How to Run a Group Class

As a professional kettlebell coach and instructor with the American Kettlebell Club, I've had to develop the nuts and bolts of administering a group class. For all you kettlebell instructors out there, who are just getting started, this article is for you.

By far, my program of choice is the World Kettlebell Club's fitness program. The program is licensed by the World Kettlebell Club (mother organization of the AKC), and a license is required to use with clients / students, or profit from the program in any way. Contact the American Kettlebell Club for information on obtaining a license.

The physical size of the classroom, as well as the number in attendance can be a determining factor in how to structure the room. Another major factor to consider is the average experience level of the students. For the sake of our class, we're assuming that everyone has had at a minimum, one training session on technique, and can perform at least three movements from the list of 14 possibilities that can be included in the WKC fitness program.

Ideally the room would be rectangular, somewhat long and narrow. This allows stations to be created around the perimeter with the instructors lane down the middle. In this scenario, nobody feels like they're in the back of the class. But regardless of the room shape, if you can set up around the perimeter, all the better. The limiting factor for using this set up is the number in attendance (not enough perimeter to go around).

If class size (not room size) prohibits perimeter stations, you can create rows, with the instructor in the front of the class, or dead center. Either way, as the instructor, you'll be walking around once the class starts. Stagger the aisles, so no lifter has another student directly in front of them.

Spacing requirements are important, especially when students are snatching. Ideally, a 4x6 mat per student is what you'd like to have. That allows a full side to side arm spam without interference. Room in front and back is pure common sense (no one should be in the line of a swinging kettlebell). Perimeter set up and staggering rows addresses this issue, so allow each lifter enough room in front and behind.

Timers or face clocks are part of every set, but each student will have to clock themselves. A Community Clock can be set up in front of the room (make sure it's a big faced easy to see wall clock, they're pretty cheap). This puts everybody on the same time.... both good and bad. In this one-clock scenario, everybody must follow the same lifting protocols (levels as dictated by WKC program), or amount of lifting versus resting. The levels within the WKC fitness plan feature as little as 2 minute sets with as much as 2 minute recovery to 6 minute sets with only 30 second recovery. Unless everyone is at the same program level, one clock won't work well, if your goal is customization. Here's a couple of options.

OPTION A: Use more than one clock and split the class into multiple squads.
Squad One - 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off
Squad Two - 4 minutes on, 2 minutes off
Squad Two - 6 minutes on, 2 minutes off
Squad Four - 2 minutes on, 1 minute off
Squad Five - 4 minutes on, 1 minute off
Squad Six - 6 minutes on, 1 minute off
This method won't catch every variable, as there are 20 levels within the program, but you'll advise the students to work at their closest level, and if in doubt, choose the lower level. The student is still in control of the exercises used and reps performed per minute, and within established guidelines, can remain in control of final customization of the workout. This can accommodate many individuals without a lot of extra equipment.

OPTION B: Set up each student with their own clock or timing device.

This puts the lifter in control of their workout. Your job as instructor is to help in routine selection, reps per minute, and level jumps, but most importantly to make sure technique is improving, moving towards AKC perfection. This set up can handle as many individuals as you have space for.

The question arises, how many students can you handle per class... Of course class size will set the tone of the class. A intimate setting of 3 or 4 will allow much more initial technique work per student. A larger class limits this factor, but makes training much more affordable, while adding and element of community and camaraderie into the mix.

Experiment with what works best for your students and the space available to you. Remember, always emphasize technique over everything else. Your job as instructor is to not only run the class, make sure everybody gets the workout they've showed up for, while their goals and needs are met, as they progress towards proficiency in kettlebell lifting.

Technique is king, and with that in mind it's a good idea to hold an occasional clinic on a particular movement (IE: Jerk, Snatch, Long Cycle) or just on methodology in general. Don't let the class become just about reps, every rep should be a focused process. Keep the lifter involved in the decisions that will form their routine, and keep focus on striving for perfect form.