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A Back and Chest Stability Ball Workout

Have I mentioned I love the stability ball? 🙂 There’s something about that giant bouncy ball that makes me feel like a kid again. Unfortunately for us Group X instructors, there’s a limited supply of stability balls in our studios. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative in order to incorporate it into our class workout.

What I’ve found works well is to ask the Group X class to partner up, and each pair take one stability ball. Then, we’ll do the same workout twice through, and folks can do the exercises once on the stability ball and once on the floor (while their partner uses the ball).

Here’s a back and chest workout you can do on the stability ball.

The incline push-up

First, you’ll lead the class through push-ups. Participants can try to do this one on their knees, but it usually requires you to be on your toes based on the height of the ball. Place your feet squarely on the floor, and then put your hands on the top of the stability ball. I like to slightly angle my hands in order to face my fingers away from each other, because it tends to be easier on my wrist. From there, the class will lower and lift in push-ups.

Chest workout: push-up

Reverse Fly

The incline push-up transitions nicely into the reverse fly. Instruct participants to rest their lower abs on the ball, so that their belly button is roughly at the top of the ball and their legs are extended out behind them. Then, grab a dumbbell in each hand. Without moving your back, bring your slightly bent arms out to the side in a “fly” position. The elbows will be bent and maybe an inch or so higher than wrists. Palms are facing down towards the floor.

Back workout: reverse fly

Push-ups with Legs on Stability Ball

For a more challenging push-up, you can also put your legs on the stability ball. As you move the stability ball closer to your toes, the push-up gets harder. From there, keep your body in a plank position as you lower your chest to the floor.

Chest workout: push-up on stability

Alternating Rows

If you opt to do the push-ups with the ball under your calves, it’s easy to transition into alternating rows. Grab the dumbbells and maintain your plank. Then, lift one arm at a time towards your chest. Keep your elbow tight to your body, as you lift your elbow towards the floor. Abs stay tight and hips stay low to the ground.

Back workout: alternating rows

Chest Press on the Stability Ball

If you’d like a non-push-up option, you can also instruct participants to lay face up on the stability ball, so that their shoulders and head are resting on the ball. You’ll want to be in a plank position from your knees to your head, with your ankles right under your knees. Press your hips toward the ceiling the whole time. Then, press your arms up and down as you continue to press your hips toward the ceiling.

Chest workout: chest press on stability ball

Shoulder Workout with a Stability Ball

The chest press is a nice workout to combine with shoulders. You can go right into a shoulder exercise, keeping your arms straight, and moving at the shoulder joint to lower your hands towards the floor overhead. Make sure your participants are not moving at the elbow joint.

Shoulder workout with a stability ball

This is a great workout to try with the stability ball. You can provide these as options for participants, or include each exercise throughout the entire class.

For more push-up options without the stability ball, check out the three types of push-ups Part 1 and Part 2.

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Abdominal Exercises for the Stability Ball (Part II)

Abdominal Exercises for Group Fitness

Many people come to strength classes expecting to work their core. Traditionally, group fitness classes have ended with roughly 10 minutes of abdominal exercises. If all Group X classes end with ab workouts, it can start to feel repetitive, so it’s important to keep adding new exercises to the mix. On Monday, I shared four core and ab workouts to try with the stability ball. Today, I’m sharing four more challenging options to add a punch of variety to your next Group X class.

Abdominal Exercises #1: Knee Tucks

Ask participants to come into a plank position with their feet and calves on the stability ball. So, hands are on the floor and feet are on the ball. Then, bring your knees into your chest while trying to keep your hips as low and static as possible. Shoot your legs back out into a plank position, and that’s one knee tuck.

If folks don’t want to do this on the stability ball, they can also do slow mountain climbers on the floor.

Abdominal Exercises: Knee Tucks

Abdominal Exercises #2: Upside Down V

This next exercise is super challenging. I have not taught this one in a Group X class yet, but I have done it in another class targeting advanced athletes. Come back to that plank position, with hands on the floor and feet on the ball. Then, participants will lift their hips up in a “pike” position. It will feel like you’re folding yourself up into a taco, with your ankles coming towards your head and hips in the air. Back, arms and legs are all straight. Then, come back into a plank position.

If participants want modifications, they can always stick to the Knee Tucks, or ditch the stability ball and do planks and mountain climbers.

Abdominal Exercises: Upside Down V

Abdominal Exercises #3: Crunches

This one’s a standard exercise, but adding the stability ball brings its own set of challenges. Have participants sit on the stability ball, then roll out until their lower back and hips are resting on the ball. Knees right over ankles, and hands behind the head.

You’ll crunch towards the ceiling, engaging your core as you try to keep your balance centered on the stability ball.

Abdominal Exercises: Crunches

Abdominal Exercises #4: Twist

After the crunches, you can seamlessly transition to the Twist, but I’ll warn you these are challenging. Participants will lift one leg off the ground, and bring their knee towards their chest while twisting their upper body towards that leg. One note in this exercise is to think about bringing your shoulder to your knee, instead of your elbow, to really get your chest lifted and twisting.

I’ll be honest, these are challenging for me. What you don’t see in the image below is that I had to do a handful of outtakes because I kept rolling off the ball. But, I’ll still teach this exercise in class, because it’s nice to have options that participants can’t fully master immediately, so that they have something to work towards.

Abdominal Exercises: Twists

The above options will add some fresh variety to the abdominal exercises you already teach in your classes.

For more ideas, check out the workout routines page.

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Stability Ball Ab Workouts for Group Fitness Classes (Part 1)

Stability Ball Ab Workouts

Group fitness participants regularly request ab workouts, but it can get boring to do the same crunches and sit-ups each class. One of my favorite ways to add variation is to do ab workouts using equipment that’s normally collecting dust in the corner. We rarely use stability balls, because they take up a lot of room during class and most gyms only offer a limited supply. If you choose to teach ab workouts and you’re using a limited supply of stability balls, you can ask participants to pair up, or incorporate stations.

Here are four stability ball ab workouts and tips on how to cue each one.

Stability Ball Ab Workouts #1: The Rainbow

Ask your group fitness members to lay on their back and place the ball between their calves and ankles. Depending on the size of the individual, the ball may take up more or less space between their legs. And if participants want to modify, they can also put the ball lower between their knees for a shorter “lever”.

Then, participants will keep their legs straight as they lower their feet towards the floor. At the same time, lower your hands towards the floor. After, raise the feet and arms back towards the ceiling, and grab the ball. Then, everyone will do the reverse, holding the ball as it lowers towards the floor and bringing feet towards the ground.

Group Fitness Ab Workouts

Stability Ball Ab Workouts #2: Sit-ups w/ the Stability Ball

You can easily transition participants from The Rainbow into this next exercise. Ask participants to hold the ball in their hands, lying flat on the ground. Notice that the ball is directly over their shoulders. Then, members will sit straight up, and hold the ball over their shoulders once more. From there, they’ll come back down to the floor.

As participants improve, their goal is to keep their legs on the ground the whole time, arms and backs straight.

Group Fitness Ab Workouts

Stability Ball Lower Back Workouts #1: Modified Superman

It’s important to keep in mind that we always want to balance our exercises. If we do a lot of abdominal work, we’ll want to turn over and exercise our lower backs, as well. These next two exercises are not “ab workouts”, but they will help balance out our core by strengthening our lower backs.

Have participants lower themselves onto the ball so that their lower tummies and hips are resting on the ball, legs are extended out behind them. If they’d like, they can press their feet against the corner of a wall to help stabilize them. From there, place your hands by your face, with elbows out towards the side walls, and lift your chest and head a few inches higher by squeezing your lower back muscles.

You’ll want to think of your body like a “V” instead of a “U”, so don’t think about curving your lower back and pulling it towards your gluts. Instead, think about raising your head toward the ceiling.

Group Fitness Ab Workouts: Modified Superman

Stability Ball Lower Back Workouts #2: Superman

Once you’ve mastered the Modified Superman, then you can progress to the traditional Superman. It’s the same thing, except this time your arms are extended out in front of you like Superman. Ask participants to straighten their arms as much as they can.

Group Fitness Ab Workouts: Superman

There are so many different ab workouts you can do with a stability ball. Check back in on Wednesday for more ideas.

If you liked this post, you’ll also like the tricep and push-up exercises.


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“Across the Floor” Exercises for Packed Group X Classes

Group X plank hold

For the Group X instructor that grew up in dance or gymnastics class, you may be familiar with across the floor. That’s when the entire class lines up on one side of the room and takes turns doing a dance move or activity as they progress towards the other side of the room. Across the floor is great for Group X, as well, since it gives participants more room for their exercises and use their muscles in a slightly different way than they would stationary.

If your class runs on the smaller side, you might be able to cue exercises across the floor with the entire class since there’s room for everyone.

But, I’ve found it difficult to cue exercises across the floor in small studios or larger class sizes. Participants tend to run into each other and they spend a lot more time standing around waiting for others to finish.

Instead of having all participants focused on one move across the floor, I’ve started using a different across the floor technique.

Across the Floor 2.0 — Improved for Large Group X Classes

To improve the across the floor experience in larger classes, divide members into two groups. Either ask the participants to pair up, or draw an imaginary line in the middle of the room and assign a Group A and Group B.

From there, ask the first group to start an across the floor routine, such as lunges across the floor with a shoulder press with each lunge. I like to mix it up and cue a different exercise each time they go across the floor.

Then, you’ll lead the second group in a different exercise against the wall.

One option is the wall sit.

Group X wall sit

Ask that second group to find a spot on the wall, and lower their upper body down so that their hips and knees are both in 90 degree angles. Really encourage participants to get their hips low, since many will start to creep up.

The other option is a plank against the wall.

Group X plank hold

The second group can all push their toes against the wall and then scoot their arms out until they’re in a full plank.

Then, you are able to lead both groups at the same time. You can cue the first group to hold one lunge in an isometric hold at the bottom, then switch. Or, you can switch back to the second group and instruct them to do slow mountain climbers in their plank.

Once the first group goes across the floor (there and back), and arrives back at their starting point, the two groups switch. Group A will then do the plank or wall sit and Group B will do across the floor.

Once participants have done this one or two times, they’ll be more familiar and will be able to quickly get into position to do across the floor. Some classes love to have a different experience each class, and will embrace the across the floor exercises. You may find your class just doesn’t like to move from their stationary position in the middle of the floor, and that’s okay, too. Every class is different.

For more tips, check out the group exercise ideas page.

P.S. don’t mind my phone in the photos above! I believe Group X classes should always be a phone-free zone. 🙂

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A New Twist on Themed Halloween Workout Songs

Workout Songs for Halloween

Group X instructors love Halloween — it’s one of the most common themed classes all year. But, let’s be honest, if I have to hear Monster Mash one more time, I’m going to rip my ears off. Most of the traditional Halloween workout songs are cheesy and overplayed. So, it’s up to us instructors to add a twist to the traditional Halloween playlist, so participants (and instructors alike!) aren’t moaning and groaning like goblins.

Here are a few ideas to mix up your Halloween workout playlist.

Halloween Workout Songs Playlist #1: I Want Candy

As a kid, the best part about Halloween was all the candy. Lucky for us, there are so many good songs out there about that sugary or chocolatey goodness. Let your participants know that your Halloween playlist is going to be sweet this year, and then let your workout songs do the talking.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. I Want Candy, by Bow Wow Wow
  2. Sugar, by Maroon 5
  3. In My Pocket, by Mandy Moore
  4. Pour Some Sugar on Me, by Def Leppard
  5. Birthday Cake, by Rihanna
  6. Sweet Caroline, by Neil Diamond

Halloween Workout Songs Playlist #2: Cool Costumes

As an adult, Halloween is all about the costumes. Feel free to broaden the playlist a bit to encompass anything related to dressing up.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Buttons, by Pussycat Dolls
  2. Raspberry Beret, by Prince
  3. Dude, Looks Like a Lady, by Aerosmith
  4. Lace and Leather, by Britney Spears
  5. Sharp Dressed Man, by ZZ Top
  6. Wannabe, by Spice Girls
  7. Circus, by Britney Spears

More Halloween Workout Songs and Playlists

Looking for more Halloween songs and playlists? Check out some of the options below.

Feel free to combine these or choose a couple workouts songs to start with and then make it your own. While participants will appreciate you mixing up the music, they mostly just want to hear some good tunes that makes them want to work out. So, feel free to loosely interpret the theme you choose, and pick music that inspires you.

For more workout songs, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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2 Ab Exercises to Try in a Group X Class

2 Ab Exercises to Try

Earlier this month, my family went on a trip to Maui, and we were sure to fit in a few self-run boot camp classes while we were there. Since Group X participants are always requesting ab exercises in class, I enlisted the help of my family to showcase a few ideas you can try in your next class (beach optional :)).

Here are two ab exercises worth considering for your next group fitness class.

Ab Exercises #1: Up & Down Plank

My friend and I partnered up to show the Up & Down Plank. Start on your elbows and toes. If you’d like, you can also be on your knees. Just make sure your body is in a straight line from the shoulders to the ankles or knees.

From there, you’ll want to press up onto your hands, trying to keep your hips square to the floor. Continue to press up and down, switching the hand you start with each time.

Ab Exercises #1: Planks


Ab Exercises #2: Flutter Kicks

Put your hands under your hips, then straighten your legs out in front of you. Make sure your legs are about one to two feet off the ground – keep them pretty low to the ground. Lift one leg about six inches higher and then switch, bringing that foot back to the starting position and the other six inches higher.

Make the movement fast, small and quick. If you’d like an extra challenge, cross your arms over your chest instead. For a modification, don’t straighten your legs all the way.

Ab Exercises #2

These are great ab exercises and workouts to do in your next group fitness or Group X class. They’re especially challenging if you include them in a back-to-back rotation of different exercises.

For more exercise ideas or workout routines to try, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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Shoulder Workouts for Group X Classes (Part 1)

Shoulder Workouts Part 1

While I’m usually a squats and lunges gal, I also like to mix things up with some tough shoulder workouts. Especially in Group X classes, shoulder exercises are great because you don’t need to balance them like you do for chest/back or bicep/triceps. Also, they’re smaller muscles, so more than likely the group fitness studio will have weights that are heavy enough to challenge the shoulders. You can introduce compound exercises that incorporate shoulder workouts, or you can focus on just shoulders.

Here’s one of my favorite shoulder workouts. It’s ultimately one shoulder exercise with a few variations done one after the other in a series.

Overhead Press Shoulder Workout

Shoulder workouts: the overhead press

Grab a set of moderate dumbbells and hold them so your arms are in a T-shape with your elbows and shoulders in a straight line, palms facing forward. Press your arms towards the ceiling, until your arms are straight over your head. I like to press so that my wrists, elbows and shoulders are stacked one on top of the other.


Shoulder workouts: pulses

After the overhead press, I like to have my Group X class hold the T-shape. After 15 seconds are so, we’ll “pulse”. This means bringing your arms a few inches higher and lower at a rapid pace.

One-arm Hold & Press

Shoulder workouts: overhead press & hold

Then, hold one arm in an isometric hold at the T-shape, while the other arm goes back to presses. Switch halfway through.

This shoulder workout make it easy to flow from one exercise to the next without getting bored doing the same exact thing over and over again.

I have a few more shoulder workouts on deck for my next post, which will share other shoulder exercises to try in your next Group X class. If you liked this blog post, you’ll also like my posts on push-ups and tricep workouts.

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A Full Body Workout for Group X Strength Classes

Full Body Workout

I like to get the biggest bang for my buck when I strength train. So, I’ll often do compound exercises, which involve more than one muscle group to get a full body workout faster. I typically take a similar strategy in my Group X classes. Since weights in group fitness studios are usually lighter, they work well for endurance strength exercises engaging upper and lower body at the same time. As you know, there are so many ways to work the same muscle, and now here’s a look at how to work more than one muscle at once.

Introducing Compound Exercises for a Full Body Workout

What’s great about most compound exercises is that you can add in options to support many different fitness levels. My favorite compound exercises involve two doing two exercises simultaneously. So, when teaching these to your class, let participants know the simplest way to ease into it is just to do one of the two movements.

Plie Squat with Bicep Curls

A full body workout with plie squats and bicep curls

To do a plie squat, point your toes towards the corners of the room, making sure that your knees are comfortable the whole time. Then, you’ll bend at the knee to lower your hips. Your goal is to get your hips in line with your knees, so that your legs look more like a box than a house. Keep the shoulders over the hips the whole time. The shoulders DO NOT come forward like they do in a traditional squat.

Adding on, participants can start to do a bicep curl as they come down. Other options include bringing the feet together while doing just bicep curls, doing the compound exercises without holding dumbbells or just doing the plie squat.

Plie Hold and Bicep Pulse

A full body workout with plie hold and bicep pulses

On your last one, hold the plie squat at the bottom and pulse the bicep curls up towards the ceiling. You can also pulse the curls toward the wall in front of you. Or, hold the curls and pulse the legs.

Plie Squat and Bicep Hold

A full body workout with bicep hold and plie squats

Then, you can transition to doing plie squats with an isometric bicep hold. You can also do this vice versa with an isometric plie hold and bicep curls.

Side Lateral Raise Lunge

A full body workout with side lateral raise lunge

After the plie lunge sequence, plant one foot forward and one back, ready to do lunges. Start lunges, keeping both knees between your toes and feet wide apart. Also think about bending that back knee. Both knees should be in 90 degree angles. And, shoulders are still right over the hips, NOT leaning forward.

From there, add a side lateral raise with a dumbbell in hand. Keep your elbow slightly bent and raise your arm to the side. Your arm should come roughly to shoulder or ear height. Make sure that you’re not bending your elbow too much.

Lunge hold and tricep extensions

A full body workout with lunge hold and tricep extensions

Hold your weight(s) so that your hands are right next to each other at your belly button. Sink into an isometric lunge, holding the lunge when your legs are in 90 degree angles. From there, bring your weights up overhead to do tricep extensions. Bending at the elbow, bring your weights behind you, pointing your elbows towards the wall in front of you. Then, extend your arms overhead, keeping your elbows in the same spot the whole time.

Your options here are just to do the isometric hold for the lunge, or just tricep extensions. You can also play around with using one weight or two.

Since this full body workout focuses on compound exercises, it’s a quick one to complete. This is a great opportunity to work a ton of muscles at the same time in your Group X class, so that participants get a lot out of it. For more exercise ideas, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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10 Workout Songs for the End of Summer

The End of Summer Workout Songs

This summer is flying by. Before we know it, we’ll be trading in our long, hot days for school work, falling leaves and crisp, cool mornings. The changing of the seasons is a great time to add some new tunes to mix up your Group X playlist. A few months ago, I shared a few workout songs to try around the Memorial Day holiday. Now, here are ten workout songs that fit an end of summer theme to play in an upcoming group fitness class.

These end-of-summer workout songs includes songs about school and songs about the upcoming Fall season, because those are the two major things we get to look forward to in the near future.

School is Back in Session Songs

“Rock and Roll High School,” The Ramones — fast-paced, upbeat song that’s good for a sprint.

“ABC,” The Jackson 5 — a family fun song with a slower speed but tons of energy.

“Another Brick in the Wall,” Pink Floyd — a steady moderately-paced song that will give your playlist some edge.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” The Police — a nice buildup for a climb or slower song.

“Teacher,” Nick Jonas — fun, upbeat pop song with a moderate beat that’s good for strength training.

Fall-ing in Love with These Workout Songs

“September,” Earth, Wind & Fire — I don’t know a single person that doesn’t love this song. A must for any fall-themed playlist.

“Falling for You,” Student Rick — A fast rock song with a bit of punk that will have you itching for an interval.

“DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” Usher feat. Pitbull — a high-energy pop, Top 40’s song that will fit in a bunch of different playlists.

“Free Fallin’,” Tom Petty — A classic slow jam that will have everyone bobbing their heads during cool down.

“Fall For You,” Secondhand Serenade — A great, slow love song that’s a perfect cool down song.

For more workout songs, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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3 Types of Push-ups for Group Fitness Classes (Part II)

3 types of push-ups part 2

In my last post, I explained why group fitness instructors need to start championing push-ups in their classes. Push-ups are functional, easy to do at home and one of the best ways to work the chest. Participants are finally starting to acknowledge push-ups as a good workout and with a little encouragement, we can convince the entire class to embrace the push-up.

My previous post explained the first three progressions of push-ups for anyone just starting out or that has a physical limitation at the moment. Now, let’s take a look at the next set of push-up variations for those wanting more challenging options.

Knee push-ups (Version 2)

Once your Group X class has mastered the first version of knee push-ups, then they can move on to the second version. The only change is to move their hands farther away from their knees, and transition so that their weight is right above their knees. Their body should be in a straight line from the knees to the shoulders as participants lower their body to the floor by bending at the elbow.

Knee push-ups version 2

Tricep push-ups

For tricep push-ups, participants will place their hands right under their shoulders and come up onto their toes in a plank position — body in a straight line from ankle to shoulders. Have participants lower their body to the floor by bending their elbows and extend to push back up.

Make sure folks go all the way to the floor. I like to call this, “chest to deck”. I always encourage members to try at least one push-up on their toes before going to their knees. They can always switch in the middle of a set, and even just one on the toes will help challenge them. So, even if they can’t finish the set on their toes, it’s great to have participants envisioning these push-ups as their ultimate goal, rather than settle in knee push-ups for eternity.

Also, to help alleviate some minor discomfort in the wrists, I encourage members to push all of their fingertips into the floor and picture themselves distributing the weight evenly between fingers.

Tricep push-ups

Push-ups with feet on the step

Once folks have mastered the tricep push-up, then the fun begins as we get to start playing with other push-up variations. In my last post, we talked about using a step to help members progress towards doing this exercise on the floor. Once they want to move beyond the standard floor push-up, they can use the step to lift their lower half, putting more weight into their push-up.

Push-up with feet on step

With these six push-up options, Group X instructors should be well-armed to teach this exercise to participants with a wide range of fitness levels. If you’re excited about push-ups, I have complete confidence you can get your class excited about them, too.

For more posts like these, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

Also, you might like the tricep exercises post.