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What is a Group Exercise Leader?

July 3, 2024
4 minute read

In the dynamic world of fitness, there are many different roles a fitness professional can have. The common ones are Group Exercise Leader, Group Exercise Instructor, Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer. In this blog we are going to take a look at the role of a Group Exercise Leader (GEL). 

Defining a Group Exercise Leader: Roles and Responsibilities

If we take a look at the fitness industry, we have people who want to do more one-on-one training with clients, they usually become a Personal Trainer or a Gym Instructor. We then have people who enjoy group fitness so they become a Group Exercise Instructor or a Group Exercise Leader.

Traditionally, if you wanted to be a Group Fitness Instructor, you would get your Certificate 3 in Fitness and then you can design and teach:

  • Circuits
  • Bootcamps
  • Hiit etc

But not everyone wants to, or has the time to create their programs and run bootcamps, circuits etc, a lot of people just want to instruct classes using programs that other people have written such as:

  • Les Mills Programs (Body Pump, Body Attack)
  • Spin
  • Pilates
  • RPM 

If that’s the case, then they do not need to get a Certificate 3 in Fitness and be certified as a Group Fitness Instructor, they can do their Group Exercise Leader (GEL) certificate. A GEL certificate is not as in depth as a Certificate 3 as you won’t be designing the programmes yourself, you’ll be using pre-designed programmes.

A Group Exercise Leader plays a crucial role in creating an engaging and supportive environment where participants can thrive and reach their fitness goals. Leading a group requires knowledge of exercise and fitness and effective management of group dynamics. 

A Group Exercise Leader is someone who leads and instructs a fitness class that has been designed by someone else and has been approved by AusActive. This means they follow a set pattern or routine, ensuring that the workouts are safe and effective for everyone involved.

Their primary responsibility is to conduct fitness sessions that follow pre-designed routines, ensuring each member stays motivated and exercises safely.

Getting Certified

To become a certified GEL, a person must complete a GEL course with skill-set codes:

SISSS00128 which covers;

  • Deliver and monitor a service to customers
  • Provide First Aid
  • Participate in workplace health and safety
  • Instruct group exercise sessions

or SISSS00113 which covers:

  • Participate in workplace health and safety
  • Provide quality service
  • Deliver pre-choreographed or prescribed group exercise to music
  • Deliver pre-choreographed or prescribed community fitness

to be certified. But even though you have your GEL certificate, you can’t do much with it unless you do a certification in whatever class you are wanting to teach. 

Popular programs include:

   - Les Mills

   - Radical Fitness

   - Zumba

   - MYND Tribe Fitness

   - MOSSA

Differences Between a Group Exercise Leader and a Group Exercise Instructor

While "Group Exercise Leader" and "Group Exercise Instructor" might sound similar, there are significant differences. GELs lead pre-designed sessions, following a set routine. They typically guide classes based on pre-choreographed formats and do not design their own sessions.

In contrast, Group Exercise Instructors have completed their Certificate 3 in Fitness so they have a broader and more advanced role. They can design routines and adapt them to meet the specific needs of their participants as well as lead freestyle, pre-choreographed, or circuit-style sessions, giving them more flexibility in designing their classes. 

To become a certified Group Exercise Instructor, a person needs to complete one of the following qualifications:

1. **Certificate III in Fitness (SIS30321)**

   - Must include BOTH of these elective units:

     - SISFFIT035 - Plan group exercise sessions

     - SISFFIT036 - Instruct group exercise sessions

2. **Certificate III in Fitness (SIS30315)**

   - Must include BOTH of these elective units:

     - SISFFIT007 – Instruct group exercise sessions

     - SISFFIT011 – Instruct approved community fitness programs

Group Exercise Instructors can practise independently without supervision and have the skills to design their own classes. They can conduct sessions as part of a regular schedule provided by their employer, such as a gym or fitness facility.

Benefits of Becoming a Certified Group Exercise Leader

The benefit of becoming a certified Group Fitness Leader is that you get to instruct pre-designed fitness classes that you already love taking, without having to spend time designing the classes.

You also get paid good money for leading a fitness class and you get plenty of support within the gym and with the class type, Les Mills for example, to ensure you are able to lead the class confidently.

The biggest benefit is that you can run fitness classes without having to do a full Certificate 3 or Certificate 4 in Fitness. You know exactly what you want to teach so you don’t need to do all the other components that come in Certificate 3 and 4 in Fitness.


If you love taking group fitness classes and want to start instructing them, then doing your Group Exercise Leader is a great way to get into the fitness industry and do the class styles that you love while getting paid for them.

Once you have your foot in the door and feel like you want to have a broader role and design your own HIIT or Bootcamp style workouts, then you can upskill with a Certificate 3 in Fitness.

If you are ready to take your passion for fitness to the next level and make a tangible difference in people's lives, becoming a Certified Group Exercise Leader is a great first step. 

Explore our courses and join our community of professionals who are shaping the future of fitness. Join Fitness Education Online - Australia today and start your journey toward becoming a transformative figure in the world of group exercise through our personal trainer courses.

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Fitness Education Online are one of the leading providers in the world when it comes to the professional development of Personal Trainers. We have over 30 registered AUSactive CEC courses.  Click here to check them out!


About The Author: April Allyson Barcebal
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