Aerobics upgrade!

With more competition than ever in the Group Ex arena, is the classic aerobics class format in danger of becoming extinct? Absolutely not, says Kayla Duke. By adapting and complementing tried and tested moves, you can upgrade your aerobics class to keep it challenging, fresh and relevant.

The group exercise arena is forever changing in response to new research and ideas on working the body more effectively and keeping people motivated to stay fit. But one group exercise format that never says die is aerobics. After more than 30 years it still features at every fitness convention and on the group exercise schedules at most gyms, in one form or another. But with more competition than ever before, we need to keep adapting this class type so that it doesn’t get left behind!

Creating aerobics classes that retain the interest of all participants requires ongoing involvement, practice and work. We also need some innovation to take us outside the square of base moves such as the grapevine, 4 knee repeater and leg curl. Do some research, brainstorm with a colleague, or watch a dance performance to see if some of the moves can be transferred to the aerobics studio.

Let’s take a base move and see what we can do with it to jazz it up. In the pictures below, I have taken a 4 knee repeater and layered it up to 1 knee march forward, back, forward – a rocking type of movement, similar to a mambo. After this, if all participants are keeping up, I will add a pivot turn on the end, so this turns into 1 knee march forward, backward, pivot turn. What was once a 4 knee repeater is now ‘upgraded’! It is very achievable and even beginners can pick it up as long as you give the right breakdown and clear, simple instructions.

Another one of my favorites is combining a grapevine and a mambo. Start with a basic grapevine, then mambo, which will combine to equal a full 8 counts. Taking the leg curl on the end of the grapevine, we then hop it up and lift the back leg up higher (attitude position in dance) turning this into a leap before doing the mambo. The combination is now grapevine, leap, mambo forward back. After the leap, another small flare that can be added is a full turn on the backward phrase of the mambo. Creating grapevine leap, mambo, full turn around.

Photo Move
1 Take a step forward
2 Lift the back leg up to perform a knee lift
3 Step forward with the leg that is lifted from the knee lift
4 Rock backwards onto the other leg
5 Step backwards with the front leg
6 Rock forward
7 Step forward and pivot turn
8 Continue the pivot turn
9 End with feet together so you are ready for another move.

Of course, whenever you create ‘new’ moves, your teaching skills must equal your creativity. You must practice and trial before unveiling new moves: never just make them up during the class. Always remember that practice makes perfect, and that failing to plan is planning to fail. When speaking with the leading and most experienced instructors and presenters in our industry, the key ingredient cited for their success is planning and practicing. And then practicing some more.

To plan an upgraded aerobics class you must first practice the base moves. Get a feel for them and make sure they flow before creating anything new. After this, add on one move at a time – one extra leap, turn or maybe even a ball-change, and check the flow again. Don’t be tempted to add lots of additions too quickly. If one move does not flow smoothly into the next, don’t use it. Save it for another routine, another day. All combinations of moves must feel good and flow smoothly, connecting well when performing your end product. It is important to consider the abilities and limitations of your clientele when it comes to jumping and/or coordination. Be smart and do not take inappropriate choreography to a group of participants that is unlikely to be able to enjoyably achieve it.

When you are satisfied with the routine, take it to your class, being sure to offer suitable levels to keep participants feeling challenged, but not daunted. Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve, and use verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate clearly. With savvy instructors and upgraded routines, aerobics will continue to be an important element of the group exercise repertoire.


Kayla Duke
Currently based in Singapore, Kayla is group exercise country manager for California Fitness. She instructs, choreographs programs, trains and assesses instructors and regularly presents nationally and internationally. Before beginning her career in the fitness industry, Kayla danced for 17 years in stage productions, giving her a truly unique presentation style. Kayla was named Network's Author of the Year at the FILEX 2010 fitness industry convention.


Join Kayla at FILEX 2012 where she will be donning her mind body hat to present:

  • Perfecting posture through Pilates ● A3U

For more information on Kayla’s session, see page 49 of the printed FILEX brochure, or check out the fully interactive site at where you can also register for the convention.