Participants rarely think about injuries until after they happen (hopefully not in your class!). But someone who needs rehabilitation may face a delay in meeting fitness goals. Another issue: Our group fitness studios are filling with people of many different ages and abilities. What if you could help all of them avoid injury, and not just through your insightful cuing and instruction? Here's how you can: Teach a challenging multilevel class and introduce the workout with a unique preparatory sequence.

The neck, shoulders, back, hips and knees are vulnerable, so it's important to warm up and strengthen muscles surrounding these areas in ways that are safe, effective and dynamic, instead of relying solely on "March in place" or "Step side to side." The warm-up does more than prepare the body; it also sets the tone.
The more charismatic you are as a leader, the more your participants benefit from the warm-up, so why not take a few basic moves and add some flare? Attendees
will likely not know you're doing "prehab" in the first 10 minutes of class.

During the Introduction

Give basic alignment cues during the welcome. Consider this small 8-count sequence the "chorus" of the warm-up and return to it between sets.

  • Keep range of motion small, and start slowly.
  • Keep abs engaged, rib cage lifted, shoulders back and down, knees behind toes.
  • Walk it out (march in place).
  • Roll shoulders back, look left, look right, say hi to your neighbor.
  • Transition to light jogging.
  • Transition to jumping rope.
  • Add in side knee lunge for 4 counts, return to jumping rope in the middle, and then switch sides.

Two Minutes In

Remind participants that they're warming up and the body is preparing for the workout.

  • Repeat marches/jogging/jumping rope/lunges sequence above, but expand ROM a bit. Repeat sequence twice on each side, increasing the energy with each set.
  • Introduce wide-stance sumo squats, slow and controlled, on the 2 count (down 2 and up 2).
  • Talk to participants while they catch their breath; add arm openers.
  • With hands on hips, squat to tempo. Keep ROM at about half of full capacity.
  • Stay static in sumo squat and add upper-body rotation: Do basic torso twists, arms bent in front of body, hands in light fists.
  • Add dynamic sumo squat back in after 8 reps, do 8 torso twists to one side, and then switch.
  • Transition sumo squat into wide-leg side lunges.
  • Add upper-body arm movements: One arm reaches up and over (rainbow arms); arm reaches across body as though drawing a bow; arm reaches toward floor as if starting a lawn mower.
  • Before transitioning to opposite arm, challenge participants with a leg balance. Have them hold lunge on one side and bring opposite knee to torso (think Karate Kid stance).
  • Repeat on opposite side.

Return and Add On

  • Come back to initial sequence.
  • Keep arms at shoulder height and cue small arm circles in reverse, palms facing ceiling to open chests.
  • Transition to reverse lunges (halftime rate), arms reaching forward to help with balance.
  • At top of sequence, bring one knee to chest while preparing to introduce the meaty part of the workout. Tell class they've touched on these five injury-preventing keys: flexibility, strength, agility, balance and power.