Celebrity fab abs: who’s top of the lockdown dance fitness classes?

Whether it’s dancing with Oti Mabuse or hopping with Marcus Rashford, our reporter has the numbers and abs to find out who is Joe Wicks’s biggest rival

As we settle into our third lockdown, there are many sheep/goat, wheat/chaff separation moments in the world of online fitness. Who’s in it for the long haul? Who’s still doing new live routines every week? Who has kept their signature freshness and their energy levels unmatchably high? These people, that’s who.

In the explosion of celebrity fitness and dance routines to raise our spirits under lockdown, there is a heavy accent on getting your children involved. That’s all very well for people whose children do what they say, but I got a hard no from mine, and thereby proved an important first principle, that these are all perfectly enjoyable without them.

The statistics are all from my Fitbit, which I sometimes find a bit exuberant in its measurements (once I had an argument with Caroline Flint on a podcast and it logged it as seven minutes peak exercise). Otherwise, the experiment was pretty solid.

Marcus Rashford

Celebrity Supply Teacher, BBC Bitesize

Marcus Rashford’s PE lesson.
Endearing … Marcus Rashford’s PE lesson. Photograph: BBC

Rashford the champion of hearts has filmed this himself or got a mate to do it, I think. The lighting is all over the place and be warned, this will only make you think more highly of him – a regular guy, doing his best, only his best happens to be magnificent.

Always stretch before you start, kids, and get a grownup to make sure you’re doing it right. More football-focused than a regular aerobic stretch, this is short and to the point, running through hamstrings, a quick twist from the waist as you sit with legs outstretched, and you’re into the circuit: five push-ups, five sit-ups, five jumping jacks, five seconds balancing on each leg, five hops on each leg (a new one on me; I’ve done every class in the world and never been asked to hop) and five lunges, then a break, which is filled with kids asking him questions. Rashford is quite a serious young man, to camera, then even a kid on a pre-record can make him crack into a huge smile, by asking why a push-up is so hard. He just really likes kids. I guess we knew that.

This is about right for an eight-year-old, and a bit too easy for an adult (apart from the push-ups).

Time: Nine minutes, of which eight minutes in cardiozone
Average BPM: 128
Calories burned: 99
Fun: It was more endearing than fun, I’m going to give it 5/5 for endearingness

Dance Class with Oti Mabuse and Marius Iepure

Live on Instagram/YouTube

Oti and Marius ham it up.
Oti and Marius ham it up. Photograph: YouTube

Mabuse swaps her Strictly partner Bill Bailey for her real-life dancer husband, which is as it should be. Just because she won, she doesn’t get to keep him. They’re both such pros, even the way they turn the volume up on their iPad is gliding and full of meaning.

They teach one routine over half an hour, I did the jive to Blondie’s One Way Or Another. It’s not a complex sequence by dancer standards but is pitched perfectly at the novice enthusiast, complicated enough to be engrossing, repeated often enough that you don’t get lost, energetic enough to be worth it. I could tell it was working immediately; even at the end of a chassé, a step of the lowest imaginable impact which FYI only really involves your feet, my forearms were overheating.

A simple routine in two parts transformed, over the half hour, into something that looked like a person who knew how to jive; “alchemy” would be a strong word, but I was pretty damn pleased with myself, put it that way. My beloved accused me of cracking the ceiling in the room underneath, but I’m pretty sure that was there before.

Time: 28 minutes, of which 36 minutes in cardio and peak (I know, makes no sense, take it up with the Fitbit)
Average BPM: 140
Calories: 172
Fun: 5/5

PE with Joe Wicks


Ah, maestro: Wicks has got all this down to a fine art, 10 exercises, 35 seconds on each with a 25-second cooldown between, then the whole lot repeated to a total of a respectable 25-minute workout. He’s supremely relaxed and constantly re-doing his bun or fiddling with his headphones. Not in a rude way; he’s just a guy, standing in front of a gazillion people, doing bear crawls that he could do in his sleep. It’s all quite aerobic, not much resistance work, though a new workout is released every day and they do vary: probably the slowest move on Thursday was the duck walk, like a moving squat, which you really feel in your glutes, just as he instructs you to.

In the 25-second downtime, he did a geography quiz with a twist, the twist being all the superb mistakes (“Cairo is the capital city of which Egypt?”)

Pacey, challenging, straightforward but never boring.

Time: 25 minutes, of which 16 minutes in cardio or peak zones
Average BPM: 134
Calories: 131
Fun: 4/5

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Disco

Live on Instagram/YouTube

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
‘Like the prima in a Russian troupe of dancing horses’: Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Photograph: www.instagram.com/sophieellisbextor/

A radical departure in fitness terms, this is captivating and freeform, Ellis-Bextor and her thousand children dancing in a happy-looking kitchen diner, while she sings a range of her own songs and club classics, including Groovejet’s If This Ain’t Love … If you absolutely must watch someone to follow their moves, you can choose between Ellis-Bextor’s neat but vivid dancing style, like the prima in a Russian troupe of dancing horses, an eight-year-old who mainly does the floss, a five-year-old who runs about in circles and a one-year-old who sits on the floor, bouncing his shoulders. There are two older kids as well, who don’t join in but thoughtfully intervene whenever the baby is chewing the amp. I want that baby.

Damn but this is an impressive woman: she can sing, dance, hold an infant and all in sequins. I found her perfection powerfully demotivating, in aerobic terms, but absolutely magnetic.

Time: 24 minutes, of which eight minutes in cardio or peak
Average BPM: 126
Calories: 110
Fun: 4/5


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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