People all over the world love Zumba, a Latin music dance-cardio workout. Many of the moves are inspired by classic dance styles from Latin and South America, like salsa, samba and merengue.
Your first Zumba dance class might be a little overwhelming: The music is fast and the moves are even faster. However, if you break the dances down to their basic roots, you can start to nail some basic Zumba steps.
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What Is Zumba?
Originally, Zumba was inspired by Latin American dances. Over time it has evolved to include dance moves from all over the world.
Zumba "combines elements of salsa, samba, merengue, reggaeton and hip-hop with cardio exercise moves to create a fast-paced, heart-pumping workout," according to the workout brand's website. "Considering how many styles of dance are fused together in a single Zumba class, you might not [learn] all the choreography right away — and that's no problem."
Why Is Zumba a Good Workout for Beginners?
Zumba is an inclusive, welcoming workout anyone can try. "Zumba is designed to be an exercise technique for everybody and every body," according to the brand's website. "No matter your age, gender, dance experience or skill level, you can have fun participating in a Zumba class. Every Zumba session is structured to bring people together to get their sweat on."
You also don't need to invest in any special equipment, so if you decide it's not for you, you aren't out anything other than the cost of your first class.
Learn Some Basic Zumba Moves
Once you learn a few steps from each style of dance, you'll have a foundation to build on when you take Zumba classes.
Basic Salsa Steps
For salsa, start with the most basic step pattern. There are eight counts total:
- Take one step to the left with your left foot.
- Rock your weight back to the right foot.
- Step back to the center with your left foot.
- Pause for the fourth count.
- Step to the right with your right foot.
- Shift your weight onto the left foot.
- Bring your right foot back to center.
- Pause for the eighth count.
Alternatively, you can do these steps in a forward and backward direction.
Basic Merengue Steps
Zumba uses the simplicity of the merengue steps to create a fast-paced series of steps. Start slow to learn the basics before you pick up the speed.
- Stand tall with your feet close together.
- Shift your hips to the right and pick up your left foot, then stomp it on the ground.
- Shift your hips to the left and pick up your right foot, then stomp it.
- Find a rhythm with that step pattern, then try to move faster once you're comfortable.
You can add arm movements like a reach out to the side or overhead as you step.
Basic Reggaeton Steps
For this upbeat and modern style of dance, start with the leg movements first.
- Step out wide with your left foot.
- Bring your right foot in and tap it next to your left foot.
- As you tap your right foot, lean to the right so that you would fall if you didn't catch yourself.
- Step wide to the right with your right foot to catch your fall
- Step your left foot close to the right as you lean to the left.
- Keep alternating to the beat as you get comfortable with the big steps.
When you're comfortable, it's time to add the arm movements:
- When you step both feet to the left, raise your right arm up high.
- Lower your right arm, then step to the right and reach your left arm up.
Basic Cumbia Steps
This classic Latin dance style involves some fancy footwork.
- With your right foot planted, step your left foot forward.
- Keep your body tall and don't lean forward with your leg.
- Keep your front knee straight, then pick up your lead leg and bring it behind your right leg.
- Plant your left foot behind your body. Plant your toes, keeping the rest of the foot off of the ground.
- Twist your hips and bring your left foot to the front again.
- Keep stepping with your left foot only until you're comfortable with the motion, then try it with your left foot planted as you move your right foot.
Basic Samba Steps
Similar to merengue, this Brazilian dance has simple steps but becomes complicated quickly, as it moves fast.
- Start standing tall with your feet close together.
- Lean your weight into your right foot, keeping your knee straight and leaning your hips to the right.
- As you sit into your right leg, lift your left heel off the ground so only your toes are touching, and bend your left knee.
- Lower your left heel onto the ground and lean into your left leg, raising your right heel and bending your right knee.
The key to this dance step is in the hips. Move your hips in an exaggerated motion to the side that has the heel planted.
Beginner-Friendly Zumba Workouts
Ready to try your first class? Here's everything beginners need to know before signing up for Zumba.
You can search for in-person classes in your area on the official Zumba website, as well as live Zoom or on-demand virtual workouts. Don't forget to check your local gym or community center for beginner-friendly Zumba classes, too.