Teaching a Group Fitness Class

In order to instruct an awesome fitness class, you need to get into the minds of your participants, and figure out who they are and what they’ve come to accomplish. Since everyone is at their own fitness level, this can be a tall order to fill. What type of cues should you use during the class? What intensity? How can you ensure that no one gets left behind, and everyone involved gets out of the class what they came to achieve from it?

First of all, you have to identify with the learning process for humans. There are three levels: cognitive, affective, and motor. Cognitive domain describes the brain’s ability to gather and retain information. Affective domain describes the emotional behaviors, while motor domain deal with anything requiring movement.

When someone first begins a fitness class and is new to the movements and the techniques, they are in the cognitive stage of learning. Errors and imperfections will be normal as they take on the routine. When they start to get a better feel for the class with occasional cues from the instructor, they are in the associative stage of learning. Finally, when it becomes habit, and no leader is needed to perform the routine, they are now in the autonomous state of learning. Knowing which stage a participant is in can help in aiding and guiding each person suited to their own needs.

Now, based on the participants, an instructor might choose a variety of teaching techniques for instructing a varied class. Motivation instructing helps the participant to feel as though they are doing well, and feel encouraged and motivated. Progression teaching instructs by moving from simple movements to adding on, or progressing. This allows the participant to achieve more in the class. Cueing and correction gives individual feedback to show that the instructor cares about the progress of their class. Positive reinforcement is given first, then the needed correction, or performance standard of the movement. Next, the instructor should point out any additional feedback and positive reinforcement when the correction is made.

Establishing a goal for the class is always a great way to start out any fitness class. An example: “By the end of this class, you’ll be able to do squats and overhead presses together, with good form and proper technique.” Also, planning out the way the class will run from start to finish is the best way to create a fantastic class, vs. a mediocre one. Having a cheat sheet helps to keep the class on track, keeps the allotted time on schedule, and can assist in a functional purpose for daily living. The movements that are done in class will help to carry through everyday life. Most class set-ups involve the initial warm-up period, the class, and then a cool-down period to bring the class to a close.

The class layout should always be set up for safety. Can the participants hear you over the music? Is the room overly crowded? How much equipment will be in use? The instructor should always check out the room they’ll be instructing in in prior to class, in order to design a safe routine for the participants based on the room itself.

The way most instructors instruct is in front of the class, either facing the group or facing the mirrors, with their back to the group. They may also mirror the class; in this position, your front is to the group, but the class knows to follow your movements, even though for the instructor, when they move their left arm, it’s indicating that the class move their right. No matter where you decide to instruct, you should always move around in order to observe the class. This helps to ensure the class is doing the movements correctly, but also builds kinesthetic awareness within the participants. They learn to become more independent.

And we’re not done yet. Not even close. Adding to the above mentioned checklist is deciding what style of teaching you want to do in your class. There are five styles to choose from:

COMMAND: The instructor makes all the decisions regarding the posture, rhythm and duration, wanting the class to mimic and imitate what the instructor is doing. This is a follow-the-leader approach, causing immediate participant response, efficient use of time, and emulation of the instructor as a role model. This is the common style used.

PRACTICE: This way of teaching a class builds opportunities for individualization, and instructor feedback for each participant. Each person learns what his or her limits are, and what intensity they want to work at. The instructor can walk around the room and interact because they don’t need to command the class from the front of the room.

RECIPROCAL: This is when an instructor chooses to have participants pair up and work together to provide feedback. This is the best option when there are enough people for pair-ups or flexibility work.

SELF-CHECK: This way of teaching relies on each individual to provide their own feedback. Each person records their progress and results, comparing against prior performances to see what sort of gains they’ve made.

INCLUSION: This way of teaching includes everyone in the class, no matter what level of fitness or or how well they know the class. The instructor caters to each and every person offering modifications and changes based on what each person feels comfortable with.

SLOW-TO-FAST: At first, the instructor shows the movements in the class at a slower rate, so it’s easier to pick up. Then they speed up based on everyone’s performance.

REPETITION REDUCTION: This involves reducing the number of repetitions that make up a movement.

SPATIAL: This way of instructing helps participants learn new body positions by referencing other body parts and their surroundings. An example: Stand shoulder-width apart, so the feet are right under the hip bones.”

PART-TO-WHOLE: The instructor will break down the routine into smaller parts that are easier to follow and memorize. As in, a squat/bicep curl combination move is taught by first performing the squats, and once those are mastered, then the bicep curls are thrown in at the same time.

SIMPLE-TO-COMPLEX: After showing the class the movements, and instructor will then add on even harder and more complex movements for those who would like more of a challenge, So, after learning a grapevine step, the instructor might then show the class how to do pivots with hamstring curls at the end of the movement for an added work out.



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