Workout vs. choreography
strengthening the step experience

By applying everything we love about pre-choreography to both athletic-style choreography and a more ‘freestyle’ approach, we can create a rewarding – and continually progressive – experience for all participants, says Michael Steel.

Is it possible to create a balanced workout that is both effective and progressively choreographed at the same time?
Usually we need to sacrifice one for the other. Pre-choreographed step training programs have previously concentrated on the ‘simple and effective’ route, which at first seems great, but then after time starts to look and feel a little ‘samey’. In the long term they can’t provide progression in terms of fitness levels and increased understanding, and nor can they evolve the experience if they don’t adopt current training methodologies and advances in fitness knowledge.

On the flipside, the fully choreographed step class, while immensely enjoyable to those who are able to universally succeed at it, can’t compete with the athletic training style of programmed classes. At a time when risers beneath the bench are as rare as an Eskimo in the Sahara, the intensity levels of much ‘down’ choreography (e.g. mambos, floor walks, cha-chas and pivots) is almost non-existent. It’s ‘fun’, but it’s not great in terms of calorie expenditure.

What’s the answer? Find a class that does both – and mix it up.

If we take everything we love about pre-choreography – working with the music, making the moves fit the style and theme of the tracks – and apply it to both athletic-style choreography and a more ‘freestyle’ approach, we can more adequately cater for all. Additionally, we can select songs to do as single ‘intensity tracks’ and combine them with double or triple tracks, applying learning curves to build choreography and performing them in the final track. By so doing, we can use the skills we have and may have lost over time – or develop a new appreciation for what a step class can provide. It’s the best of both worlds.

In the case of stomp fx, the physically challenging step aerobics workout from fitness fx, there is a ‘regular’ and ‘plus’ version contained on each release. UK-based fitness presenter Neil Bates choreographs the regular stomp fx, with an emphasis on clever athletic sequencing and high intensity training using the step. Conversely, Australia’s very own ‘Queen of Step’, Rebecca Small, puts her magic touch on the stomp fx+ program, re-interpreting the same tracks with contemporary choreography and seamless learning curves. These culminate in performance tracks that really showcase the marriage between movement and music. Because both releases appear on the same CD, it’s even possible to tailor-make a session that showcases both styles and intensity/complexity levels – making for a great team teach. This is exactly what Greg Sellar and I did at FILEX 2012.

By combining the two stomp fx programs we managed to achieve great workout value while also heightening the interest levels created by each. With tracks labelled as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Functional Conditioning and High Intensity Cardio featuring in the stomp fx version, it was necessary to bring the heart rate down within the class to allow adherence and continued correct stepping technique. This is where stomp fx+ fits in, allowing a lower intensity period with its ‘Moves’ tracks, and a chance to interpret the same songs in a completely different way. The contrasting balance between the tracks seemed to satisfy both hardened steppers and those who acknowledged they weren’t great at it, but wanted to improve.

I believe the future for step lies in the ‘all things to all people’ approach. Going back to using the step as a training tool will definitely allow new people to enter the class as a genre, but once they are familiar with the process and moves, being able to progress them to create new challenges is vital for continued participation. Combining this with a great soundtrack and applying it to the pre-choreography method only serves to strengthen the experience for instructor and participant alike.

The following simple step combo involves a small 16-count cross phrase for interest, yet still maintains its overall athletic theme when combined with alternating jump squats and pulses. Give it a go and check out stomp fx releases if you want to kick-start or re-invent your step classes.


Michael Steel
Actively involved in instructor training and development, and recipient of the Fitness Professional’s UK Fitness Leader of the Year award, Michael is at the forefront of many of the industry’s established freestyle and pre-choreographed training programs. He combines his trainer expertise with his business acumen in his international business development role for Total Gym and GRAVITY.