Zumba, the Latin-based dance class that has people shaking their booties into better shape around the world, has added a new level to the Zumba fitness program: Zumba Toning. The toning classes use Zumba Toning Sticks to combine the high-energy aerobic flair of regular Zumba with strength training and body sculpting, creating a whole-new kind of dance-fitness party.
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Zumba Toning Sticks are made in 1-pound or 2 1/2-pound varieties. Filled with sand, the sticks are more fluid in movement than regular hand weights due to centrifugal force, allowing you to shake and rattle them, adding a musical component to your workout. Classes using Zumba Toning Sticks require a licensed Zumba Toning instructor to operate legally, but at the time of publication, you can purchase toning sticks from the Zumba Fitness website for $19.95 and create your own body-sculpting, aerobic-dance workout.
Free weights, which are weights that you can move in any direction — such as barbells, dumbbells or even Zumba Toning Sticks — are made for strength training. The principle of overload requires you to work out with weights heavy enough or for long enough that the last repetition is difficult to complete to obtain weightlifting's maximal benefits. Free weights work best when the movements are done slowly with intentional body placement, such as tucked hips and slightly bent knees. Free weights can be used during Zumba Toning if the sticks are all in use when you arrive to class, but do not shake free weights and do not use weights heavier than 3 pounds.
Zumba Toning Sticks provide the benefits of body sculpting, creating more toned muscles and a fitter appearance. Sticks also offer an element of flair to your aerobics routine with the maraca-like musical instrument built in to your resistance training. Because the sticks are so light, they do not interfere with your ability to dance and are suitable for all fitness levels. Free weights provide the benefit of overload, a variety of different weights and are "functional to everyday movements," according to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McKinley Health Center.
The main disadvantage to working out with Zumba Toning Sticks is their lack of variability. To allow your body to keep moving quickly while dancing, the weights must remain light, thus robbing you of the strength benefits only heavy weights can provide and the benefits of changing the amount of resistance often to provoke muscle confusion. Working with Zumba Toning Sticks also requires a great deal of timing and coordination, which benefits your brain, but may be too challenging for some participants to keep up in class. Free weights are at a disadvantage because they require a spotter or trainer during certain movements. Free weights also require knowledge of proper form to avoid injury and obtain the greatest physical benefits.
Working with Zumba Toning Sticks or free weights can be physically challenging. If you are unsure about a movement, speak to a personal trainer or fitness instructor. Always speak to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.