Hyped about hybrid classes

Peanut butter and jelly. Chilli and chocolate. Strawberries and balsamic.
Sometimes unusual pairings just work, and the group ex studio is no exception.

Just as Chinese philosophy embraces the opposites of yin and yang, or an artist uses light and shadow to create depth, so group fitness professionals have to deliver classes that balance strength with flexibility and intensity.

While many classes already incorporate this balance, the continual evolution of fitness, brought about by research findings and new schools of thought, means that ‘old’ class styles can evolve and stay relevant by incorporating fresh training ideas and methodologies.

While it is not yet available in Australia, SoulCycle is a good example of an existing genre being reinvigorated. SoulCycle’s founders began their business in a tiny rented New York studio with no signage. They now have several hundred employees, celebrity devotees, a clothing range and a cult-like public following. Considering that every gym in the US offers cycle classes, why would people pay upwards of $30 per 45-minute class? The innovative women behind SoulCycle combined the spiritual and uplifting essence of yoga with the intense physical endurance of indoor cycling and the targeted resistance training of Pilates. They describe the appeal of SoulCycle as ‘tribal’, and point to the workout’s ‘constant adaptation’ as a way of keeping their staff skilled, inspired and motivated to deliver powerful workouts.

The combination is key – as is the skill and passion of the instructors. By providing opportunities for instructors to upskill, clubs can ensure that classes adapt and timetables stay fresh and appealing for members.

While there are lots of hybrid classes out there, such as Piloxing, I believe there are plenty more hybrids that, if designed with care and delivered with panache, could be a unique draw card for your facility. How about the following?

Yoga + barre

Barre has an intense focus on glute and leg strength. The raised heels and small contractions that work the legs, hips and abdominals are excellent for strength, body awareness and raising the heart rate. Introducing yoga sequences before, between and after barre work can counter some of the intense contractions, through the inclusion of poses that stretch the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. Ending the class with savasana (or meditation) for one to five minutes can be the gentlest way to send people back into the world, with aching muscles and happy faces.

Pilates + cycle

High intensity, thigh burning, legs-like-jelly work. Am I talking about Pilates reformer or cycling? Both. To effectively run a class that combines these disciplines would require the facilities to be designed for Pilates reformers, and for bikes to be located close by, because quick transitions are vital. If working with reformers is not an option, then Pilates matwork could also be effective. Combining a heart-pounding high intensity cycle session with a core and deep stabiliser muscle focus would ensure a well-rounded cardio and strength training class. It could be adapted to fit into a 45-minute ‘lunchtime’ format, or even be stretched out to a morning-friendly hour and a half session.

Step + TRX + free weights

Nothing beats dedicating your mind and your muscle to your workout. While TRX and free weights tick the boxes for resistance training and muscle building, the timing and sequences of an aerobics routine require coordination and focus. This class could be structured to begin with step and end with TRX and weights, or to do each training mode in intervals.

These suggestions may or may not appeal to you (or perhaps you already deliver one of them), but hopefully they will fire your imagination to explore some hybrid classes of your own.


Cat Woods founded her Melbourne-based Ballet Sculpt as a barre class that doesn’t require a barre. A yoga instructor and personal trainer, she is also a writer and blogger with a passion for arts, health, beauty and design. @catty_tweeter and catcore.blogspot.com