A Look at Pre-Choreographed vs. Freestyle Group Fitness

Today, we find ourselves in a bit of a debate: Freestyle instructors vs. those who prefer pre-choreographed programs.

I started teaching group fitness classes back in the late 80’s when all we had were a few moves, some cool music, and a little imagination.  Classes were fun, entertaining, and yet…things seemed to get old rather fast.  We instructors found ourselves spending countless hours making up new routines.  Along came pre-choreographed programs that offered us time-saving relief.

Today, we find ourselves in a bit of a debate: Freestyle instructors vs. those who prefer pre-choreographed programs.  The argument has come up time and time again on social media, in clubs, at workshops, and even when I have lead instructor education courses.  The question always rises…..Who’s right and who is WRONG?  The answer….We’re ALL right and we are alright!


The concept of learning a program that an instructor can simply re-heat and serve takes much stress and homework out of the equation for a busy part-time fitness professional.

9 pros of pre-choreographed programming:
  1. Programs like Les Mills®, R.I.P.P.E.D®., and BodyShred® offer instructors carefully researched exercises in “tracks” that are easy to teach and easy to learn.
  2. New releases (monthly in most cases) keep classes fresh and exciting.
  3. Less prep time! Instructors are able to create a class by combining pre-arranged tracks or offering the latest “release” as written.
  4. Practice time is required for most of these programs, which is a good thing for every instructor, especially those who are new.
  5. Pre-choreographed programs can be confidence-building for new instructors.
  6. Safety – Most programs have been carefully researched. Exercises are taught to be cued and executed the safest and most effective, way with options for progression and regression to meet the needs of all participants.
  7. Consistency – members love the consistency of these programs instructor to instructor and club to club.  Knowing what to expect makes for a better experience.
  8. Music is chosen for you, which takes the guess work and drama out of creating a great class. Pre-choreographed programs like Zumba® and Les Mills® select the most amazing music for their playlists and members just love it.
  9. Repetition breads results. With some programs the same “release” or “tracks” are often taught for a month or two at a time.  Members love it!   They love that they know the routine and they see their improvement each class.

Ultimately pre-choreographed programs are creating more instructors than any Freestyle program in the industry and the end result is that these thousands of new instructors are changing tens of thousand’s lives.


“If you give a man a fish, he has food for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, he has food for a lifetime”.

There are programs like Tabata Bootcamp™,   Schwinn Indoor Cycling®, RealRyder®,  BOSU®, and Barre Above™ that are teaching instructors what we call “Foundation Moves” and lots of ways to expand on each move in order to create a comprehensive well-organized, and scientifically  supported workout.  With these, we are in a sense teaching instructors and trainers  how to fish by giving them the important tools they need to create a great fitness experience.

Then there are our purists….truly Freestyle instructors that have been creating their own amazing workouts for years.

7 pros of Freestyle or a trademarked programs:
  1. Creativity – Freestyle programs allow instructors to be creative with music, movement variation, and transitions allowing instructors to always offer a unique experience.
  2. Music Mastery – Freestyle instructors are able to express themselves through music and choose songs that tell a story, inspire, motivate, and offer members variety, which they love.
  3. Confidence – Freestyle instructors build their confidence by learning to create their own classes.
  4. Variety – Freestyle programs can be changed daily, weekly, or monthly. It’s up to the instructor, although I like to remind instructors that they don’t have to change the whole class each week.  Allow members to get good at a particular workout before changing it completely.
  5. Presentation skills – Trademarked Freestyle programs teach great cueing techniques.  Instructors are then able to find their own particular cueing style and allow their personality to shine through.  A great freestyle instructor can teach anything anywhere.
  6. Education – There are unlimited opportunities for freestyle instructors to learn. Conferences, online programs, in-club workshops and certification courses.  Freestyle instructors can combine skills learned in various programs to create a unique experience.
  7. Science – Most trademarked freestyle programs have extensive research behind them. BOSU® is a prime example of a program that offers instructors the ability to create thousands of options while staying within their safety guidelines and recommendations.

Bottom line is EDUCATION.

All group fitness instructors should have and maintain a national certification to teach group exercise and to maintain those credentials, one must earn CECs or Continuing Education Credits.   Both Freestyle (trademarked) programming and pre-choreographed programs offer CECs.

Advice to the pre-choreography junkie – try a freestyle program out and see what you think.

Advice to the “strictly freestyle” instructor is to try out a Body Pump® or Zumba® class, you just might be surprised!

Pre-Choreographed vs. Freestyle Group Fitness: The Great Debate

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