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A Step Training Class for All Levels

by Fred Hoffman, MEd on Aug 26, 2009

Two decades after its introduction, step training remains a viable cardiovascular activity. However, there is no denying that stepping has taken a back seat to other activities in recent years. The consensus is that step has evolved into more of an elitist activity with complex choreography and fast music speeds that cater only to advanced participants. The very people who need to take part (sedentary, overweight, beginners, etc.) are often left out because they are either afraid to participate or frustrated at not being able to keep up.

Welcome to Fat-Free Step, a class based on what step training was intended to be—low impact, moderate to high intensity, accessible to all populations, fun and with a low risk of injury (when established step guidelines are followed). The “fat-free” approach provides a base to work from and allows instructors to add their own bells and whistles to accommodate more advanced, choreography-seeking students.

Fat-Free Step Details

Use the following parameters to manipulate intensity and accommodate all levels:

  • Raise the step height. Research shows that this is the simplest way to increase intensity. Unfortunately, many instructors don’t give their students this option. For efficiency, slow down the music speed and increase step height by a few inches.
  • Offer choreography variations. Step combinations that use traveling movements, repeaters, lunges and power moves increase overall energy expenditure. Traveling and floor/step mixes also create fun, interesting choreography.
  • Keep arm movements simple and controlled while encouraging full range of motion to maintain or increase intensity.
  • Use propulsion movements, which can increase energy expenditure by more than 50%. These movement patterns allow participants to vary intensity according to their individual needs and can be optional for those who prefer less impact. The four basic power moves commonly used—leaps, runs, hops and jumps—allow for a multitude of variations.

Sample Step Pattern

Use the following step pattern to get started. The first version takes a more straightforward approach, while the second adds a bit more challenge. The lead approach is from the front. Build off this idea by adding your own variations to keep steppers stimulated and coming back for more.

Version 1 Counts
Alternating-lead combination.
• alternating knee-up with hop, down, down 1–4
• shuffle on step, down, down, changing direction 5–8
• basic step with leap on count 2 9–12
• alternating leg extension with hop, down, down 13–16
• 2-knee repeater, walk 4 on the floor 17–24
• basic step with run on counts 1 and 2, down, down, step, kick, down, down 25–32
Version 2 Counts
Alternating-lead combination.
• quarter-hop turn, knee-up into straddle (right-leg lead hops toward right and
  vice versa)
• shuffle on step, down, down, changing direction 5–8
• over-the-top corner-to-corner (leap on count 2), changing direction 9–12
• (side approach) quarter-hop turn with leg extension back to starting side of
  platform, down, down
• (side approach) 3-tap repeater (tap on floor, front-back-front; replaces 2-knee
  repeater from version 1), walk backward (turning) around step
• run, run, straddle down, leap step, kick, straddle down 25–32

For additional step combinations or to learn more about creating a fat-free step class, please see “Sample Class: Fat-Free Step” in the March 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or read the article online in the IDEA Library.

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About the Author

Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd IDEA Author/Presenter

Fred Hoffman, MEd, holds a master’s degree in health education and is the director of international services for the Club & Spa Synergy Group. A consultant and master trainer for companies such as R...