There are too many group exercise class types to compile a list, because between branded formats, signature formats, boutique formats and new ones being created each day, the list gets longer and longer every year. Some stand the test of time and are around for decades, while others earn popularity for short periods of time, or morph into something slightly different, but stay on the scene.
Group Exercise Classes
We will break class types into three categories: Cardio, Strength and Mind-Body. For the most part, almost any class can fall into one of these categories, or be a hybrid. Your number one question when developing group exercise classes of your own must be: what is my objective for this class?
Cardio Classes include offerings such as: kickboxing, hi-lo, step, HIIT, dance, cycle, kettlebell, Tabata, and boot camp. These classes are primarily focused on cardiovascular endurance, high calorie burns and vigorous movements. Often no equipment is needed, but anything from tubes to Bosus™ could be used to get the heart-rate up. Cardio classes generally focus on higher RPEs derived from dynamic movements.
Strength Classes include offerings such as: barbell, strength, certain Pilates, sculpt, booty, core. Most strength based group exercise classes will use dumbbells, bars or tubing to create resistance, though body-weight classes are also effective and challenging. Strength classes can be lightly weighted or quite heavy, but the objective is to overload the muscles for growth and/or muscular endurance.
Mind-Body group exercise Classes include offerings such as: yoga, Pilates, stretch, meditation, restore and release. While small tools such as stretching straps, yoga blocks, or rings can be used, many mind-body classes need no equipment other than a mat. These group exercise classes often focus on breathing, stretching, strength and a mind-body connection between movement, breath and stress-relief. Yoga is defined as, “A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.”
Pros and Cons of Branded Classes
If you decide to get certified in a branded format, rather than develop your own, you should know the pros and cons. There is no right or wrong! It’s simply a preference.
- Generally known by name as having a solid reputation.
- Classes are similar world-wide, so members know what they’re getting every time.
- Choreography and/or music is often supplied, which can save time.
- Allows the instructor to specialize.
- Opportunities for growth, additional training, master training.
- Sense of community.
- Ongoing support from corporate and other instructors.
- Branded clothing and marketing materials.
- Monthly fees.
- Less freedom to develop your own content.
- You might not like the materials, moves or songs you’re given, but you must pay anyway.
- Licensing fees sometimes need to be paid by gyms and they’re not always willing to pay.
- You must wait for them to release new material, which is often quarterly, so sometimes you or members get bored.
Basic Class Design
If you create your own class, no matter which type it happens to be, for safety purposes, you cannot go wrong with these basics: warm-up, body of class, core (if applicable), cool down/and or stretch. Within the body of class, you might have 20 minutes of cardio plus 20 minutes of strength, or an entire 40 of just one, but you must always bring students’ core body temperature up in the beginning, deliver your objectives, and end by cooling them down. The amount of time you spend, and the exercises you use, will depend on your class type and objectives.
It’s important that no matter which type of class you are teaching, that you fully understand the objective of the class: what are you trying to achieve in the 60-minutes you’re given to teach?
Gyms may have specific objectives for each class, especially if it’s a signature class unique to that club. Branded and trademarked classes (to which a membership fee is often paid) have very specific objectives and guidelines to keep the group exercise classes similar wherever they’re taught around the globe.
For example, a cardio class might require 5 sections be taught in a specific order with specific heart rate objectives tied to each one. As you prepare for your class, you’ll need to not only practice and experience each heart-rate goal for yourself so that you can feel just how hard you need to push to demonstrate, but you’ll need to paint the ‘feeling picture’ to your class with cues and examples to help them achieve the same objectives, whatever those may be.
If you design your own class or format, always begin with the question: “what is my objective?” and reverse engineer your class with the answer in mind.
If your goal is to have everyone in a zone 5 (or an RPE of 9-10) for at least 20% of the class, and have the remaining portions of class range between a zone 3-4 (or and RPE of 6-8) for 60% of class and have a solid warm-up and cool down for the remaining 20% of the class, it’s easy to plug in movements around those goals.
But if you want to have all those things PLUS a 10-minute core section, then you’d have to rearrange the percentages to allow time for core. Or, maybe you create a class around certain body parts. Upper, Lower, Core, Cardio, repeated until you’ve reached 50-minutes. A class like that would simply require some simple math to figure out how many times you could do each section, or how many times you wanted to perform each exercise within the allotted time.
Some group exercise classes combine two, or even three disciplines into one class, and as you create your own, you’ll be able to formulate safe and effective classes.
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