Where to Start: Choosing Your Preferred Format for Group Fitness Classes

Your Group Fitness Instructor Certification provides a solid foundation for teaching safe and effective group fitness classes. Now, it’s time to put your newly acquired knowledge into practice. To get started, you’ll need to determine which types of classes you’d like to teach. While your group fitness certification will help you plan a general class, including warm-up, cardiorespiratory training, conditioning, and cool-down, you will most likely need to learn how to teach more specific formats.

Over the years, group fitness options have become quite diverse and specialized. Most facilities where you will teach will typically have several formats (i.e., class titles with specific descriptions) for you to choose from or you may opt to create your own unique formats. To begin, it is important to understand the categories into which most formats fit.  

Most group fitness classes can be broken down into one of the following categories based on the primary purpose of the class:  





Heart and lung (cardiorespiratory) focus 

Cardio formats could be choreographed (movement to music) or non-choreographed (music as background). 

  • Choreographed: Dance, step, and sometimes boxing/kickboxing 
  • Non-choreographed: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) formats, indoor cycling, and cardio-based circuit training 


Muscular strength and endurance 

Strength formats may be considered traditional or functional and can make use of body weight and/or various types of equipment. 

  • Full-, upper-, or lower-body focus 
  • Core training classes 
  • Barbell-based sessions 
  • Circuit training classes 


Increasing range of motion and mobility, either passively or actively 

Some facilities may combine this category with mind/body, while others will provide separate formats designed to attract a different audience than mind/body formats. 

  • Stretching 
  • Foam rolling 
  • Myofascial release  


Formats designed to promote strength and flexibility with a mindfulness component. 

  • Yoga 
  • Pilates 
  • Barre  

Aquatic/Water Fitness 

Modalities performed in the pool.

While cardio, strength, fusion, mobility/flexibility, and mind/body classes can all be taught in the water, facilities usually separate these offerings. 

  • Water jogging/running 
  • Interval classes 
  • Mobility classes 
  • Shallow- and deep-water options 

Many facilities also offer fusion/hybrid/combination formats. Combining two or more of the above categories into one format is a popular choice for participants and instructors alike. 

Choosing Your First Format 

Start by determining which category you are most familiar with and interested in teaching. Whether it is a favorite class you have taken in the past, your dance background or experience with athletics, many newly certified instructors gravitate toward a style of exercise with which they are familiar. When you start with a category that feels comfortable, you are much more likely to step up onto the stage for the first time with confidence! 

Next, do a bit of research about the formats that exist within each of the categories. Thoroughly review the class titles and descriptions, take part in various classes that you’re hoping to teach and look more closely at the requirements. 

Be sure to consider the following: 

  • Participants it attracts: You’ll want to ensure the participants the class attracts are ones you feel you could motivate and lead. 
  • Personality type best suited for the format: What type of teaching or coaching does this format require? Does this seem authentic to your personality?  
  • Equipment utilized: What type of equipment is used in the class? Do you have experience with the equipment or will you need to receive additional training or education on its proper use?  
  • Support or education for the format: Beyond the equipment usage, is it easy to find other instructors, workshops, courses (live or virtual), specialty certifications or additional resources that can support your growth with the format? 
  • Class planning required: Some classes are freestyle (you create your own classes from scratch), while others may be preformatted (you create classes within a construct) or pre-choreographed (you memorize and rehearse classes that are prepared for you). While all options are equally beneficial from the member’s point of view, you may be naturally inclined toward one versus the others. Learn a little bit more about how these various class planning approaches differ and what opportunities they provide before making your final choices. 

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