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No Pain, No Burn, Just Sweat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you still believe in exercise lingo such as “Go for the burn!” and “No pain, no gain!” you’re out of step with the ‘90s.

Karen Voight--whose fitness empire includes an internationally known studio in West Hollywood, a line of workout apparel and a series of exercise videos--says this decade’s goal is “lean, long muscles, not bulk.”

Voight has been a fitness fanatic since age 3--when she started ballet lessons as part of post-operative treatment for a clubfoot. Twelve years ago, the professional dancer and her husband, Harry Siegel, opened the Voight Fitness and Dance Center in an unpretentious building on La Cienega Boulevard.

It was here that the term Cardio - Funk, in which trendy dance movements double as low-impact aerobics, was coined in 1984; it is now a trademark. The next big innovation arrived last year when Christophe Toledo, a former Club Med sports instructor, introduced Street Jam, exercise to rap.

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Her studio’s menu--including Cardio Salsa; Low Impact Funk; Body sculpt; Step ‘N Pump; Abs, Thighs & Buns--reflects another difference in ‘90s exercise techniques.

Variety.

“If you go to the gym every day and do the same thing every day, you’re not going to get more fit,” Voight says, recalling the early aerobic years when people tended to repeat routines.

“The problem is you’re overtraining. You’re working the same muscles and not letting them rebuild. It’s not healthy and you’re not going to have a better body.”

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Her well-rounded system includes “a good low-fat, complex-carbohydrate diet. Aerobic exercise that gets the heartbeat up, along with strength and flexibility training.”

Voight, who trains Tina Turner and Diahann Carroll in their homes, teaches nine classes a week at the studio. Four months ago, she added a new twist to her packed Bodysculpt classes--a combination 12-pound balance bar and free weight.

As she leads a killer two-hour class, she encourages rows and rows of lean, hard bodies to use the Body Bars “slowly, with a lot of control.”

“Ten years ago,” she explains after the class, “aerobics was done with more momentum. Now, strength training is more important. You’re controlling the momentum instead of just working the muscles.”

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Despite it’s bad rap, high-impact aerobics is “still really popular in L.A.,” she says. “But we’ve changed it; we’ve mixed it with low and taken out the dangerous aspects.”

The same is true of the dangerous talk. Phrases such as “Go for the burn!” are gone because they give “the message you have to hurt yourself,” Voight says.

Instead, she uses non-threatening instructions: “Relax. Concentrate. Focus. Listen to your body. Do what you can.”

Focusing on those abs, thighs and buttocks at Voight costs $8.50 per class, or $5.80 each when you buy a 25-class series, good for two months.

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