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How to Program a Comprehensive Fitness Class

How to Program a Comprehensive Fitness Class

. 3 min read

Programming a fitness class can be fun and challenging. If you're used to teaching Zumba, Orange Theory, or any other pre-programmed fitness routine, you may have gotten used to using that well-defined curriculum. But as you're building your online fitness business, creating unique, engaging, and functional classes can help solidify your brand and secure your client's loyalty.

In this post, we'll go over the basics of programming a fitness class. Want to dive deeper into your specific fitness type? Check out our library of video-on-demand content, full of tips from yoga, dance, and HIIT instructors.

Lay a Solid Foundation

Planning a 60-minute workout can seem like a daunting task. But, when you organize your class into smaller chunks, the task becomes very doable. Every session should consist of a warm-up, the main event, and a cool-down. Let's break this down.

Warm-up: The warm-up phase's goal is to create heat in the muscles to reduce the risk of injury. It should also prepare the mind for moves that are part of the main event. For example, if you're focusing on the core, start with movements that help activate these muscles and bring your student's attention to them.

Start with basic movements and slowly progress into more complex ones. For example, start with a squat and progress to a squat-jump.

Depending on the length of the class, 5-10 minutes of warm-up is good.

Main Event: This is where you'll do the bulk of the work. Set a goal for your class, such as focusing on a specific muscle group, and use the tips below to make sure your class format and the exercises you choose allow you to accomplish those goals.

Cool-down: The cool-down allows you to enter into a recovery phase, giving your muscles time to incorporate the movements and your heart rate time to come back to normal. Take about 5-10 minutes to stretch the muscles that you've targeted during the main workout.

Include a Balanced Variety of Movements

In every class, you should incorporate all three planes of motion. Integrating these three planes ensures that your workout is well-balanced and that attendees leave feeling that they've worked their entire body.


Otherwise known as the Sagittal Plane, it divides the body into the right side and left side.  Note: Imagine you're moving within the bounds of a door frame. Exercises that occur in the sagittal plane are those that primarily move up and down:

  • Squats
  • Front and back lunge
  • Standing bicep curls
  • Cycling
  • Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)


The Frontal Plane divides the body into front and back. Note: Imagine you're moving with your back against the wall. Exercises that occur in the frontal plane include:

  • Lateral lunge (side lunge)
  • Side bend
  • Lateral Raises
  • Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)


The Transverse Plane divides the body into top and bottom halves. Note: Imagine these movements occur around a central axis

Exercises that occur in the sagittal plane include:

  • Standing rotation of the spine
  • Individual Limb rotation
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist)
  • Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Create Functional Patterns

Within the three planes of motion, you want to make sure that you incorporate the seven functional movement patterns. These movements mimic our daily routines; picking up our kids, bending over to clean-up a spill, reaching up to put something on a high shelf.

Squats are one of the most complex movement patterns in the human body. Muscles targeted:

  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings (to a minor degree)

Hinges are one of the most functional movement patterns in the human body - imagine you're bending over to pick something up. Muscles targeted:

  • Posterior chain (back body)
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Lower Back

Push involves pushing a weight away from your body or pushing your body away from the weight. Muscles targeted:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Front shoulders

Pull involves pulling a weight towards your body or pulling your body towards your hands. Muscles targeted:

  • Back
  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Rear shoulders

Lunges involve an unstable position of the legs where one foot is further in front of the other. This staggered stance requires the body to react to a proprioceptively rich environment and require more flexibility, stability, and balance to achieve. Muscles targeted:

  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Core
  • Hamstrings

Twists are one of the most underrated movement patterns and involve rotation in the spine and core.  Muscles targeted:

  • Core - specifically the obliques

Gait is the technique of walking and one of the most fundamental movement patterns. Exercises require multiple movements and can include jogging, jumping, weighted farmer's walk, and more!

Want more teaching tips? Check out our new Master Class series live or on VOD.