// Make an impact in your step class

As well as adding variety and contrast to dance-inspired step classes, incorporating high impact movement enables you to coach your participants to work harder, says Stephen Parker.

The choreography taught in many of today’s freestyle step classes has a strong dance flavour, with short and quick rhythmical moves and some very clever timing changes. This development has probably been influenced by the resurgence of dance in recent years, both on the big and small screen and in popular culture in general.

There is something magical about doing a step class that contains these elements, especially when the instructor is both creative and highly skilled at teaching the moves. Add some exhilarating music and you’re guaranteed to motivate your participants.

With this style of step, it can be beneficial to include some high impact moves to the choreography. Not only do they add variety and contrast to your class, they are usually simpler moves. Why is this beneficial? By being easier for you to instruct, the opportunity arises to really coach your class to work hard.

A high impact move involves both feet being off the ground (or step) at the same time. You can leap off one leg or jump off both.

Pros, cons and contraindications

Physical benefits of high impact training include:

  • Increased bone mineral density to the skeletal sites. In a step class, this is mainly the lower body such as feet, legs, hips and lumbar spine.
  • Increased cardiovascular output.
  • Increased muscle strength and power.
  • Increased agility and coordination.

Be aware, however, that with high impact moves comes the increased risk of the following:

  • Stress fractures and shin splints.
  • Muscle pulls and tears.
  • Sprains and strains.

Be cautious of encouraging high impact moves with the following people:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Excessively overweight or obese.
  • A beginner participant.
  • Participants with knee pain.
  • Individuals with existing conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

With the above in mind, it is advisable to ‘pre-screen’ your class in your intro to get an appreciation of who you are teaching. Even then, only include one or two high impact moves into a block of choreography.

Always teach the low impact options first, and then layer in the high impact move. If the participants are struggling with the high impact move and the majority are staying with the low impact option, you should come back to the low impact move and cue your more advanced students to stay with the high impact move. Remember: it’s their workout, not yours.
Each step in the following block of choreography is a high impact move. It is not recommended that you teach this as a complete block to your students; rather, take individual moves and incorporate them into your current class. Then use these ideas to create your own moves.

Happy high impact training! 

Stephen Parker
With a background in classical dance, Stephen has been in the fitness industry for 15 years and currently holds the position of group fitness manager at Fitness First Darlinghurst, NSW. Having competed successfully in Sport Aerobics, he is now focusing on helping fellow instructors develop their freestyle teaching skills and is a course presenter for Finishing First, the instructor mentoring program at Fitness First. Stephen is committed to doing all he can to see more freestyle group exercise on club timetables.

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