How to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor (and how to prepare for training)

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “how do I become a Les Mills group fitness instructor?” And to be honest, I’ve answered this question so many times via email and social media, I almost felt like I had written a full blog post about it. But I hadn’t, until now …

Before we begin, let’s get this out there: The only way to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor is to be certified by the Les Mills company, based out of New Zealand. And the only place you can teach a Les Mills program is in a gym or studio that holds a Les Mills license.

Les Mills is an amazing group fitness brand started by and named after a former Olympian in New Zealand — Les Mills. And it’s a worldwide leader in group fitness, with more than 140,000 certified instructors across more than 100 countries today.

And I happen to LOVE Les Mills group fitness. It has changed my life and the lives of many others. Perhaps yours too and that’s why you’re considering joining the ranks as an instructor.

Now, let’s also go through my credentials on the matter, because it’s important to know that you are reading advice from someone who has experience.

I started out in the fitness world as a Les Mills group fitness instructor.

I’m currently certified in Les Mills BODYPUMP, Les Mills BODYATTACK and Les Mills CORE (formerly CXWORX). I’ve attended the following Les Mills trainings:

  • BODYPUMP Initial Training
  • BODYPUMP Advanced Instructor Module 1
  • BODYPUMP Advanced Instructor Module 2
  • BODYATTACK Initial Training
  • BODYATTACK Advanced Instructor Module 1
  • CXWORX Initial Training
  • About five Les Mills up-leveling quarterly workshops for all formats

And I used to teach both BODYPUMP and BODYATTACK every single week in a real live-class setting. Now, let’s get to the advice …

How to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor

How to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor by A Lady Goes West

First, you need to choose a format that you would like to teach.

Les Mills offers the following group fitness programs currently: Les Mills BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYCOMBAT, BARRE, GRIT SERIES, RPM, SPRINT, BODYFLOW, BODYSTEP, TONE, SH’BAM, BODYJAM, THE TRIP and BORN TO MOVE.

In order to choose a format, you should take the class as often as possible and find where your passion sits. I would not recommend training in a program that you are not passionate about. They are all very different, but they are all excellent in their own ways.

As a note: You do not need any additional or previous professional fitness experience or certifications in order to attend an initial training in the U.S.. However, in other countries, you may be required to have an additional fitness certification in order to attend training. But in the U.S., Les Mills takes care of giving you everything you need to know to teach that program.

However, I HIGHLY recommend pursuing additional certifications outside of Les Mills to diversify and further your education moving forward, such as a personal trainer certification (from NASM or ACE or other) or a general group fitness certification (from ACE or AFAA). You will be much better off the more educated you are, in addition to your live teaching experience.

Then, you need to sign up for an initial training in the format you’re interested in.

To do that, head to the Les Mills website to search for upcoming local initial trainings near you, or you may need to travel to an initial training weekend outside of your local area.

Currently, the price of an initial training weekend is $299 to $349. However, if you sign up more than 30 days in advance, the price is less. With that fee, you get a weekend full of training, and you get your digital music, choreography notes and education materials.

When you sign up for training, you will be sent some information on exact time, place and details from Les Mills. Then, about two weeks before your training, you will receive your music and choreography materials as a digital download kit, which is called a “release” in the Les Mills world. You will also get your track assignments for the tracks you will present at training from your release.

Prepare for, attend and participate in your initial training weekend.

I’ll talk more on preparation below, but you must attend your initial training weekend in full. You cannot arrive late or leave early or miss ANY portion of the weekend. You really shouldn’t have anything else going on that weekend anyhow, because you’ll also have homework the night in between, which usually means practicing what you learned the first day in order to show improvement on the second day.

An initial training weekend is typically about eight hours on a Saturday and on a Sunday at a gym. You get breaks to eat, rest and change clothes, but you are working and learning all day every day through initial training, and it’s quite intense. However, it’s also rewarding, enriching and worth every minute. I have truly enjoyed and grown from my training weekends.

There will be other people in your training who are also trying to become an instructor. The trainings can be as small as maybe around eight people, in which case you’ll have one master trainer leading the weekend. But the training can also be larger and split into two groups, in which case you’ll have two master trainers leading you.

At your initial training weekend, you will be asked to take a master class in the format, go through technique breakdowns to show your understanding and ability to properly execute the moves, you will do a physical “challenge” (which is different per format, typically happens on the second day of training and you will only find out what it entails when your master trainer tells you — no prepping for this part), you will learn about the Les Mills coaching methods, and you will also do presentations.

While it may seem scary, the presentations are where you have a chance to actually “teach” to your training group and get feedback from the master trainer. It’s a very welcoming, inclusive and safe environment to practice, and although it’s what makes people the most nervous about attending an initial training, it’s also the place you will grow the most.

And I can tell you from experience, it’s WAY easier to teach to a big class of members in the gym than it is to teach to a small group of fellow instructors in a training environment. So once you get those presentations done, you’ll be much more prepared for a real class setting.

How to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor by A Lady Goes West - February 2020

You need to receive a pass from initial training.

Based on your participation, attendance and presentations, your master trainer will give you an evaluation, and you need to receive a pass (which is a 3 out of 3 on the core competencies: Choreography, Technique and Coaching) to move on to the video evaluation portion. If you do not receive a 3/3, then you will have 14 days to submit a video of yourself teaching your one track, and you will send that video directly to your trainer to assess. This is different than the official video evaluation below in the next step.

Then, you’ll need to submit a video evaluation of you teaching a full class within 60 days to Les Mills.

After you’ve completed your initial training weekend, you have to go back to your gym and practice, practice, practice. You learn the rest of the tracks, try to team teach with or shadow other certified instructors at your licensed Les Mills facility, if that is allowed, and then you’ll be ready to shoot your video and have it submitted within 60 days of your training weekend completion. 

You will shoot a video (can be done very informally on an iPhone) of yourself teaching a full class, on the release that you trained on, and you have to do this in a licensed Les Mills facility only. You introduce yourself, push play on your music and teach the class with no stopping or starting the video. You cannot use any notes, and you have to know the entire class from top to bottom.

Also, depending on the format you are certifying in, you may be required to have participants in your video. Your master trainer will tell you that information before you leave your training weekend, so you know what’s expected of you.

Once you’ve submitted the video, you wait for your results via email. A Les Mills assessor will review the video to make sure you have competency in Choreography, Technique and Coaching. They will provide written feedback on what you should work on, even if you get a pass.

If you don’t receive a 3/3 and a passing score, you will have 30 days to submit another video, and you will also have to pay an additional assessment fee of $50.

Once you receive a pass, you’ll get a certificate, and then you sign up for Les Mills autoship.

Once you’ve received a pass on your video evaluation, you are ready to sign up for autoship. Autoship is how you stay certified with Les Mills, and it means you pay a quarterly fee to have access to the Les Mills app and Les Mill instructor portal to get your new music, choreography or “releases” and education material four times a year. And speaking from experience, it’s so exciting to get the email that says it’s time to download the new releases every quarter.

You are expected to learn each new release, watch the education materials and stay up to date with everything Les Mills puts out. Then, as long as you are on autoship and are teaching, you are a certified Les Mills instructor in the format you trained on. You don’t have to re-certify, unless you take an extended break and get off autoship, but I don’t know the exact details of that. (Although, once again, this is just for the U.S., as I believe there are some additional requirements to stay certified in other countries.)

I can tell you that I had to take a leave of absence from BODYATTACK when I was trying to get pregnant and through pregnancy, and Les Mills allowed me to take a year off autoship and get back on when I was done, with no penalty. That’s awesome.

Find a Les Mills licensed facility to teach your program, work on your craft, and debut the new releases every quarter.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you can only teach Les Mills programs in gyms or studios that hold licenses for those programs from Les Mills, such as 24 Hour Fitness, where I teach. While some group fitness certifications are held by the instructor, Les Mills is different. You have to get certified in a specific Les Mills program, and your gym has to have that specific Les Mills program license too. You can’t teach BODYATTACK at a local park, like you could with ZUMBA or other programs. This is a very important point, because part of being a Les Mills instructor is upholding the rules and regulations.

That means you’ll need to audition and apply for a group fitness instructor job at a Les Mills licensed facility — within a year of getting certified. And once you’ve gotten the job, it’s great to teach your program at least once a week, hopefully two to three times, but probably not more than that to save your body from repetition. You should also take other Les Mills classes as an attendee to be well-rounded.

Six months into teaching, consider attending a Les Mills advanced training.

Over the last year or so, Les Mills has changed the advanced training process. And to be honest, I haven’t gone through the new and improved advanced training, which is either an in-person training or an online training over six weeks.

Instead of the advanced instructor modules 1 and 2 that I attended, now there is only one advanced training for everyone. I highly recommend pursuing advanced training about six months after you’ve started teaching a regular class, because it will help you improve so very much.

And I hope to go through the new program one day, so I can report back on what it’s like now. 

But everyone who teaches Les Mills should try to attend the Les Mills events and workshops whenever possible. They are always fun and informative. And who wouldn’t want a chance to hang with other members of the Les Mills tribe? (Did I mention that once you’re an instructor, you’re part of the tribe?)

Become a Les Mills group fitness instructor by A Lady Goes West - February 2020

How to prepare for a Les Mills initial training weekend

Let’s chat briefly about how to prepare for a Les Mills initial training weekend …

Take a lot of group fitness classes.

If you want to be a leader of a group fitness class, you need to be well-versed in proper movement patterns and staying with the beat of the music. Those are essentials. I recommend taking a wide variety of classes, learning to follow other instructors and move your body. Through this process, you will also see a lot of good and bad coaching. Remember what you like and don’t like, because that will help you in the future.

Practice, practice, practice in the Les Mills format that you’re going to teach.

It’s really important to learn the vibe, essence, moves and patterns of your particular program, so you want to do it a lot. If you don’t currently have a Les Mills licensed gym near you, then you can do the program on Les Mills+ (formerly Les Mills On Demand) at home. In fact, you can get 30 days of Les Mills+ (formerly Les Mills On Demand) totally for free using my special referral link here.

Memorize the tracks that you’re going to present, and practice teaching them to the mirror.

As mentioned above, you will be given track assignments, it’s usually one or two. You’ll need to fully memorize the moves and choreography for those tracks. Break them down section by section to try to learn the patterns. It’s very important to be able to say the name of the move and the tempo. You do NOT have to know how to teach all the layers and extras, just be able to say the basics and do it at the same time. Your master trainer will teach you the rest during training. 

Practice in a mirror and practice filming yourself if you can. It’s eye-opening and will help you fix what you need to fix before you get to training — and then at training, you’ll learn even more things you can fix.

A few other things to know about initial training …

Clear your weekend. NO other plans at all.

Take a rest day the day before training so your body is recovered and ready for a LOT of movement.

You also need to bring plenty of water, food (to save valuable practice time, have your lunch on hand), snacks, a notepad, a smart device and headphones to listen to your digital music, your choreography notes, a sweatshirt to put on during the lecture portions, a change of clothes and an open mind. Good luck, have fun and just do it!

A Les Mills group fitness instructor by A Lady Goes West - February 2020

Closing thoughts on how to become a Les Mills group fitness instructor

It’s widely known in the fitness industry that Les Mills requires a lot from its instructors, and that’s a good thing. This process is not easy, but it is so totally worth it. And I can tell you that I’ve been through the instructor training process for several other non-Les Mills formats, and many of them are not so good.

So you can feel super confident that you are in good hands with Les Mills, if you just put in the work and believe in yourself and in the process. And if you’re on the fence about whether it’s for you — just give it a go! 

As usual, we’ve definitely reached the word count limit for today on this one, so we’ll end it here. Thank you for reading. If you have additional Les Mills questions, feel free to send me a message on Instagram or leave them below in the comments.

Other Les Mills posts you may like …

Questions of the day for YOU …

Have you ever taken a Les Mills class?

Have you ever gone to a Les Mills training?

How was your weekend?

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6 Comments

  1. I’ve never taken a live Les Mills class or gone to a training, but I did a few classes at home using Les Mills On Demand. I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the experience! I don’t have much equipment at home so I only tried formats that don’t use any, and BODYCOMBAT was my favorite!

    I hope to be able to try BODYPUMP or LES MILLS CORE / CXWORX at a gym near me sometime soon!

    1. Hi Dominique! I’m so glad you tried Les Mills On Demand classes — you can imagine that in a live setting, it’s even more fun to move to the music. I also hope you get to take a live Les Mills class one day — you’ll love it. And people are obsessed with BODYCOMBAT, but it’s just not for me — BODYATTACK all the way for my cardio haha! Happy Monday, friend!

  2. So interesting to hear about the process! I knew it took a lot to be a Les Mills instructor but I didn’t realize just how involved it was, total respect for all those instructors.

    1. Hi Kayla! The training and video process is quite tough — but it’s worth it. Maybe one day you’ll do a Les Mills training too?? 🙂 But I know you were put to the test at Bar Method too!

  3. This was absolutely so informative! Thank you!! I’ve been teaching cycle and dance classes for almost a decade and have decided to finally get my Bodypump training! I’m so excited to take the next step and finally be in the tribe 🙂 Thanks again for this post!

    1. Hi Chelsea! Oh my gosh that is SOOO exciting!! I bet BODYPUMP will not be your only Les Mills program after you get into and see the beauty of Les Mills heheh! Good luck to you!! Keep me posted on what you think!:)

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