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What’s a Group X Holding Pattern and How Do I Use It?

Participants in a Group X holding pattern

When teaching Group X classes, it can be challenging to demonstrate a new exercise without disrupting the flow. The last thing you want to do is have everyone stand around, but sometimes you want their full attention, so they can understand the next exercise.

A Group X holding pattern is an exercise or set of exercises that participants can do for an extended amount of time while you showcase a new exercise, attend to an ailing participant or play with the stereo/mic/etc. It’s something that participants can do without you doing it alongside them, so that you’re free to address whatever you need to.

There are many different types of holding patterns to use based on what you’re looking to accomplish.

Here’s a look at a few holding patterns you can use for different scenarios.

  1. When the choreography gets messed up or off beat in a dance or step Group X class.

Dance classes can be especially challenging to teach, since you have to be perfectly on beat for the choreography to work. It takes a few months to really get the hang of it, and you start to understand cueing tricks to help you navigate when things run awry.

Until then, there are a few simple holding patterns you can do. First is a step touch or a march in place. If you realize that you’re on the wrong starting foot (or lead leg), you can do a double step touch, which will switch lead leg.

If you’re in a step class, you can cue alternating knees (or alternating hamstring curls, glut extensions, inner/outer thigh, etc.). If you realize you need to switch lead leg, cue one triple knee. That’s when you do three knees back-to-back, then switch to the back of the board.

These are very basic holding patterns, but will be mission critical to remember when you’re first starting out.

  1. When you want their full attention to demonstrate a new exercise or explain a cue.

It’s not easy to go from one exercise to another without a bit of explanation. Especially if the Group X class has never done the activity before, you’ll need to spend some time explaining. So, how do you demonstrate a new move without having participants just stand around?

I would start by teaching an exercise that everyone knows and that can also turn into an isometric exercise that faces the front. For example, I would cue squats, then once we’ve gone through a squat routine, I would instruct them to hold at the bottom of the squat while I demonstrate what’s next.

You can also do this with lunges, wall sits or an overhead shoulder press held halfway. In my experience, some folks will stand up with me, so make it clear you want them to hold the squat, etc.

  1. When you want to distract participants, so you can tinker with the stereo, etc.

If you need to mess around with the stereo or change out the batteries in the mic, it’s hard to do it when all eyes are on you. You’ll want to cue an exercise that has participants looking down or away from you, so that you can do whatever you have to do without taking away from their experience.

My favorite for these situations is probably a plank hold, because it’s balanced, so you won’t have to even it out with the same number of exercises on the other leg or balancing out back and chest work. You don’t have to do any additional exercises to balance out a plank. Plus, planks are easy to cue when you’re working on something else. You can switch into mountain climbers, knee taps, leg extensions, etc.

You can also do bent over rows, with participants looking towards the floor, push-ups or anything on all fours.

  1. When you need to leave the room for an emergency.

I’ve had participants look peaky and then leave the room. You want to make sure to check on them to make sure they don’t faint by themselves in a corner of the locker room. So, you can quietly ask one of their friends to go check on them, or you can take a quick run over to make sure they’re okay.

If this is the case, I usually assign an activity that involves counting, so that participants have a goal to work towards. My go-to is asking them to find a partner and do 150 squats combined or 50 push-ups combined, and giving them the option to split these up however they want to. Usually everyone splits it up 50/50, but it’s fun to have options.

Other activities you can cue is 15 of each of the following on their own: push-ups, squats and bent over rows.

If you’re teaching a dance class, you can ask some of the star students to come to the front to lead while you run to the locker room really quick, and just have the participants go through the eight counts you’ve already worked on.

The goal is to sneak out as casually and nonchalantly as possible to avoid embarrassing the participant. I’d also recommend during the beginning of class to encourage students to wave you over or just take a seat on one of the sides of the rooms if they need a break. You can explain that the last thing you’d want to happen is they pass out all alone in the locker room.

When I first started teaching Group X classes, I remember being terrified to go off schedule or make it seem like something was wrong. But, I’ve learned that participants understand that things happen, and sometimes you need time to address a problem that will ultimately make their experience better in the long run. Don’t be scared to stop class if you need to, or put them in a holding pattern and leave them to their defenses while you go check if a member that left early is okay.

As long as you don’t make a habit of these interruptions and have a holding pattern in place to keep them occupied and working hard, participants will be fine.6

For more Group X tricks, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.