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Exercising Can Be a Blast

By Jennifer Van Pelt, MA

Fans of the celebrity dance competition TV show Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) now can do more than just tap their toes to the beat of the music during the show. They can learn basic ballroom dance moves and get in shape with LaBlast Fitness classes or DVDs. Introduced by DWTS professional dancer and choreographer Louis van Amstel, LaBlast is a fun cardio dance workout that modifies popular ballroom dance movements, such as the rumba, salsa, lindy hop, foxtrot, and waltz, to be performed in a group fitness setting—no partner required.

According to van Amstel, LaBlast is designed to accommodate all fitness and dance experience levels, and participants can move at their own pace. Like other dance-based fitness classes (eg, Zumba), movements are choreographed to music, with each song having a set pattern. Unlike Zumba, which typically limits instructors to Latin-based music and dance styles, LaBlast enables instructors to choose music from any genre and incorporate many different dance styles, which include 14 different ballroom dance steps in 75 interchangeable movement patterns.

Carol Katin, a certified LaBlast instructor, says, “As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I aim to help people of all ages and fitness levels live a healthier life. After taking several LaBlast classes myself, I knew I had to teach it.” Katin is also a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise, and holds additional certifications in group fitness instruction (eg, Mat Pilates, Senior Fitness) and nutrition counseling. She’s been working in the fitness industry for 26 years and has taught many different class types. She says LaBlast has been energizing for her as an instructor: “LaBlast doesn’t feel like an exercise class; it feels more like a party.”

The LaBlast program (https://lablastfitness.com) offers different levels of intensity and four class formats. LaBlast Silk is lower intensity and lower impact, with easy-to-follow patterns. It’s intended for new participants and those who prefer or require low-impact workouts, such as older adults. LaBlast Fitness is a high-intensity cardio/strength combination workout that includes high-energy and high-impact movements. Handheld weights are used in combination with slower dance steps for muscle-toning segments. LaBlast Splash is a water-based workout, which adapts the land-based dance movements to chest-deep water in a pool. Performing LaBlast in water doesn’t decrease its intensity—the water adds resistance to arm and leg movements for more muscle toning as well as aerobic conditioning. LaBlast Line Dancing incorporates popular country line dancing moves as well as ballroom styles into a fun line dancing session that doubles as a workout. “If you love to dance, there is a format that works for you. As instructors, we also offer lots of modifications to meet the needs of everyone in our classes,” Katin says. “Louis van Amstel does a magnificent job putting together monthly playlists and routines for LaBlast instructors that appeal to a wide range of populations,” she adds.

According to van Amstel, the LaBlast workouts provide not only fitness benefits for cardiovascular conditioning and strength but also emotional health and confidence. On the LaBlast website, van Amstel claims, “Dancing is the only workout that connects your whole body. Physical. Mental. Emotional.” The fun and social aspects of LaBlast classes help improve mood. Learning new basic ballroom dance gives participants more confidence they can take out on the dance floor with their friends and family. 

LaBlast was introduced in 2012 but is just now starting to expand to more gyms and fitness facilities as the program certifies more instructors and extends its reach in the fitness market. Popularity also started growing rapidly in 2017, after the LaBlast program was named a “Top 5 Hot New Trend” in 2017 by IDEA Health & Fitness Association, a large fitness industry resource network and professional association. Multiple instructor certification programs in all formats are being held in various cities across the United States. The one-day, nine-hour certification format is for instructors already certified in teaching group fitness, and LaBlast offers continuing education credits for group fitness instructors certified with the American Council on Exercise and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America. Like Zumba, LaBlast instructors must join and pay a monthly fee for an instructor group that provides curated playlists and choreography.

For those who prefer to exercise at home or who don’t have access to local LaBlast classes, DVDs are available for order through QVC and Amazon. The LaBlast website also offers an online workout subscription service for on-demand workouts from a library of LaBlast class videos.

LaBlast participants don’t have to be fans of DWTS or have any dance experience to enjoy the class. As the LaBlast website notes, participants can learn the ballroom dance steps and progress at their own pace—all participants have the “chance to dance like the stars.”

Katin confirms, “All participants of different ages and fitness levels just start moving and having fun. LaBlast really is a blast!”

— Jennifer Van Pelt, MA, is a certified group fitness instructor and health care researcher in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area.