Best Practices for Teaching Group Fitness Classes
A great place for fitness enthusiasts to start a career in fitness is by teaching group fitness classes. There are many different avenues you can take with group exercise, so it’s adaptable to varying interests: yoga, indoor cycling, high-intensity interval training, kickboxing, boot camp, Zumba, and more.
Group fitness is also a great fit for personal trainers wanting to expand their existing toolkit or clientele. While teaching group fitness classes, you can start building relationships that can turn into personal training clients over time.
Best Practices for Success
Not all group fitness instructors are created equal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personal preference, same with how clients choose personal trainers that have different training styles. But, true success as a group fitness instructor often comes down to several key factors:
One of the biggest parts of instructing is motivating the clients taking your class. How you motivate can vary, depending on your personality and the people in your class.
Some clients like the “yelling” of boot-camp-style instruction. Others may prefer praise, such as when you tell them good job or how much they have improved, or even by taking extra time to help them achieve something they didn’t think they could do.
In a group setting like fitness classes, it can be more challenging to figure out everyone’s personality. But, if you take the time to get to know the people coming to your group fitness class, especially the regulars, you’ll figure out the best way to motivate the class as a whole.
Also, remember to be yourself and you’ll attract the clients that work best with your personal style. The regulars become regulars because they like you as an instructor. If you can keep motivating them to show up and get the workout done, they are going to keep coming back. They will even start to bring friends with them and over time the size of your class will grow.
Know Your Body Language
When we communicate, our body language delivers over 50% of the message. So, as a group fitness instructor trying to motivate a room full of clients, body language is important. If you look unfriendly and annoyed, who is going to even want to step foot in the room?
Be present. Show you’re happy the have a class full of participants. Especially when you have the newer people in class who may not know what they are doing. Show them compassion and patience by helping them get the hang of things and they will happily return for more.
Some examples of positive body language can include the following:
- To show you care, you can smile
- To show you are listening, you can tilt your head to one side
- To show you are approachable, stand with an open posture
- To show you are present, make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to
- To show you are involved in the conversation, mirror the other person’s movements
Know How to Assess Clients Throughout Your Class
The most successful group fitness instructors not only have a fun class and are very welcoming, but they also know how to assess their clients on the spot. This is a key part of teaching group fitness classes because in a class of 10 people you are going to have 10 different ability levels.
This comes down to knowing what you have planned for your class and assessing their abilities as you go. Some people may be hesitant or afraid to say they can’t do something. Especially if they have never tried it before. This is where you come in.
As you teach, watch movements and facial expressions. Don’t just zone out, talking the talk. You need to be present so you can see when you should offer alternative exercises. If you see some hesitation or a questioning look, add more cues or present an alternative—individually or to the group as a whole. A look of uninterest or boredom? Bring up advanced options.
The best way to be successful in teaching group fitness classes is to have a plan. Nothing will prepare you better than knowing exactly what exercises you will be using and how to demonstrate them. Its best when you are new to have your sequence written down. Some of the more seasoned instructors can teach off memorization, but that takes practice and not everyone has a perfect memory.
In addition to your regular sequence, plan ahead by already having some alternative exercise options in mind. If you know exercise #7 requires a strong core, think of an alternative ahead of time for clients who are still building up that part of their body. This way when people need to scale or change an exercise, you’ll already know it instead of trying to come up something on the fly in the middle of a class.
The last and most important part of your job as a group fitness instructor is to simply show up and have fun! If you’re having fun it will radiate to all the people in your class. In turn, they will keep coming back to have fun with you and they will bring friends.
Boost Your Personal Training Roster
Not all group fitness instructors are personal trainers, but if you are, teaching group fitness classes or even doing small-group training is a great way to build relationships. You get to show off your expertise to a whole room of people, some who may need more of a personalized program. Having a relationship already built can help get you make that transition to adding them as individual personal training clients. Especially if they’ve been taking group classes for a while and want to get more results.
Ready to Get Certified?
A group fitness certification is a great badge to carry, whether you’re already a personal trainer or just getting into the fitness industry. You’ll learn how to manage groups and help everyone reach their goals. Start your journey with the ISSA’s Group Fitness Certification.