Tuesday, July 02 2019

(The above preview is for, Aqua Free-Tempo, posting 5/10/15)

Disclaimer:  I am about to offer my opinion about teaching to music and all may not share my opinion.  

My opinion: If a group fitness instructor chooses to use music in their class, then the instructor is responsible for understanding how to teach to the phrasing and the beat of the music – regardless of whether they are in a studio or a pool. 

With that said, there are times when music will be used merely for motivation or background.  But in most cases, I believe movement should be taught to the cadence of the music.  And if you don’t use music – you obviously need not worry about a beat.

Music posed the biggest challenge to me as a new group fitness instructor.  32-count phrasing wasn’t even remotely in my vocabulary and my step classes were somewhat on the beat, or so I thought.  My first evaluation from a group fitness director told me otherwise.  My step classes were well attended and I challenged the director’s evaluation and asked her if it was really all that important to teach to the 32-count phrase and if I always had to be on the upbeat.  Her short answer was an emphatic – YES!  And so I practiced…and practiced…and practiced.  To this day, I credit this group fitness director and her evaluations for much of my early development as an instructor.    


Most class formats:  shallow and deep aerobic conditioning and strength formats. Warm-up, cardio portion and optional activities at the end of class are typically taught to the beat of the music


Interval programming (Ex:  HIIT drills) where music is used more for motivation for intense performance, stretching, select mind/body formats


Safety.  Music provides a cadence for movement.  When you follow industry guidelines for using a recommended ‘beat per minute’ (bpm) and then you match the movement to the cadence of the movement – then you know you are instructing exercises that are being executed at a safe and effective cadence.

Structure.  Movement is counted out to the beat of the music.  Each move represents a number of music counts, typically an even number such as 2, 4 or 8.  Music occurs in a phrasing of 32 counts and this phrase essentially provides a template (building block) for movement.  Once you learn how to design movement to this template, your classes become much more structured.  Creating new routines becomes much easier.

Sanity.  Students are not tone-deaf.  If they attend classes with an instructor who teaches to the beat – they will know right away that something is amiss if they attend a class with an instructor who is not on the beat.  Quite frankly, it can be maddening for them.

Sensational.  Matching movement to the phrasing of the music creates a slicker presentation.  Combinations end at the lower ebb of the music phrase and begin or transition at the stronger notes at the top of the phrase.  It is hard to explain just how this adds more pizazz to your class – but trust me it DOES.

Standards.   Group fitness instructors who lead classes in the studio are often held to higher standards than those who lead classes in the pool.  This really annoys me.  They may get paid more (and that is a story for another day) but that does not make their role any more important than the role of the group fitness leader in the pool.  A studio instructor is required to understand and teach to the music and this is reinforced in certification and continuing education.  When all aquatic fitness instructors are held to the same standards of certification, continuing education and job performance as studio instructors – everyone wins.  

When I first started putting together my video, Aqua Free: Tempo, my intention was simply to present a fun routine taught with nothing but variations of tempo – water tempo, half water tempo, land tempo and combined tempos.  But then it occurred to me that there may an instructor out there who is struggling with the music aspect of teaching, similar to the way I was as a new instructor.  And so I took the opportunity to instruct the tempos and counts on deck, as an instructional tool for those instructors who want to get better at teaching to the music.

If you are having difficulty matching the moves to the beat of the music, this video will help you.  And if you just want more creative ideas for reinventing base moves – this video nails it!

Aqua Free: Tempo posts to the Fitmotivation website on Sunday, May 10, 2015.  (Basic and Premium)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.