3 Steps to get the most out of Group Fitness Classes

Classes are one of the most popular ways to workout, early on we had our step aerobics classes, and they put the sweat on the floor, let me tell you. We had aerobic classes made up of various movements and choreographs to keep the heart rate up. Bringing it into the era of nowadays where classes are still as popular as ever but have morphed into slightly different concepts.

Classes are a great opportunity for people to gather in groups and train, to push themselves as hard as they can, to compete with the person next to them. Many if not all gyms offer classes and they are one of the most popular forms of working out. It takes the programming out of the equation, they show up and perform the prescribed exercises. Classes are programmed for high-intensity work, usually in a circuit fashion with multiple exercises done and littler rest periods. The goal of the class is to be able to keep the heart rate elevated for the duration of the class.

Where classes start to fall short is the programming itself, many are familiar with certain classes that they do (we will use Tabata as an example). Most of the time and in my experience class programming never changes, the exercises might change within the class but the structure of it does not. This can be challenging because after a period of time with the stimulus (class) the body will adapt to it, therefore something must change in order to drive another stimulus. If there is no change then there is no adaptation, so could hit plateau overtime if all you do are classes. Now I hope that the classes you are going to change pretty frequently if they do then you do not have to keep reading. If you want to get more out of the classes you are going to then keep reading.

Over time as humans we get used to stimuli we learn, we know what to expect and our bodies are ready for it. One of the biggest issues I see with group classes is this. After a person has done the class a handful of times they now know what they are up against. They now know what weights to use and what to expect, unless the instructor changes the class up.

This presents a big problem, over time people use the same amount of weight each time, they never increase it, they know what 20, 30 and 40s intervals are like and they can control how the pace of the movements go. The brain figures out ways to make the class easier, less of a threat to the body. Well, that right there will lead to the flat surface of the plateau and no change.

Time and time again I see people going through the motions in classes, they think they are getting the most out of it, but in reality, they can get more. These are the people who can do 45 minutes of Tabata and look like they could go 45 min more, or do back-to-back classes. This should not be the case, if done right a Tabata style program should be miserable it should leave you wanting to never do it again. Going 20 seconds as hard as you can on an exercise should be hell on your system then give in 10 seconds of rest, my mind is in a dark place throughout. This is what it should feel like if you are not getting those feelings when doing high-intensity training classes then your intensity is not as high as you think.

In the group class setting, I often see the pace of the movement as lackluster, some people move slow. You signed up for a high-intensity class let’s turn that volume dial on the intensity up. Most classes are based on time, this is a great way to ensure the group can stay organized with the same exercise, but the problem becomes some people get 15 reps in 20s seconds others might get 8. That’s a huge difference in work, those 20 seconds are not equal at all for people. I see the difference in the rest time those who might have not gone as hard as they could will “run in place” or do extra work why? If you do the work time correctly you will need the recovery that’s why it’s there.

One way to do this is to count how many reps you get in the allotted time and the next time you do it you have to get the same amount of reps this makes you work hard to achieve the reps when under heavy fatigue.

In making your group training better and to gain more from it here's a 3 step focus to think about each time.

1: Go hard, go really hard, move fast, push your body to the max, stress the system and you will see change.

2: If the weight feels on the easier side for the duration of work time, its time to increase the resistance so you can achieve number one

3: Get as many reps in the work time. Count the reps and try to get more.

Go to the uncomfortable and get everything out of your training time.

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