Step used to be one of the most popular group cardio formats. Although it has recently seen a slight decrease in popularity—mostly because new programs have proliferated and time slots are limited—step still has its place. Delivering step classes requires creativity, strong teaching skills and preparedness. The following routine includes a full breakdown with a choreography progression.

Cardio Step Details

FORMAT: cardio step
TOTAL TIME: 60 minutes
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: step platforms
MUSIC: music that supports a professional 8/32 count

  • Stick with 125–132 beats per minute, as this tempo allows for full range of motion.
  • Cue participants to place the entire foot on the platform when climbing up and to touch the heel on the floor when stepping off.
  • Keep the knees “soft.”

Warm-Up (6–10 minutes)

During the first few minutes, many students (especially first-timers) are still deciding whether or not they’re going to stay. Your choice of movement, the way you break it down and the overall energy of the class affect their decision. Use simple moves, show how to approach the step, share safety guidelines and give your students a chance to “land softly.”

Use the following 32-count choreography combination:

  • Block A: Do hamstring curl on floor 4x (right, left; 1–8).
  • Block B: March on top 4x (1–4); march on floor 4x (5–8).
  • Block C: Tap step 4x (R, L; 1–8).
  • Block D: Do repeater knee 3x (R, L; 1–8).

After about 5–6 minutes of easy movement, transition to dynamic stretches with a little attitude. Warm up the hips, hamstrings and lower legs.

Cardio Step (40–50 minutes)

The following 3-x-32-count combination includes a choreography progression and layering for beginning and intermediate participants.

Progressions and layers:

  • March 8x + repeater knees 3x.
  • Layer march into double stomp (R) + march.
  • Layer rest of march into another double stomp (L), and layer repeater knees 3x into double knee.
  • Layer both double stomps to wide mambo/L-mambo.
  • Layer double knee to knee + stomp.
  • Layer last stomp to box step (L) on floor.
  • Add on 16 marches.
  • Layer marches to 3/3 stomps (L, R).
  • Layer stomps to L shape.
  • Layer first 3 stomps to wide double stomp and across-the-top.
  • Layer wide double stomp into L-step knee + tap.
  • Layer 3 stomps to mambo behind and spin (L) around; stomp over the top.
  • Layer rest of marches to pivot.

Progressions and layers:

  • March 8x + repeater knees 3x.
  • Layer march to 4/4 marches on top and down.
  • Layer march to 8 marches on top and down, and layer repeater knees 3x into double knee.
  • Layer march on top to straddle.
  • Layer march on top to V-up and mambo 2x behind step.
  • Layer exit down after mambos to straddle. Second knee of double knee goes over the top.
  • Add on knee 2x + basic step 2x.
  • Layer knee to mambo cha-cha 2x.
  • Layer basic steps into mambo front/back 2x.
  • Layer mambo front/back into box around the corner 2x.
  • Layer mambo cha-cha to mambo chassé (step/floor).

Repeat everything above with opposite leading leg and then split the entire routine.

Progressions and layers:

  • Basic step 2x + repeater knees 3x.
  • Layer basics to 6 marches on top and exit.
  • Layer 6 marches to back lunges 2x.
  • Layer repeater to stomp/cha-cha/stomp.
  • Layer last stomp to box step on floor.
  • Layer travel—approach lunges at side—and stomp/cha-cha to mambo chassé box step around the step.
  • Add on marches 8x + alternating knees 2x.
  • Layer marches to 6 on top and exit.
  • Layer 6 on top to diagonal walkover to mambo off; march on straddle and exit.
  • Layer rhythm change on marches—cha-cha/mambo/reverse/mambo cha-cha, exit.
  • Layer alternating knees to alternating step side-tap.

Cool-Down and Stretch (115 bpm, 8–10 minutes)

Use a simple low-block move (e.g., alternating step-touch) and repeat to lower the heart rate. Slowly work your way to a series of static stretches. Use these last few minutes to lengthen muscles and express your appreciation to the class for a job well done and for taking the time out of their busy days to spend an hour with you.