// Step for every level

by Kayla Duke


As instructors, it is obvious to us that step aerobics provides a great cardio workout, burns fat, tones the body and is especially effective for the legs and butt. So why aren’t all those gym members who are striving for weight loss on the gym floor participating in our step classes? The fact is, for those unfamiliar with group exercise, a step class can be quiet a confusing – even overwhelming – experience. The challenge for instructors is to create classes which every member can feel comfortable attending.

These days not all gyms are lucky enough to be able to offer step classes for different levels, as there may only be two or three classes of freestyle step on the weekly timetable. This puts the pressure on instructors to cater to all levels in the one class. To achieve this, we need to use effective learning curves with very clear instructions.

Start teaching each step with a simple base move, then build on it with optional additions and progressions. Make it very clear to participants that they don’t have to do the harder levels. This should make it easier for them to choose the level that is best for them. The class will be suitable for beginners, but intermediate and advanced participants will not get bored or feel like they are not being challenged.

But how do we create suitable learning curves for steps such as the exercise demonstrated in the pictures on the following pages? The pictures show a double side tap leap march backwards. This is the final option for participants,
and the learning curve I would use for this step is;
1. Single side tap (base move)
2. Three side taps (option 1)
3. Two side taps with leg curl and three marches (option 2)
4. Two side taps, changing leg curl to a leap march backwards (option 3).

When creating learning curves, each level of the move needs to progress as smoothly and clearly to the final option as possible. Avoid moves that cannot be broken down into levels. Try not to keep participants in a holding pattern, such as marching, as many of them will be inclined to stop moving altogether. Repeat each level and then tell the participants to choose the one that is best for them.

Once the routine and appropriate learning curves have been established, we reach the biggest challenge as
instructors: to get all participants working at the level that is best for them. Most participants, especially first timers
and beginners, will simply copy what the instructor is doing. It is important that the instructor repeats all movement
levels at least once. Normally, the advanced participants are easy to manage, as they will remember the steps and
continue to do the final level. We need to read our class and devote more time to the level that needs the most help. It is
also advisable to encourage participants to remember the choreography themselves instead of just following you. It
can be helpful to stop moving and watch the participants to see if they can do it without you. This is a good chance for
you to have a rest, while motivating the class to concentrate and work harder. When I am teaching a step class for all
levels I am inclined to stay with level 1 or 2 as these are normally the participants that need the most help. While doing this, I often still cue the advanced option either verbally or with a sign, such as holding one hand up and rotating the wrist in circles, indicating that the advanced participants can add a turn if they like.

Encourage participants to work their hardest, but notice and respect their choices. Some participants who are able to do the harder options may choose not to, due to tiredness, illness, or having just had a long break. Different levels are
there for health and fitness reasons, not just to help those who can’t easily pick up choreography. Never forget that the participants are our clients. If we choose to demonstrate the advanced level, we might look good and give a great performance, but are we providing the best service? We are not performers or solo dancers – we are instructors, helping our clients to achieve their goals, whether this is to lose weight, de-stress, maintain a healthy heart, or just have fun and connect with the music, the movements and the group exercise setting. We should make everyone feel welcome in the class. If we choose to stay instructing the advanced option, many participants will get lost, as they will forget the easier options and not be able to manage the advanced ones. This could make them reluctant to attend group exercise classes and may even put them off going to the gym altogether. Most people care too much about what others may think of them and fear feeling clumsy or embarrassed. We need participants to feel good and be safe, so as instructors we must always
have the best interests of our participants at the front of our minds.

When shown steps for every level, participants will always be challenged and can easily progress when they feel ready. By enabling them to enjoy a safe and effective class, you can help all your participants increase their fitness and achieve a sense of accomplishment, while also ensuring that they want to make your class part of their weekly exercise regime.

You can view an example of Kayla teaching a block of choreography by clicking play on the video below:

Kayla Duke
Currently working with Asia’s leading fitness company, California Fitness, Kayla is assistant group exercise manager for Singapore. She instructs, choreographs programs, trains and assesses instructors, and presents regularly both nationally and internationally. Prior to her fitness career, Kayla accrued 17 years of dancing experience, including classical ballet, providing a movement quality which gives a special edge to her presentation style.