'It's doable for everybody': get physical with free BodyCombat classes across the UAE

By signing up online, interested participants will receive four workouts per week through email

 Caroline, left, and her mum, Reem Kassab, teach BodyCombat in Abu Dhabi. 
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"Speed, power and strength" are words that Al Ain resident Nasreen Suleiman associates with BodyCombat, one of fitness company Les Mills's most popular group classes. The 55-minute full-body workout has been known to burn as many as 740 calories, and mixes moves from ­myriad martial arts styles such as karate, ­taekwondo, boxing, muay Thai, ­capoeira and kung fu.

For those seeking a change in their regular exercise routine for the new year, Les Mills Middle East will offer free BodyCombat programmes as part of a 28-day challenge starting on Sunday, January 12.

The 28-Day BodyCombat Challenge

Interested participants need to sign up online to receive four workouts a week via email, allowing them to train anywhere and at any time.

The exercises vary in length starting with seven minutes and going up to 44 minutes. The purpose of this is so that the workouts (which are in a set order, but can be completed at any time) build strength and endurance over the month. 

“As long as you don’t have any physical injuries, your fitness level [at the start] doesn’t matter,” says Marc Downey, head trainer at Les Mills Middle East. “You’re going to go in small chunks, and the better you get, the harder you can work out. For someone new, just throwing punches will feel really good. When you become better at that, you can get a lot more muscle activation with your punch as your technique improves.”

The moves, which include hooks, uppercuts, kicks, squats and push-ups, are synced with music in a high-­intensity-interval-training-style format to work the legs, arms, back and shoulders. As well as training videos, participants can access and contribute to the comments and feedback from the online community, and watch coaching videos that focus on getting the technique right.

"By week four, you'll feel really confident and comfortable doing a full 45-minute version of the class," says Downey. The idea behind the free challenge is that newcomers can try it at home at their own pace, and if they're up for it, once the challenge is over, sigh up for a full class at a certified gym or give Les Mills On Demand a try.

BodyCombat results

Those who have already experienced BodyCombat in a group setting explain they are drawn to the programme for its high-octane process and visible results. Suleiman, who discovered the workout at her neighbourhood gym, says: "I was intrigued to try out all the classes, and BodyCombat was the only class that stood out for me." After participating in regular sessions, she realised she had found the ideal workout for her preferences and body type, especially after she lost 15 kilograms in nine months.   

You don't even feel like it's a workout because you're having so much fun. The adrenalin rush at the end is unexplainable; it's that feeling that made me keep coming back for more.

“The atmosphere of the entire class moving together is a whole other ­experience. It makes you want to push yourself further,” she says. “You don’t even feel like it’s a workout because you’re having so much fun. The adrenalin rush at the end is unexplainable; it’s that feeling that made me keep coming back for more.”

Another enthusiast is Abu Dhabi group fitness instructor Reem Kassab, who has been teaching BodyCombat since 2001 when it first came to Lebanon. Nearly 20 years later, she continues to teach the workout, now with her daughter Caroline by her side. The mother-daughter duo team teach classes at Inspire Sports. 

"It's an amazing feeling. BodyCombat is high intensity, but it's doable for everybody," explains Kassab. "The beauty of it is that you are actually able to shape the whole body with a special focus on the core – you do the equivalent of 1,700 crunches in one 55-minute session without doing a single crunch."

She adds that many of her clients say this class helps them de-stress and, as such, has both physical and ­psychological benefits. “BodyCombat is results-driven and also a lot of fun. I see how the ladies I teach respond to it, especially in the UAE – you can tell they release their stress this way. ”

From participant to professional

Classes are offered in 30, 45 and 55-minute formats with individual tracks focusing on ­different parts of the body. While moves can seem daunting for a beginner, most routines have low-­impact options. For example, instead of completing a plyometric lunge, you can stay on the ground while performing the same move.

That’s not to say the class isn’t challenging. After doing BodyCombat for three years, Suleiman decided she wanted to become an instructor to share the benefits she experienced with others. “I wanted to make people feel like they’re unstoppable and inevitable, like how I felt when I was doing BodyCombat as a member,” she says. “An instructor does not only give a class; we connect to our members, listen to them, push them and motivate them. After all, I myself was pushed to heights I never thought I would reach.”