Planning the Class

How to retain your rockstars

There are a large number of types of exercise. The basic principles for all classes are similar, and we shall discuss the principles for the format of a typical class.

A good exercise class should:

• Contain a warm up and cool down
• Contain all components of physical fitness i.e. cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility
• Involve a method for measuring intensity and progress, so that the instructor can progress the class over time
• Ensure progression as participants improve movement mastery and fitness
• Contain a social element if a group setting
• Lastly, make your classes fun!

A typical general exercise session will include the following:

• A warm up
• Dynamic stretching
• Cardiorespiratory exercise
• Resistance training
• Cool down
• Stretching

The Warm Up

The warm up phase is generally described as preparing the body for physical activity. It can be either general in nature or more specific. A general warm up consists of movements that do not necessarily have any movement specific to the actual activity to be performed e.g. low to moderate level walking/jogging etc. A specific warm up consists of movements that more closely mimic those of the actual activity to be performed in the session, often referred to as dynamic stretches e.g. push ups/squats etc. The warm up typically lasts between five and 10 minutes. The purpose of the warm up period is to increase heart and respiration rates, increase tissue temperature, and psychologically prepare the individual/group for higher intensities.

Dynamic Stretching

In more recent times there has been a movement away from traditional static stretching being used before the commencement of exercise sessions. The instructor should include dynamic stretches after the warm up.

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

Fitness professionals need to understand and appreciate the fact that no two individuals will respond and adapt to exercise at exactly the same speed of progression. In other words the physiological and perceptual responses to exercise are highly variable. Thus all exercise training recommendations for exercise with groups should be individually determined and should always take into account the FITT principle.

Resistance Training

The fitness professional should have a good understanding of the goals and capabilities of the individual before deciding on the modality of exercise, as well as intensity.
For more information on techniques used in resistance training, read the information in the learning material for resistance training.

Cool Down

A cool down is done at the end of an exercise session and provides the body with a smooth transition from exercise back to steady state exercise. In essence the cool down is the opposite of the warm up. The main aim of the cool down is to reduce heart and breathing rate, gradually cool body temperature, return muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships, prevent venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities and restore physiological systems to baseline.

The cool down may involve activities such as:

• Walking
• Slow jogging
• Cycling
• Stretching

Flexibility training may be included as part of the cool down. Clients may use static stretching or myofascial release techniques to increase flexibility after an exercise session. The instructor may introduce stretching on mats/use foam rollers to improve flexibility training in the class setting.

Determining What Goes into the Exercise Plan

Now that we have established guidelines for basic exercise sessions, we can look at the design of different types of classes. If for example one is aiming to improve flexibility, one would expect more time to be dedicated to flexibility and less to strength. If on the other hand, the participant was aiming to improve strength, very little, if any time would be spent doing cardiorespiratory endurance. In other words, it is up to the instructor to manipulate the variables so as to meet the goals of the exercise session.

Many group exercise classes are designed to satisfy all components for fitness i.e. there is equal emphasis on flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance.

The following are examples of class designs and formats which can be used in the exercise environment:

It is important that the instructor pay strict attention to technique requirements with each modality of exercise and that the client does not advance until he/she has mastered the technique requirements.

Sample Static and Active Stretching Session

Warm upEasy walk 5 minutes
Static Gastrocnemius stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Static standing TFL stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Static kneeling hip flexor stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Static standing adductor stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Active biceps femoris stretch1 – 2 secs, 5 – 10 repeats
Static latissimus dorsi stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Static pectoral stretch2x 20 – 30 seconds
Active upper trapezius/scalene stretch1 – 2 secs, 5 – 10 repeats

Sample Resistance Training Routine

There are a number of different systems/approaches which one can take when designing an exercise routine for an individual/groups.

The choice of exercise, sets, reps, rest and tempo should be determined by:

• The size of the group
• Fitness level of the individual/s
• Previous exercise experience
• Goals and needs of the participants

The following is an example of a resistance training routine using the Peripheral Heart action system:

Set 1: StabilisationSet 2: StrengthSet 3: Power
1. Ball dumbbell chest press1. Bench press1. Medicine ball chest press
2. Ball squat2. Barbell squat2. Squat jump
3. Single leg cable row3. Seated row3. Soccer throw
4. Step up to balance4. Romanian deadlift4. Power step up
5. Single leg dumbbell shoulder press5. Seated dumbbell shoulder press5. Front medicine ball oblique throw

Sample Core Training Routine

The routine below focuses on core stabilisation and strength.

                Warm up5 – 10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise
Marching1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 60 secs rest
Two-leg floor bridge1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 60 secs rest
Floor prone cobra1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 90 secs rest
Plank1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 90 secs rest
Ball crunch1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 90 secs rest
Back extension1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 90 secs rest
Reverse crunch1 – 4 sets12 – 20 reps0 – 90 secs rest
Cool down stretching15 minutes

Cardiorespiratory Training

There is a misconception that cardiorespiratory training only includes use of cardio equipment. This is however not true i.e. many other forms of exercise may stimulate heart action which warrants it to be considered a cardiorespiratory workout. See below information and guidelines for implementing cardiorespiratory training as part of a workout.

A popular form of cardiorespiratory training is walking.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise as:

• Equipment requirements are minimal
• Cardiorespiratory benefits are excellent, especially with regards to reduction of chronic disease
• Walking utilises a large number of major muscle groups
• It places low impact on the joints as compared to jogging

Anyone aiming to participate in a walking programme should first complete a PAR Q form.

The following are some guidelines for technique when walking:

• Walk tall and with a ‘straight’ back i.e. don’t lean forward or backwards, eyes should be forward, chin parallel to the ground, stomach sucked in, and shoulders slightly back
• Bend the arms to 90 degrees
• Keep hands in a slightly curled position, but not clenched
• When looking to increase speed, do not over stride i.e. focus on taking more steps to increase speed. Our stride should be longer behind you than what it is in front.
• Most walkers will strike the ground with the heel first. The walker should push off from the toe. Basically, our feet should “roll” from heel to toe

It may be worthwhile for the client to purchase a pedometer.
A scale produced by Tudor-Locke and Dr Basset Jnr (2004) provided the following guidelines as to how many steps one should be taking each day:

Number of stepsActivity level
0 – 5,000Sedentary
5,000 – 7,499Low active
7,500 – 9,999Somewhat active
10,000 – 12,500Active
12,500 or moreHighly active

Walking may be incorporated into an exercise programme. Intensity may be increased by:

• Increasing duration of the walk
• Increasing the speed of the walk
• Increasing the frequency of walking
• Decreasing rest bouts between walking
• Adding weights (power walking)

Why Plan for Exercise Sessions?

Planning is an integral part of providing exercise classes. By planning, the instructor is able to provide exercise sessions which accurately meet the goals and needs of the participants. As the saying goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail!” Instructors who do not plan effectively, end up taking classes which do not address all components of fitness, or end up spending too much time on one particular component.

How to prepare

It is recommended that the instructor is very familiar with a workout before attempting to teach it to participants. The following are some tips so as to prepare for exercise classes:

• Ensure that all necessary equipment is available at the time of the class/session
• Ensure that facilities are available at the time of the session
• Practise the routine
• Be aware of any exercises which may need specific emphasis on technique
• Provide options for participants to change intensity e.g. lighter weights if they need to reduce intensity
• Ensure that the class meets all safety requirements