A fitness instructor can train one on one, in a small group (3-6 people) or in a large group (10 or more). Here, we explore the benefits of small group personal training.

Few People Actually Need One-on-One Training

There are a few cases in which one-on-one personal training is warranted. I’ve worked with several high-risk clients such as:

  • Recovering stroke patient
  • Missing limbs
  • Parkinson’s patients
  • Very old age

These all required my full attention and challenged me.

Most people don’t fall into these categories. And most people don’t need someone staring at them every second for a full hour.

Small Group Training Works Best for Most People

If you’re trying to get fit and want some personal coaching and a structured plan, this will work for you. The group is small enough that the workout can be heavily modified or completely thrown out for a new one if need be.

It is small enough that you can become friends or acquaintances with those in the group and develop some camaraderie and a sense of rapport.

Paying to be in a small group is cheaper than paying for one-on-one training. You’ll get a good deal and an expert eye on your form. If you are able to get around and want to pay someone to stand next to you to count every repetition, go ahead. There are trainers that’ll take your money.

Most people just need direction and supervision. Then once they’ve got the basics down, the trainer kicks in with some motivation to train those movements with some intensity. The group helps with that.

Working Out in a Group vs Working Out on Your Own

I’ve always believed in and practiced the saying, “If you want to be smart, surround yourself with smart people.”

Well if you want to be fit, surround yourself with fit people.

There are many ways to surround yourself with fit people. One is to join a class – any class. It could be a spinning class, LesMills Body Pump class, CrossFit class or small group personal training.

The bottom line is that you’ll be more motivated. You’ll want to try harder because people are around and you generally want to do well. We hold ourselves to different standards when we are in the presence of others doing the same activity.

Also: it’s way more fun.

It Creates a Group Atmosphere

Humans do well in groups.

I see it in their performance. Groups breed competition. Competition is good and brings out the best in us, so long as we are competing for something like “Who can run the fastest.” Other competitions can get goofy, but these tend to stay pretty clean.

Holding yourself to a higher standard day in and day out really does good for a person. I see it and I’m not making this up. Everyone congratulates each other and says, “Good job.” Just that little point of saying “Good job” keeps people coming back. It lets them know that their effort didn’t go unnoticed.

And beyond that, you hold each other accountable. If someone starts partying and slacking during the holidays, the others in the group are the first to take notice.

It’s a good little insurance that you make your workouts.

It’s Great for Couples

Often couples will come to the gym together. This is a great way to spend your time productively.

Many, many couples consider time spent together the same as time spent watching TV. Those couples that work, create and do things together are the happiest couples. Not the couples that watch the most TV shows together.

Plus, it helps keep the excess weight off, which is always good for a relationship.

The Trainer Maximizes His Efficiency

For small group training, the trainer can give high-quality training to a maximum number of people.

I’m always of the mind that we, as a gym, need to handle the entire city. I find ways to get the entire city in our doors. We are the health plan for the city, the image program, and the solution to a happy retirement.

So why wouldn’t we gear up to deliver as much service to the area as possible?

You just work out how many people can be in your gym at one time, figure out how many trainers you can have and how many each trainer would be able to supervise. Then you promote and get that many customers in.

It is that simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple. Get the difference?

My job has always been to train as many people as I can. The prices are whatever they are, but I better be busy as hell from sunrise to sundown.

Busy trainers are happy trainers. Things go sour when things get slow.

It’s Not So Crowded That Clients Don’t Get Individual Coaching

In a small group, a trainer can look at someone and give them one or two minutes of uninterrupted attention. This is all that should be needed to get someone straightened out on even complicated movements.

If you get to ten people in an hour, then you’re screwed. Unless they are all, literally, 18-year old men on the same soccer team, you’ll need to split them up somehow.

It’s easy when you’ve got everyone of the same demographic. It is not easy when you’ve got Betsy (65 year old grandma), Clint (16 year old boy), Jerry (45 year old lawyer) and so on and so on. They’re too different from each other and they each need attention in their own way.

So you can work on the higher range in numbers if your clients are all the same. Keep it closer to three if you have anyone who is moderate or high-risk. If you’ve got a diabetic, a 13 year old and a grandma, your hands will probably be full. But you could still do it so long as you’re familiar with all of them.


I’ve experience complete overload training what I thought was going to be a “small group.” I’ve also turned away clients because I thought I was going to be overloaded, and been upset that I did.

The biggest variation here is on the trainer’s ability, his education, and his willingness. Only a little bit of it is in the mix of people that show up to be trained.

This model works. I’ve seen it work for over 20 years.

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