Fitness Class Ideas for Instructors

Erin Dollison Nitschke
4 min readJan 9


As with any aspect of the work we do, if we don’t shake it up now and again, things start to feel stale — not just for you but for your clients and class participants. Group fitness is one of the areas of the health and exercise industry that thrives on variety and new challenges. If you are someone who teaches in a free-style, non-choreographed group exercise environment, check out some of these approaches to add flare and a sense of “newness” to the experience.


Appealing to class participants’ motivations requires a thoughtful approach to engage everyone in a fun and unique way. The concept of gamification does just that with the goal of creating incentives and a more engaging experience. Gamification also appeals to the inner child in all of us. Ways to accomplish this could include:

· Setting up partner challenges using an obstacle course or stations including different movements that alternate between an upper body, lower body, and core exercise. Then, the second time through the stations, the exercises have the option to advance to a more challenging degree.

· Around the world challenge — different stations could represent different areas of the world (and name exercises in fun ways that reflect that area or theme).

· Scavenger hunt — this could be done outdoors and weather (and location) permitting. Set up a scavenger hunt with different stations and each time members of the class find a clue, they perform the exercise at that station to be able to move on to the next clue.

Pro tip: Include prizes at the end such as free session, water bottle, in-studio credit, for example.

Cardio-Strength Hybrid

I love this approach as cardio isn’t always everyone’s favorite modality. By combining cardio with strength, the class time flies by, and members have fun. The general format would include a weighted exercise following by a body weight exercise for a specific duration of time. Check out the following as an example:

Each exercise lasts for 60 seconds. Repeat the circuit twice.

1. Skier swings with dumbbells

2. Skater hops

3. Weighted wood chop

4. Plank walk outs to calf raise

5. Weighted side-lunge (alternate right to left)

6. Plank with shoulder taps

7. Dumbbell power clean

8. Charleston with knee raise

The beauty of this approach is the fast finish time, elevated heart rate, and emphasis on form and strength.

EMOM — Every Minute on the Minute

Like the cardio-strength hybrid, the EMOM format is versatile and can include a variety of exercises using different implements. First, decide what you want the work to rest ratio to look like as that will dictate how many reps your class participants do of each exercise. Here’s an example.

Repeat this circuit 4 times using 8–10 reps of each.

1. Minute 1: Dumbbells squats

2. Minute 2: Sphinx push-ups

3. Minute 3: Squat jumps

4. Minute 4: Plank rows with dumbbells

5. Minute 5: Reverse lunge with twist (medicine ball) — alternate sides for a total of 8–10 reps

6. Minute 6: Reverse fly with dumbbells

EMOM’s can be regressed or progressed based on the needs of the class. You can also use just body weight exercises for a beginner challenge.


Themes are always a fun way to engage class participants. Query the class and ask them what their favorite movie soundtrack is. Examples might be Top Gun or Rocky. Build the class and the exercises around songs in that soundtrack.

20/10 Workout

This format includes 20 exercises for a total of 10 reps. Depending on the complexity of the movements, you can have participants repeat the circuit 1–2 times. You can also vary this format to be 10/10 or 10/12 (or any combination, really). This can also be centered around a specific type of equipment. You can create an entire circuit using just resistance loops. Kettlebells, medicine balls, etc. Or alternate between upper and lower body, push and pull, squatting and lunging, or other combinations by different muscle groups (leg, back biceps, chest, shoulder triceps, etc.). The possibilities with this approach are endless and can be modified to cater to the skills and abilities of each class.

For any group fitness class format or style, be sure to include regressions and progressions for each movement and continue to use different planes of motion so participants experience a 3-D approach to their training. And don’t forget, your class participants are a great source of inspiration and feedback. Ask them for ideas and insights, which will provide them with an additional sense of ownership in the class.

Originally published on the Fitness Education Online Blog Site.



Erin Dollison Nitschke

Passionate college educator, writer, and health and fitness professional. I am an NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Health Coach, & Pn1.