

Launched in the United States last autumn, the workout hit our shores in November and is slowly inching its way in as more instruct-ors jump on the bandwagon to become certified in it.

The creators describe it as “combining high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with the science of Synced Music Motivation. In every class, music and moves sync in a way that pushes you past your perceived limits to reach your fitness goals faster.”

It’s a HIIT

So, it’s no longer about dancing – no more salsa-ing, merengue-ing or booty-shaking – instead, there are burpees, push-ups, lunges and high knee runs.

However, music remains a big factor in these classes.

In an interview published in Business Insider (Nordic edition) last year, CEO Alberto Perlman was quoted as saying, “Seventy percent of the Zumba class is music, and it’s been scientifically proven that the number one motivator in fitness is not a fitness tracker – music is the number one motivator.”

He felt that other fitness classes were lacking when it came to how the music synced up with the workout.

The more challenging programme is also intended to attract guys who do not like to dance.

The more challenging programme is also intended to attract guys who do not like to dance.

“Whenever we would take one of those HIIT classes – and we saw so many new HIIT classes come to the market – we would always feel a bit of frustration and a bit of a disconnect,” he said, as though “music was an afterthought” and it was simply a playlist of music set to cues for various exercises.

Perlman said that the company brought in an electronic music producer to create a song for a high-intensity routine, and when the routine was matched with the music, it was like one of the “training montages in movies”.

Their music producers have included Justin Timberlake and Timbaland.

According to Sunny Cheong, group fitness manager and Zumba head teacher at Celebrity Fitness, many people were initially confused when Strong by Zumba was unveiled.

“They all expected a dance class, but what it really is, is a music-led interval programme using your own body weight.

“All this while, the focus was on dance, but now the programme has been designed to follow a different trend to attract a different crowd,” says Cheong, who gave a preview of the class recently.

The cardio-based 45-minute class is divided into four quadrants: Ignite (warm-up moves such as jumping jacks, knee raises and leg swings, to raise your body temperature); Fire Up (punches and squats); Push The Limit (a combo of exercises such as burpees and lunges to ramp up the intensity) and On The Floor (a series of planks, moving planks, push ups and crunches on the mat to work on the abdominal muscles).

Each quadrant has three songs to get participants pumped up.

He explains, “We still use some Latin-type Zumba music, but the beat is different. Every movement has a beat.

“And every three months, new quadrants are released internationally so the students don’t get bored of the routine and music.”

Participants gritting their teeth as they go through a series of squats in this new workout by the creators of Zumba.

Participants gritting their teeth as they go through a series of squats in this new workout by the creators of Zumba.

Music to the movement

The Zumba team also claim their system of “reverse engineering” the music to match the movements (for example, electronic drum beats at the top of each squat) helps people achieve greater levels of endurance, distracting them from the pain and fatigue.

Unlike other HIIT routines that give you a few seconds of rest between exercises, here, you have a minute (or two) of rest between each quadrant to catch your breath and lower your heart rate.

“It’s a step up from Zumba, and overall, it gives you a better workout.

“In fitness, there are basically two kinds of crowd – one that loves to dance and one that doesn’t.

“Only five to 10 percent like to dance, so this new programme is intended to attract the male population who prefer a more challenging workout,” says Cheong.

However, all exercises come with some risk factors and Cheong cautions those with spine, knee and ankle injuries to recover first before attempting the class.

And if you’re a newbie to exercise, this class is not recommended for you – not yet, anyway. You have to build up your fitness level a bit first.

Cardio-based dance classes provide a fantastic workout, but incorporating strength and interval training adds even more benefits to your fitness routine.

Strong by Zumba is poised to have a wider appeal and looks set to take fitness to greater heights.