Science is key.
A good group exercise class is about more than walking around and telling participants to do more reps, learn the science to ensure classes have focus and purpose.
How many times in the last year have you heard someone say “I hurt myself while doing _____________(insert fitness activity here)”? From running to indoor cycling to Crossfit to Zumba, people seem to injure themselves at some point during their fitness journey.
While we cannot diagnose medical issues, we can take preliminary steps to ensure that our classes are not causing injuries or pain. You may have gotten into the group exercise space because of the energy of the group, but when you agree to go from participant to instructor you’re also taking on the responsibility of making sure your classes don’t become part of the sentiment above.
The first preliminary step to keeping participants safe is to make sure you are educated.
By educated, I don’t just mean that you took a test that showed you were good at memorizing study guide materials. While yes, we all need to have primary certifications, we also need to be continuing to educate ourselves in proper form, science-based programming, and the overall workings of the human body.
As a fitness professional, we should be reading the latest studies and publications to ensure that we are following real knowledge and not listening to the social build-up of fad sponsored activity. If you hear a fact you should be asking yourself, “why”, “who is this person.” There is a lot of information that is just floating around on the internet that has been proven in a repeatable scientific study. Thus, it is important to always question and learn who you are getting your information from.
Stop assuming that all because someone is a “trainer to the stars” or has millions of Instagram followers that they have a true understanding of the science behind exercise. There is a big difference in being able to motivate someone and being able to explain science and put together a safe and effective workout.
Why should GX Instructors understand science?
We know that fitness professionals should be educated in science, specifically the kind that deals with the human body. But how can scientific knowledge affect our group ex classes?
Knowing how the body is meant to move, stand, and bend is a powerful resource for a fitness professional. Many injuries are caused by poor technique due to bad body alignment and posture. As fitness professionals, we need to be aware of what proper body alignment is in order to correct our participants. To do so, we should be educated on anatomy and kinesiology.
The most basic understanding of anatomy comes in recognizing if a person is in the correct alignment, and the understanding of the basic cues of correct alignment, including:
- Feet under hips
- Toes forward
- Knees soft
- Hips forward
- Core engaged
- Shoulders up, back, and down
- Chin tucked
Don’t trust everything you see…
Many photos that we see on social media or in stock photos are actually incorrect but have been imprinted in our minds as well as in the minds of our participants.
How many technique flaws can you find?
In this image, for example, the women is showcasing a very improper plank. Seeing this makes people believe that a plank looks like the worm dance. Thus, when they go into a class they do planks that look exactly like this.
BUT IT IS WRONG!!!! There are five major and obvious technique issues in this image, and other minor ones.
However, this stock image can easily show-up on Instagram or other social media platforms because it is a “sexy” women. They don’t question the image, or the photographer, but believe it to be the truth.
Proper Use of Equipment
Sometimes, we feel the need to reinvent the wheel in regards to fitness classes. We think that by creating new and exciting movements on pieces of equipment that we will rejuvenate our classes. In reality, we are risking hurting our clients.
Have you ever looked on the platform side of a BOSU? It clearly states that “Standing on Platform Not Recommended”, yet many fitness professionals ignore that warning and proceed through exercises that have a higher risk to benefit ratio.
Often, our participants are using a piece of equipment incorrectly, thus causing themselves pain. According to Jennifer Sage, scientific studies show that poor positioning on a bicycle often causes poor technique, which can translate to back pain. It could be that your participants are reaching too far forward, causing pain in the neck or shoulders. Most often, we can correct these complaints by ensuring that our participants are in the correct position on the bike.
Before using any piece of equipment, make sure you are licensed or certified on that piece of equipment. You should not be using a piece of fitness equipment in your classes unless you have a certificate showing that you completed the instructor training; just like a driver’s license shows that you are capable of driving a vehicle. You didn’t learn how to drive by watching videos online, and you can NOT learn how to properly use fitness equipment by watching YouTube videos (especially because you never know if that person knows what they are talking about).
Attend a live workshop where the instructor can further explain any questions you may have regarding usage or form. And please make sure you are capable of doing the activity using the piece of equipment before trying to teach the movement to your class.
Appropriate Class Design
Knowing and understanding exercise physiology is very important to class design. In order to create a true HIIT class, the group exercise instructor must understand the energy systems of the body; when an instructor does not understand these systems, we end up with classes that promote overuse injuries and burnout.
Perhaps you have taken a core class from an instructor who did not fully understand anatomy and kinesiology. Typically in this situation, the exercises do not use the entire trunk of the body for controlled movements, but instead, light your hip flexors on fire.
Carrie Haines, recommends that instructors and managers search out instructor training courses created and supported by exercise physiologists and have been proven to be safe. While this may require more time and research, it is well worth it in the end.
Fitness professionals should be attending additional trainings, certification courses, and instructor workshops to ensure they are creating classes that are grounded in credibility, validity, and scientific knowledge. And yes, there are pre-choreographed and freestyle formats that fit into this category. Carrie will be speaking more on this topic and program design implementation later this week.
Science is always progressing and changing as studies are being conducted and replicated to be proven true. Stay educated. Don’t be the last instructor teaching high kicks as a warm up in leg warmers!!
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ACE: Certified Personal Trainer
AFAA: Certified Group Fitness Instructor