You know that feeling, that Monday afternoon deadline feeling, when you just wanna bang on the drum all day?
There’s a fitness class for that.
Pound, the latest from L.A.’s inventive and highly saturated exercise culture, puts drumsticks in your hands and gives you that promise — for an hour a day, anyway — of battering the kit so hard, the neighbours complain about the racket. It’s a great feeling, smashing the noise bylaw as you keep the beat to slayer rock, hip hop and rap.
The Steve Nash Sports Club (SNSC) is the first exercise club in Canada to offer Pound, a tactile, beat-centric aerobic class for head-bangers, rhythm masters and closeted rock gods. If you’ve ever made two fists and drummed along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Moby Dick” or “Seven Nation Army,” you’ll find a satisfying outlet in this cardio class, which I tried earlier this week at the downtown SNSC.
Creators Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom trademarked the quarter-pound, hard-plastic Ripstix essential to the workout (“They’re drumsticks that get you ripped,” said Peerenboom) and designed a routine around the squat, lunge, sit-up and bridge positions. The sticks never leave your hands. You bang ’em on the ground, over your head and to either side as you bend, twist, flex and sit on a drum stool that isn’t there.
I found the tracks were short, the music wonderfully, ear-splittingly loud and the movements challenging but kind of mindless since I was so zeroed in on making music with the neon green Ripstix. Twenty twisting lunges draw your mind to the burning muscles in your thighs, but the rhythmic pulse of the drumming is a distraction and a driver. You want to bang that drum and hit the beat.
“All the drummers we know do cardio so they can keep their heart rate up,” said Peerenboom, 26. “They do cardio, a lot of guys lift weights to keep up the stamina in the arms. Drumming on its own as an aerobic exercise burns 300 calories an hour if you’re just sitting there doing a mild drum beat.”
Three years ago Clem Burke, the drummer from Blondie, lent himself to scientific study to explore the physiological demands of his profession. The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences determined “rock drumming” is an aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Drummers like Burk burn upwards of 600 calories an hour during a live set.
Ingrid Knight-Cohee, the regional director of group fitness at SNSC, said one new piece of equipment will add excitement to a predictable routine and put new demands on the body. Drumming, she said, engages the core and upper body and also offers resistance.
“From a bio-mechanical point of view, [the drumsticks] extend the lever of the forearm,” she said. “Whenever you add resistance to your movement, you’re challenging your muscles. Once you make contact with the ground as well, that has a reverberating effect so it’s challenging your stabilizers.”
SNSC trained 12 instructors and will offer Pound starting in January at three locations, including the downtown Vancouver, Richmond and Morgan Crossing sport clubs.
Pound is a specialized workout, though the creators hope it has longevity. One woman who joined the introductory class said she skips Zumba, a fad group class that has proven its staying power. “I spend the whole time laughing when I can’t follow along,” she said. I’d have asked what she thought of Pound, but she left before the 11 tracks were up. She was sweating. Another woman said she would add Pound to her routine. “It was anger management.”
Like a great concert or your favourite Iron Maiden track that lifts you onto your feet to shake and bang, Pound hits the mark because it’s cathartic. Pound the drum all day and feel your tension reverb away. “Aside from creating an amazing workout, the result is an amazing, therapeutic endorphin rush,” said Potenza, 27.
The Ripstix did this for me, though they twice came close to flying out of my hands when I channelled Neil Peart.
“We found that a basic ability to understand a downbeat is more important than your basic conditioning,” said Peerenboom. “When everybody hears the congealed beat in class, they get it and their bodies respond a lot quicker than just if they’re looking in the mirror and noticing they’re off.”
Added Potenza, “The sound reinforces their movements so they can literally hear themselves working out — and can ask, am I hitting harder on my left side or my right side?”
At first it was unusual to move my hands to be beat instead of my feet. But, very seriously, pounding out the angry, accelerating, rebel of a beat to Rage Against the Machine was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve every had in a gym.
Bang the drum, get back to work on the weekday afternoon.
Sweat: The more noise you make, the more you’ll drip.
Stretch: very little; some dynamic stretching.
Strength: emphasis on quads and glutes, upper arms and core
Smile: I couldn’t wipe mine off my face.
Spirit: John Bonham might be rolling in his grave.
Simplicity: Co-ordination, sense of rhythm are essential.