Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How To: Step Class

Step is my first fitness class love. I have been teaching it for over 5 years and I still have so much fun teaching it. I want to break this post up into two sections; one section for Group Fitness Instructors and one section for Group Fitness Participants.

My goal for Instructors is that they learn a little about the building blocks of teaching a beginner's step class.

My goal for Participants is that they get more information about this format and feel confident about attending their first class.


Group Fitness Instructors:

What kind of music should I use?
First, let's talk about music phrasing.
When teaching a 'freestyle' class that is not pre-choreographed (such as RIPPED), you need to make sure you are using 'Fitness Class Music.' This music is edited specifically for group fitness classes because it has no breaks and has a consistent BPM (Beats Per Minute).
It also has the 'phrase,' which is 32 counts.
Each step combination must coordinate with this 32 count phrase.
The combination can be either 16, 32, or 64 counts.

For Step, AFAA recommends a BPM of 128-130. This is because serious injury can occur at speeds that are too fast. The average participant will not be comfortable at a speed higher than this.

What are some basic Step moves?
The most basic of all step moves is...the basic. It is just stepping up on the bench, then stepping down. This is always the first move I do in class because it tells you a lot about your participants that day and what level choreography you will need to use.


I then like to move on to a V-Step, which is similar to a basic, but goes out wider.


Then, we move into what I call 'Home' because we will always come back to it: Corner Knees.


You also have your self-reversing friend known as The Repeater or Triple Knee (Every class has terminology that varies).


Let's make a 32 count combination with these 4 moves:

Combination #1:
2 Basics, Right lead (8 counts)
2 V-Steps, Right lead (8 counts)
2 Corner Knees (8 counts)
1 Repeater Knee (8 counts)

You now have a 32 count combination that is Self-Reversing.

What is Self-Reversing?
Self reversing means that the combination easily flows from the right lead to the left lead and vice versa.
For example, the combination we just created, you will do the repeater on the left side of the bench and you can immediately go into your left basic to start the combination on the left lead.

What are some safety cues?
Well, let's use the picture at the top as an example. Do you see the person closest to the camera? They do not have their ENTIRE foot on the step. It is really important to try to get your entire foot on the step each time in order to keep your balance and stability of yourself and the step.

Also, they are way too close in that picture (I'm assuming it was an advanced class where they share each other's steps). Make sure there is NOTHING around the steps. No water bottles, no weights, no phones, nothing, NADA.

Always, ALWAYS ask if there are any new participants in the class. If there are, suggest that they keep their step on the lowest riser.

How do I cue Step?
The same way you cue in other classes: 4-3-2-CUE.
You need to cue at least 1 to 2 counts before the next move so that they know what is coming up.

Group Fitness Participants:
What should I bring to Step Class?
You just need a water bottle, a towel, good tennis shoes (edit: preferably cross trainers and not running shoes; see comment section below) and lots of energy!

What if I have never done Step before?
Be sure to let your instructor know that this is your first time doing step! They should take that into consideration when they are teaching. Just be confident, it's completely okay if you make a mistake. Just keep moving and HAVE FUN!

How can I make my Step workout more intense?
Simple things such as adding powerful arm motions with the step moves and moving with a purpose make such a big difference in the effect of your workout.
I've seen some classes where the instructor incorporates free hand weights during a step routine. This is NOT safe in my book and I do NOT recommend it.

Just bring a smile, a positive attitude and be ready to work and you will be good to go!

Please email me if you have any questions!


  1. I've never been to a step class before but would love to try it sometime! This is such a helpful post, thanks for sharing!! :)

    1. Hi Shannon! I'm glad you found it helpful! You should definitely try a class some time! So much fun! :)

  2. Step was my first fitness class love too. When I was just starting to get fit, concentrating on the choreography took my mind off of how out of shape I felt and the hour just flew by. I usually wear running shoes when I do step (I'm one of those people who is guilty of wearing the same shoes for every activity) - is there a reason tennis shoes are recommended? I'm assuming it's because the sole is flat and therefore gives more stability?

    1. Hi! Sorry for the confusion! I call all sneakers/workout shoes tennis shoes, lol. But, I wear running shoes as well. However, an actual "tennis" shoe may be beneficial since they are made for lateral movement and that occurs a lot in aerobics/step classes. I hope that helps!

    2. With step, it is not recommended to use running shoes because of the flared heel. Cross trainers should be worn. However, they do make shoes specifically for fitness classes and those are actually the shoe that should be worn. Also, remember, if you want to prolong the life of your shoe, you NEVER wear them outside of the fitness room.

    3. Hi! I definitely agree and thank you for clearing that up :) The same goes for Bosu classes as well.

    4. I updated the post to mention cross trainers and not running shoes :)