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Cardio and Creative Core

Group fitness participants can’t seem to get enough of creative core and cardiovascular exercises. If you need innovative ideas to challenge your students, this class is for you! Target core muscles while introducing unique variations of familiar moves. Round out the routine by torching calories with high-intensity interval training exercises.

Creative Cardio and Core Details

Goal/emphasis: core strengthening and HIIT

Time: approximately 60 minutes

Equipment needed: steps (placed vertically) and medicine balls (enough for each participant)

Music: 130 beats per minute

Additional notes:

  • Select core exercises that increase muscular endurance, strength and power, while stabilizing the spine.
  • Perform some exercises in an upright, weight-bearing position to offer a more functional approach to core strengthening.
  • Choose exercises that work in all planes of motion.
  • Include challenging high-intensity intervals that use repeated bouts of short-duration anaerobic activity alternating with periods of lower intensity (active recovery).
  • Use the rating of perceived exertion scale to monitor intensity.
  • Offer options to progress and regress exercises as needed.

Use the following high-intensity intervals:

  • Burst: Choose an exercise in the aerobic training zone and then increase intensity to anaerobic twice during the 2-minute set.
  • Pyramid: Perform an exercise at a moderate intensity for 40 seconds and gradually build intensity every 40 seconds, two additional times.
  • Speed play: Select an exercise, and offer options for increasing and decreasing intensity in an unstructured (unpredictable) way for 2 minutes.

Warm-Up (5 minutes)

The warm-up includes basic movements that increase heart rate and body temperature. Perform the warm-up in a circle, around the periphery of the room, to create a feeling of community and camaraderie. Complete the following exercises for about 1 minute each:

  • Jog clockwise in circle.
  • Face center of room and squat, single tempo.
  • Jog in counterclockwise circle.
  • Do squat thrusts facing center of room.
  • Do push-ups from knees, facing center of room.

Work Phase (50 minutes)

Perform cardiovascular conditioning exercises for about 2 minutes, and then complete 16 repetitions of each core move. Do each round twice, and then move on to the next one (switch sides for unilateral moves or change lead leg). Include at least 30 seconds of rest between rounds.

Round One

Cardio: Burst Interval

  • Stand on top of bench and straddle down, right-leg lead.
  • Transition to plyometric straddle burst (hop down from bench and then hop back to top).


  • Hold medicine ball and squat with chop, rotating R. Switch sides.

Alignment tips:

  • Land softly on plyometric jumps.
  • When doing squat with rotation, keep hips facing forward as torso rotates.

Beginner’s tips:

  • Instead of hopping with straddle, simply squat lower to increase intensity.
  • Do squat with chop without medicine ball.

Round Two

Cardio: Pyramid Interval

  • Start with lateral leap side to side, 40 seconds.
  • Add lateral leap with jumping jack at each end, 40 seconds.
  • Add lateral leap with air jack at each end, 40 seconds.


  • Holding medicine ball, balance on R leg. Hinge at hips to put ball on bench, and then stand. Hinge at hips to pick up ball, and stand again. Switch sides.

Alignment tips:

  • Land softly when leaping.
  • Maintain neutral spine while hinging at hips.

Beginner’s tips:

  • Step-touch instead of leaping.
  • Do core exercise without medicine ball (simply tap floor with hand).

For rounds 3 and 4 and the cool-down, please see “Sample Class: Creative Core & Cardio!” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

Melissa Weigelt, MS

Melissa Weigelt is an ACE-certified group fitness instructor, NASM-certified personal trainer and vinyasa yoga instructor with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. As an ACE- and AFAA-approved provider of continuing education for fitness instructors and a member of the BOSU® master trainer and development team, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and ideas with others.

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