Music and Movement

Getting to instruct a fitness class while listening to music is a definite perk. Music provides motivation, sets the pace for certain activities, and adds to the class experience. The type of music, as well as how fast the music goes (the beat) can set the mood for a fantastic work out.

When listening to music, the strong pulses of the beat is known as the downbeat, while weaker pulses are the upbeats. A meter organizes the beats into musical pattern, or measure- like 4 beats per measure. When choosing music for your group fitness class, an instructor needs to take into consideration the type of exercise being performed, and whether the music will be in the forefront or the background of class. There are times you will have a choreographed class that uses the music to work out to (like a step class), and other times that the class will do it’s own thing, with music in the background to listen to (like a boot camp class).

The tempo (how fast the music goes) will determine the intensity of the work out. Beats per minute are matched to the movements of the routine. Examples:

100 beats of less: Slower tempo; usually used for min-body classes like Pilates or yoga, or during a stretch routine or cool-down portion to a routine.

100-122 beats: Beginner step training, low end impact aerobics, or hip hop classes.

122-129: Muscle toning, advanced step training classes, some dance classes and aquatic exercise.

130-160: Some dance classes, martial arts based classes, mid to high impact classes

When designing the choreography of a fitness class, it’s a good idea to sit down and write out the program so you have it as a guide in class. If you choose a freestyle method, you are teaching a movement or skill, and then changing to a new movement or skill. The participants rarely will add on to a previously taught movement. An example of this is doing a squat routine in a boot camp class one week, and the next week doing a lunge routine in the class, instead. Freestyle changes up the routine so that there is never boredom.

When there is repeated choreography, scripted plans follows the same format week after week. You see this a lot with Les Mills’ Body Pump classes, for example. In planned choreography, instructors receive guidelines and suggestions on what a class should include, and as long as those guidelines are included the instructor can pick their own music and movements.

Cueing the participants during a class will helps to keep the class safe, they know the timing of the movements, and there is structure to the routine. To be effective while cueing, a group fitness instructor (GFI) should deliver cues verbally, visually, and kinesthetically (with feeling). People are all different. For example, those who are verbal learners need to HEAR words and sound-specific cues. This learner usually waits until after the instructor has set-up the routine before beginning the exercise. Visual learners need to SEE specific cues. Once the movement is seen is when this learner begins the work out. Kinesthetic learners need to FEEL the cues. Once the others begin moving is when this learner will move as well, feeling comfortable within the crowd.

Cue signs:

Watch me
Watch me
Let's take it from the top!
Let’s take it from the top!
Single/Double step (double would be with two fingers)
Single/Double step (double would be with two fingers)
Hold or Stay
Hold or Stay
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