Zumba is not just for dancers anymore.

The popular Latin music-inspired fitness program has moved into strength training and step aerobics, and has even added some kickbox and bootcamp moves with the newer class formats.

What started with a single format, a Latin dance class dubbed Zumba by its Colombian creator, has evolved into a multi-format sensation.

Marcela Charris teaches a number of Zumba formats, including Zumba Toning at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center in Midlothian. Charris also is a personal trainer.

She has noticed that a lot of Zumba regulars don’t do much in the way of strength training.

But a Zumba Toning class can provide a lot of upper-body work, particularly when participants are using the 2.5-pound maracalike toning sticks for added weight and resistance.

“It’s better than nothing,” Charris said. “And they love it.”

Up a notch from Zumba Toning on the strength-training scale is STRONG by Zumba, where squats and pushups are folded into the lineup, and punches and power jumps are to be expected.

STRONG by Zumba, offered at several Richmond-area fitness clubs, is not about dancing. Instead, it’s total-body training set to music.

David Harper, regional group exercise director for Crunch Fitness in Virginia and South Carolina, said members weren’t sure what the STRONG class would offer when it first appeared on the schedule at area Crunch clubs.

“Our regular Zumba folks went to it and they hated it,” he said with a laugh. The clubs did some marketing, explaining that Zumba Fitness broke from the dance-based formats to create a music-driven, high-intensity conditioning class.

“It’s their version of CrossFit,” Harper said.

Now, the STRONG classes have a solid following, generally the same people who like HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and other rigorous conditioning classes, he said.

STRONG has pre-set moves that align with the music, and get tougher as the class progresses.

“By the end of class, you’re crawling out the door,” Harper said.

Certainly, that Zumba format isn’t for everyone. But there are plenty of others that appeal to exercisers of all levels.

At Curves in Sandston, for instance, members have demanded more Zumba in the Circuit classes over the past couple of years.

“We used to only have them twice a week,” said Tina Salaris, a marketing specialist with Curves. “Now we have them almost every day of the week, at all different times,” she said.

The Curves gym is set up as a circuit, with alternating cardio and strength stations, so Zumba in the Circuit is a natural fit for this setting.

“The ladies just have a ball,” Salaris said. “I don’t like to dance … and I have a blast.”

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Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the University of Richmond Weinstein Center. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair.

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