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HFE instructor leading an exercise to music class
HFE instructor leading an exercise to music class

Become an exercise to music instructor

6 minute read

Your guide to making all the right moves and becoming a leading exercise to music instructor

Exercise to music is about as mainstream as it comes. It is big business and weekly participation in classes is at an all-time high.

Recent survey figures reveal that in a given week 4.86 million people take part in some form of group exercise. On the list of most popular styles includes Les Mills’ evergreen BODYPUMP, Latin sensation Zumba and general aerobics classes. The latter’s inclusion may come as a surprise to some but it just goes to show that unbranded programmes still have their time and place within the group exercise landscape.

This perhaps wasn’t always the case. You don’t have to go back very far to a time when a gym or health club’s group exercise offering amounted to nothing more than ‘legs, bums and tums’ and similarly-named concepts, of which many seem incredibly dated now. Nowadays, however, diversity is the name of the game. Exercise to music classes are popular with both male and female exercisers from all ages and ability levels, any kind of stigma or embarrassment that might have been associated with ETM has been well and truly shaken off.

An HFE instructor leading a freestyle exercise to music class

Alongside the resurgence of non-brand aerobics classes, both in the studio, online and in the pool, has been the explosion of brand programmes. Spinning, Bokwa and Zumba may all be brands you’re familiar with, but without a doubt, the Les Mills suite of classes and concepts is by far one of the most popular on the planet. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a studio timetable that didn’t feature at least one or more of BODYPUMP, BODYBALANCE, BODYATTACK or BODYCOMBAT.

Exercise to music instructor qualities

Regardless of which type of exercise to music classes you’re looking to teach, whether branded, unbranded or a mix, it’s important that ETM instructors have the right mindset as well as refined personal and professional qualities. As you’ll no doubt be able to imagine, delivering a memorable and effective aerobics class takes a lot more than simply selecting the right music and having your participants follow what you do. You have to be a leader and own the room.

qualities of a great exercise to music instructor

Here are a few of the key qualities the best exercise to music instructors have:

•Communication skills – being able to strongly communicate both verbally and non-verbally is key
•Observation skills – instructors need to be keenly aware of what their participants are doing right, what can be improved and what, if anything, needs to be adapted
•Musicality – instructors need to understand the structure of the music they’re using, making sure they’re in time and on beat
•Empathy and sensitivity – ETM participants are going to vary in many ways including age, ability and prior experience, you can’t simply treat everyone like they’re the same
•Creativity – creating bespoke aerobics programmes and choreography often requires ‘out of the box’ thinking, imagination and creative flair

Exercise to music training and qualifications

A career in exercise to music can be incredibly rewarding and exciting, not to mention on a daily basis you have the potential to help class participants have a fun and challenging workout. If you’re confident you have what it takes and you’re incredibly passionate about freestyle aerobics, having the right exercise to music courses and qualifications will set you up for the next part of your journey.

Level 2

The industry’s most popular freestyle aerobics qualification is the Level 2 Exercise to Music Instructor course. This provides the perfect entry-level route to the exciting worlds of freestyle group exercise and pre-choreographed programmes. There are no formal prerequisites with this course, but to set yourself up for success, familiarity with non-branded classes will help. Typically, the level 2 course can be completed in just a couple of months, though that does depend on how much time each individual student can commit to studying.

The course is incredibly dynamic and touches on a range of topics including anatomy and physiology, exercise to music lesson planning, and MSE and body conditioning concepts and exercises. Plus, with HFE’s Level 2 Exercise to Music course, students receive exclusive choreography from internationally-renowned instructor Kardy Laguda.

Exercise to Music isn’t the only Level 2 course available if you’re looking to expand your repertoire as a freestyle aerobics instructor. While not as popular or widely delivered as Level 2 Exercise to Music, the Level 2 Indoor Cycling Instructor, Level 2 Chair-Based Exercise, Level 2 Step Exercise to Music and Level 2 Aqua Instructor courses could be very worthwhile.

An HFE ETM instructor demonstrating exercises on a step

Other qualifications and progression routes

As mentioned at the very start of this exercise to music career guide, pre-choreographed and branded programmes tend to be the order of the day for gyms, health clubs and leisure centres. After completing your exercise to music qualification, you can undertake additional training and gain other qualifications that enable you to teach Les Mills, Clubbercise, pole fitness, Fight Klub, The Jungle Body and many other exciting classes, programmes and concepts.

As the Level 2 Exercise to Music course is a perfect entry-level introduction to group exercise, many instructors often find themselves exploring other disciplines at Level 3. The Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga and the Level 3 Diploma in Mat Pilates are two options which could make you an incredibly in-demand instructor.

In terms of adapting your approaches to teaching group exercise, there are several courses and qualifications which deal with special populations, including Level 3 Pre and Postnatal Exercise Instructor, Level 3 Exercise for Older Adults and Level 3 Exercise for Disabled Clients.

Exercise to music instructor job opportunities

Once you have your exercise to music qualification in hand, there are a range of exciting employment opportunities that are available to newly qualified instructors.

HFE studios leaping in the air on their exercise to music course

One of the most appealing things people find about working in the fitness industry is that you don’t ever have to be tied to one particular place of work. Similarly, there’s nothing stopping you from mixing and matching the styles of aerobics you teach. For example, you might spend the majority of the time teaching Les Mills classes during the week, but on weekends, hire out your own facilities and teach your own bespoke choreography.

The following is by an exhaustive list but it should provide a bit of inspiration when you start your job search:

•Teaching branded programmes (e.g. Les Mills) in mainstream gyms, health and leisure centres
•Hiring private facilities and teaching bespoke choreography
•Working aboard cruise ships and/or teaching classes at holiday resorts
•Teaching online classes via Zoom, Gymcatch, Skype and other online platforms
•Teaching classes at UK or international fitness retreats

Pay and salary for exercise to music instructors

Instructors are typically paid hourly and this rate depends on the employer, the type of class being taught and where that club is based. For example, you could expect to be paid much for teaching a class at a boutique studio in an affluent area than you would at a budget chain gym. Usually, exercise to music instructors are paid between £10-30 an hour.

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