If you want to start your career teaching fitness classes and need tips on how to start, we’re here to help!

In this article we’ll look at:

Before we start, the most important thing you’ll need to achieve this career is a Personal Training Diploma. By completing this course, you will become eligible for more job opportunities. 

Find more information about this course and all of our others by downloading our full course prospectus for free here!

 

Qualifications Needed for Teaching Group Fitness Classes 

Before you can start teaching fitness classes you’ll need to source and secure the best qualifications. 

There are a few different options for which ones you’ll need depending on whether you want to know how to teach fitness classes generally or to specialise in a particular kind.

The first and most important course you’ll need to complete is a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course.

This will provide you with all of the foundational information and skills needed for teaching fitness classes accurately and effectively.

You’ll learn the practical skills that will help you design classes and help your class members get the most out of the experience including: 

  • The principles of fitness so you can pace the class accurately with the right amount of warm up and cool down and energy for people to see results
  • Health and safety so that you can teach in a way that’s safe for everyone. This also signals to potential employers that you’re prepared and trustworthy to teach safely 
  • Learning the business and how to market yourself so that you can grow in popularity and get as many class members as possible! This also shows potential employers you’ve got a basic understanding of promotion and how to draw people to your classes 

All jobs, no matter where, will ask you to have at least this qualification so it’s vital you complete this before starting to teach.

There may be some positions available that will only ask for this course but most places will now want you to be a qualified personal trainer.

Even if you don’t want to become a personal trainer, and just want to focus on teaching fitness classes, you’ll build on the skills of level 2 and be able to secure a wider variety of positions.

We’ll touch on this in more detail in our section on ‘Working as a Personal Trainer’ but to secure a more advanced qualification and be more eligible for a whole range of different positions you should also invest in a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification. 

From there you can also specialise with CPD fitness courses becoming an expert in a niche area of fitness. 

Career Options and Progression for Teaching Fitness Classes 

Now that you know exactly what qualifications you’ll need for teaching group fitness classes we’ll look at some of the different ways of working and how you can advance your career. 

Teaching Fitness Classes in a Gym 

 

If you want to know how to teach group fitness classes at the start of your career, you’ll most likely begin with working in a gym.

The benefit of teaching fitness classes in a gym is that you’ll have all of your members provided for you and often these will be busy classes. 

It will also give you the opportunity to teach a variety of classes with a range of ages and demographics for you to try these out and decide what’s best for you. 

However, positions in a gym where you’ll solely be teaching fitness classes can be few and far between. 

The roles where you can work in a gym and only teach group fitness classes will usually be freelance positions with unstable hours.

As you can see with the position below, positions will often have an hourly rate but not necessarily offer a guaranteed amount of hours:

class instructor how to teach group fitness classes image 

This is why, more often than not, if you’re interested in solely teaching fitness classes you will probably have to work freelance.

Any more permanent or full-time positions will involve a lot of this extra administrative work or helping to generally maintain the smooth running of the facility:

level 2 how to teach fitness classes image

Most positions will ask you to have some duties on the gym floor or be roles combined with personal training. 

As a result it’s also rare for you to find fitness instructor roles, even when you’d be predominantly teaching fitness classes, without a Level 3 Personal Trainer course being required.

Even the position we just mentioned asks for a ‘minimum Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification’:

minimum qual how to teach fitness classes image

This means that often people with more advanced qualifications will have the edge when applying for these roles.

We’ll look in more detail now at the personal trainer job description and how you can balance it with teaching fitness classes to have a highly lucrative career! 

Working as a Personal Trainer

As we mentioned earlier, plenty of positions will combine teaching fitness classes with personal training and will ask you to be qualified to this level. 

Being a personal trainer will mean working with clients one-on-one and designing bespoke exercise programmes to help them reach their personal fitness goals.

If you complete a diploma in personal training, combining a Level 2 and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification, you’ll be eligible for a much wider variety of positions in gyms or other facilities.

You’ll also be able to decide on how you balance teaching group fitness classes with these roles in a way that works for you.  

For example, usually positions will start off with a certain amount of hours you’ll have to teach classes or work on the gym floor and a dedicated amount of time for personal training clients. 

This one from Nuffield Health will allow that flexibility:

personal training how to teach fitness classes image

You can have as many personal training clients as you like whilst also working on the gym floor or, in some positions, fill that time with teaching fitness classes.

You can then start to build up your client list and make more money, dropping time on the floor or teaching fitness classes for this more lucrative work. 

From there, you can advance your career further if you want to and become a self-employed personal trainer with your own business. 

 

You could also still offer private classes if you wanted to combine the two roles and to give yourself a chance to still be teaching fitness classes. 

We’ll look at how to go about that now as one of the most advanced career options for teaching group fitness classes. 

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But before we continue, check out our guides for advancing your career in the industry:

How to Teach Group Fitness Classes with Your Own Business

how to teach fitness classes independent image

Teaching group fitness classes independently, with your own self-employed business, will work in a similar way to working freelance in that you’ll often teach in a variety of locations. 

These locations will depend on where you’re based as well as the kind of classes you want to teach. 

For instance, you might be interested in teaching fitness classes in the following locations:

  • Parks
  • Community centres
  • Other community spaces such as church halls 
  • Sports halls owned by schools or other organisations
  • Your own dedicated studio or gym space
  • Online

You can rent out these spaces for teaching fitness classes and operate as a self-employed instructor. 

You can also go into teaching fitness classes online if you’ve got a space you can use for teaching in your home or find a space you can rent. 

If you can work from your home this cuts down a lot of the costs of renting somewhere solely for teaching your fitness classes.

This is another benefit of investing in more advanced qualifications as you’ll be able to market yourself and promote your expertise to people so they choose your classes above other people’s. 

Working for yourself in general also means that you can teach a variety of classes, for different abilities, and have more control over how much you charge. 

How to Teach Fitness Classes: 3 Top Tips

Now that you know how to achieve this career, and the steps you need to take, we’ll run through some top tips so you know how to teach group fitness classes that see the best results and engagement. 

If you implement these tips you’ll be teaching fitness classes to a really high standard and make sure people keep coming back! 

#1 How to Teach Fitness Classes and Pay Attention to Body Language

teaching fitness classes image

Being aware of body language means not only picking up on some of the visual cues displayed by class members but also how you come across to the class.

You should be aware of class members’ body language because more often than not people will show any discomfort or confusion in a nonverbal way. 

As an instructor it’s your job to pick up on these signals when teaching fitness classes to ensure the space is as inclusive and enjoyable as possible!

This will mean that you’re more able to spot when people are struggling or might need some further instruction.

It will also increase your chances of spotting any potential risks earlier if people seem like they’re pushing themselves too hard or they’re feeling uncomfortable. 

Paying attention to your own body language and how you instruct will mean you get the ideal mix of being approachable as well as passionate and encouraging. 

If you’re too laid back in your teaching style and don’t use your body language to reinforce any encouragement, people may be put off and feel you’re disengaged.

People may also feel like you’re not pushing them enough if you’re not conveying enthusiasm for your class members. 

If you’re too aggressive or forceful with your body language this will put people off in a different way and mean class members feel intimidated.

motivation how to teach fitness classes graphic 

Some of the things you should avoid doing include:

  • Getting too close to individual class members unless they’ve given you permission for hands on adjustments
  • Crossing your arms 
  • Facing away from the class or not looking at members

Instead you should always make sure that you:

  • Smile throughout class
  • Make eye contact with people when you speak to them or offer verbal cues/encouragement
  • Move around either the front of the class or around the class so you can better see members’ body language

Finding the balance with your own body language, and spotting that of your class members, is one of the best ways to create a successful fitness class with plenty of returning members. 

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#2 Offer Modifications When Teaching Fitness Classes

modifications how to teach fitness classes image 

One of the hardest parts of teaching group fitness classes compared to personal training sessions is that you have to cater to a huge variety of abilities and physical make ups all at the same time.

You may have a range of ages, people with different injuries, and beginners mixed in with much more experienced people. 

This will mean that for each class you should offer modifications so that there’s options for different abilities so that everyone can take part and see the benefits.

This will make your classes inclusive without making them boring or not challenging enough for those who are more experienced.

It also supports people through any particular injuries so that they can still take part without hurting themselves further. 

This may well differ from class to class so it’s something worth practising and continuing to adjust as you go throughout your career and the more you teach a particular class. 

Each group might have a range of different abilities each time so you’ll have to be prepared to adjust on the fly and have modifications ready to go should people need them.  

For example, you can have a range of different weights that will have the desired effect, and use the desired muscles, but cater to a variety of different strengths.

If people have joint issues then you can offer a version of certain cardio exercises with less impact. 

If somebody has problems with their knees, for example, you might tell them to do side steps instead of jumping jacks. 

You can also offer modifications with more of a bend in the knee so that those with hypermobility don’t overextend and hurt themselves. 

#3 How to Teach Group Fitness Classes with the Right Playlist

playlist teaching fitness classes graphic 

Designing the right playlist when you’re teaching fitness classes means choosing something fun that’s also ideally paced.

The right playlist will match the tempo and the way you design your class, building the energy up and down depending on the intensity of the exercise. 

Choosing the right playlist will make the class more fun and energetic but it can be difficult to decide on the right tone for the right class.

This is why your main focus should be on the tempo and pace as this is the most important function of the songs you choose. 

It will help people to keep time as you can tell people to move to the beat and help them with how long they should perform certain exercises or hold certain positions.

It will also help you to keep track of time in the class and ensure the structure you choose allows for enough warm up and cool down time.

For instance, you might decide to choose a longer song and have the length of it be the warm up or cool down time so you can time things perfectly.  

You’ll learn about how to pace the class properly as part of your diploma in personal training and matching this with music will help to set the intensity as well. 

teaching fitness classes graphic

This will mean class members won’t go too hard too quickly and risk injuring themselves or getting DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  

You should peak in the middle of the class with the most upbeat or fast tracks when people are at their warmest and when they should be working the hardest. 

Then you can gradually slow things down and include slower tracks to allow for a cool down and make sure people don’t stop too abruptly.  

You should also avoid too many songs with lots of lyrics in because you need people to be able to hear your verbal cues easily.

You can often find ready made playlists on YouTube and Spotify that people have designed for particular styles of class.

Whilst you’re planning your own and deciding what to include you can use these for inspiration! 

Before You Go! 

Now you know how to teach group fitness classes and become a successful instructor, don’t forget to check out our Diploma in Personal Training to ensure you’re eligible for as many positions as possible.

You can also download our course prospectus here for free to find out about all of the different courses we offer. 

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About the Author: Jessie Florence Jones

Jessie OriGym Author
Jessie has a 1st class honours degree in English Literature from University of Leeds and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Naturally Jessie has a real passion for writing especially about film, culture and wellbeing. Outside of writing she loves hiking, country walks and yoga, which she has done religiously since lockdown.

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