How to learn Les Mills choreography

When you show up to take a group fitness class, there is a strong chance that the instructor has put in at least a couple of hours to prepare for what you will do that day.

As a Les Mills group fitness instructor, preparation is 100 percent part of the job.

Whereas freestyle group fitness classes are designed by the individual instructor, Les Mills group fitness programs are pre-choreographed to set music that is chosen by the Les Mills International company ahead of time.

That means the moves are consistent, the music is globally licensed and the quality is verified by teams of professionals, so 100,000 instructors across the globe in 15,000 clubs have the tools they need to deliver a world-class work-out, every single time.

Les Mills releases

The tools provided by Les Mills come in the form of Les Mills program releases, which are distributed to instructors every three months. A release kit includes:

  1. DVD/video of the full class with education
  2. CD/music for the class
  3. Choreography notes

Over the past year, the Les Mills company has started to transition to distributing digital releases in order to be green, which means instructors now receive digital video, music and PDF notes each quarter rather than a hard-copy kit. I’ve been receiving digital downloads for almost a year and it is pretty seamless (although it sure does take up a lot of space on your computer, and I’ve had to transfer the videos to an external hard-drive, which is not super convenient.)

Now that digital is in the picture, I’ve stopped adding to my “Les Mills” drawer. But yes, I do have one.

Les Mills release kits

Now let’s get on to the main point of this post.

How do you learn Les Mills choreography?

Through a combination of reviewing the notes, writing a script, watching the class video and listening to the music.

When I first get a release, I watch the full video and do some of the moves just to get the gist of what to expect. From there, I watch the education sections to make sure I know the latest in the fitness industry, which Les Mills includes to keep instructors up-to-date with the company’s research and studies.

A couple of weeks before the official launch of the new program (which usually happens at a quarterly special event at the gyms I teach), I begin to learn the moves. The time before launch can be very stressful, so it’s best to start early.

Exactly how I do it is different for each program:

  • For BODYPUMP, I learn the moves mostly by reviewing the choreography notes and listening to the music. (These are mostly stationary resistance moves, which will be performed with weights, but initially I practice with no weights.)
  • For CXWORX, I learn the moves mostly by doing them with the video, then follow up with studying the notes to music. (These are mostly stationary standing and laying down core moves, sometimes incorporating a resistance tube or weight plate. I practice using a resistance tube, but no weight.)
  • For BODYATTACK, I learn the moves by doing them full out with the video several times, before doing the moves full out to the video with the presenter voices turned off. This is the hardest program for me to learn and memorize, not only because I’ve only been teaching it for a few months, but also because it has the most intricate choreography and the most songs per class. (These are cardio, sports and strength moves with no equipment required.)

Here’s my messy, but effective means of scripting …

Les Mills notes

Which can also be done on the same page of the printed out choreography notes …

Les Mills kit

My advice to new Les Mills instructors is to over-prepare. If you are completely confident with the choreography and how it fits with the music, you will absolutely teach a better class, which you can tailor to your personality in your coaching style.

A beginner’s road-map to learning a release

  1. Watch the video while sitting on your couch and truly study how the presenters move
  2. Watch the video, while walking through the moves, getting a feel for the beats
  3. Watch the video and fully participate, going full-out
  4. Watch the video while sitting and write down the coaching cues you want to emulate
  5. Listen to the music without the video and begin to say the moves out loud
  6. Sit down with the choreography notes and write down your own scripting and coaching cues, exactly as you plan to say them in class
  7. Practice the moves, coaching and cues in an empty group fitness room in front of a mirror

With that process, you’ve incorporated visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles, so all your bases should be covered.

No matter what, you’ll always have to go back to this when refreshing …

Les Mills release

How long does it take?

After a few years of instructing, I can usually learn a new BODYPUMP or CXWORX release in just a few hours, while it takes me a few days to learn a BODYATTACK release.

It’s a process I continue to perfect as I move along my fitness journey.

For Les Mills instructors, you can learn other tips and ways to improve your teaching by attending events. If you want to know more about Les Mills events or read class reviews, head on over to my Fitness page to see my recaps and reviews of those I’ve attended.

Question of the day

For all you Les Mills instructors out there, what are some of your tips and tricks for learning choreography?

Ashley signature

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  1. This was a great post! CX took me a bit longer than BP but now it takes about the same amount of time to learn. GRIT used to be super hard to learn (b/c it’s not necessarily with the right choruses of song), but now it’s much easier b/c it is counted in with a lady on the track, then you hit it hard for a certain time until she counts back in. SO nice!

    1. Hey there Annette! Is that counting a new feature for GRIT? I haven’t taken it in a while so haven’t experienced it, but I bet that helps with keeping on track. It’s almost launch time for us here in San Francisco (April 11) so I should start watching master classes soon. Thanks for reading! 🙂

      1. Hi Ashley,
        I’ve been doing some research on the Les Mills programs and I was wondering, do the fitness clubs usually foot the bill for the new release downloads? If not, how much do they cost you as an instructor each time? Thanks!

        1. Hi Liz,

          Each program release (one comes out every three months) currently costs about $35 for the digital download of choreography notes, education and music. It used to be a physical kit with a DVD and CD and notes, but now it’s digital. Most gyms require the instructor to pay for the releases each time, but 24 Hour Fitness actually reimburses its instructors. I’d not experienced that until now and it’s great.

          Let me know if you have other questions.


  2. Hi Ashley,
    Nice posts! I find your blog really helpful. I know you have posted the sample script for Body Attack here. Can you share me some scripts for Body Pump? I recently just go certified and have a hard time scripting.

    Kia Kaha!

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I don’t have any scripts for BODYPUMP handy on my blog. Do you have a particular track of move you need help with? It’s important to stay with the name of the move, the count, the range, and then follow up a bit later with more cues. Less is more! Good luck.

  3. What is the cost of each quarterly release if you are on Autoship? I am converting from MOSSA to Les Mills and just became BodyPump certified 🙂

  4. Hi, Ashley. Coming in on this thread late, but I am a very new CX instructor, and am signed up for BP training at the end of this month. I’m finding learning new choreography is very difficult! I’m also still learning how to have fitness magic and connect with members. I’ve only taught a handful of classes, so I’m lacking experience (which will come in time, I know), and also confidence as I am petrified of forgetting choreography, or not guiding the members through the exercises properly. I quickly learned some new tracks to throw in so I wasn’t teaching the same release over and over, but I feel harried and out of sorts because I learned them so quickly. And now I have to learn two tracks for my BP training, plus eventually the whole release and the new CX release for the next quarterly launch, all while trying to learn a few old tracks for CX so I don’t keep teaching the same release over and over for the next 6 weeks! I’m feeling a little (ok, a LOT) overwhelmed. In the meantime, I have a full-time day job and three kids, so finding solid blocks of time to dedicate to memorization is a little tricky. Any advice to help manage what I feel is just so much going on? I do love it! It’s just a lot right now all at once!

    1. Well I just typed out a super long response to you and it got deleted. Darn.

      Basically, hi Kris! Thanks so much for stopping by. First of all, welcome to the Tribe! It’s so awesome you’ve become an instructor and are taking on your second program. As far as learning releases, I PROMISE you it will start to get easier. You will always have to put in the work, but eventually you will be less nervous. Don’t worry so much about fitness magic just yet, and focus on teaching a SOLID class. If you have to repeat tracks because you didn’t learn new ones – tell your class you are repeating, so you want them to take all of the harder options this time. You know?

      As far as preparing for training for BP, just focus on memorizing your two tracks and don’t try and learn the rest all the way yet, so you don’t get overwhelmed. You need to know how to execute the MOVES in them, but you don’t need to have them ready to teach. And you’ll see that once you go to training, you’ll get the other tracks in your head from doing them so much.

      Overall, just relax. All the members of the classes have seen new instructors before. They don’t mind! They just want a good workout. Have fun! And here are more tips:

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