At St. Charles Avenue Athletic Club (1600 St. Charles Ave., 523-2582; www.scaac-nola.com), a stocky yet peppy Russian instructor urges 12 men and women to run in place while executing 30 triceps extensions. They use weighted bags for resistance, and the contents shift with each movement. There's a domino effect of thuds as participants hurl the bags to the floor after finishing their repetitions.
"Trust me, I'm feeling it too," says instructor Konstantin Smorodnikov.
Welcome to The Edge System. The four-week program combines cardio, strength, mobility and endurance training into a workout where weighted bags serve as the only special equipment. But as its name suggests, intensity (or an "edge") is integral to the program. Jazzercise this ain't.
"It's a boxer's workout without hitting or being hit," says Daniel Hudson, who created the program. "You're using all the techniques and skills, but presenting them ... in such a way they're accessible to those who aren't professional athletes or professional boxers."
A former boxing instructor and 2001 Golden Gloves Champion, Hudson says his program took its cues from New Orleans' rich boxing tradition, which dates back to the late 1800s, when Louisiana became the first state to legalize prizefighting. Hudson was introduced to boxing in Monroe, La. and worked out with Kenny Weldon, one of the sport's top trainers. Hudson also completed some of Evander Holyfield's training program.
When teaching group exercise as a side project, Hudson thought back to the boxing program he created at the Impact Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he used heavy bags for training purposes.
"It was this gumbo of 20 years in boxing and the exposure to all the different elements I learned in fitness and strength and health," he says.
The boxing tradition is most evident in The Edge's emphasis on dynamic exercise: explosive movements and coordination. In traditional weight lifting, Hudson explains, you lift a weight, stop, and put the weight down. The energy and movement stops prematurely. By contrast, Hudson emphasizes throws and jumps.
"When you throw, you keep the movement focusing outward," he says. "You don't stop the movement prematurely." A lanky boxer demonstrates the principle, throwing a bag across the room and using hip motion for power and balance — the same movement behind a straight right punch.
The Edge's homegrown status allows Hudson and workout instructors to constantly refine the program, and the nature of the workout allows participants to isolate muscles and increase coordination in ways traditional cardio or weight lifting can't, Hudson says. Participants of varying skill levels all received results, whether they were trying to lose weight, wanted supplemental training for other sports, or simply a structured program to build discipline.
"I tell people that if you're doing other activities, if you're doing ... other fitness sports, this should improve it," Hudson says. "In other words, it's a systemic improvement, it's not sports-specific. The way it impacts you is to make you more effective."
TIPS AND TRICKS to maximize the edge experience
Bring a large water bottle. Running to grab extra water takes too much time and interrupts the workout flow. No 16-ounce bottle will do.
Use weights strategically. The weighted bags come in an assortment of weights. Keep a variety of weighted bags close at hand for different exercises. Stick with a lighter bag to better isolate hard-to-train muscles and perfect the movements.
When in doubt, ask. If you're concerned with injury or confused by the more complex movements, speak with the instructor following the session.
Rookies, move up. Stay close to the instructor if you're just learning the movements and routines. You'll learn faster and the instructor will be able to help more.
A tip if you're struggling: Most movements have variations for those concerned about injury or physical limitations. But don't use them as a crutch. When in doubt, focus on your breath, not the pain, and you'll be astounded by what you accomplish.