July 4, 2011

CHINA: Fat takes a pounding in latest fitness fad

SHANGHAI, China / The Shanghai Daily / Feature / July 4, 2011

THE latest exercise craze involves fitness fanatics picking up drumsticks and beating their way to a better body in time with music. Shaya Tayefe Mohajer finds out more about the origins and rise of the rhythmic regime.

Move over, pole-dancing, kettlebells and Zumba. Drumstick-smashing is the latest rage to hit the Hollywood exercise circuit, offering a workout similar to Pilates or boot camp, but without the serenity of a yoga studio or the bark of a drill instructor.

AP Photo

The group fitness class, called Pound, was devised by Cristina Peerenboom, 25, and Kirsten Potenza, 26, who promote it as a fun and energetic alternative to the usual sweat-inducing routines.

Using weighted drumsticks or wooden ones provided in the class, members smack the ground repeatedly to a fast-paced soundtrack of hip-hop and rock songs. Once participants are panting, Peerenboom complements their vigor and makes occasional lewd jokes.

The two fit, bubbly instructors say they came up with the idea last year at a party attended by rock royalty in the Hollywood Hills. Matt Sorum, former drummer for the rock group Guns N' Roses, had just wrapped up a set on the drums at the rowdy party when the women took to the kit.

"We were drumming without a drum stool to accompany the kit and we were squatting over it and realized that the movement of the arms was acting to throw the entire body off and in order to counteract that, we were having to squeeze our core muscles," Peerenboom says.

From there, Peerenboom's background as a dancer and choreographer helped piece together a sequence of drumming movements that take the body through a broad range of motion.

A typical progression could have drummers standing with legs spread, before moving their torsos in a wide arc, bending to pound the ground next to one foot, standing to smack the sticks together overhead to the beat and then bending to pummel the ground next to the other foot, pivoting back and forth.

Another move focuses on abs and back muscles, with pounders sitting on the ground with legs raised, leaning back to form their bodies in a V-shape. They drum the floor alongside their bodies in a move similar to a core Pilates exercise, which requires people to hold the position while swatting their hands up and down 100 times.

American College of Sports Medicine spokesman Mike Bracko praised the Pound fitness model, saying "anytime you add music, especially if it's uptempo music, people just have a tendency to go with the beat of the music" and work harder than they might without it.

"Bilateral movements like drumming, with left hand up while right hand is down, in a boat or a lunge position would certainly challenge the core muscles," he adds.

After holding classes at a few private studios in January, Pound classes started up at Crunch Fitness in West Hollywood in March. The gym's new offerings are frequently rolled out to members interested in keeping up with the latest trends in exercise.

Every few months, the chain updates or replaces yesteryear's fitness fads, from the spandex-wearing aerobics of Olivia Newton-John to kickboxing classes, with fresh offerings like Afro-Brazilian dance, striptease classes and Skatergie, a workout that mimics movements in ice skating. Dozens of people filled the Pound class to capacity recently.

With the pounding of the drumsticks, "you're literally hearing if you're doing the workout correctly," says Potenza.

But no musical skill is required to break a sweat with drum rolls and fills.

"Something we worried about in the beginning was 'are people who don't have any musical ability going to be able to do this?' But I think if you can clap your hands you can do Pound," says Potenza.

The instructors warn people who take their class that although the 45-minute class will zoom by, they can expect to feel it the next day.

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