What sort of personality does it take to become a successful group exercise instructor?

When it comes to group exercise, knowledge doesn’t always equal power.

More often than not you will find the highest attended classes are those hosted by the most popular instructors. Unfortunately a tonne of CPD points & the best education that money can buy doesn’t guarantee you popularity.

Generally speaking, the right personality for a group exercise instructor will come naturally or it won’t. Changing your core personality is an impossible task, and naturally confident people have a distinct advantage on shy people. That doesn’t mean to say however that you cannot draw on your experiences and modify your behaviour to client preferences.  

One thing you should never take for granted is the judgement & perception of the clients. As well as how certain personality traits can get misconstrued. For example:

  • Confidence can be perceived as arrogance
  • Nervousness can be perceived as incompetence
  • Extroverts can be perceived as intense & intimidating
  • Reserved characters can be perceived as having a lack of empathy & interest

The key with instructor personality is balance, as is always the case in things related to health & fitness.

So how do you win?

Before you start:

  • Wear comfortable clothing!! As silly as it sounds, if you’re not feeling confident in your attire then this will reflect on how confident you appear to the class.
  • Decide upon your teaching style. Think about your core personality and how you can portray this during a class. For instance; a super positive person may ‘cheerlead’ their clients like Mr Motivator used to. Where as a taskmaster may ‘drill sergeant’ their class like Coach Carter.  
  • Have the right tools. Select music that reflects both the intensity of the class & your personality. For instance if you are teaching seniors class and you need to appear cheerful and upbeat, then selecting rap music is probably not a great idea.
  • Shadow or Co-teach with an experienced instructor. The best way to learn is to learn from the best! Observing the behaviour and personalities of popular instructors is invaluable to a newly qualified instructor. Experienced instructors may also allow you to ‘Co-teach’ with them, getting you to teach certain elements of the class.
  • Practice on smaller groups. Usually the most intimidating thing about teaching a group exercise class is the sheer volume of people you are in front of. Therefore by starting with smaller groups you are easing yourself into the process.
  • Use familiar faces! Get friends, family, or clients that you are friendly with to attend your class. Seeing familiar and supportive faces is a great way to calm your nerves.

Do’s & Don’ts of behaviour for teaching:


  • Introduce yourself! Firstly its polite, and secondly it will help you to appear approachable & friendly.  
  • Know your class plan! Make sure you have made a plan and memorised it well. The better rehearsed the choreography, the less you will have to think about during the class.
  • Smile!! There’s nothing more off putting to clients than an instructor who doesn’t look happy!  
  • Be prepared to laugh at yourself or be laughed at! Once your clients have gotten to know you, be prepared for a few ‘friendly’ insults coming your way.
  • Let them into your world! Engaging in chit chat with your clients pre/post class allows you to build a good rapport with them.
  • Get to know their names! There is nothing more satisfying to a client than when the instructor refers to them by name during class. It makes them feel special and memorable to the instructor.
  • Explain yourself! If your unwell, nervous, or performing a discipline for the first time, tell them! Politely ask them to bear with you and they will be more supportive than you may think.


  • Lecture them! Your knowledge may be unparalleled however your clients desire to be instructed, not lectured. As far as they are concerned, you know what you are doing and their trust is in you. Whilst it is fine to correct techniques, encourage hard work, and drop some knowledge on them. You don’t want to confuse them with in depth knowledge or appear arrogant.   
  • Assume your word is final! Accept all feedback and ideas from clients, and use the feedback to make yourself a better instructor. Justifying yourself or arguing the toss with them should be avoided like the plague!
  • Automatically assume all your clients enjoy banter! Get to know them first, and get to know which ones you can have a laugh with.
  • Be a ROBOT!! Well rehearsed choreography can often make you appear robotic. Be flexible and add some of your own personality into the instructing!

Finally, please remember:

  • Knowledge is easily improved upon but core personality isn’t. Henceforth making personality one of the most important elements of being a successful group exercise instructor.
  • Draw on your experiences to develop the relevant characteristics you need to become a fantastic group exercise instructor.

“The bottom line is, if the clients don’t like you then they won’t be coming back!”

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Meet The Author

Niaomi Sadler

Niaomi works full-time at Pure Energy as an Events and Administration Assistant. Outside of Pure Energy she works as a freelance group exercise instructor and personal trainer, as well as running her own business.

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