First thing on a recent Wednesday morning, I found myself crouched in a deep-seated squat at Havertown’s Pop Fit Studio. I pushed through my heels, as instructed, and jumped. I shot up like a rubber band, suddenly soaring through the air Peter Pan-style, arms outstretched behind me.
Suspended by a thick black bungee cord, I was joined by nine other women at Pop Fit’s newest group fitness class, the bungee workout. The exercise routine is the latest fitness trend to sweep the nation.
After starting in Thailand about three years ago, it was popularized through a mesmerizing viral video showing an Arizona instructor and her class squatting, jumping, kicking, and planking in unison. It’s all done while fighting the tense resistance of a stiffly coiled, nylon-wrapped cord.
“It’s a full-body workout,” said Kay Pugh, 33, before heading into Pop Fit’s class. “You’re controlling muscles that you don’t even know you have, but it also brings this incredibly freeing feeling.”
A resident of Drexel Hill, Pugh was already a bungee regular, having taken three trial sessions. (Pop Fit added bungee classes to its regular schedule as of last week.) She loves the airborne experience, which makes working out undeniably fun.
Before strapping into our bungee harnesses, we donned wetsuit-like shorts, handed out by fitness instructor and Pop Fit owner Christine DeFilippis. Their cushiony, formfitting material prevents chafing from the harness straps, which tighten around the legs and waist.
Once the harness was fitted, DeFilippis hooked my bungee cord to a loop at the base of my back. Then she cranked up the music, and the high-energy workout began.
Choreographed into dancelike sequences, such moves as lunges, sidekicks, and push-ups felt different than they do in real life. Push-ups became more of a core workout than an arm exercise; I had to crunch my abs to stop the bungee from pulling me back to a standing position. And bending into a lunge required a lot of muscle isolation.
Meanwhile, for the first — and probably only — time in my life, I was able to pull off one-arm push-ups like a pro. And jump squats, while still a glute workout, sent me several feet into the air.
The only catch I discovered? That bungee-harness combo makes class-long wedgies a serious thing. Plus, the harness can pinch in certain positions, especially lunges. But, as a fellow participant warned me, you have to shift your mind away from the harness, which was relatively easy to do when in flight.
After an hour of moving around, I was sweaty — but nowhere near as drenched as I am after a spin class. That said, I found myself laughing a lot more and grimacing a lot less than I usually do during a workout.
“There are exercise styles for everyone. The people that come here don’t want to be beat up and yelled at,” said DeFilippis, who also offers classes for trampoline, barre, and pound (incorporating lightly weighted drumsticks) at the studio. “That boot camp style works for some people, but here, people want music that energizes and they want to smile.”
“The support of the bungee helps me get into positions I otherwise couldn’t do and also deeper into things like squats,” said Wynnewood resident Lynne Gatz, 43.
The low-impact workout originated in Thailand at Bangkok-based studio Stories to Tales Theatre. In 2017, DeFilippis, a longtime instructor at various area studios, watched a video from Tough Lotus, the first gym in the U.S. to offer bungee workouts. She booked a visit to the Arizona studio shortly thereafter to try it for herself.
The experience hooked her, setting her on a mission to bring the workout to the Philly area. She established Pop Fit about a year ago and arranged for experts from Stories to Tales Theatre to fly in to train her staff.
“I grew up doing dance, and always wanted to fly like a ballerina,” DeFilippis said. “This seemed perfect.”
Pop-up bungee classes began at the studio a few weeks ago and already had a wait-list during that time.
Besides eliminating the monotony of most exercise routines, it’s also a little exhilarating to push your comfort level and conquer something new.
“Trust the harness,” DeFilippis repeated during the class, encouraging people to jump as high as they could.