Most popular Les Mills questions + workouts

Hi! How was your weekend? Mine was great! I taught a couple of group fitness classes and got to tag along with Dave to the Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience concert, where he had to meet a client for work. Not a bad gig, right? We were in a suite with a great view of the stage. It was a last minute thing, and I was very grateful to be included. I’ve seen JT a few times, and this was one of the best, because he had no opener and spent nearly the entire two hours singing, dancing and interacting with the audience without a lot of extras.

Now, let’s get to business for today. Before I go through my weekly workouts, which I always do on Monday, I wanted to take a minute to share with you some of the most popular questions I get about Les Mills.

Most popular questions I get asked about Les Mills

If you’re not familiar, Les Mills is the global group fitness brand out of New Zealand, which creates the super popular programs like BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK and CXWORX (all of which I teach). Les Mills’ more than 11 programs are enjoyed by participants in more than 80 countries around the world. There are more than 100,000 instructors who are part of the Les Mills tribe, and we’re all just trying to be the best we can be. 

Most popular Les Mills group fitness questions answered via A Lady Goes West

A lot of people stumble upon A Lady Goes West on the big ole’ interwebs because they are searching for a Les Mills topic. And I often get emails from budding instructors or participants who have questions about what to expect when they enter the land of Les Mills. So I thought it might be a good idea to put all those questions in one place. I am by no means an expert on Les Mills, but because I’ve been teaching Les Mills classes for five years and am certified in three programs, I have a pretty good take on it all.

How do I prepare for my first Les Mills initial training?

First and foremost, you should take as many classes as you can of the format that you are going to attend an initial training in. Why? Because you should be as familiar with the moves, class set-up, flow, technique and essence of the program as you can be. While taking classes, make sure you can follow the beat and stay with the tempos, because teaching pre-choreographed classes like Les Mills requires you to be able to feel the music and stay on beat and time, no matter what. If you can properly count in your head and make it through a Les Mills class, then you’ll be much better off in training. A couple weeks before your training, you’ll receive the release that you will be doing during your training and offered some track assignments to memorize. Just focus on getting the moves down, so you can give the name of the move, timing and stay with the beat of the music while doing the move. You don’t have to know how to teach yet, because you’ll learn that at your training weekend. You just have to be able to do your tracks, knowing how and when the choreography flows. However, you should be familiar with all of the tracks in your release, because you’ll be assessed on your technique throughout the weekend as well. Once you’ve passed training, you have to shoot a video of yourself teaching the full release, and you should definitely plan to shoot at least a couple times to make sure you get a good finished product.

What should I bring with me to a Les Mills training?

You’ll be doing a lot of working out during training, so plan to bring a few changes of clothes. In addition, when you go through the book-work and education portion of the training, you’ll be sitting still in a cold group fitness room, so make sure you have some sweatpants and a sweatshirt handy. You may also want to bring an extra pair of sneakers or flip-flops to wear home, because being in the same shoes all day moving around can be a little uncomfortable. As far as equipment, you should bring your iPod, some headphones, a notebook, pen, and if you can, the DVD of your release loaded on your phone or tablet, so you can reference the video if you need to. You should also bring a lot of food and snacks. Even though all trainings include at least a 30-minute lunch-break, I would recommend bringing a cooler of all the food you’ll need throughout the day, so you can use your lunch-break to study your music, and stay in the room to ask questions of your trainer or other participants. I’ve always found it is much easier than having to run out somewhere to get food. Soak in as much as you can from the weekend, and be present.

How hard is a Les Mills initial training weekend? What’s it like?

I’ve been to three initial trainings and several advanced trainings, and I can say that they are all doable. The initial training is usually two days, from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The first day will start with a master class of the release you are training on, followed by introductions and a very long technique session. During the technique session, your trainer will make sure every participant can execute every move properly. You’ll also spend some time learning about Les Mills and the coaching model, which is a very helpful portion you can use for teaching any program. Depending on the program you are training in, your first track presentation will happen at the end of day one, or at the beginning and end of day two. You will usually present at least twice, and then you’ll get feedback as well as get to watch a short snippet of video of you teaching, which the trainer will take of everyone. Believe me, seeing yourself teaching on video for the first time is eye-opening! On the first or second day, there will also be a physical challenge, which is determined by the program that you are training in. I won’t give away what is involved in the physical challenge, because it’s basically a rite of passage for all Les Mills instructors. Yes, it’s hard. But yes, you can do anything you put your mind to. You’ll be tired at the start of day two, and will have had some homework to practice in between each day, so be prepared to devote your entire weekend to the Les Mills experience. At the end of day two, you will do your final presentation and get an outcome of whether you passed training or have some things you need to work on. That’s it. It’s a pretty amazing experience, and you’ll be an all-around better person for doing it.

How long does it take you to prepare your choreography for class?

Because I’ve been teaching BODYPUMP for so long, I can pick up on the patterns in the choreography pretty quickly. It only takes me a few hours to learn a new release, although I like to spend time practicing and scripting as well. It does take me a bit longer to learn BODYATTACK, because the choreography is so involved, but after a year of teaching this program, it gets easier and easier. I don’t have a regular CXWORX class, so I teach this program the least, and I’ve found it was always fairly hard to learn because there are long holds and phases that don’t have exact counts. Yet, CXWORX is also the shortest program at only 30 minutes, which makes it much more manageable. If you’re new to teaching Les Mills, I would give yourself a couple-hours-a-day for at least two weeks to prepare to teach a new release in its entirety. Check out this post for more: “How to learn Les Mills group fitness releases.”

How often do you switch your music in classes?

This is a loaded question. When I used to teach two BODYPUMP classes a week at the same gym, I would often have the same members twice-a-week, so in that case, I switched my music every-other-week. Essentially, I did the same selection of music and moves four times with a class before moving on to something else. However, these days, because I jump around and teach at different gyms, I teach the same release or music selection for three weeks per program. Every three weeks, I completely refresh my BODYPUMP playlist and switch half of my BODYATTACK playlist, so most of the time, my members will do a workout three weeks-in-a-row, then we switch to something new (or old). However, when it comes to the brand new releases, I always teach those four times in a class before moving on, because I like to make sure we’ve really gotten used to the new moves and have started to increase our weights in BODYPUMP or improved our jumps in BODYATTACK. I know some instructors who like to change their music every week, but that doesn’t work for me. Not only is it very time consuming, but I find that members like to have a few weeks to master something before moving on. 

Do you create your own mixes or teach from full releases?

I have always preferred to teach the full releases for all my classes. Why? That’s because I feel that the program directors spend so much time making sure that the individual releases have balanced music, moves and song durations, that I don’t want to mess with it. For instance, if we do push-ups in the chest track for BODYPUMP, then I don’t want to do a shoulder track with a lot of push-ups. Also, sometimes songs are longer than others, and if you paste together a release with too many long songs, you may run over time in your class. And I can tell you that doesn’t fly in the gyms I teach in San Francisco, because there is no buffer between back-to-back classes, so you have to be quick. The only exception I make to splitting up releases is with BODYATTACK. Sometimes I teach the first half of one release and the second half of the other as I transition out old music, as mentioned above. There is nothing wrong with creating your own mix, as long as you put the tracks in the appropriate order and feel that you’ve compiled a diverse workout. I’ve seen some instructors go with themes, and there’s a lot you can do if you choose to mix and match.

How many times a week should I take or teach Les Mills group fitness classes?

As a participant, it’s great to take a variety of classes each week. I’d recommend two BODYPUMP classes, two BODYATTACK (or BODYCOMBAT OR BODYSTEP) classes, as well as a CXWORX class and some outside stretching (yoga or BODYFLOW) as a strong routine. You don’t want to go to BODYPUMP two days-in-a-row, so try to space out the resistance training. As an instructor, I don’t think it’s deal to teach more than three classes of each program a week, so you don’t overuse your muscles and voice doing the same workout too many times. Breaks and rest are very important for both instructor and participant. I’ve had weeks in which I’ve taught five BODYPUMP classes, and that’s far too much repetition for the body. My current sweet spot is teaching two BODYPUMP classes a week and three BODYATTACK classes a week and doing some other outside workouts on my own. Of course, your routine is up to you, but strive for variety and balance.

That’s it. Some of the most popular questions I get about all things Les Mills answered. If you have any additional questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

For a look at plenty of other Les Mills posts, check out some of these:

Now let’s get to how I’ve been moving over the past seven days, much of which has been Les Mills-related …

Weekly Workouts from A Lady Goes West

Weekly Workouts

What was good about my week of workouts?

Well, let’s start with the positive. This week had plenty of cardio, plenty of resistance training and even a hot yoga class. I think the hot yoga class, although not what I thought I was showing up for that day as I didn’t full read the class description, was the highlight of the week. It felt so good to stretch, lengthen and loosen up my body while getting completely drenched in sweat. I definitely worked hard this week and did a bunch of new-to-me movements in the Barry’s Bootcamp Hardcore Abs class I took on Thursday. That class included such things as pikes, mountain climbers and more using dynamic mode on a the treadmill. Tough and intense!

What could have been better?

The obvious thing that could have improved this week was the fact that there was not a clear rest day. I did do yoga, I did do foam rolling, but I didn’t take a full day off and should have. However, I know I’ve got a much lighter week of workouts coming up with the holiday this week, so I didn’t mind fitting in an extra sweat session on Sunday. Rest is in my future, as is a full day of riding in a car along the California coast.

Alright, folks. I have a super busy day today and tomorrow, and we’re off to San Diego bright and early on Wednesday. Hope your Thanksgiving week starts off great!

Questions of the day

How was your weekend?

Any Les Mills instructors or participants out there with any other questions?

Has anyone else been to a Justin Timberlake concert?

Ashley signature

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39 Comments

  1. Love all your info on Les Mills classes. I’d love to teach them but unfortunately in France you can’t just get certified by Les Mills and then hired by a gym. A special sports diploma is required for all employees and then the teaching certifications are all add-ons. Which is good from an education standpoint but bad for people like me who just want to teach part time and not pursue fitness as a career. In any case, always enjoy your posts on Les Mills 😉 I’m a faithful Bodycombat participant and dabble in the occasional Attack. 😉

    1. Hi Diane, Well there’s another thing I didn’t know about teaching group fitness in France. It makes sense, but is unfortunate for those who only want to do it as a hobby, like you. I guess I wouldn’t have gotten my start in Les Mills there either, as I did group fitness as a part-time job along with a desk-job for many years before becoming full-time fitness. Hope you’re doing well!! Have a great Monday:) Will you be having Thanksgiving over there???

      1. A lot of my favorite instructors in the US started out as part-time instructors and had a day job that had nothing to do with fitness. And some of them, with time, transitioned to fitness-related careers and some just teach a few classes a week because it’s their passion. It’s a shame that in France you can’t just get certified in a specific modality and then pick up some work at a gym. But at least I enjoy the classes as a participant.
        I’m doing a little Thanksgiving for my husband and in-laws on Saturday since Thurs is just another day here. We’re having a nice chicken since whole turkeys aren’t readily available. And pumpkin pie of course! Thanks for asking 😉

  2. This Les Mills Q & A is super helpful! Thanks for sharing your experiences, knowledge, and opinions with us. I always love hearing how other Les Mills instructors do things. I actually like how you change your music up every other week. I’ve been noticing it gets a little time consuming every week to switch things up. And since I teach at very different times throughout the week, I rarely have the same people in all of my classes. I also like what you said about how it gives members more time to work on various moves/exercises. I think I may be changing things up a bit!

    1. Thanks, Ashley. I have talked to my members before about doing things a few weeks in a row, and they really like that, so they can start to get a feel for each release. Especially in BODYATTACK, when they may have trouble with the combinations. You always want to make people feel successful, but never bored. Glad you enjoyed and INSPIRED this post. Happy Monday! 🙂

    1. Hi Christa! Happy Monday! Oh it was sooo good. I love me some JT. Were you an NSYNC fan? I loved them too. And I would definitely miss BODYPUMP if I didn’t take or teach it anymore.

    1. Hi Julie! Thanks for stopping by. That’s great you do Les Mills COMBAT at home. I’ve actually never done the at-home versions of any of the classes. Have you ever tried any other formats? Hope you have a great Thanksgiving week:)

  3. This post was amazing! I have literally taught almost all styles of group fitness (step, kickboxing, strength training, Pilates, Yoga, Barre, etc), but no Les Mills. I get asked questions about Les Mills all the time, and from now on, I am just going to send people straight to this post!

  4. Hi Ashley! As a fellow Les Mills instructor I am in full support of all your answers! I love that you are providing so much Les Mills information. I am PUMP certified and am getting ready to attend ATTACK initial training. Keep up the awesome blogging! Kia Kaha!

    1. Hi Jenna!! So great to connect, I love “meeting” fellow instructors and bloggers. Glad you agree with my thoughts. Hope you have an awesome day! I’m heading out to teach BODYATTACK right now. Good luck with initial training:)

  5. First of all, that’s awesome that you got to go to a JT concert out of the blue! I’ve never seen him live but I can imagine it’s amazing.

    Second, I love that you took the time to answer so many questions regarding Les Mills classes. I’ve always been curious about what it’s like to train and keep up with teaching them. When I used to take ATTACK in College Station, TX the instructor had been teaching forever so she would do tracks from waaaayyyy back in the day along with the new which I loved. But I think it’s great to stick with the new releases for a while too so that’s great that you do that!

    1. Hi Sarah, That’s actually something I didn’t reference, but you’re not supposed to teach stuff that’s too old. Because Les Mills has been around for so long and there are always new developments, most of the time instructors are supposed to teach releases from the last two years or so. I’ll add this to my next round of FAQs. 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hi Mattie! Yes you sure do. Les Mills classes have moves that go directly to the beat of the music, so they are all super fun. Have a great night, and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  6. Great answers, Ashley!

    For me, the members prefer to have BP switched up every week (and I do too), as the moves are so redundant, so it’s nice to keep it fresh with the music–and I like to mix up releases too. Depends how I’m feeling! 🙂 However, with GRIT, and CX, I like to keep things the same for 2 weeks, and then switch–mostly because it’s helpful for members so they can catch on. With BA, I’m thinking similar, as it’s a bit more intricate in choreo, so at least 2 weeks would be good.

    1. Hi Annette, Yes, if you’re at the same gym with the same people, I would definitely switch more frequently. And you’ll see with ATTACK that it’s WAY better to give people a few times to get used to it before introducing new. Do you think you’ll start coaching GRIT again?

    1. Hi Erin! Oh yes, you know a lot of us are borderline obsessed with Les Mills. You need to try some classes so you can see what all the fuss is about:)

  7. Hi Ashley,
    Love your Q and A article about LM initial training. Thank you so much for this! I teach Body Pump and I love it! Been teaching it for 2 years now. I pretty much love most Les Mills formats ? Other than its effectiveness in delivering fitness results and in teaching instructors to teach participants everything from techniques to motivating, one big factor why I love Les Mills formats is its great choice of music. So, I’m thinking to that it’s time for me to expand my Les Mills teaching experience to Body Combat. I know you mentioned as part of the initial training prep is to take as many classes if that format as possible, for Combat, I was wondering how many classes a week prior to the initial training? I teach 6 classes a week (Body Pump and Zumba combined) and I also work during the day. And I’m also a mom of 2 beautiful girls. So time would be a challenge. Based on your experience, would the Les Mills On Demand Body Combat class experience provide the equal amount and experience I need as part of preparing for the initial training? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Muti! BODYCOMBAT is actually one of the programs that I never do and don’t really love — I just don’t sit in the COMBAT space. So I haven’t done it on ON Demand, but I’m pretty sure if you are able to do BODYCOMBAT along with the video, you could be comfortable enough for training. Will you have time to train and practice for your video and then teach COMBAT? Or will you have to give some of your classes up? I was also a full-time working gal when I started with Les Mills, and it wasn’t easy, but you spend time on things you love for sure! Good luck to you!!!

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