Planning a freestyle resistance class - non ETM
We all know that resistance training is going to be the single class to bring the most physical benefit to our participants.... cardio is great and it makes people feel good, but if they REALLY want to see the results then they need to add in something a little less fast paced.
Here are my top tips on how to get started...... and how to keep things fresh along the way!
1. Make a list of the kit you have available to you
You may well have forgotten something you bought 3 years ago hidden in the shed at the bottom of the garden that actually might come in handy! Resistance bands, weights, Swiss balls, steps etc whatever it is, dig it out and see if it is usable! Then get your thinking cap on...... what are all the different exercises you can use that bit of equipment for? With a list in front of you of all the movements you can think of, you will instantly relax knowing you have plenty there to last the first few weeks at least,
2. Don't be afraid to draw!
Map out the WHOLE class! And I mean the WHOLE class! If you are planning a circuit type scenario because you don't have lots of kit, where are you putting each piece of kit? Have you made circuit cards? How long will it take you to demo each one? Are you class fit enough to superset each body part? How long will it take them to move from and to each piece of kit? Do you need to decide who is starting where so that the people know never know what is going on have someone to 'follow' so they don't all end up standing there for the entire set while you help someone else?
Try and think of the logistics of every part of the class. And mark where you are putting the pieces of equipment on your plan so you don't double book them!
3. Barbells - the facts
Honestly.... it takes some people FOREVER to change the weight on their barbells. Plan your class so they can do at least 10 minutes at a time without changing the weight. However DON'T encourage them do the whole class with the same barbell. They need to know what the rough differences are between what each muscle group can lift.,.... e.g. wherever possible, they shouldn't be bicep curling what they can deadlift etc etc and I feel that it's our job to give them the information they need to be able to decision make on that.
Again I find that the same people every week can't remember the names of the exercises and what they lift for them, but I try to stand my classes so they are near people who lift a similar weight to them so when they copy what other people are putting on their barbell, they put the right weight on rather than killing themselves.
Please don't assume that the information you were given on whatever fitness qualification you did was up to date, relevant and correct. It is a good starting point don't get me wrong but I have learnt infinitely more from training with different people as training buddies and having a PT myself, from watching Youtube videos, from following great lifters on Instagram, from following other home workout providers to get inspired. It is NOT copying if you take an exercise someone has done and you use it in your class. Chances are they did NOT create that move.... they are just replicating it in their own environment with their own kit, and that is exactly what you will be doing. Read articles. A lot. Find people who's ethos you enjoy and agree with and follow their work.
5. Think about the variables you can use to increase the intensity
It is not just about weight. And sometimes that isn't even a factor we can vary because we don't have any weights available to us. Think about the reps/time on sets..... the tempo of the exercise.... the range of motion..... the cues you can give to help them engage their muscles properly.... the time you are asking them to be under load for...... removal of momentum (those traditional pulses burn a lot more if you ask them to stop at the bottom rather than bounce off it). There are a million ways to add variety and to increase intensity.... you just have to get creative.
An example class plan of a 30 minute 'booty blast'
Kit available - mats & enough Slingshots (hip circles) for half the class
Warm-up - walking, shallow squats & lunges, hip mobility etc (4 minutes)
Glute activation - glute bridges double & single leg, donkey kickbacks (4 minutes)
Mind to muscle connection - same exercises as glute activation but with pauses and holds, lots of description from me on squeezing harder etc (4 minutes)
Squat mobility - eyes closed - their idea of full range squats pausing at the bottom - imagining themselves getting lower and lower. Coaching knee position and glute engagement. (3 minutes)
Slingshot relay - In partners. Slingshot relay...... Partner 1, band walks in Slingshot= x4 shuttles. Partner has to bench squat for the entire time (squat so butt cheeks toiuch the bench but without deloading the quad) when they get back switch over.
Same again on the band walks but this time the partner split squats with foot on the stage/bench (when their partner has bandwalked 2 shuttles they change leg). Same cues apply - activating glutes, making sure they remove momentum etc. (12 minutes)
Improve Your Bench is as far as I know the only UK distributor of the Slingshot although there are many other hip circles on the market that I haven't tried but I'm sure are great!
An example class plan of a 1 hour barbell class
Warm-up - joint mobilisation, squats & lunges with gradually increasing ROM, press-ups, runners lunge (stepping foot around the hand in a plank), dynamic stretching etc (5 mins)
Warm-Up 2 - 360 degree lunge fest - trying as many weird angles as they can in a lunge position) (3 mins)
Warm-Up 3- Shoulder blade retraction - in partners watching each other retract shoulder blades down and poking each other in the back where they should be feeling it (3 minutes)
Set 1 x3
Ass to Grass Barbell Squats (45-60 seconds) - they choose their own ROM
Romanian Deadlift (45-60 seconds)
Set 2 x 3
Dumbbell/Single weight Split Squats (right) (45-60 seconds)
Dumbbell/Single weight Split Squats (left) (45-60 seconds)
Goblet Squats (45-60 seconds)
ROM/tempo dictated by me on 2nd & 3rd set (e.g down, half up, down, all the way up - 10 slow, 10 fast etc)
Shoulder Press for 20 reps. Tell them they are next doing 15 reps.... what are you going to change the weight on your barbell to? Final set 10 reps and ask them to change the weight again.
Helps to identify how hard they should be working at each rep bracket.
Lateral raises. 5 reps, 3 second pause at the top of the rep. repeat 3 times.
Rear Delt Flye, 5 reps, 3 second pause at the top of the rep, repeat 3 times
Set 5 x3 (in partners so one barbell for the row, one for the curl.. switch over
Bent Over Row (45-60 seconds)
Bicep Curl (45-60 seconds)
Set 6 - the finisher (8 mins)
In partners, perform 12-15 seated overhead tricep extensions while the partner counts, then feet up (if possible) for tricep dips to failure (so the partner counts the amount of dips they can do and remembers it). Then they switch.
On the second set they have to try to beat the amount of dips they do by 1 rep and their partner encourages them.
This makes them finish on a high and its a nice vibe for them to motivate each other after I've been draining them about technique for 45 minutes.
So basically it depends how long it takes for you to move them around/change weights/how long they need to rest etc.... I just plan my class and play it by ear.... if I was going to drop something it would be the shoulder press as they have Set 4 for shoulders as well!
Teaching resistance classes is something I am extremely passionate about as unfortunately we do still seem to see the weights area in the gym predominantly full of guys and with women, especially women who are my age and older, not knowing what to do in there. Women are still targeted with mainly cardio classes and workouts.... which I am not denying are a great part of all round fitness, however it saddens me that we are not providing the information to our humans on how to lift and to squat and how to get the real results in terms of aesthetics, weight loss, injury prevention, strength, tone and day to day movement patterns. I want to see more women like my Mum who is 66 this year, able to swing her 4 year old grandchild like a kettlebell (no lie.... they line up like its a fair ground ride.... she can keep going for 15 minutes.... I watch!), who can get up and down off the floor with no problem at 70, who don't need help carrying stuff in from the warehouse at work, who don't put their back out picking up plastic teaspoons off the floor in said warehouse (me.... not even lying, absolutely f##ked myself and had to go to hospital for a shitload of drugs and was ruined for years after).
If there is anything I can do to persuade you to look into this an avenue let me know lol! Lifting is the single most rewarding thing I have ever done, both for me and my own strength, personal journey and quality of life and in terms of my instructing career. Get on it fitfam, You won't look back when you see the insane amounts of progress your class will make with the right encouragement!
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 Always Moving Forward Instructor Network.