Ideas for Group Strength-Training Workouts

Man lifting weights in exercise class

Group classes such as cycling, step aerobics and Latin dance provide a solid way to train your heart and burn calories, but are not enough for a complete exercise program. Resistance training forms an essential component of any fitness program because it helps build lean muscle mass and bone density. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you perform exercises for every major muscle group for at least eight to 12 repetitions on non-consecutive days. Many people don’t know where to begin when it comes to strength training and can’t afford a personal trainer. Group strength-training classes offer guidance at a minimal cost to participants, but designing classes that are fun, motivating and effective can be a challenge.


The group barbell classes found at many health clubs classes feature equipment consisting of a lightweight bar onto which you can affix plates of varying weights – usually 2 1/2, 5 and 10 pounds. After a warm-up, you focus on each major muscle group for three to five minutes. For example, you might begin with multiple repetitions of barbell squats, move on to chest presses and then address the back with barbell rows. Barbell lunges, biceps curls, shoulder presses and lying triceps extensions are other exercises that can be part of a group barbell workout.


Performing exercises in a circuit keeps your heart pumping and prevents boredom. "Fitness" magazine reports this type of workout burns 30 percent more calories than a typical weight workout. Circuit workouts use all sorts of equipment, such as dumbbells, stability balls, resistance tubing and balance trainers. Design a circuit of three or four exercises to repeat three to five times, or create a longer circuit of eight to 10 exercises to repeat once or twice. A sample circuit could feature 15 repetitions each of dumbbell stepups onto an aerobic bench, v-sits, chest flyes off a stability ball, dumbbell pullovers, resistance band rows and dumbbell lateral raises. Repeat the circuit in sequence four times without a break for a total body workout.


Do double duty in a group strength-training workout by interspersing cardio moves between weight segments. An interval-style class helps train aerobic and muscular fitness in one session -- making gym time efficient for participants. For example, alternate simple cardiovascular moves such as jumping jacks, jumping rope, jogging in place, high-knee marches and speed skaters with rows, chest presses, lunges and triceps kickbacks. Since the focus is on strength training, keep choreography to a minimum to focus on form. When you have multiple participants, simple also makes it easy to cue and accessible to various levels.

Body Weight

A group strength-training class doesn’t have to involve a lot of equipment. You can provide a group with a solid body-weight workout that will build muscular strength and endurance. To keep the class moving and prevent long breaks, do segments of exercises that alternate two different muscle groups. For example, begin by alternating 20 repetitions of body-weight squats with 30 seconds of pushups. Follow this with a set of 20 walking lunges alternated with 60 seconds of a plank hold for the abs. Next, you could do alternating 12 bird dogs for the spine alternated with triceps dips off a platform or chair. End with 15 side lunges on each side alternated with 30-second side plank holds on each side. Repeat each segment two or three times before moving to the next set of exercises.