Popular Exercise Sessions: Formats and Class Designs

Class Format

A typical 60 minute ‘‘Exercise to Music’’ class consists of four main components :

1) Warm up

The warm up generally uses movements with a low to moderate speed and range of motion. The purpose of a warm up is to “set the scene”, create body awareness (proprioception), to increase blood flow to the muscles and to mobilise the joints. The body needs to be prepared for the more rigorous demands of the main body of the class. The warm up should ideally take up the first 5 – 10 minutes of the class.

These are a few of the physiological benefits of a warm up:

• Increased blood flow to muscles
• Higher rate of oxygen exchange between blood and muscles
• Increase in mobility of the joint, due to synovial fluid becoming more liquid-like
• A rehearsal effect (practice patterns or exercises to be used later on in the class)

2) Main body of the workout

The main body component follows the warm up and is aimed at improving cardiovascular endurance and body composition depending on the type of class offered. Large movements and/or compound exercises are used to elevate the heart rate. To maintain this elevated heart rate, ‘Exercise to Music’ exercises use prolonged, continuous movement of large muscle groups. This can also contribute to reducing body fat. It usually takes up 30 – 40 minutes of a one hour class.

We can also differentiate in various training methods:

• Endurance training: Local muscle endurance; cardiovascular endurance; strength endurance
• Interval training: Intensive; extensive
• Explosive power training
• Flexibility training
• Coordination training; Balance training

3) Conditioning

The conditioning component increases local muscular endurance and/or strength in specific muscles. Muscular strength is the maximum force a muscle can exert against a resistance in a single effort. Muscular endurance is the number of times a muscle can exert force against a given resistance over time. To maximise strength we use higher resistance and lower repetitions, whilst to maximise the endurance training effect, we use lower resistance with higher repetitions of the movement. This “toning” segment can be 10 –15 minutes of the class.

4) Cool down/stretch

The cool down/stretch is the final stage of the class to lower the heart rate, prevent muscle soreness (DOMS), enhances flexibility and re-establish the body’s equilibrium. The stretches in this component are mostly static and held for up to approximately 20 seconds per muscle (group). Five to 10 minutes is the norm, but is also depending on the type of training offered.

Teaching Styles and Methods

In order to reach all our participants in our classes, we have to find the right teaching style and teaching method.

Research shows that most people have a strong preference for one or more of three distinct thinking and learning styles:

• Strong visual preference (“to see”)
• Strong kinesthetic preference (“to do”)
• Strong auditory preference (“to hear”)

Most people are visually inclined, and therefore our physical teaching presentation should reflect this. The verbal teaching styles most practical for ETM instructors are ‘command’ and ‘inclusion’ styles.

The teaching style chosen is an important factor in determining the success of the class.

  • The command style is one of the more efficient teaching styles, and is clearly the style that best introduces a subject. A problem arises, however, if the instructor does not extend beyond the command style during a lesson. This style means that the participants do not need to make any decisions during the session.
  • The inclusion style is also relevant to a group fitness setting, where participants may have different fitness levels. The instructor is able to teach multiple levels of performance within the same activity e.g. fitter participants may be taught more advanced exercise options during a class and a “beginner” may be offered more recovery when needed within the same routine.

Teaching Methods

When teaching a group class, there are a number of approaches an instructor can take in order to get the message across effectively to the participants. The teaching methods below are for aerobic/step-style classes, and could be used for most ‘Exercise to Music’ classes.

  • Add-on method: teach one or two base moves and add-on the next pattern as the participants get comfortable with the pattern. Often used together with the holding-pattern method.

Move A
Move A + Move B
Move A + Move B + Move C
Move A + Move B + Move C + Move D

With this method, Move A is always the starting point. No matter where in the sequence the instructor may be, he/she must always go back to Move A, in other words, “from the top”.

This method can also be done in blocks of choreography.

Block A
Block A + Block B
Block A + Block B + Block C
Block A + Block B + Block C + Block D

Add-on is a safe and simple process for teaching and learning. The problem that may arise with this method is when the instructor adds too many moves together, and therefore finds it difficult to recall the entire sequence.

  • Layering method: This is the simplest method of teaching choreography, mostly because the combination or routine is not developed. Linear progression involves making one small change at a time, when sequencing moves together. This change will either be an arm movement, directional or base move. It can be classified as an “endless” workout because, unlike combinations, it does not have a beginning or end and the instructor does not have to continually repeat the sequence “from the top.”
  • Linear method: Sequence of movements that does not repeat in a pattern cycle. Leads from one move to the next.
  • Pyramid or repetition reduction: Just like the shape of a pyramid, the repetitions of a move or sequence are gradually decreased until the end pattern has been achieved. The main advantage of the pyramid technique is that, like the linear progression in the layering method, participants are allowed enough rehearsal time to execute a move correctly and focus on form, technique and intensity. A pyramid could follow after a build up with the add-on method.


8 x step touches = 16 counts
4 x double step touches = 16 counts
4 x grapevine = 16 counts
8 x star jumps = 16 counts
Total = 64 counts
Reduce to:
4 x step touches = 8 counts
2 x double step touches = 8 counts
2 x grapevine = 8 counts
4 x star jumps = 8 counts
Total = 32 counts (1 block)

  • Insert method: Involves combining incomplete patterns together by inserting another pattern.
  • Freestyle method: Incorporates no set plan, just one logical move placed after the other in a linear approach. Eight or 16 repetitions of one movement; and eight or 16 repetitions of another etc. With this method the instructor works spontaneously.
  • Multi-level teaching method: Level 1 = Beginners, Level 2 = Intermediate, Level 3 = Advanced.
    Visual preview method: This can be used in conjunction with the holding pattern and is an excellent way of teaching a new piece of choreography. The participants stay in the holding pattern whilst the instructor demonstrates any change in movement. When the instructor feels that the class is ready, he/she will request the participants to join in with the new piece of choreography. This is a great way of keeping the momentum of the class going, as they are continually moving whilst learning the new steps.

These teaching methods are the most basic and yet probably the most widely used by instructors today. Once you have gained confidence in teaching, you can then explore other teaching methods, in order to make classes more interesting.

Holding Pattern

Holding patterns can be used throughout your class when the instructor needs to give him/herself or your participants a mental break, or before teaching a new block of choreography. It consists of a simple, repetitive move e.g. marching, running on the spot, step touches etc. It is usually inserted between moves or blocks of choreography.

Move A + Holding pattern
Move B + Holding pattern
Move A+B+ Holding pattern