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Basic Zumba Moves

by 
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Basic Zumba Moves
Basic Zumba Moves Photo Credit: macniak/iStock/GettyImages

The dance moves in Zumba are inspired by some of the most expressive and lively dances from South America. Classic dance styles, like salsa, get a modern revamp with a fitness twist in Zumba routines.

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Your first Zumba dance class might be overwhelming in terms of complexity. 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 master Zumba.

Originally, Latin American dances were the inspiration for Zumba. Over time it has evolved to include dance moves from all over the world. Many of the basic moves are still inspired by Latin dance, so those are the basic moves you should learn first. Once you learn the steps that each style of dance is based off of, you'll have a foundation to build on when you take Zumba.

Read more: How Fast Can Zumba Whip You Into Shape?

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 fouth 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.

To step it up a level, you can do travel steps. Instead of taking one step to the side, you take four steps total. The lead leg goes first, then the back foot catches up to the lead. Take one more step with the lead and catch up with the hind foot one more time. Then, repeat that sequence in the opposite direction.

Basic Merengue Steps

Zumba uses the simplicity of the merengue steps to create a fast-paced series of steps. Start slow to master the basic steps before you pick things up.

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. Then, 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 right 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, then 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. Put it down, then step to the right and reach your left arm up.

Zumba can seem overwhelming at first, until you learn the basics.
Zumba can seem overwhelming at first, until you learn the basics. Photo Credit: LuckyBusiness/iStock/GettyImages

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 the front knee straight, then pick up the lead leg and bring it behind your right leg.

This time, 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.

Read more: The Best Zumba Exercise Videos

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 the knee straight and leaning your hips to the right.

As you sit into your right leg, lift your left heel off of the ground so that only your toes are touching, and bend your left knee. Then, put your left heel down onto the ground and lean into your left leg, raising your right heel and bending the 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.

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