The highs and lows of a Group Fitness Movement

The studio and class timetable has become an integral of gyms and health clubs across the world. We’ve graduated significantly from the stereotypical ‘feel the burn’ Jane Fonda aerobics (though this old school concept has made a bit of a comeback!) to include weight training, HIIT interval training, core strength and sport inspired workouts.

Take the Les Mills programs for example, they reach millions of people in 15,500 clubs across 80 countries and creates a ‘community of like minded people’. Regular attendees of Spinning, Crossfit, Bootcamp, Yoga and Pilates, form friendships for motivation, camaraderie and competition. Classes can help inspire, teach and motivate a whole community of people who otherwise would find the general gym set up intimidating, uninteresting or feel they lack the knowledge and motivation to undertake a traditional gym routine.


I often see class members scuttle straight from the changing rooms to the safe, familiar surrounds of the studio, sometimes avoiding all eye contact with people on the gym floor! On reaching the haven of the studio each person confidently set up their Body Pump stations, chat to a familiar face or to their favourite instructor and once a regular attendee, you go up the ladder and can watch the newbies come and go.

Despite the positivity surrounding the group fitness movement I have seen numerous clients (predominantly female) who are finding their bodies aren’t developing in the way they wanted. Due to poor technique, muscular imbalances or not losing body fat in the way they thought, despite doing ‘loads of classes’. So what’s going wrong? Here are some observations I’ve found. I’d like to note, I am definitely not saying, ‘don’t do classes!’ I’ve taught group fitness for years and appreciate the hard work instructors do to inspire a group of people to love working out and introduce a fit lifestyle with fun.

PT_GroupEX81. Poor technique: This can be due to not having individual attention from the instructor. I instructed for 7 years so know it can be difficult to give that correction to everyone, but often my advice gets ignored….! There is only so much individual attention an instructor can give when working with a large group. Next time in class, take on board any advice given and see the effect on your workout.

2. ‘Hiding’ in the class: I’ve seen many just continue to perform the exercises as they see fit (no squat depth, no glute activation, no abdominal engagement) despite instructor guidance. Cutting corners here and there over a whole hour could mean a half hearted workout.

 3. It’s easy to believe you’re doing it right when you’re not being shown: I have also seen instructors with poor technique so often the member copies and learns the instructors bad habits. This however can also go for personal trainers…

 4. Lack of nutritional guidance to attain their physique goals: The general belief is that you can eat as much as you want as long as you do as many classes as possible. Often resulting in eating too much or too little. Seek good advice here, your food intake will dictate your results.

 5. Repetitive actions of certain muscle groups: I have had people complain that their shoulders for example, are not being as sculpted as they’d like, but spend much of their time spinning and doing yoga…or their glutes aren’t as developed as they’d like but they never directly target them in training. Reassess what you’d like to get out of your training and ensure your schedule is putting you in that direction.

6. Lack of attention in training: When I weight train clients I encourage them to feel and squeeze the muscles as they lift. Often exercise to music is too fast, the class member can switch off and just go through the motions. Be aware and be present!

7. The belief that turning up and sweating doesn’t always transcend into a beneficial workout: Often I see people not pushing themselves to their capabilities.

Having one on one tuition will without a doubt help you progress in the class and beyond so I’d definitely recommend investing in this to assist your training and goals. Personal training and coaching is exactly that, personal. I have often given one on one attention to class members to prevent them from falling into bad habits or correct existing ones and maximise their potential. I believe in not wasting your workout, each one takes you closer to where you want to be. There is a place for classes in your schedule if you enjoy them but like most things, too much of one thing isn’t always a good thing!  Learn and educate yourself and you’ll benefit so much more in the long run.

Sian Toal –  WBFF pro, FFF sponsored athlete and brand ambassador.


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