Group exercise is big business. After the success of Zumba over the last decade, more and more companies like New Zealand based Les Mills and Kings of home fitness, Beachbody, are capitalising on the public’s desire for consistently formatted pre-choreographed workouts.

In fact, the Les Mills’ tribe of certified instructors is now over 100,000 enthusiastic instructors strong and their classes (Body Combat, Body Pump, Grit etc) are currently running in over 15,000 clubs across 80 different countries around the world.

Branded group exercise formats have never been bigger and it’s not just big names in the fitness industry getting in on the lucrative pre-packaged workout business model. Ambitious individual instructors and gyms are also creating and launching their own branded classes, selling the concept to group exercise instructors as “out of the box” class formats that instructors can teach to participants without having to start from scratch.

But when it comes to planning your gym’s class timetable, choosing between standardised pre-choreographed programmes or giving your instructors freedom to create their own routines is a tough decision. What is the best choice for your gym?

Pre-choreographed group exercise formats: what is in it for gyms?

1. Pre-choreographed workout providers have a much bigger marketing budget than you

People have already heard of Zumba, Insanity and Spinning – they are familiar with the format, trust the brand and know what to expect.

A “body conditioning” class on your gym’s timetable might not immediately inspire members or potential members. “Body pump”, however, already has a loyal fan base. Les Mills have done a lot of the leg work for you, with glossy posters and marketing spiel all packaged up ready for your gym to utilise.

2. Avoid pesky music licencing issues

Music is usually supplied by programme providers without any additional licencing requirements. They tend to use licence free music and those companies with big budgets like Beachbody and Les Mills excel at making their PPL-free music sound indistinguishable from the original artist versions.

3. Members love consistency

Taking away the unknown of your instructors’ freestyle creations means that your gym can maintain a fairly standardised class format and level of quality.

Course providers send regular updates to instructors with new routines and music (typically every 6 weeks) and because the programmes are usually written by a team of experts and tested with participants before being released to instructors, some argue it is provides a safer class environment too.

There will always be a set warm up and cool down and because the programmes are designed for the mass market, to appease a wide audience, it provides at least some reassurance that your instructor won’t be doing anything unusual or wildly against industry standards.

The way licensed group classes typically work is that instructors pay to get qualified with the course provider and then pay an ongoing fee for music and choreography updates. Courses for qualification vary wildly from one day certifications with no pre-requisite qualifications (like Insanity and Zumba) to more in-depth and fully assessed qualifications like Les Mills programmes.

So remember that although a certification might mean you can expect a certain level of consistency when it comes to the format of the class and the teaching style, qualification with a particular brand doesn’t always = a quality instructor.

What is the cost of running pre-choreographed classes at your gym?

Instructors typically pay an ongoing (usually monthly) fee to the fitness brand they are qualified with. This allows them to call themselves an “Insanity/Zumba/Combat Instructor” and to use the brand’s images in their class promotion.

For some branded classes (like Zumba), there is no cost to a gym wanting to run classes. The cost is covered fully by the instructor.
That is not always the case. If you want to run Les Mills classes at your gym, for example, not only does your instructor need to be registered and making monthly payments to Les Mills, but you’ll also need to get a licence from Les Mills for each and every Les Mills class format you want to run.

There may be equipment costs too. If you want to offer some programmes at your gym, particularly the newer, more gimmicky classes like Rebound or Pole Fitness, you’ll need to buy in specialist equipment and some course providers will only provide your licence if you purchase their chosen brand of equipment.

Many savvy studios, of course, chose instead to offer things like pole and trampoline classes in a freestyle format, capitalising on the popularity of these formats but without the hassle of brand certifications and related costs.

The end of freestyle?

Good freestyle instructors are a dying breed because many high street gym chains are choosing pre-packaged classes over freestyle. It makes it much easier for them to bring in consistent class numbers (like consumers, they trust the big brands too), plus it allows them to ensure that classes are standardised across their gym chains.

And, let’s face it, the fitness industry loves a trend more than any other. Well branded and gimmicky classes will be popular on your timetable because gym members love to try out the latest fad hot new workout they’ve seen in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Thanks to the growth of these kinds of classes, consumers will no longer settle for an hour of grapevining and box-stepping through your DIY aerobics routine; they now expect to be entertained when they show up for class too.

From new treadmill classes to cinema gyms and skipping rope classes, there’s always another “next big group exercise” format on the horizon and there’s no end of gimmicks for gyms to choose from when looking to liven up their timetable or get members excited about classes again.
But the fitness industry moves quickly; by the time you’ve got your instructors certified on the next big trend and bought in all your programme-approved equipment, it could be time to move on. It’s tough to know which trends are going to stick and which ones are a flash in the pan!

How does your gym handle group exercise? Are you keeping freestyle alive and sticking to the tried and tested or do you prefer the ease and media buzz of pre-choreographed classes?