Small Group Personal Training

Although the concept of group exercise has been around for many decades, applying this concept to a personal training format is relatively new. One of the key principals that spurred this concept was cross-training. This phenomenon — which uses various modes, frequencies and intensities to develop a more balanced fitness program while avoiding overtraining and stagnation — became a major development to help integrate personal training programs into a group exercise setting.

Recent studies have determined that resistance and other anaerobic training can be more beneficial when combined with aerobic training than solely training with aerobics. This helped lend support to the current personal training and group personal training market.

Introducing small group personal training for optimal function takes some planning. Before starting, you need to develop a consensus with your members to determine a need and demand for such a class. A sign-up sheet is an easy way to do this. In addition, the proper space allocation must be determined, along with the maximum number of participants for optimal safety.

Before you get your class up and running, the management and class instructors should walk through the components of the class to eliminate any flaws or safety concerns. When the equipment is added, make sure that there is enough space surrounding it for exercise safety and transitions.

Individualizing the class for a specific training purpose is also helpful. Some of these classes might include sports-specific training, special populations, weight loss, muscle toning or overall fitness conditioning. This will help target audiences with specific goals similar to the goals of one-on-one training.

Some classes you may want to offer include circuit training with dumbbells and tubing using PHA method; dynamic stability with a Swiss ball for proprioception and posture; plyometrics drills for racquet sports; and martial arts drills utilizing circuit format.

The class may also be tailored to various levels such as beginning, intermediate or advanced, provided there is this type of audience available. No matter what level, however, you should always have participants take a medical/orthopedic screening.

Many of the larger facilities may incorporate combination classes. It's important to remember that there is an inverse relationship between more exercise combinations and less training specificity, which can easily escape the realm of personalized instruction.

Examples of combination group exercise classes include:

  • Cardio circuit with dumbbells and intervals


  • Aerobic cross-training with plyos and tubing


  • Medicine balls with sports drills and intervals


  • Body Bar training with martial arts and boot camp intervals

One of the keys to successful group personal training is the instructor. You want someone who is outgoing and can interact with each participant for a given time to help establish the personal training concept without making the other participants feel left out. The instructor should also be certified and preferably specialized in the type of instruction specific to the class.

Your facility can have a successful small group personal training program provided it is well planned and promoted by utilizing proper space allocation and equipment application. Most importantly, the program instructors chosen must be knowledgeable, personable and compassionate about enhancing the members' quality of life.

Mark Laponte has been a professional athletic trainer for 17 years and holds seven national certifications. His expertise is developing fitness programs for special populations and post-rehab clients. He is also the educational provider for the Sporting Club at the Aventine in San Diego. He can be contacted at (858) 395-2657.


Resistance Training Benefits

  • Greater reduction of body fat while increasing lean muscle
  • Increased speed, power, proprioception and neuromuscular control
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased joint and structural integrity via dynamic stabilization and postural changes
  • Reduced muscle imbalances caused by long duration repetitive activity
  • Increased metabolic rate through bone and muscle increases
  • Increase insulin utilization by using muscle and liver glycogen more efficiently

Group Personal Training Benefits

Group personal training provides:

  • Variety of exercise to avoid stagnation and boredom
  • Education to enhance safe and effective exercise for all populations

  • A method of introducing personal training to members who may later progress to one-on-one training

  • A way for sports enthusiasts to integrate a specific class into an individual sport

  • The means for instructors to promote one-on-one or two-on-one training to their audience

  • An increase in exercise adherence and motivation

  • Extra income opportunities for both the club and instructors

  • A pleasant social and entertaining atmosphere for practicing a healthy lifestyle

  • A cost-effective option for members (compared to one-on-one or two-on-one rates)