(Version 1.4 : 14th September 2008)
So, you want to be a BodyPump Instructor ? Great choice :)
BodyPump is easily the most popular group fitness program in the world. At last count, there are over 11,000 fitness clubs hosting BodyPump classes. There is a constant need for quality instructors.
If you’re about to jump into it, or a a beginning instructor, I would like to share with you of the details of the process to get you prepared and some hints and tips to get you started and make your first appearances on that stage as memorable (for good reasons) as possible.
Now, before I start, I need to mention that everything written here is my own opinion and is in no way endorsed by Les Mills International, the owners and copyright holders of the BodyPump program. I’m just an instructor who loves what he does and wants to help as many people change their lives for the better as possible.
Have a read and let me know what you think. Please leave a comment or send me an email: patrick [at] body4me.com.au
Let me know if this is useful and if you have any suggestions for more content.
Where to begin ?
Ok, the first thing you want is plenty of practice in being a participant in classes. That’s pretty obvious really :)The next thing to do is tell you instructor that you’re interested in becoming one yourself. I can assure you that your instructor will be incredibly impressed with that and will be only too happy to help you. They may put you in touch with their local Group Fitness Coordinator or give you information on the local training courses. For me, finding the right mentor was a really important decision. I knew I needed the right person with the right attitude, really good form and endless energy. Like they say, if you want to be really good at something, model someone who is already really good at it.
Once you’ve got the ball rolling and set yourself a target date and may have enrolled in the module training, it’s time to start preparing in your new life. Now is the perfect time too, because you’re still relatively ‘anonymous’ in your class and can start to practice your breathing and form.
Yup, breathing. Something you do thousands of times a day and do totally unconsciously. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is actually a lot to it. Working out with a barbell is easy. Working out with a barbell, speaking and thinking at the same time is a lot harder. I hate to admit it, but since i started instructing, I have gained a lot of respect for those little pop star singers that sing and dance in a music video and make it look natural.
Take the time now to start practicing abdominal breathing. The fancy technical term is Diaphragmatic Breathing, but for you and me it means that rather than lifting your chest to breathe in, you’re expanding your belly. To see it in action, watch a sleeping baby or puppy :) The only thing you’ll see moving is their belly in and out as they breathe. Belly breathing give you a lot more oxygen and is a lot easier to do when you have to do other things at the same time. Trust me, once you’re on stage, you’ll need all that oxygen to power your muscles and to give you a nice loud, clear voice.
The most obvious part of a BodyPump class. you are going to be the role model that everyone is going to follow. Your participants are going to copy your moves, so you need to make sure that you can demonstrate correct and safe form from start to finish on every single track. Play around with your weight selection and find something that allows you to get to the end of the workout with good form but still looks like you’re getting a workout. Remember, as an instructor, you should really be using ‘inspirational weights’. Something that your participants can look up to and want to aspire to.
Next, really pay attention to your instructor and how they perform each track. Where are their shoulders ?, How are their feet and knees aligned ?, How are they holding their belly ?
Listen to their cues. there are good reasons why they are saying them and you will learn all about that in your module training. For now, pay attention and really visualise the muscles in your own body moving in the correct manner. What muscle group is the current track focuses on and where do i want to feel the work ?
- The Module Training
Ok, you’re ready for the training. It’s coming up this weekend and you’re as nervous as you can be. First of all, don’t worry, everyone else is in the same position. When you turn up, don’t be surprised if there is at least a 10:1 girl:boy ratio. When I did my training, I was the only guy with 19 other girls.
What do you need to bring:
- A Water Bottle
- 2 or 3 changes of workout clothes. You’re going to get hot and sweaty. You’re going to have at least 1 or 2 showers during the day.
- ‘Sitting around in’ clothes. There a fair bit of theory work, so bring some comfy clothes too
- Light snacks. To keep the energy up and refuel
- A portable CD player. You’ll be given the current release CD/DVD pack.
- A pen. It is a training course after all
- As much energy and enthusiasm as you can muster. Oh, and a smile too :)
Day 1 typically starts with the general introduction and warm & fuzzy stuff. How the course works and how the program works.
Next, your trainer will take you through a full class of the current release. They will be demonstrating the correct technique and cues and will generally check you out to make sure you you’ve got what it takes.
You’ll have a quick break and then it’s on to a whole lot of theory work on how a class is structured, what to do, what to say, what to look out for, how to learn choreography, atmosphere, safety and all of that. Apart form that, you will be shown how to be a rockstar! Stage presence, microphone technique and body language are all an integral part of your performance that help to bring that ‘fitness magic’ to your classes.
You will probably go through another full class with your trainer to practice what your have learnt during the day. After that, your trainer will assign you one or more tracks to learn overnight to present the next day. Yes, I said ‘present the next day’. Remember, the next day is only a few hours away since you’re probably finishing your first day at about 8:00 PM.
My advice: as soon as you get in the car/train/bike, listen to your song(s) over and over and over and over again. Repetition is the mother of skill. As soon as you get home, watch the master class DVD for your song and write down what the trainers are saying with each move. Next, go through the song and write down the choreography in a column and write down your own cues or the DVD trainer cues next to it. The practice, practice, practice. Perform your tracks over and over again with your notes and cues in front of you. I find it really helps me to focus on just a few key phrases at a specificpoint in the song, like the start of a round or the chorus. By the end of the night, you should be feeling like you could do the track blindfolded and upside down.
Your trainer will tell this on Day 1 and Day 2, but I’ll tell you again: Script, Script, Script! Script every song, script your introduction, script your class. When nerves take over and your mind goes blank, your script will save the day.
Now, get some sleep and get ready for Day 2
This is your (first) big day! Today, you get to perform your track(s) in front of the trainer and other instructors to be. Depending on the class size, you will probably be broken up into smaller groups so that every person gets to do a song and shadow instruct one. The trainer will probably walk around and video tape every one for analysis later.
Relax. Be yourself. I know, that’s easy to say, but everyone else is just as nervous as you, so it doesn’t really matter. Just remember your key cues and phrases and speak nice and loud. That’s probably the biggest thing I found with everyone. We were all using our ‘inside voice’, rather than our ’singer’s voice’. Use all that air you’re sucking in with your belly breathing to power your vocal chords. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t mean screaming, I mean speack with volume.
After you’re done, it’s time for analysis of the footage. The trainer will point out the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’ve never seen yourself perform before, this might be quite an enlightening experience for your. I know your voice sounds funny on tape, but pay closer attention to your form and how you move your body. Remember, as an instructor, people will be copying you. Are you doing the right thing ?
You’ll do plenty more theory, coaching, cueing, form drills that day before performing your track again. You will fin that your nerves have all but disappeared by now and you’ve remembered all the pointers from the day. This time around, it should feel like fun!
The Week Between
You will now have a week between your core training and the final day. During this week, you will want to team up with your mentor instructor and see if you can shadow them in a few classes. Even if you don’t get a chance to be on the microphone, just being up on stage getting your moves and timing right will be a huge help.
While you’re not doing any classes, practice, practice, practice, script, script, script!
The Final Day! Here is where you get to show off what you have learnt during the week. The day will probably start with a quick warm up session followed by either your first presentation or the BodyPump Instructor Challenge! I wont give too much away on that one, but suffice it to say that it is a challenge and you need to be ready for it. This is where we separate the Participants from the Instructors :) If you’ve been getting plenty of work-out time and do some solid weight training between classes, this shouldn’t be a problem.
In the afternoon, you will spend some time on ‘Fitness Magic’. To me, this is the most important part. Fitness Magic happens when you and your whole class are ‘in the zone’, people lose themselves in the music, the cues just flow perfectly and everyone walks out at the end of the workout on a bit of a high. They are the classes that people remember and come back for. They are the classes that give you a following of regulars. They are the reason why BodyPump is so popular.
If you have time, you will probably get to do another presentation of your track followed by a de-brief. Then, it’s time to find out if you made it. This can go one of three ways. You can fail. You can be sent out as a shadow instructor, or you can pass. Failing is obvious. You don’t get to teach and have to redo part of the course. Your instructor will tell you what went wrong. If this does happen, start correcting whatever they spotted and get straight back into it. Don’t give up. Plenty of people get nervous in front of a mic the first time around. If you get cleared to shadow, it means that you can only team teach with another instructor until you’re deemed ready. That’s cool, it gives you more time to get familiar with everything before you’re thrown into the deep end. If you get cleared to instruct, you’ve made it. Congratulations :) Now it’s time to really start team teaching with your mentor and honing your cueing and timing skills.
- Microphone Technique
Your Microphone. Your Friend! You may not think that when you first start instructing, but once you get used to it, you will earn to love it. As soon as I put my mic on, it’s like a little switch inside me gets turned on and I’m ready to rock and roll.
Before anything else, let me give you a few pointers about taking care of the microphone. These may seem obvious, but I’ve seen a few instructors literally destroy microphones during a class.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that I have learnt:
- Always check that you have the right mic before a class! Don’t laugh. If your club has multiple workout rooms, the microphones are usually coded to a room and wont work anywhere else. It’s a bit embarrassing to have to run out and change mics when your class is due to start.
- Always turn the microphone off before you put it on or take it off.
- When testing a microphone, NEVER blow into it. That’s the quickest way to destroy it! Just position the microphone in the normal position and speak at your normal volume.
- Check the voice level with the music at the right volume before you start the class. Arrive a little early to check that everything works the way you want it. You don’t want to have to adjust the volumes once you start your class.
- If you headset mic has a yellow or orange plastic boom (like the aeromic ones) that positions the microphone capsule near your mouth, never adjust that boom. It will break. And you don’t want to break it. They cost a lot of money.
- The default position that the mic sits the way is designed to IS the correct way. You don’t need to bend and twist it out of shape to make it fit. It is designed to pick up your voice the way it is.
- Keep your head up when speaking. If you’re looking at your feet, your windpipe closes up, your mouth shuts a little and you won’t be heard.
- Open your mouth when you speak, your microphone can’t lip-read :)
- This one is a bit tricky to explain without showing you, but when speaking into the mic, especially when you’re hitting a peak, try to speak past the microphone, not into it. So, position the mic on the side of your head and speak/shout/yell to the side of it. You don’t want the mic sitting right in front of you. If you do, all the air from your lungs will overload it and you will ‘clip’ (crackle and break up).
- Your First Class
- Ok, right up until now, this all seemed like a lot of fun and games. That all changes rather dramatically once you strap on the mix and step onto that stage! With any luck, you’ve been shadowing another instructor for the past few weeks so you at least have a feel for the stage and possibly even the mic.I think I can honestly say that I’ve never been as nervous as I was the first time I got to teach a class by myself. If you’re a natural public speaker and performer, then this should come easy to do. If you’re like me, you have to work pretty hard at it. Trust me though, it gets easier every time. By now, I look forward to the rush.
- 5-10 minutes before the class, start playing some high-energy music to set the vibe. I usually use a few Track 4’s from previous releases.
- Set up your own weights and equipment.
- Check your mic and set up your music.
- Introduce yourself and thank everyone for being here.
- Let people know what equipment they need and maybe point out a few of the innovations for this release.(Eg, Today, we’re doing Release 66 with the tricep dips, so you may want to grab yourself an extra step for under your bench so you can go nice and deep)
- Survey the room for new participants, pregnancies and injuries. (Maybe keep a few printouts of the BodyPump Pregnancy Brochure on hand)
- Show the class you’re excited about being here. Hype the workout.
- Explain Set Position by setting up your own body posture.
- Roll the music!
- Connect with your participants. Apart from technical competence, Les Mills will be looking at your attitude and enthusiasm for the class and the program. Make them feel your love for it.
- Put your CRC into practice! Whether you do it for a group of people or an individual, make sure you get some form correcting on tape.
- Make sure some of the crowd can be seen in the class. Even if it’s just a reflection in the mirror. you don’t want to look like you’re the only person in the class. (Oh, and if anyone is in view and identifiable in the camera, do ask their permission first. Some people are uncomfortable being filmed.)
- This may seem pretty obvious, but: Make sure you have enough tape/disc in the camera for the full hour class
- Similarly, make sure you have enough continuous battery for the full hour. If you don’t, connect the camera to mains power. If you’re going to have a power cord running along the floor, make sure it is fully taped down so no-one can trip on it!
- Before you start, check the sound levels by record a little part of a song at the normal class volume. You want to be sure that the camera is picking up your voice properly without clipping and without you getting drowned out by the music.
Ok, I approach instructing in a very particular way. For me, when I go up, it’s a rock concert. I mean really, you’re on stage, microphone, loud music, lights, lots of people looking at you… You’re now a performer. People come to see a good show and it’s up to you to give it to them Every time.
That brings me to the first point. I already mentioned it in the ‘Day 1′ part, but it’s important: Know your choreography. Once you’re on stage in front of a room full of people, you don’t have time to think. You can’t press pause on the music and check your notes for the next move. It has to flow without even thinking. Your body has to move to the music all by itself. How do you do that ? Practice, Practice, Practice and then some more Practice! Before my first class, I spent pretty much all my time listening to the music to the point where I could sing along to every song. Again, pick ‘anchor words’ in each song that guide you to the next choreography block. We’re lucky in BodyPump that every song has a very defined format. All songs take the same basic format with essentially the same moves every release, just tailored to the music. Once you get used to the general sequencing, you’ll pick up new songs pretty quickly.
When I was first learning the choreography, I would break up every song into ’rounds’ or choreography blocks and write them out again, with some cue notes along the side. I would memorise each block separately and form the whole song from them. That way, you don’t have to worry about what move comes next, you just have to sequence three or four blocks on ‘game day’.
Next, remember your confidence. You’re the instructor. You’re the leader. There’s a good chance you won’t be very confident before your first class, so just fake it. Big smile, proud body posture and you’re good to go. Perception is reality here, so if you look the part, people will go along with it.
Speaking of looking the part, make sure that you do. Wear the right clothes and look like an instructor. Try not to turn up in the same gear that you used to wear when you were a participant. I got myself a few tops and shorts from my local Les Mills website and I would encourage you to do the same. Your ‘uniform’ shows the participants that you’re for real and adds to your authority.
That authority also comes from your words, posture and body language. I already mentioned it in the Microphone Tips section above, but speak loud and clear with your head up. Now is not the time to be shy. When you stand, stand proud and with purpose. You are their role model. When you demonstrate a move (before the song is playing), feel free to exaggerate the movement a little to really show the muscle group. For example, when you ask people to pull their shoulder blades up, back and down and let them settle into a V for set position, show it by exaggerating the movement with your shoulders. This is very handy for people in the back who otherwise couldn’t see a subtle roll in your shoulders. Most of all though, show your participants that you enjoy doing this. Smile. And mean it. We’re not after a cheesy grin here, we’re looking for that ‘ahh yeah, this is gonna rock’ smile.
Ok, let’s start. The basic check list for the start of every class:
Once the music starts, we’re down to business. The first thing to keep in mind is that while you’ve just spent the last week listening to every note of the songs your participants haven’t. They don’t know the music as well as you do and they don’t know what move is coming up. You’ll have to guide them and you do that by pre-cueing. Every move you make has to be pre-announced 3 or 4 counts before you start it. Nothing will throw the mojo of the class out quicker than forgetting to pre-cue. You’ll be doing a 3/1 Deadlift and change to a single row without announcing it and everyone else will still be doing a deadlift. Heartbreaking moment that. Not that we would ever encourage it, but your participants should be able to do the class purely from your instructions without looking at you.
If you do make a simple mistake in the choreography, just finish the move you started and go back to the normal routine when it is safe to do so. Don’t stop half way and try to correct. Your participants won’t be able to react quickly enough anyway. Also, do yourself a favour and don’t go on about the mistake to the class. They don’t care. Just keep things moving right along.
If the worst does happen and you go blank, just remember what track you’re in and do a safe move until you hit the next move, block or anchor word. I would recommend a 2/2 move of whatever you’re doing (bicep curl, squat, lunge, etc) since you can easily transition that into any other move and it will generally fit the music. If you’re lucky, the participants won’t even notice. Just whatever you do, don’t stop. You’ll instantly have the whole class looking at you and you’ll probably freeze like a deer in the headlights. Very hard to come back from that one.
Once the song is finished, quickly go through the stretches and start announcing the next track and the weight selection for it. The difficult part here is to keep it quick and informative. Ideally, your song transitions are no longer than about 30 seconds. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot and I’ll be the first to admit that I usually take a bit longer than that… Just ask my Group Fitness Coordinator who tells me off every other week for running over time. Do remember though that you have 9 transitions to make. At 30 seconds, that’s nearly 5 minutes wasted. You’ve got about 50+ minutes worth of music to do, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time to get everything done within your allocated hour when you count people having to set up and pack up. If you’re in a peak time slot and you have classes either side of you can’t afford to go over since you’ll annoy a whole bunch of people. It’s even more important in lunch time classes because people need to go back to work and you don’t want them leaving early.
By now we’re well into it and everything is flowing along just smoothly. Your nerves disappear and you settle into the workout. The last thing to remember once you’ve relaxed a bit is that this is your participant’s workout, not yours. Yes, you’re pushing yourself hard but at the end of the day, it’s all about them. Connect, Coach, Commend. When someone has bad form, find a way to connect to them, gently coach them into the right position by redemonstrating the move while you’re doing it or talking them through it and then commending them when they get it right. If you can, take the time to look at every person in the class. Every participant likes to feel like you’re there just for them. This will all become easier after a few times, especially as you get to know your regulars.
Most of all though, have fun with it. Let people get to know you. Talk to your members before and after the class. Be approachable. Hey, it’s a workout, not brain surgery. Make people want to come back and see your show again.
Certification is the rite of passage that turns a trainee instructor into a fully fledged, world certified BodyPump Instructor. Once you have your certification, you can work pretty much anywhere in the world in a licensed Les Mills club.
So, what is involved ? Well, it is actually a whole lot easier than it probably seems. All you need to do is film yourself doing a whole class start to finish, without any big mistakes and without any post processing or editing :) Once you’re done, you send it into your local Les Mills office where they will assess you and decide to give your certification. It typically takes 6-8 weeks and when it comes back, you will (hopefully) get your certificate and a big report with feedback on your performance.
When should you do it ? Well, you’re supposed to do it within 12 weeks of your module training, but I would recommend that you give it a go a little earlier. If you’re taking or shadowing or even participating in a couple of classes per week, you should really be ready in half that time. It is expected that you do your tape of the release you trained in on the current release. Don’t do mixing releases or leave it so long that a couple of releases have gone by.
From a performance point of view, there is not really much to add on top of everything I talked about earlier in the ‘First class’ section. The obvious points remain : Know your choreography! Know your music! Know your cues! Make sure you know everything without having to think about it.
I saw a really interesting piece in the latest Les Mills Revolution magazine regarding the certification video:
1. Postural alignment — bring the attention from the floor up, ensuring prescribed postural integrity through correct foot alignment, soft joints, core engagement, upper body, shoulder, head and neck alignment.
2. Timing — ensure movement is smooth, avoiding rushed, jerky movement. For example, the 3-1 timing, there is a strong tendency to drive the 1 count, rather than squeezing and controlling the single count. Try to pay more attention to the reinforcement of safety, in particular joint integrity, and prescribed Range of Movement (ROM).
Squats are a very good example here; as target zones vary, and at times, are unsafe. Shoulder tracks require further understanding of technical detail.
So all BODYPUMP® Instructors — review your manuals and the education sessions included in the quarterly releases. Some great examples are releases 57 to the current release; these particular releases incorporate informative, up to date postural education. Take some time to understand how to contrast the experience, utilising the music to enhance and drive the experience further.
Some other things to keep in mind when doing your video:
Ok, technical advice over… There is not much more to it. Now, just enjoy it. I know that sounds impossible right now, but try :)
Hit record, start the class and forget that the camera is there. Focus on the job at hand and you’ll be fine.
Oh, once last piece of advice on the certification: As long as you didn’t make any major mistakes, send the tape off. I’ve seen a few instructors who weren’t quite happy with their first tape and decided to do it a second and third time. Of course, they got more nervous each time and one ended up putting it off all together.
BodyPump is a trademark and copyright of Les Mills International (LMI). None of of the opinions or comments expressed in this document are endorsed by LMI.
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