The art of creating great group fitness classes comes when you understand how to put just as much attention to the beginning and end of the workout as you do to the middle portion of the class. Use the following tips to create fully comprehensive and complete classes.

Creating Active Warm-ups

It’s time to take a cue from the world of strength and conditioning and utilize an active dynamic warm-up (ADW) within your classes. This is vital as many participants enter classes after spending hours sitting behind desks or in cars. Their hips are tight, their muscles are cold and their ligaments aren’t ready for the demands of high-intensity workouts. And this means you must do more than an accelerated warm-up and laps around the room.

A solid ADW includes six phases, which last anywhere from 10-20 minutes. This outline can easily be manipulated for use in any group fitness workout to make it appropriate for the flow of class.

1. Core Activation

This includes exercises such as planks, bridges, and other movements that utilize muscles of the abs, obliques, lower back and glutes.

2. Multiplanar Movements

This includes squats and lunges that work in all three planes of motion (e.g., walking lunges or rotational squats).

3. Transitions

This section starts to build heat in the body with across-the-floor variations of skips, shuffles and cariocas, all focusing on controlled movements that engage the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees and hips in preparation for running, jumping and squatting during the workout.

4. Dynamic Stretches

This includes movements that lengthen the muscles and build body awareness, such as inchworms, lunge and twist, knee to chest, high kicks or downward dog push-ups.

5. Build Up Runs

Across-the-room runs that build with intensity, starting at 50% and building to 90-95% after six to eight runs.

6. Closed-chain Isolated Exercises

This includes isolated movements such as leg swings to focus specifically on different joints and ranges of motion.

When developed with the focus and intent of the class, this type of active dynamic warm-up featuring movement preps and gradual progression of movement ensures participants are warm from the “inside-out.” Remember, the general goal of an effective ADW is to prepare the muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments and the stretch-reflex cycle to be ready when called upon versus jumping into intense movements at the beginning of class.

Keep Them There to the End

The real challenge comes in keeping participants through the very last minute of class so that their bodies can return to homeostasis. Instead of planning to simply grab a mat and finish the last 10 minutes of class with supine abdominal work and static stretching, design a cool-down that has participants standing through to the end. By keeping them on their feet they will think they are still in the working phase of class.

To ensure that your participants are doing stretching and mobility work, consider taking a cue from the world of yoga and developing mindful flows that will decrease heart rate, increase range of motion, challenge the core and enhance balance. Here is a good outline to follow:

  1. Dynamic Balance

  2. Static Balance

  3. Dynamic Stretches

  4. Static Stretches

Instead of telling your participants that you’re starting the cool-down phase, refer to the last portion of class as the last block of work or phase of training. The language you use will make them think they are still working, while in reality you are preparing their bodies to return to “regular” life and helping to decrease their risk for injury (while also giving them the added bonus of balance training).

Put it All Together

There’s no doubt that you’ve got a library of great workouts, drills and choreography at your fingertips, so now it’s time to take those plans and create solid active dynamic warm-ups and cool-downs that ensure your participants are fully prepared for the workout experience and want to stick around to the last moment of class.