Choreographing Step Aerobics Routines

by Chris Pruitt

Step aerobics classes have been in gyms and fitness centers since the late ‘80s-early ‘90s and are very popular. One of the benefits of step aerobics routines is that they provide a high intensity workout at a low impact level. Also, participating (not to mention instructing) a step aerobics class is the equivalent to jogging at a speed of 5-7 miles per hour.

Basic Considerations

There are several basic considerations when it comes to choreographing your step aerobics routines. These include step height, music, and moves.

Step Height:

Most fitness centers have aerobics steps that are adjustable and are made up of a platform and risers (square ‘tiles’ that raise the height of the step). If a participant is pregnant or out of condition, it is recommended that they start with the platform only. Beginners or shorter participants who are used to exercising should start with a 4 inch step (one riser on each end), while regular exercisers can use an 8 inch step (with two risers on each end). Advanced or tall step aerobics participants may prefer to use a 12 inch step (with three risers on each end).


The music used for step aerobics routines is slower than other group exercise classes and it is generally recommended that music speed be between 118-124bpm (beats per minute). The slower speed allows participants to safely complete each move while the step itself provides the additional intensity.

Step Aerobics Moves:

Step aerobics routines (like all group fitness routines) are choreographed using a number of basic moves which are often built upon throughout the routine. Some of the basic step aerobics moves include the basic step up/step down; v-step; lift steps; repeater lifts; turn step; over the top; across the top; lunge steps; straddle; and tap step. Each of these moves has a number of variations which help to build a routine. For example, lift steps can be performed as a single lift, knee lift, side lift, glute squeeze, hamstring curl, or front kick.

Choreographing Your Routine

Once you understand the basics of step aerobics and are comfortable performing the basic moves and their variations, you can start to create your step aerobics routine. Start by selecting the music you would like to use for your class as this can often help form the routine in your mind. Next, make a list of the moves (and their variations) that you think go with the music and each other. Now create mini routines that add up to 16 counts. These will form the basis of your step aerobics routine. Four mini routines can then be grouped together to form a 64 count routine (most classes will have three to four of these in total).

Once you have your three (or four) 64 count routines, begin practicing to make sure they work together. Develop your routine by teaching the first 16 counts, add the next 16 counts, add the two together, teach the third 16 counts, add to the first two, teach the fourth 16 counts, and add to the rest. Follow this formula for the other two to three routines, remembering to add each group of 32 counts as you go (i.e. when you teach the first 32 counts of your second routine, add it to the first 64 counts to grow the routine). When you are happy with your routine, add a 5 minute warm up and a 10 minute cool down to your routine, remembering to spend time stretching at the end.

Step aerobics routines are a great way to build fitness and strength and make low impact aerobics more challenging. There are many books, websites and videos available to help you create a step aerobics routine. If you are looking for something new to teach your class, step aerobics may be the answer.