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4 Keys to Electric Class Design

by Christy Stevenson on Jun 24, 2010

If you’re new to group fitness or just stuck in a rut, try this fail-proof formula for creating a class that makes the grade every time! By understanding and applying the basic elements of kinesiology, anatomy, physiology and party planning, you’ll be in the perfect position to design an experience that pleases even the pickiest patrons.


1. Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the science and study of human movement. Some classes—just by their format—are limited in this arena. If they are, make sure you incorporate stretches that utilize other planes of movements. On the other hand, some formats inherently accommodate a variety of planes, and a class that intelligently incorporates these will feel more complete. Also think about spatial awareness and how are you moving the body in space.

2. Anatomy

The most applicable element of anatomy is muscle balance: between upper and lower body, right and left sides, back body and front, and antagonist and agonist muscle pairings. When choreographing or designing any class, pay attention to muscles that you are overworking and others you may be neglecting. Have you targeted the adductors? Have you incorporated arm movements to work the triceps as well as the biceps? If you break down your choreography, do you spend as much time repeating on the left side as you do on the right? Allow time for participants to do an extra set of strengthening exercises on their weaker side.

3. Physiology

When designing your class, create a routine that utilizes different types of muscle contractions. Alternating quick movements with slow and controlled motions, or even with static positions involving isometric muscle contractions, will challenge the muscles and work the different muscle fiber types (fast-twitch, intermediate, slow-twitch).

4. Party Planning

Once you’ve planned your class and checked for variety in kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, you’re ready to add the fun factor. This all-important ingredient comes from proper music selection, “games” and your own enthusiasm and energy.

Applying the Four Keys to an Indoor Cycling Class

The four keys will help you deliver a successful group exercise experience of any kind. Here’s an example using a group indoor cycling class:

1: Kinesiology

  • After warming up and while in a seated upright position, cue participants to stretch the spine by twisting at the waist and gazing gently over the back shoulder.
  • During the cool-down, stretch off the bike and incorporate the frontal/coronal plane with a plié inner-thigh stretch and cross-legged hip openers.
  • Remind participants to keep the pedal stroke action in the sagittal plane.

2: Anatomy

  • Every other song or halfway through the workout, cue participants to switch the lead foot.
  • Remind participants to engage the abdominals to protect the lower back as they ride.
  • Cue your class to ride with hips, knees and ankles aligned and to ride with smooth, flat pedal strokes.

3: Physiology

  • Alternate heavy hills with fast flats to recruit muscle fibers in different ways.
  • Explain the metabolic benefits of interval drills.
  • Explain what goes on physically during a proper warm-up or cool-down, to encourage people not to skip these stages.

4: Party Planning

  • Make a playlist with songs from different decades. Cue participants born in a specific decade to “lead the pack” during their song.
  • Choose an upbeat song that makes you want to clap. Ride in an upright, seated position and cue participants to clap their hands along with the chorus. Remind your timid riders that overhead clapping loosens tight shoulders and lengthens the spine.
  • As the instructor, be sure to get off your bike and work the room at least twice during class.

For more detailed explanations of each component, plus practical applications for all types of classes, see “The Four Elements of Perfect Class Design” in the online IDEA Library or in the May issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.


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About the Author

Christy Stevenson

Christy Stevenson IDEA Author/Presenter

Christy Stevenson, fitness writer/presenter and owner of the YouTube channel Real Fit for Real Life, has been teaching group fitness classes for 17 years and has certified with AFAA, ACE, and FiTOUR in Group Exercise, Yoga, Pilates, Kickboxing, Stability Ball Training, Group Barbell Conditioning, Core & Functional Training, and Personal Training. She has also certified with Reebok University in Coreboard Training & Body Training Systems RPM, a pre-choreographed cycling program, as well as Zumba® & TRX. She has taught virtually every land aerobics class format that exists, including specialty classes such as Go-Go Robics, Teen Sports Conditioning, Strollercize, Shakti Running, and Senior Strength and Stretch. Prior to moving to CT, Christy served as the land aerobics supervisor at American Fork Fitness Center in UT for over 4 years, designing a new schedule to meet the needs of expansion, doubling class sizes, and growing strong Yoga & Indoor Cycling programs. She tries to inspire the world to fitness by voluntarily teaching church & school groups, planning and promoting fundraising fitness campaigns, designing a personal training program for overweight children, and teaching yoga in schools. Christy has run 10 Ragnar relays, several half marathons, 7 marathons, and one sprint-distance triathlon. Christy graduated from BYU in 1998 with an English Teaching major and Theatre Arts minor & has taught 7th, 8th, and 11th grade. Her education background lends to her dynamic ability to lead instructor workshops, as well as her ability to bring fitness to youth ages. She is a freelance editor and writer and contributes to the prestigious IDEA Fitness Professional Journal & American Fitness. Christy is married to a wonderful husband and is the mother of 3 awesome and fit kids.