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Getting Started with Fitness Drumming in PE

Nicole Reed compressor

A highly engaging, non-traditional fitness activity I have incorporated into dance & rhythm units is fitness drumming. Students use rhythm sticks or drumsticks to drum out beats and patterns on stability balls while also performing exercises. It is a great way to get student’s heart rates up while also having fun improving coordination with the musical beat and rhythm development. Fitness drumming has become an essential activity during my dance and rhythm unit and works well with any grade level. I even mix it in as a novel activity with my high school classes to help shake things up as a warmup or fun fitness activity. These resources helped me get started with what is now one of my favorite activities to teach.

Row Setup Using Buckets & Baskets

Fitness Drumming Resources:

  • Aerobic Beats Starter Pack – For those new to teaching this style of fitness activity, check out Gopher’s Aerobic Beats. This kit taught me the basics of drumming fitness, and gave me several great ideas including relays, challenges, and echo partner activities.
  • PE Conferences – Look for this activity session at a PE Conference near you. This fitness activity has become so popular it has become a staple session at many PE conferences. You can learn directly from teachers using it or even meet specialty vendors who have a brand-name drumming fitness business that offer workshops and resources as well.
  • YouTube Teacher Channels – Many P.E. teachers have developed and shared free tutorial videos you can watch and learn from yourself or that you can use to show students directly and have them follow in class.  Try searching for “cardio drumming fitness” and you’ll see several tutorials. Three educators I’d like to give a shout out to are MacKenzie Mushel Ellis,  Ben Perillo, and Nick Spencer. I am thankful for all they share with the profession and have shared with me over the years that helped me get started with fitness drumming.
  • Cardio Drumming with Ross Chakrian – Ross did a great Cardio Drumming presentation at SHAPE Tampa last year. Check it out!

Fitness Drumming Equipment:

Here’s an idea of what you need to get started. The basic setup per person is one stability ball on a stand or bucket and a pair of drumsticks.

  • Ball: Use any stability ball in good condition or use Bosu or dome balance trainers if you don’t have enough stability balls. No ball? No problem. You can drum on fitness or yoga mats. See examples of this style by searching “stick drumming fitness” on YouTube.
  • Sticks: Use rhythm/lummi sticks, drumsticks, small dowel rods, or foam noodles cut down.
  • Stand: I have used many types over the years to keep the ball in place. 5-gallon buckets are very common. Gopher offers a variety of colors, which are great for organizing your class and quickly pairing groups up. Foam rings, milk crates, stability ball stands, laundry baskets, and dollar store oil pans are also great options!
  • Teacher setup: Use a large cone with the SmartDoc cone topper to create an easel for teaching notes on the song patterns (see picture below). Also helpful is a sound system to play fitness music and a microphone to cue over music, if available.
  • Tip: Ask the parent support team and colleagues for donations of stability balls or baskets and buckets they no longer use. You’d be surprised what you can piece together the first time, giving you time to put together an order for a full classroom set the next time. Remember, the equipment is versatile! The balls can be used for fitness and balance activities and the buckets make great storage for other things, which easily supports all aspects of your physical education program.
 Teacher Setup Using SmartDoc Cone
 Teacher Setup Using SmartDoc Cone

These resources and equipment tips will help anyone get started. To help take these basics to the next level, check out my other blogs Fitness Drumming Lesson Planning Tips in PE for planning and safety tips and Learning Moves & Patterns for Fitness Drumming in PE for sample moves and patterns to help you put together routines.

Continue the conversation: How do you incorporate fitness drumming your program? If you do not use fitness drumming yet, what are your favorite rhythm activities that can complement this idea? Please share in the comment section below!

Related Equipment:


  • Jessica Shawley

    Jessica is a Health & Physical Education Teacher in Lewiston, Idaho. She is a SHAPE America National Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year and a National Board Certified Teacher. Jessica is a part of SHAPE America's Physical Education Council and has also served SHAPE Idaho & the Northwest District in several leadership capacities. Her professional engagement also includes providing professional development workshops, writing blogs and podcasting. Jessica is currently teaching high school health and physical education, leading fitness, dance, yoga and weight training classes.

5 Responses

  1. Is there a book/booklet/DVD/CD to explain the moves and stick strikes of cardio drumming (with a yoga ball) ?

  2. Do you teach the drumming to groups over 50? I love the idea, but I am concerned about storage of the stability balls and buckets for 60 students.

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