How to learn Les Mills group fitness releases

Hello, my friends. In just two weeks, I’ll be debuting the latest round of Les Mills group fitness program releases at the gyms where I teach in the Bay Area, so I’m just about to enter “preparation mode.”

Today, I’m revisiting a topic I wrote about long ago, with a refreshed look at how I learn, prepare and get ready to “launch” my Les Mills classes. (You can check out the original post here.)

How to learn Les Mills group fitness releases by A Lady Goes West blog

Preparation is key to success in group fitness instruction

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 almost 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 provides a tool-kit to every instructor, every quarter

The tools provided by Les Mills come in the form of program releases, which are distributed to instructors every three months, around the world at the same time. This is a process called “Autoship,” which all active instructors must be signed up for in each program they teach. Each release kit costs approximately $35, which is usually paid for by the instructor (although at my gym, we are reimbursed for our releases each quarter).

A release kit includes:

  1. Video of the full class with education
  2. Music for the class
  3. Choreography notes/glossary of moves

While Les Mills used to mail out hard-copy DVDs, CDs and choreography booklets, over the past two years, the company has transitioned to distributing digital releases. While I believe you still have the option to order the hard kit, many instructors receive just the digital video, music and PDF notes each quarter, which is certainly saving a lot of trees. (Fun fact: For a short time, I worked at the Les Mills West Coast office, and I was able to help the team there package up and prepare a couple-thousand of hard-copy release kits for instructors on the West Coast. We drank wine while doing it, so it ended up being very fun — many good memories from those times.)

I store all of my music, notes and videos not only on my computer, but also on an external hard-drive to ensure that I have them in the event of computer failure. The downloading process is very easy, and the Les Mills instructor portal is self-explanatory.

How to learn Les Mills group fitness releases via A Lady Goes West

In addition to the notes, video and music, I recently added a beneficial piece to the puzzle in the form of a Les Mills SMARTBAR. A couple of months ago, the folks at Les Mills sent me a SMARTBAR to play with at home, and I’m in love with it. None of the gyms where I teach have SMARTBARs in the group fitness room, so it’s a treat to use one. I use the SMARTBAR to practice both BODYPUMP and CXWORX workouts in the comfort of my carpeted spare bedroom. And I’ll tell you more about this cool contraption in a bit …

What is the best way to learn Les Mills choreography?

The best way to learn a new Les Mills group fitness release is through a combination of reviewing the notes, writing a script, watching the class video and listening to the music. Lather, rinse, repeat. You see?

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, I begin to learn the moves. The time before launch can be very stressful, so it’s best to start early. I always start with BODYATTACK, and exactly how I do it is different for each of my three programs:

  • For BODYPUMP, I learn the moves mostly by reviewing the choreography notes and listening to the music. I practice the moves full out using a Les Mills SMARTBAR at home, so I can get an idea of how much weight to use with each track. After getting the moves down, I write out my scripting and coaching cues on the choreography notes in the margins. (These are mostly stationary resistance-training moves requiring a barbell and weights.)
  • For CXWORX, I learn the moves mostly by doing them with the video, then I follow up with studying the notes to music. I then write out my scripting cues on the choreography notes in the margins. (These are mostly stationary standing and laying down core moves, sometimes incorporating a resistance tube or weight plate. I practice using a resistance tube and one heavy Les Mills SMARTBAR plate.)
  • 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 it’s my newest (I’ve been teaching it for almost two years), but also because it has the most intricate choreography and the most songs per class. I then take time to write out my scripting and cues on a blank piece of paper, before transferring the main points to the margins of the choreography notes. (These are cardio, sports and strength moves with no equipment required at all.)

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 and your coaching style. But please know that “launch” time will be a little stressful for you, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. It’s just the nature of being a Les Mills group fitness instructor, and it only comes around four times a year.

Try this beginner’s road-map to learning a release

Here’s how I suggest you tackle learning your first 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 and cues in an empty group fitness room in front of a mirror
  8. (OPTIONAL) Gather some instructor friends and see if they will be willing to practice with you in a live setting
  9. Repeat, repeat, repeat

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

How long does it take to learn Les Mills releases?

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. However, this is a process I continue to perfect as I move along in my teaching journey. I always tackle BODYATTACK first, knowing that it will take longer to learn. And hey, I get a good workout in when I run through these classes at home, especially now that I have my new SMARTBAR …

Introducing the Les Mills SMARTBAR

I can’t say enough about the Les Mills SMARTBAR. It’s so well-designed and has been a great addition to my routine at home.

Les Mills SMARTBAR and weight plates

The bar itself weighs 7.5 pounds and comes with a pair of three sizes of weight plates, including the 2.2 pound, 5.5 pound and 11 pound. That means a full set-up bar is a less than my normal squat weight in BODYPUMP, but plenty for every other track.

The best thing about the Les Mills SMARTBAR? No clips required. There is a gator clamp, which keeps the plates in place, and the plates can be used as dumbbells when not on the bar, because they have a handy grip. So smart! That being said, you can use the Les Mills SMARTBAR for a variety of your fitness needs.

Introducing the Les Mills SMARTBAR

If you’re interested in having a Les Mills SMARTBAR at home too, you can order one online with ease. The bar and a set of weight plates costs $250. Just visit the Les Mills Equipment site to browse around and check out the other tools available. You can also watch this snazzy promo video to see the Les Mills SMARTBAR in action.

And that about does it for choreography prep, my fitness-loving friends. I hope you enjoyed. Believe it or not, today is my only day of the week with no Les Mills classes on the agenda, so I look forward to being back on the mic for BODYATTACK tomorrow.

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Read more Les Mills-related posts

If you want to hear some more talk about Les Mills, check out the following:

**Disclaimer: In exchange for a review, I received a Les Mills SMARTBAR complimentary from the folks at Les Mills. However, they certainly didn’t tell me what to say and all opinions and words are my own. Thanks Les Mills!

Questions of the day

How do you learn your Les Mills choreography?

Do you have any weights at home?

What’s your learning style?

 

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37 Comments

  1. First off, I love that your posts are scheduled early in the morning…I have something to look forward to when feeding charlotte! I’m always so impressed with instructors that learn choreographed routines!! I’ve only taught classes where I make up the routines. Someday if love to teach a choreographed barre class though, those tips are helpful! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Marielle! I teach both kinds of classes, and I tend to enjoy teaching Les Mills more, because it’s so awesome when the moves fit with the music — that’s pretty hard to do exactly when you make up your own stuff. Glad you are able to enjoy my posts when you need them early in the morning, lady! πŸ™‚ I aim to please! Have a wonderful day!

    1. Hi Megan! I am CONSTANTLY prepping for group fitness classes, so at times it gets old, but I love it. At least I’m only teaching 13 times this week. Way better than last week. hahah! πŸ™‚ I didn’t know you were a dancer??

  2. AHHHH!!!! My brain! πŸ™‚ Seriously, learning new stuff and teaching the old stuff at the same time can really cause me some problems at times! I love this post. I have read your first post on this many, many times. I watch the videos all the way through about a month before launch including the education. Next, I start listening to the music over and over. Then, I start memorizing the choreography set by set. I’ll start the music, do the choreography and if I mess up, I start over from the beginning again and keep going until I’ve got it. Then, I go and do my scripting at the end after I feel like I have a good knowledge of everything. I’ve only been teaching BODYPUMP for about 18 months and BODYCOMBAT for a year. I can tell it’s getting easier, but launch times are still hard! I have wanted a smart bar for awhile now, we don’t have them at our gym either. I’ve never tried them, but I am sure I will at One Live?!?! How cool you got to work at LM West Coast! So awesome! And, your gym reimburses you for releases?! OH MY GOSH, I am in a state of jealousy over this entire post!

    1. Hi Melissa! Yes, your method for learning is a good one too! And it does continue to get easier to memorize the programs every single release (although some are harder than others, of course), so keep at it. And I’m SURE there will be all SMARTBARs and SMARTSTEPs at OneLIVE. That’s what they used at the Super Q, so you’ll have a chance to try them. YAYYYY for nice equipment! πŸ™‚

  3. Great post and super useful!! As you know, I am getting ready to take BODYPUMP instructor training in a few weeks and the thought of learning all the choreography does put me in a mild state of panic. Thanks for sharing so many useful tips about how to fully master new releases.
    That smart bar looks like it would be much easier to use in quick transitions between tracks.
    Enjoy your day!

    1. Hi Heather! In addition to that, the SMARTBAR just looks and feels cool. It’s high-quality stuff! So glad you like these Les Mills posts. And I can’t wait to hear how you enjoy your BODYPUMP training!! πŸ™‚

  4. Love this post ! I always appreciate how much time it takes to learn the choreography and how much time you guys spend to give us a great workout! We’ve started a mini Hume gym but I’m hoping to pick up a weight bar to try some body pump at home once this little Bambino comes !

    1. Hi Fiona! Yes, ma’am. Strength training before the baby comes will help you carry around that little bundle a whole lot better. How nice you’ll be able to do that in your home gym!! πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, Jen! While it is a lot of work, it’s also awesome because we get excited to see what the new innovations are in each release. I love seeing the new ones!

  5. Great tips! I’ve actually never learned any choreography regarding weight lifting, but I do have weights at home – I use them for basic strengthening exercises post run. I’m definitely a visual learning, which totally helped me get through grad school – If I just stared at the text book long enough I’d remember it! Haha. Hope you have a great day!

    1. Hi Jamie! I think I’m a combo learning — visual and audial as well. And that’s great you have some weights at home too. πŸ™‚ Happy Tuesday!

  6. Smart bar on pointe.

    It takes me about a week and a half to learn my BodyCombat choreo doing the same steps you use for Attack. I’m 2 weeks out from launching the new release so I should probably get on that.

    CX is going to be my next training- any tips on holding 5 minute planks or what resistance band to invest in?

    1. Hi Gen! Thanks for saying hi! Believe it or not, the 5-minute hover in CXWORX challenge is not as bad as you’d think. I won’t give away too much, but let’s just say you’ve got things to ENTERTAIN you while you hover. No need to worry. Just make sure you do CXWORX three-times-a-week leading up to your training to get your core in the right shape. I’d order an orange or red Les Mills or SPRI band bar. Never practice with the easy green, because you’ll never want to use that one in class hahah! πŸ™‚ Good luck!!!

  7. Very cool that you officially own a Les Mills SMARTBAR now! I would love, love, LOVE to own one, or better yet, have them at my gym for everyone to use. They seem pretty snazzy.

    Great tips on learning the choreo! There’s definitely lots of time that we put into learning our choreo, but it’s more than worth it! πŸ™‚

  8. This is a fabulous post, Ashely and perfect for me as I PASSED my initial Bodypump training this weekend [woooohooooooo]. I really enjoyed the weekend and we were given a lot of information and this post is extremely helpful since everything is so fresh. I learned that there is a music ONLY version of the video which no one in my class knew and I can’t wait to put it to use for this release. I’m jealous you have a smart bar at home, that’s so awesome. My gym doesn’t even have the smart bars, womp.

    1. Hi Pinky! My gym doesn’t have SMARTBARs either, so I love using it at home. And congrats on passing your BODYPUMP training!! So exciting. You will continue to learn so much as an instructor. That’s the thing — we always keep growing. Glad you enjoyed this post!

  9. My new gym has the smart steps (so cool!) and I was hoping they’d have the smart bar, but not yet! It’s seriously so darn cool!!
    I went to pump last night and wowzers, I can sure feel it πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Ange! The SMARTSTEPs are pretty cool, and I used them for the first time at a Les Mills event last month. I love that you go to BODYPUMP. Happy Tuesday, lady!

  10. Has there ever been a time where you forgot the choreography and had to improvise? What would you have to do if that happened? I doubt it would for how well you prepare, but I can just see myself awkwardly pausing in the middle if I were an instructor :P!

    1. Hi Niki! I mean, knock on wood, although I’ve had my mess-ups, I’ve NEVER blanked out. I always think of something appropriate to add in if there is ever a moment where I don’t know the exact move haha. But I practice a lot, so that helps. Oh man, crossing my fingers that never happens. Oh, and I NEVER tell the class if I’ve messed up. Most of the time, they’d never know:)

  11. I just signed up for a BodyPump class after being inspired by this post! I haven’t taken a Les Mills class in forever, but the local gym at my client site has the classes. Going to start incorporating them into my routine!

    1. Hi Dani! YAY!! This makes my day, I love to hear when people are taking Les Mills workouts. Maybe you can come try my classes one day in the East Bay too? πŸ™‚ Happy Tuesday!

    1. Thanks, Lauren! Yes, it’s a lot of work, but definitely worth the effort to be in front of a good class, delivering quality programs like Les Mills. Happy Tuesday! πŸ™‚

  12. Love this post (duh)! I read it last week from the link of Facebook, but when I saw it was still in my feedly reader I read it again, haha. πŸ™‚ I love hearing how people learn. For Flow, I usually do it once or twice and then it’s all listening and notes. Sh’Bam, because it’s still so new for me (and maybe just because it’s dance?), requires full out practice several times. I mostly only look at the notes for combo reps (4x, then 4x, then 6x the last time… got it). Scripting at the end after I know the choreo through and through. Launch outfit planning early on πŸ˜‰

    Super jealous of your SmartBar. Oh I love the SmartBar!

    1. Hi Breanne, Oh I have no doubt that you need to do Sh’bam full out for sure. Dancing is not easy! I have been slacking on outfit planning for launches lately since we can’t do team teaching at my gyms. I miss it!!

      1. My gym for Sh’Bam lets us team teach thank goodness (and whenever we want, but only paid for launch) – I miss big launches and team teaching at the other gym. It used to be so good. πŸ™

        1. My gyms in Florida used to make a big deal about launches, which was awesome! At least you get to team teach for one program! πŸ™‚

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