Creating your own freestyle classes can be a daunting prospect. And I will not deny I LOVE teaching pre-choreographed workouts, they inspire me, help me to think of new moves and variations and take a lot of the effort out of planning! However sometimes, I like to offer my humans something targeted at exactly the areas they need a little work on. Something just for them, to help them reach their goals!
So here is part one of several in how to plan and prep your freestyle sesh without hitting up a shit load of grapevines!
1. Consider who you have in front of you
Every group is different. If your class are used to squatting 20kg barbells on minute 6 then chances are, you are good to go with the bodyweight squats early on.in the warm-up. If they are used to doing aerobics and 12 bodyweight squats is something that makes them groan then you are going to have to hold off on the resistance moves for a little longer.
The key to any warm-up is to make people feel comfortable and successful so tailor it to the folk that have made the effort to come to your class even if it means doing something you didn't have planned!
2. Plan the main body of the workout first
What exactly are you teaching today? If it's a resistance class and you are having a decent lower body section, squat technique and glute activation might be a great way to start. There is nothing wrong with including moves from the main workout in your warm-up, just decrease the load, impact and the range of motion and make sure they are warm-up appropriate.
If you are training HIIT, then make sure you are increasing their pulse rates so it's not a shock to the system when you throw the burpees in there. If they are going to weight-bear on their arms, e.g burpees then stick something low impact but similar in the warm-up.
Do your guys need a little help on posture? Could you do a couple of minutes on shoulder blade retraction. Are they struggling to increase the ROM on their squats, could you do hip mobility for longer in your warm-up?
Getting the plan for the main workout done and then pondering what your gang will find tough/difficult to do is a great way to regress back and think about how to make your warm-up lead in and give them the best chance of smashing their workout.
3. Go back to basics
What muscles and joints are you hoping to warm-up and how do they move? If you take the good old hip for example, there's a whole lot of movement happening down there. How are you going to take this sexy little joint through the different pathways and directions it can move in? Can you think of new ways to do that? Sometimes all it takes is a new move to make your class wake up to what it was you were trying to drill home in the first place, mixing up the moves can help to get their brain in the zone and to give them something new to mull over.
4. Think about the delivery
Do you always stand at the front and demo an exercise and make them do it for 30 seconds and then change? So even just using the same moves, how could you mix things up? Could you get them to do reps instead of time? Could you give them layer 1 all plain and simple and then for the second round give them directional or ROM variations? Could they do partner work during the warm-up? Could they check each others shoulder blade retraction? Could you do it teaching in the middle? Could you do reducing time on the sets? Could you gamify it if you were doing HIIT and you wanted everyone pumped and buzzing ready to work hard? Every time you mix things up a little in a warm-up you can evaluate whether it worked in regard to improving both their physical and mental preparation! Format changes can be just enough to see the difference!
5. Reinforce technique
For me this is probably the second most useful part of a warm-up, other than the warming up lol! In HIIT I might include low impact options of a burpee, emphasising the nice, flat, plank shape, we do squats with calf raises and high reaching arms to get them in the mood for the squat jumps that are coming, we might regress their press-ups a level and go throw angles of the elbow etc.
Sometimes we mark kettlebell swings using the wall as the marker for the butt position etc etc. In resistance stuff I might do visualisation for ROM on squats getting them to bodyweight squat with their eyes shut to increase their ROM so they can stop when it feels right rather than when they visually perceive it's low enough. We might go through a lot of glute recruitment on things like walking lunges.... sometimes I just get them to walk around with their ass cheeks clenched together for a minute just to get them thinking about their buttocks. I doesn't always need to be so serious.... if it gets there mind on the muscle I want it to be on, I don't care if I sound like I'm crazy for a few moments!
In summary, going freestyle for non-ETM classes is not as scary as it first appears! It's worth sitting down and planning for 6 to 12 classes in advance so you can work on progression but soon it becomes just like everything else and you become way more reactive to the people that you have in front of you in the same way you would teaching your ETM or dance fitness class. If you've never gone freestyle before it might be worth doing a half an hour 'Blast' or a 6 week course so you feel confident you've got enough content. Don't be scared not to be the best ever international presenter on your first class - you are providing the lovely people in your class an additional service that you thing will bring them bountiful rewards..... that is amazing and may just change someone's life or inspire them to see fitness in a different way.
Just keep reading! And Youtubing or following Instagram humans who do great workouts that you can use for inspiration for new moves/new ways to get your gang in the zone! Go to fitness conventions/seminars and keep learning.... the research into fitness is always evolving and our clients deserve for us to stay up to date with our money on the prize..... keeping them as fit and healthy as possible for as long as possible!
Happy warm-up planning! Next article..... the workout!
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.