Ask Dr. Everett!

Dear Dr. Everett:

I recently joined a gym and want to take some group exercise classes. Where is the best place to stand, in the front or back row?

Dr. Everett:

My patients know that exercise is not my fave, but I do work out regularly. I’m going to hand this question over to my fitness professional sister Robin. She LOVES to talk about fitness stuff. Take it away Robin!

Robin: Do you remember gym class when you were in elementary school? Fond memories or no, you probably also recall your “spot”. As in an actual white or yellow circle that was your designated area for the torture fun activity of the period and the year. Today, competition for spots in classes have ascended to an Olympic proportions. An article in the Wall Street Journal states that some members go as far as to form alliances to get prime spots in popular classes, and arrive early with the instructor’s favorite protein shake in hand. Which position provides a better workout experience, the front row or the back row?

Front row

Is this you?

Is this you?

The front row is Mecca for some group fitness class fanatics. This position not only gives them proximity to the instructor, but an unobstructed view of themselves in the mirror (the better to check out their new outfit or admire great biceps). If the instructor is not on a raised platform, it is easier to see and follow the instructor’s new choreography to Janelle Monae’s “Yoga” or form on a kettlebell move. Some group exercise instructors prefer that the participants in the front row have a certain level of skill for the format to help the class flow. For example, a new person may be able to emulate a seasoned front row person’s form on a squat until the instructor can get to them to help them with their form. Dance classes have more flow and electricity when the front row can move like the instructor.

Front row cons:

  • For a popular class, the spacing in the front row might be too close for comfort. Scuffles have broken out when mats are too close.
  • Like to sleep in? No front row for you!
  • Be ready, all eyes will be on you!

Back row

Back Row

Newcomers or the mirror shy sometimes retreat to the back of the studio because of a lack of skill, strength or confidence. It is also a good place to stand if you know you have to make an early exit and don’t want to disturb the class. But if your goal is to hide or not be seen by the instructor for fear of feedback, you might want to change positions – the instructor can actually see you better in the back row, especially if they turn around to face the class. A cycling instructor’s gaze is probably going to land on the back row first, so watch your cadence!

Back row cons:

  • Stereo speakers are usually located in the back of the studio, you may get more than an earful.
  • Some studios have equipment storage in the back of the studio, make sure you watch your step moving backwards.
  • If the instructor is not using a microphone, it may be hard to hear important safety cues.

So which one is better?????

The answer to this week’s debate is determined by the experience and skill level of the participant.

Are you a type “A” exercise perfectionist? Has an instructor ever used you as an example of how to do an exercise properly? Step into the front row.

Are you a seasoned group exercise participant who just wants to get in a good workout but doesn’t want a lot of attention? Get fit in the back row.

First time in class and don’t know what to do or expect? Introduce yourself to the instructor and stand in the middle for a good view of the instructor and the class superstars. You will be up there before you know it!

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