Group Fitness Training (Everything You Need to Know) | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Group Fitness Training (Everything You Need to Know)

Dan Chojnacki is a writer for and a personal trainer in Green Bay, WI. In his free time away from work, Dan stays busy in a variety of different ways. He is a runner, tennis player, youth softball coach, home beer brewer, and saxophone player. Dan is also a fan of all things having to do with Wisconsin sports including Brewers baseball, Bucks basketball, all Wisconsin Badgers sports, ...

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UPDATED: Feb 5, 2021

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Get the Basics...

  • Group fitness training provides participants with the coaching and motivation needed to reach their goals
  • Certification is not always required to teach a class, but the credibility and knowledge is very useful
  • People return to classes because of the instructor as much as the workout

If you are looking for a way to make a positive impact on many people at the same time, group fitness training is your answer.

From Zumba to strength training, there is something in this realm for everyone. After attending classes for a while, many people decide they want to become an instructor.

If you fit this category, you’ll need a business management software platform to keep track of your various clients and appointments — check out our Fitness Business Management Software to help keep you organized so you can focus on what matters most: helping people develop a love and passion for fitness.

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What Is Group Fitness?

Any form of fitness, which is done in a group setting and lead by an instructor or a trainer, can fall under the group fitness category. Class formats can be based on cardio, strength, core, or any combination of the three.

The leader of your class will point you in the right direction, but choosing which class to attend is completely up to you. Whatever your goal may be, group fitness can help you get there.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Fitness Training?

Most people would agree that having a personal trainer would positively impact their fitness goals. The drawback for many, however, is that having a coach one-on-one can be expensive or intimidating.

Training in a group fixes these problems. Many fitness centers have a group class schedule with an abundance of free or discounted offerings. These classes provide participants with specialized instruction for little-to-no cost.

Working out in a group setting also allows participants to meet and interact with other people who have similar goals. As friendships form, a sense of accountability develops between everyone. This motivates individuals to not skip their workout, which helps them reach their goals faster.

While anyone can benefit from group classes, they may not be the right fit for everyone. For example, if someone is starting to exercise for the first time in their life, it might be intimidating to be in a crowd trying to step-touch to the 32-count of the instructor’s latest playlist.

Safety can also be a concern for first-time participants. Many classes are attended by regulars who are aware of proper form and do not need individualized instruction. If a person is not familiar with most exercise movements, he or she might see more benefit from the one-on-one attention given by a personal trainer.

Overall, the choice of whether or not to attend a group fitness class should be based on a person’s goals, familiarity with exercise, and comfort level exercising within a crowd of people.

Becoming a Group Fitness Instructor

After six months of attending cycling, your instructor walks up to you after class and says, “You know, I think you would be great at teaching this class!”

At first, you push it away as nonsense, but as your day goes on you cannot get the words out of your head. Finally, you decide that instructing is something you want to pursue. So, now what?

Decide What You Want to Teach

Your very first step is deciding what format you want to teach. In the above scenario, cycling is the obvious choice, but in reality, you might have something totally different in mind. The most important thing is that you choose something you are passionate about sharing with others.

If you are enjoying what you teach, it will be very clear to the individuals taking your class and it will be more motivating to them. Instructors who show up just for a paycheck or to get their own workout are normally flatter and their class suffers because of it.

Related:’s “20 Tips to Motivate Personal Training Clients to Change Health Behaviors

Teaching something you do not enjoy is also likely to lead to a quicker burnout. Let’s face it, exercise is hard, and instructing others on how to do it can be even harder! Avoid extra stress and monotony by choosing a format that gets you excited every time you do it.

Find out Whether or Not You Need a Certification

If you’ve asked yourself, can personal trainers teach a group fitness class? A good rule-of-thumb is that some formats are more general, such as strength, core, or stretching; these classes normally do not require a special group-training certification (it will depend on your facility). However, if you are looking to teach under a branded name like Zumba, Les Mills, or Insanity there will most often be training or certification needed.

When choosing a branded format, it is also important to consider whether there are additional fees associated with staying certified. For example, after completing a Strong by Zumba training, instructors have one year to either retake their training or pay a monthly fee to continue using the class name.

In many cases, these additional fees do offer extra benefits, such as on-demand class content. This can save a lot of time when it comes to planning your class, so paying a monthly fee may prove to be worth it.

Consider a General Certification

Even if you are not teaching a branded class format, your facility may require that you have some education to confirm your credibility. A personal training certification certainly shows you have knowledge of the human body and how to give a good workout, but it may be missing elements.

Group fitness or group exercise certifications provide instructors with many tools to use when working with a crowd of participants. They teach you how to cue effectively, count music, interact with your class, utilize equipment effectively, and keep people coming back.

Moreover, obtaining a certification provides you with the knowledge to help develop your teaching style. If you have only ever attended a class with one or two instructors, you will probably mimic what you’ve seen them do.

With the knowledge you obtain in certification, you can use what you’ve learned from other instructors and combine it with what you’ve learned in your studies. This will give you a style that is unique to you and makes you stand out among other instructors.

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Choosing a Certification

The good news, for you as an aspiring instructor, is that you have a wide variety of options when choosing the organization through which you want to obtain a certification. The bad news is that the choice can become overwhelming.

All organizations teach the fundamental elements of instructing such as basic kinesiology, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, cueing, form, and class set-up. The distinguishing items will be more specific to you and what are you looking for out of your certification.

When making your choice, consider factors such as cost, time frame, study materials, and accessibility. It is also important that the organization is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Let’s take a look at three options that fit these criteria.

ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification

One of four offerings by the American Council on Exercise, the group fitness certification is highlighted by its accessibility and flexible timeline. Students have the option to study in a fully digital setting or use a hard copy textbook if that is preferred.

While exam registration is required within six months after the purchase of the study program, you can have peace of mind knowing that the actual date of the exam can be farther out. This gives you ample time to study and feel confident in your knowledge of the topics that will be tested.

The ACE group fitness instructor certification has three different options, ranging from $299-$599.

The Pro Essentials package, at $299, offers a digital classroom, practice test, group fitness instructor e-book, and exam. For a discounted price of $39.95, you can also add a hard-copy of the group fitness instructor textbook.

The Pro Plus package has an increased price of $449 but includes a hard-copy of the textbook and an extra practice exam. Purchasing a digital copy of the textbook is also an option at a discounted rate of $29.95.

Finally, the Pro Advantage package gives students a third practice exam, as well as a digital resource package and exam re-test voucher. Both a hard-copy and digital copy of the group fitness instructor textbook is included for customers making this purchase.

AFAA Group Fitness Instructor Certification

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America takes a relatively high-speed approach to certification compared to ACE, but the price and study materials might be worth it. With 180 days after enrollment date to take the exam, AFAA does all it can to make sure you’re ready.

This organization also has three different self-study categories from which to choose.

The AFAA Self-Study option provides candidates with technique/lecture videos, a group fitness digital book, a study guide, practice exam, certification exam, and support through phone, email, or chat. At $239, this is the lowest price point offered.

For an extra $40, the Premium option adds learning activities, learning flashcards, and a free exam re-test to the base level. At $299, the All-Inclusive package adds a group instructor textbook, live group fitness workshop, and a job guarantee (terms and conditions apply).

Each of the three options also gives customers a free digital issue of American Fitness magazine, pro discounts, and AFAA/NASM discounts.

NETA Group Exercise Certification

Not to be outdone by its competitors, the National Exercise Trainers Association also offers three different options to its customers. However, NETA’s first option adds a different element than its competitors.

For an early-bird rate of $299, the Self-Study and NETA Live Workshop option provides the convenience of studying in advance with the reassurance of a lecture-based workshop before the exam. Study materials are not included in the price.

Self-Study and Computer Exam is option number two. This does not include an in-person workshop but will save you money at $249. Essentially, you are only paying for the exam as study materials are also sold separately.

The Premier Plus group exercise study package will run you a cool $399 but includes all the materials you will need to pass your exam. The package includes the certification exam, online review modules, a hard-copy fitness professionals manual, a workbook, and a practice exam.

Your First Class

You’ve passed your certification exam, been hired at your dream gym, and were just awarded a class on the schedule. Things could not be going better. As you reflect on your success, suddenly it dawns on you; now you need to get ready for your first class.

Standing in front of a group of people who are trusting you to help them reach their goals can be daunting, especially when you’re just starting. Regardless of how much you prepare, the nerves will be there, and that’s ok. Follow these tips to prepare and rock your instructing debut.

Related: What Is the Job Market for a Personal Trainer?

Plan Ahead

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of instructors who walk in and think they can create a class on the fly. They may get through it, but it is a collection of random exercises into which the instructor has put no effort. These are the classes people don’t come back to.

You do not have to plan your class weeks in advance, but it is important to have your routine in place before you start. You will have peace of mind, be more comfortable explaining your format and movements, and will look much more professional.

Having a plan in place before you teach is vital not only for you but for your participants. No one is going to come back to a class that they can’t follow or which doesn’t make sense to them. They also can tell when an instructor isn’t at his or her best, and this affects their attitude.

People enjoy group fitness because of the energy, effort, and time given by their fellow classmates. These same traits are expected from the instructor to give the most enjoyable class experience. Exercise, by itself, does not keep people coming back to a class; you do.

Arrive Early

There is no worse way to start a class than to walk up to the studio and see a crowd of people waiting for you to unlock the door. It is awkward for everyone. You feel eyes staring at you because you’re late, and people are exhaling after wondering if there would even be a class.

Frantically, you unlock the door, turn the lights on, and shout commands on which equipment will be used. As you’re turning on the sound system, you realize your iPod is dead and your rush to find a CD that will work. Now, your class will start late, and everyone is waiting.

The simple solution is to show up early. Even if people don’t filter in until five minutes before class starts, you are prepared. Your music is on, equipment is set up, and you can greet people as they come in. Arriving 15 minutes ahead of time should give you plenty of time.

Being the first one in the studio makes you look professional and prepared, which are two things class regulars want to see. If everything is ready when they walk-in, there is a sense of excitement rather than anxiety for participants.

Get to Know Your Participants

When an instructor knows someone’s name, it makes that person feel especially welcomed and wanted. They know that their attendance is recognized and that the instructor genuinely cares. Remember, you are the main reason this person is going to choose to come back.

Calling someone by name is a great way to interact with your participants and add energy to your class. Yelling, “Great work everyone!” is a nice motivator, but lacks personal connection.

Instead, provide individualized motivation. “I see you in the back row, Gina! Those push-ups look awesome!” Now, you’ve just made Gina’s day.

What makes you unique and what got you on the road to health and fitness and what got you to where you are now? This makes it more personable as after all, the people are essentially buying you as much as they are buying the service. They have to know, like, and trust you (KLT) before they are going to want to commit and spend money.

This is what I wish I had known beforehand.

Jamie Logie

Owner of Regained Wellness and Author of Taking Back Your Health,

More than someone’s name, you will also want to get to know your participants’ fitness levels so you can properly plan your class. If more than half of your class has knee problems, you probably aren’t going to do too many lunges. You want to challenge your class, but safely.

This can take weeks or even months to accomplish, but it is important to notice. With that said, you can’t plan a class that is going to be perfect for every person in the room. Your goal is to provide a class that is safe and beneficial to the highest majority possible.

Keep It Simple and Safe

A good instructor can gain a bad reputation simply by over-complicating his or her class. There is nothing wrong with using exercises and formats that have been around for a while. They are normally more simple to cue, easy to understand, and safe for the participants.

Participants need to leave your class feeling good about what they’ve accomplished. With this in mind, you want to provide a challenge that people can understand, complete, and feel good about. In other words, don’t over-complicate your class just for the sake of making it hard.

As you become more confident and get to know your class, you will change the way you challenge your participants There is nothing wrong with spicing things up and demonstrating the latest exercise you saw on Instagram, just be sure not to make a whole class out of it.

Plan Time to Warm-Up and Cool-Down

You’ve just started your playlist and are about to address your class for the very first time as an instructor. You think to yourself, “If only I had a few more minutes to get ready.” Lucky for you, the warm-up can be a perfect remedy.

Of course, the most important thing about a warm-up is injury prevention for your participants. An added benefit, however, is that it gives you time to ease into class, begin your interaction, and mentally go over what you will say in the upcoming minutes. With this built-in mental prep time, you are now relaxed and in the right frame of mind to instruct your class.

After the main workout, it’s time to lead your class in a cool-down.

The cool-down is an awesome time for you and your participants to celebrate what you just accomplished while also bringing heart rates down safely and stretching muscles. This will help make sure participants feel like they’ve worked hard, but aren’t too sore to return.

Invite People Back

Immediately after class, everyone is on an endorphin high, feeling as if they could take over the world. This is the perfect time to remind them to come back to class next week or check out another class you teach on the schedule. They are excited, so capitalize on that.

As your attendance numbers grow, so does your credibility among gym members and management. Drawing large crowds is a sure way to showcase your abilities and continue the growth of your class and career.

Build Your Repertoire

There will, undoubtedly, come a point when your preparation and instruction become instinctual. This is the perfect time to pursue another format.

Continuing to learn by pursuing additional fitness and health certifications helps you to become a better instructor. Each time you pursue a new format, you’ll reflect on the things that have made you successful so far. Keeping the fundamentals of instruction in mind helps ensure that your class will always be a hit.

Group fitness training is beneficial to participants for a variety of reasons. They can be coached, build friendships, and be part of a motivating environment. As an instructor, you play a key role in providing the most benefit possible.

Once you have the education, use your passion to fuel your fire and share your knowledge with others. Soon enough, your classes will be full and you will be the most recognized name on the group fitness schedule.

If you use the software platform, we provide a variety of ways to engage and retain clients regardless if they are in your gym or on the other side of the globe.

I’ve been able to keep tabs on my athletes a whole lot better and making sure that they’re doing what they need to be doing. So the custom apps were necessary to stay connected with my athletes who travel a lot.
All my clients are required to use my online training. When training with me personally face-to-face, they have my app. They train with me—let’s say two days—and then they have the app for one. So they’re constantly working out on their own or required to utilize the app logging so that I can now check on them
Ashton Roberts AR Performance Training
We have athletes that can only see us every so often because they travel for tournaments or business. With that said, our custom online training platform has helped us provide better coaching solutions when our athletes are not with us. Now, we can continue to make progress when the athlete is on the road, and we can track their workouts.
Andrew Banner AMPD
Working with and their team has been an amazing experience and a dream come true in terms of accomplishing a vision! Their workout technology has helped us effectively engage our community, and I highly recommend to grow your business!
APMD Performance has enabled our company to expand in ways we couldn’t imagine possible. As a Strength Coach that also manages the business this platform has made it much easier to get our programming out to not only our local clientele but also new clientele throughout the world as well as our professional athletes in different cities.
Eric Mahanke Carr Elite makes my life easier by providing an all-in-one solution and the opportunity to help those who otherwise would never have access to my programming!
Tony Gentilcore Founder, Core Online
Our custom-branded apps have helped us continue to make progress when training athletes, tracking their performance, and managing our business.

Consider Group Training Online

With all-in-one software, you can not only make scheduling your in-person clients much simpler. You can also offer group training to people all over the world.

For instance, PJF Performance trains professional athletes but also offers group training that’s recurring monthly. They offer:

They provide a monthly recurring option and an lifetime subscription. Think of it like the Netflix model. Within PJF’s custom-branded app there’s engagement points for his group classes like leaderboard, group chat, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Will my certification last forever?

Most organizations require that you complete continuing education credits to maintain your certification. The number of credits and time frame to complete these credits differs by the organization.

How do I know people like my class?

Attendance is a great indicator, but it’s not the only one. Ask your participants for feedback. They will let you know what they like, but will also let you know what is lacking for them. If there are consistencies between participants, there may be something you need to change.

Are some formats better to teach than others?

No, this will completely depend on you and the members at your facility. The classes on the schedule should be representative of the member’s needs and the instructor’s passion to teach.

If you need help keeping your class schedule straight, take a look at our software now.

Learn more about Fitness Business Management Software.

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