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.)
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:
- Video of the full class with education
- Music for the class
- 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.
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 …
- Watch the video while sitting on your couch and truly study how the presenters move
- Watch the video, while walking through the moves, getting a feel for the beats
- Watch the video and fully participate, going full out
- Watch the video while sitting and write down the coaching cues you want to emulate
- Listen to the music without the video and begin to say the moves out loud
- Sit down with the choreography notes and write down your own scripting and coaching cues, exactly as you plan to say them in class
- Practice the moves and cues in an empty group fitness room in front of a mirror
- (OPTIONAL) Gather some instructor friends and see if they will be willing to practice with you in a live setting
- 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.
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.
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.How to learn #LesMills choreography. Tips from instructor @apstyle ... Click To Tweet
Read more Les Mills-related posts
If you want to hear some more talk about Les Mills, check out the following:
- Most popular questions I get asked about Les Mills
- CXWORX Initial Training
- BODYATTACK Initial Training
- BODYPUMP Advanced Instructor Module 1
- BODYPUMP Advanced Instructor Module 2
- Les Mills Groundworks
- BODYATTACK Certification
- BODYPUMP 101 overview and tips for first-timers
- BODYATTACK 101 overview and tips for first-timers
- BODYPUMP 89 review and launch
- BODYATTACK 84 review
- CXWORX 101 overview and tips for first-timers
- BODYATTACK Advanced Instructor Module 1
- BODYATTACK 85 review
- BODYPUMP 90 review
- BODYATTACK 86 review
- BODYPUMP 91 review
- BODYPUMP 92 review
- BODYATTACK 87 review
- BODYPUMP 93 review
- BODYATTACK 88 review
- An amazing day of group fitness at the Super Q
**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?