Tips for Coaching Mixed Level Group Fitness Classes

Coaching mixed level group fitness classes can be challenging for instructors as you want to find the right balance of helping everyone get a great workout while also ensuring everyone is safe and effective. Check out these tips from Lauren George (Co-Creator of Barre Above and Clemson Fitness Company) to elevate your coaching and make all participants feel like superstars!

When teaching a choreographed group fitness class, the instructors ability to cue to a group of people made up of different learning styles and fitness levels can make or break a class. Most of us aren’t born with the ability to cue beautifully while teaching to music, but it can be learned and perfected! 

Our goal as instructors should always be to lead classes where our students leave feeling successful and accomplished. This can be tricky when you’re trying to challenge one side of the room while modifying for the other side.  If taught correctly, it is possible to have a brand-new participant and fitness junkie in the same class and provide both with a fantastic workout. 

Most of the time, participants will pick a spot in class based on how comfortable they feel. At the front of the room, you have your most confident participants and often the regulars. Then you have your intermediate students in the middle of the room who feel comfortable in class but aren’t ready to park it in the front of the room yet. Then there are the new students who sneak into class and hide in the back corner. 

Cuing Tips

When cueing, you want to….

  1. First offer the intermediate or base option,
  2. then quickly go back and offer a regression to those that need it, so they feel successful,
  3. and then offer the progression for advanced students.

Most of the time your advanced students are already taking the progression. 

As discussed in our article about ditching modifications – remember you want to avoid using terms like level 1, 2, & 3. No one likes admitting they need to do the level 1 option when their neighbor is on level 20. When possible, avoid labeling variations as level 1, 2, or 3, instead try saying option 1, 2, or 3. Then is sounds like they are just choosing the “option” they like best. Everyone is working at their own level and feel successful.

Make Students Feel Successful

We want every student to leave class feeling like they worked THEIR hardest. If they are constantly choosing what you call the “easy or easier” option, they’re not going to feel they worked very hard or did their best. On the flip side, some students may feel like they always must choose the “hardest” option even if that’s not the best option for their body which could lead to injury.

Try giving cues like….

  • “If you need a little less, put your heels down.”
  • “If you need a little more releve´ onto your toes.”

We also always want to avoid saying things like “If you can’t do plank on your toes, drop down to your knees.” All students hear in that sentence is CAN’T which immediately makes them feel like a failure. Instead we could say…. “If you don’t love how plank feels from your toes, give it a try on your knees.” Then everyone leaves class feeling successful! 

Don’t is a dirty word!

Additionally, we want to avoid using the word DON’T. We immediately want to do what we hear our instructor cue. When students hear “Don’t over arch your lower back,” they immediately think about what overarching feels like. Instead cue the desired behavior you want. For example, “Only lift your leg as high as you can while maintaining a flat back and neutral pelvis.” Cueing in this manner is more likely to evoke a positive response from your students.

Small Changes Create Big Change

This may seem like a basic concept, but small changes in how you say certain things can make a big impact on how your students feel during and after your class!

We want all our students to feel EMPOWERED to take control of their own workout and choosing the “option” that works best for them and feeling comfortable doing so, is the first step! I challenge you to change how you offer “modifications” and “progressions” in your classes this week and see if it evokes a positive response from your students.

Lauren George, M.S.

Lauren George, M.S.

Co-Creator, Enhanced Barre Above Program; Owner, Clemson Fitness Company

Lauren has had a passion for movement and fitness since a young age. She began teaching group fitness classes in college where her first love was step aerobics. Since her beginning in step, she has pursued certifications through Power Pilates, Balanced Body Pilates (Reformer level 1-3, & Apparatus level 1-3), Schwinn, YogaFit, Kettlebell AMPD, QiDANCE, Balletone®, and TRX.

After finishing her undergraduate work in Sports Management at Texas A&M University, Lauren completed a master's degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies at The University of North Texas. During her 12 years in the fitness industry, she has had the pleasure of managing the group fitness programs at The Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, Florida State University, and ToddPilates Fitness in Austin.

In 2015, she combined her love of dance, Pilates, and group fitness to create PulsePointe barre, which has since become part of the Barre Above® program. Lauren George is the co-creator of the enhanced Barre Above® program, a Balletone® Master Trainer, and is the owner of Clemson Fitness Company, in Clemson, SC. Lauren was named Empower! Fusion Education Partner of the Year in 2018.

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MS: Recreation and Leisure Studies
BS: Sport Management

AFAA: Certified Group Fitness Instructor
ACE: Certified Personal Trainer
Balanced Body Pilates Apparatus & Reformer Level 1, 2 & 3
PowerPilates Mat
YogaFit Level 1 & 3

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Tips for Coaching Mixed Level Group Fitness Classes

by Lauren George, M.S. Time to Read: 3 min