Jessie Newell by Jessie Newell

For those of you preparing for the Group Fitness Instructor Exam, Chapter 4: Teaching a Group Exercise Class can get a little overwhelming with all the various teaching and cueing techniques. This blog provides some clarification to help you feel confident. You’ll want to be aware of any advantages or disadvantages to each of the various techniques described, so try to think of situations where the different styles of how to teach group fitness classes might be most appropriate.

How to Teach Group Fitness Classes: Teaching Techniques, Strategies and Cueing

Effective Teaching Techniques

These explore HOW to teach each movement, and include the following techniques:


The instructor makes all decisions about posture, rhythm and duration. This promotes uniformity and the advantages include: immediate participant response, instructor serves as a role model, movement control, safety control, a didactic approach to cueing movement, efficient use of time and perpetuation of aesthetic standards. A disadvantage is that it treats all fitness levels the same. This technique will often be used in the beginning, and then the instructor will switch to a different method (i.e., self-check or reciprocal) later in the class to allow for progressions or regressions to accommodate all fitness levels.


The instructor provides time for participants to practice movement so instructor can provide individualized feedback for each participant. Advantages include allowing the instructor to interact with participants and give them the opportunity to select their own level of difficulty, thus creating a nurtured feeling for participants. A disadvantage is that this may not be possible for large classes.


This technique involves use of an observer (i.e., instructor or fellow participant) to provide feedback to each participant. Advantages include individual feedback for all participants. This works best in classes involving partner strength and/or flexibility work.  A disadvantage is that this might require a certain level of competency of the participants about the exercise (i.e., knowing proper squat form).


The participant provides his or her own feedback (i.e., using target heart rate or recovery heart rate). Advantages of this technique include participants being able to compare current performance against previously given criteria or performances, which can be used outside of the group fitness class. A disadvantage is that this technique may require some level of competency of the given task (i.e., being able to take their heart rate).


The instructor offers various progressions and regressions of exercises performed to include all fitness levels. An advantage is that all fitness levels are accommodated, but this technique requires the ability to be able to gauge what intensity is most appropriate for his or her own fitness level.


Teaching Strategies

These are the different methods an instructor might use to help participants understand the movements by breaking down or building up a move or routine:

Slow-to-fast (Half-time):

This strategy involves showing participants how to complete a move or routine slower than the pace that they will be performing during the aerobic segment of class. Instructors may show rhythmic variation like something that usually take four counts use 8 counts (half-time), and is usually done in the beginning of the class.

Repetition Reduction:

This strategy involves reducing the number of repetitions of a given activity; for example, starting with 8, then 4, then 2 before completing one last one.


This strategy involves using one’s surroundings to help participants understand the movements. For example, “Keep your arms parallel to the floor,” or “Turn to face the window side of the room.”

Part-to-whole or Add-in:

This strategy involves teaching parts of an exercise or routine in isolation before integrating them together for the purpose of helping clients understand move or routine. For example, when teaching burpees, an instructor might show proper push-up form and proper squat jump form before having participants perform a full burpee.

Simple-to-complex or Layering:

This strategy involves having participants start with a move that is less intense, and then adding new “layers” to make the activity more challenging. Returning to the burpee example, an instructor might have participants start with squat jumps, and then add in jumping back the legs to a plank position (no push-up) between each squat jump, before finally adding in the push-up on the final set. This can be helpful in creating progressions and regressions for various fitness levels.



Cueing is defined as using visual or verbal techniques, such as hand signals or minimal words, to inform participants of upcoming movements. This is to ensure safety, timing, education, motivation and structure to participants. Cues should cater to the various verbal, visual and kinesthetic learning needs of the participants.


This type of learner does better when hearing words and sound-specific cues. Try to be specific, and avoid using vague phrases like, “Turn that way.”


This type of learner must see specific cues and prefers the instructor to properly demonstrate proper form and progression of exercises. Try to enhance cues with hand gestures (see page 112 for helpful cues—you’ll also was to learn these for the exam).


This type of learner must feel what the proper movement is in his or her own body. This may require some manual adjustments or individual attention to a participant’s form. For example, if you see during a lunge someone is bending more from the back leg than the front, you could place two fingers behind the front knee and gently encourage a bend in the front knee to as close as 90 degrees as they can achieve.

Types of Effective Cues:

Breathing, alignment, anatomical, numerical, informational, reinforcing, directional and/or spatial

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this material, please don’t hesitate to contact the ACE Resource Center at 800-825-3636, Ext. 796, or Our Study Coaches are here to help you Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. PST.