The group fitness sector is booming in popularity; it’s wide ranging and diverse, from yoga to cross training, and spinning classes to HIIT, there should be something for everyone of all ages, strengths and fitness. The old clichés of the types of people who participate, such as ‘ladies in lycra’ have largely gone – you’re likely to find a balance of like-minded people who just want to get fit and have fun doing so.

However, effective group fitness should not be a case of simply firing out instructions from the front of a room. A good instructor should be an effective communicator, and listen as well as instruct. A good instructor should also be able to cater for various fitness levels and abilities, and modify an exercise plan to cater for individual needs.

For example, you may have a class with people with one, two or even more injuries, or very different fitness levels – you’ll have to quickly think of an alternative movement. You’ll need to have a strong knowledge of the class you’re teaching, but enough of an awareness of other subjects and classes to offer advice and perhaps build a fitness programme. Above all, you should be approachable and able to make the classes fun!

A multi-ethnic group of women are taking a yoga class together at the gym.

What types of group exercise exist?

  • Cardio – HIIT, kicking, jump rope etc.
  • Mind/body – yoga, pilates
  • External – boot camp
  • Dance/exercise to music
  • Aqua training – low impact movements in swimming pools etc.
  • Cycling/spinning

What are the first steps?

Premier Global NASM offers a Total Group Instructor Training Course, but to take this on you need to have completed at least one other course. That makes sense – imagine going from having no experience straight into instructing a cardio class in front of 30 people.

It’s nerve-wracking enough to put you off, which is exactly why our course (and for that matter, virtually all similar courses on other sites) will first require you to take the Level 2 Qualification in Gym Instruction or Exercise to Music course, so that you actually have experience of speaking to people in a class setting.

The Level 2 qualification is the first step towards becoming a personal trainer and can be taken by anyone aged 16 or over with a reasonable level of fitness. Experience of using gym equipment such as free weights and resistance machines is also preferable. It’s quite an extensive course that can be studied on a full-time or part-time basis, and completed in as little as three weeks. Every part of the course applies to group classes of course, but there’s also particular focus on how to design an exercise programme and exercise considerations for the older population, 14-16 year olds, disabled people and those in pregnancy. For insurance to practice you will need a current First Aid certificate.

Alternatively you may wish to take an Exercise to Music course. Classes associated with this course tend to take place in fitness centres or health clubs, but also outside (boot camps and running) and in external locations such as schools, care homes and hospitals. As above, you’re instructing people with different fitness levels and interests, so wherever you can play music becomes a location where you can teach people fitness routines and movements.

How do I become a group fitness instructor?

Once you’ve completed one of the courses above, you can then take the Total Group Instructor Course from Premier Global NASM or another provider. The course will give you the knowledge and skills to plan and teach group exercise classes, teaching topics such as these:  

  • Fundamentals of group fitness training.
  • Planning for group fitness.
  • Instructing group fitness.
  • Circuit training traditions.
  • Outdoor boot-camp training.
  • Team coaching activities.
  • Small group PT for specialist populations and goals.
  • Instructional skills – Premier Powers.
  • Promoting group fitness training.

The course is two days of on-site learning at various venues, and concludes with a practical assessment. As well as the qualification you’ll also receive 16 REPs CPD points towards your continued development.

What courses should I take next?

The key to being a great fitness instructor/personal trainer, whether teaching in group session, on a one-to-one basis or online, is keeping clients entertained while they’re achieving their fitness aims. Therefore, varying courses by using new equipment, or altering routines once a month or so, is a good way of both keeping people interested and getting them to spread the word about your sessions to bring in new clients.

Final advice for becoming a good group fitness instructor

  • Keep abreast of online courses, podcasts, videos and other free sources of information. Contact instructors, coaches and mentors from across the world to ask for their advice, and attend networking events. Keeping abreast of new trends while still embracing the techniques that clients already like, is likely to be a recipe for keeping and growing your base.
  • Build up different playlists – the music for a yoga session is likely to be very different from an insanity workout, or spinning.
  • Invest in a portable speaker set and an external charger for your mobile phone; it’s very difficult to charge one in a field.
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