My Top 5 Tips to Resistance Train the Shit Out Of Your Class
It's a tough one. A lot of us start off with a cardio style class, quite often dance fitness or an aerobics style format. After all, it's basically what the ETM teaches us how to do. The smattering of resistance training covered on the L2 qualification does not leave many people feeling like experts in the field of weights and if we are honest probably not even bodyweight resistance training. Over the years I have been to many classes and met many instructors and it is not rare to meet or see someone who is 'nervous' or unconfident in coaching a squat (a decent one). The thing is the qualification was designed to show you how to teach a class to music, how to layer the choreo, how to make people understand what is coming next, how to communicate wth and manage large groups of people. This is a BIG skill.... but if we are really honest for lots of people it's not necessarily on our ETM course where we have gained all of our knowledge of weights and how to use them.
The thing is, a cardio workout is a great thing..... for the cardiovascular system. We need healthy lungs and a healthy heart and of course it does deliver results to those who want to feel and maybe look fitter and healthier. The thing is back in the 80's when everyone was jumping around in a leotard rocking a belter of a perm, everyone thought cardio was the way to go. And it's taken all of this time to get people to realise resistance training is where it's at for lots of the health and physically benefits that our participants really need to see. Now I am NOT saying there isn't a BIG need for cardio, I'm not an advocate of a cardio free lifestyle as much as I love a weight.... I personally can't see the point in looking like a fitness model if you are blowing out of your ass demoing a burpee. All I'm saying is people want to look 'more toned', 'feel stronger' and to improve their function in day to day activities such as getting up off of the floor, getting out of the chair, picking up boxes, lifting the kids in and out of the car etc etc..... pure cardio probably isn't going to have a massive impact on any of those things.
As an instructor it can be a BIG thing to add a resistance class to the timetable. It might be pushing you out of your comfort zone and the truth of the matter is that it is harder to market. The majority of people prefer to jump around like a loon rather than learn how to squat properly. However, adding in a resistance program to your timetable will give your full on geeks something to help them step their training up a level and to challenge them in new ways, it will reap the physical gains that your hardcore lot are after, and will double or even triple the health benefits for your participants.
So here are my top 5 tips to getting your resistance on:
1. Know your shit
Don't expect to be able to coach an entire resistance based workout if you don't do resistance training yourself. It's like trying to coach a HIIT class if you don't know what 80% of your max heart rate is/feels like. It's a damn sight harder to describe the movement to people just by repeating the teaching points you learnt on your ETM/Gym Instructor/PT course. If you can 'feel' the movement in your own body you will find new and better ways of encouraging and coaching your participants to perform the movements safely and effectively. Read. Watch YouTube clips. Train with a PT. Do your PT course, PT clients and STILL train with a PT (that's me!) Whatever it takes, this is a chance to upskill and to learn something new. Even if you already lift a lot of weights there is ALWAYS a chance to learn.... there are always new training methods and protocols, research and twists on various training patterns to mix things up!
2. Learn new ways to pimp your ride
So you're doing it.... stepping into new territory.... then get thinking about your marketing strategy... it's not enough to use the same phrases and blurb as you do for your cardio classes. Resistance classes will probably not feel like a party, they might not sweat their tits off (unless it's plyo/HIIT etc), they will ache more, you are going to have to persuade newbies that the ache is OK. I find that the best way to communicate with my gang is to firstly add little bits of theory to each class I teach. Not so much they stop listening (after all they are concentrating on lobbing a barbell up and down above their head) but just little comments to let them know that the feeling of impending doom when you have one squat left is fine, that we can always suck it up and get one more rep out, why we add pauses in, how to engage said muscle group, what it might feel like if it was a day to day movement etc etc. I also write blog posts directed at my class.... yep some of them probably don't read it, but the ones that do are the ones who are more likely to give a shit about my resistance classes anyway and I want them to get the most they possibly can for their £6.
3. Think of it as providing as total a service as you can
If my gang want to go the gym I feel happy for them. If they get their arse into the weights area and smash up their training, that's frigging awesome. It means I've played a role in teaching them enough technique to do it and secondly, hopefully as a result, their self confidence has gone through the roof and they don't give a fuck that they are deep within the depths of the string vest massive, smashing their protein shakes in and grunting loudly about pre-workout.
The thing is, as I've mentioned in previous blogs, the gym is not for everyone. Some people will NEVER find it as fun working out in a gym, their adherence will never be as high and they just won't get the results. So if you can bring some kind of resistance training to your bad-asses, you have just increased the service you are offering and ALSO the results that are within their reach. That's pretty special.
4. Don't be afraid to go rogue
So the third most popular class I teach in the community is a barbell class. It is not to music. It is timed/rep based sets of pure weight lifting. I bought a 20 person studio barbell set and bribed my venue to let me keep it in the cupboard if I let the staff use it to lift after school. Deal done. It cost around £1700 a couple of years ago and its the best thing Ive ever bought for my classes. Admitedly its not a massive profit maker. I can only take 20 people.... so say the average cost of my classes are £5 including memberships and stuff thats £100 per class minus the studio hire & the cost of the kit, minus time it took me to teach it and prep it and the fact that I have paid thousands of quid in qualifications, courses, seminars, gym memberships so I know what I'm doing and PT so I am fit and strong and I feel inspired by other people. HOWEVER, it is full every week with a waitlist of at least 4 and has been for the entire time I've been running it. The people that come are those who are ON IT, they are like animals wanting to achieve the best. Now I'm not saying they are athletes, all normal folk I guess.... but their mindset is that of someone who really really wants to flex and have people faint. I also LOVE the fact that it's freestyle - I can teach it how I want to teach it with my knowledge and my passion for lifting without ANY input from anyone that I don't want to listen to. It has no logo. There is no expensive website for it and no search engine. And it's unimaginatively called Body Tone. But yet it's the most posted about class in my private FB group and I think is one of my key tools for offering as complete a service as I can without offering one-to-one PT.
5. Be confident...... & realistic
So you've NEVER taught a resistance class even though you've done your PT quals.... you occasionally do a Davina Ass Blast at home.... so do some research, read some stuff, watch some YouTube, get your glute knowledge up.... why can't you offer a Booty Blast (I do!), 30 mins of ass. There's a starting point. And the most likely session to be full of 30 mins of pure innuendo if your crew are as naughty as mine!
Or teach a resistance program choreographed by someone else so you can learn from them and their cues and teaching points and technique. EVERYTHING is a learning curve and if you fully commit to something and put your all into it then you are upskilling simple! I've said this many times but one of the BEST courses I ever went on was PiYo back in the day will Will Brereton.... the way he taught us how to cue and give teaching points was probably one of the single most valuable things I've ever learnt! Now PiYo didn't go down that well with my crew (which I was gutted about) however the stuff I learnt on that one day course I still use now.
Maybe you lift in the gym but you stick with Zumba Fitness when you are teaching..... well how about giving some of your Zumba crew a bit of resistance love. Maybe they would love an LBT class to get them started into the world of squats and lunge variations!
Kit is expensive, I totally get that..... but bodyweight is a decent tool when used properly and is a great starting point or mid level class for your participants.... maybe the full squat rack and wrist straps will come later!
For me, I think be realistic about your starting point, do your research, make sure you know what you are talking about and how you really can help people make a change BUT at the same time, be confident in your ability to do this. Group ex instructors fire fight 40 people at one time.... we get good at correcting multiple form blips in a single sentence.... but that only comes with practice and experience....and good session planning lol. A surgeon doesn't put their hands in a human for the first time and cure blindness, just the same as you won't deliver a single resistance class and have created a new concept for Les Mills. HOWEVER experience is key in improving your teaching and delivery, so what's holding you back?
In the words of Henry Ford (I read this quote on a hotel wall the other weekend and it made me piss myself with joy).
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses".
Your gang don't necessarily know what they want until you show them what they've been missing. Henry Ford brought one of the first affordable cars to a mass market, you are bringing an affordable and as total a fitness solution as possible to your lovely humans who might not exercise if it wasn't for you (and your slightly insane personality). Spread the love for increased strength, better posture and a decreased risk of osteoporosis. Resistance training rocks. It's official.
Anna is a qualified Personal Trainer, experienced Group Exercise instructor and a Master-Trainer for an international fitness brand. Owner of Vital Signz Dance. Creator of Rave Tone, BASSbox, Hype Dance Fit and the 14 Day Fix home workout program.