The Difference Between Zumba Sticks & Free Weights

The Difference Between Zumba Sticks & Free Weights

Zumba, the Latin dance class that has people shaking their booties into better shape around the world, has added a new level to the Zumba fitness program: Zumba Toning. The toning classes use Zumba Toning Sticks to combine the high-energy aerobic flair of regular Zumba with strength training and body sculpting, creating a whole new kind of dance-fitness party.

Zumba Toning Sticks

Zumba Toning Sticks are made in 1-pound or 2.5-pound varieties. Filled with sand, the sticks are more fluid in movement than regular hand weights due to centrifugal force, allowing you to shake and rattle them, adding a musical component to your workout.

Classes using Zumba Toning Sticks require a licensed Zumba Toning instructor to operate legally; but at the time of publication, you can purchase 1-pound toning sticks from the Zumba Fitness website for $20 and 2.5-pound sticks for $25 to create your own body-sculpting, aerobic-dance workout.

Free Weights

Zumba Toning Sticks are free weights, just with a different name. Free weights are weights that you can move in any direction that are made for strength training. Dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls are other types of free weights.

Free weights require more core activation to stabilize the upper and lower body during exercise. They work the small stabilizer muscles in your body more than machine exercises. Free weights can be used during Zumba Toning if the sticks are all in use when you arrive to class, but do not shake free weights and do not use weights heavier than 3 pounds.


Zumba Toning Sticks provide the benefits of body sculpting, creating more toned muscles and a fitter appearance. The added resistance may increase calorie-burning. Sticks also offer an element of flair to your aerobics routine with the maraca-like musical instrument built in. Because the sticks are so light, they do not interfere with your ability to dance and are suitable for all fitness levels.

Free weights come in a variety of sizes, which is useful when you want to build strength. You can't use these heavier sizes during a Zumba class, but you can work out with heavier weights on days you're not taking Zumba to focus on building strength.


The main disadvantage to working out with Zumba Toning Sticks is their lack of variability. To allow your body to keep moving quickly while dancing, the weights must remain light, thus you won't really gain much in the way of strength benefits. Only heavier weights and progressive overload will encourage strength gains.

Working with Zumba Toning Sticks also requires a great deal of timing and coordination, which benefits your brain, but may be too challenging for some participants to keep up in class.

Free weights are at a disadvantage because they require a spotter or trainer during certain movements that you might do outside of your Zumba class. Free weights also require knowledge of proper form to avoid injury and obtain the greatest physical benefits.