Exercise Programming

Maximizing The Group Fitness Experience (with Minimal Equipment)

The demand for group fitness experiences is booming. Participants are expecting more, but how can you meet these expectations with less?

In a perfect group fitness world, we’d have all the best equipment, in every size, style, and weight, and we’d have enough to cover every participant who attends our classes or group trainings. But since we don’t live in a perfect group fitness world, we often have to make due with what we’ve got, and sometimes that means teaching a very packed class and not enough equipment to go around. In order to maximize the group fitness experience with minimal equipment, check out the following suggestions.

Body Weight Exercises

The easiest way to get around not having enough equipment is to not need as much of it. Plank variations, pull-ups, pushups, squat jumps, lunge jumps, wall sits, sprints, and shuttle runs are all great examples of moves that can be modified for multiple levels without needing any equipment. And never underestimate the power of the isometric hold! 

However, there are only so many pushups and squat jumps you can program until people start getting bored, which leads me to my next example:

Circuit Formats 

Setting up a circuit class is a great way to maximize the equipment you do have. You can alternate stations that need equipment with ones that don’t need equipment. If you’re really in a pinch, partnering up enables two people to utilize the same piece of equipment. For example, two people can share one medicine ball and hand/throw it back and forth.

Programming for Rest (And sharing!) 

Whether you’re doing a circuit format or not, programming for rest periods allows participants to share equipment during class. Using a 1:1 work rest ratio, one partner will be working with the equipment while the other is resting (and providing coaching or motivation) and then they switch. You can do this for several sets before rotating on to the next exercise. Depending on how successful their performance is, try sets of 30 – 40 seconds.

Things to remember: Make sure you program exercises that are difficult or intense enough that the participants will need rest after they’re done.

Examples include squat/lunge jumps, pull-ups, isometric holds at end range.

Partners & Groups

Put everybody in groups of 3. Give them 3 exercises to rotate through. Do this two to three times and then switch exercises. An example: Partner 1 does shuttle runs. Partner 2 does a plank variation. Partner 3 uses the equipment. 

Extra: Creative Alternatives

  • Agility ladders are great, but another option is using masking tape on the floor to draw your own. It’ll save you time setting up and save you space on storage! You can even make one on each side of the room to have several small groups going at once, preventing traffic jams and leaving space in the middle for the other half of the class to do something else.
  • Head outside to take advantage of natural and urban landscapes: Step-ups on park benches, pull-ups on tree limbs, and cat walks on railings are just a few examples. People love variety!

Even if you have enough equipment, challenge yourself to try some of these examples just to mix things up for your participants. Happy teaching!

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The Author

Ami McMullen

Ami McMullen

A classically trained ballet dancer, Ami transitioned from a career in dance into fitness in 2003. Since graduating with a B.S. in Exercise Science, she’d had the opportunity to work with some of the top minds in the fitness industry. She has traveled extensively as a TRX Master Instructor and International Fitness Presenter and runs a fitness and lifestyle blog at FitwithFlash.com

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