Strategies for Implementing a Successful Group Training Program

For Gym Operators

Strategies for Implementing a Successful Group Training Program

In the current fitness climate people are looking for personalized workouts and one-on-one attention, but without the large price tag of a personal trainer. This is where group personal training comes in.

The following is a summary of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Vic Spatola is currently the Director of Personal Training at the Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Denver, Colorado. He has over ten years of experience in the fields of rehabilitation and training. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and Wellness, and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified Performance Enhancement Specialist. He is a qualified martial arts instructor, and has taught at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts.

Group Personal Training: What it is and why it's valuable

Group training essentially consists of small groups of three to fifteen people who receive specialized and focused training. Its biggest appeal, aside from the localized attention it offers, is that it offers specialized personal training (albeit in a group setting), and is less costly than a personal trainer.

So why should you implement a group training program? For starters, group personal training is a great way to motivate clients and encourage results, as being in a group often evokes competition which translated into motivation. This can be extremely helpful when trying to generate more revenue, as the more engaged and motivated your clients are, the more time they will spend at your facility.

Group training also offers your club and trainers the opportunity to reach more people and grow your business.

People like being in groups; it is in our nature as humans. Offering your members, or non-members, the opportunity to train in a group can create a non-intimidating and social environment, while still providing specialized and valuable training. Finally, another reason for building a group personal training program into your club is to create a revenue stream for trainers so that they can increase their longevity at your club.

Who Will This Program Appeal To?

Group personal training offers great training for the fraction of the price of an individual trainer. As such, it will appeal to members who cannot routinely afford a trainer in a one-on-one setting.

Specialized training in a group setting will appeal to people who need social motivation to make changes in their lifestyles, as well as those people who generally require more guidance than can be found in group fitness (larger groups of fifty to sixty people).

In addition to this, a group training program can be used to appeal to new prospects as part of an introductory fitness package.

Characteristics of a Successful Group Training Program

Unique Equipment

With a group training program, you are selling the experience in addition to the training. Make sure that you provide unique and challenging equipment that is used specifically for group training. Some types of unique equipment include speed and ability tools, stability tools, self-myofascial release tools and Olympic lifting equipment.

Qualified Trainers

Your trainers should be certified and preferably possess college degrees in a health and wellness field. They should be organized and demonstrate preparedness. You should seek to hire people who are energetic and inspiring, so as to motivate and provide great service to your clients. In a group setting, attention to detail is of great importance; you want to make your clients feel as if the trainers care about their wellness and results.

Dedicated Space

Having a particular space reserved for group personal training is extremely important for providing the best possible experience for your clients. Include specialized equipment in this space and allow access with trainers only. Having a dedicated space will create an exclusive and special environment for your clients.

Differentiate Group Personal Training Programs from Group Fitness

Generally, group fitness caters to very large groups of people, whereas group training is rather limited in numbers. In this regard, group training allows for the implementation of more creative exercise programs.

Group training should provide more attention to detail than group fitness, as well as more guidance and correction from trainers. To maintain a sense of exclusivity for your clients, there should be different trainers and exercise programs for paid and complimentary classes; a client will not see the value in paying for a service that is available for free.

Although your goal should be to differentiate group training programs from group fitness workouts, there are some things that group personal training can borrow from the group fitness programs, like:

  • The upbeat music;
  • The fun and engaging environment;
  • The sense of belonging that being in a group workout creates;
  • And the motivation and competitiveness that come with being in a group setting.

Offer structured and specific workouts

In group training the average workout should be approximately fifty to sixty minutes long. Specifically set aside five minutes for a functional warm up, and five to ten minutes at the end of the session for a cool-down. This is where organized and prepared trainers become immensely valuable. Clients often want to feel that their time is being recognized as valuable and having structured workout segments allows them to feel that.

Some ideas for specific workouts include: heart rate training, bodyweight training, self-myofascial release classes, sports performance training, powerlifting and body transformation classes.

Challenges and the Necessary Infrastructure for a Successful Program

Implementing and carrying out a group training program can incur a few problems along the way. For example, sometimes finding the right ratio of socialization and actual work can be a problem for trainers. Dealing with clients who need more attention can present difficulties for trainers, as well as the group.

Some strategies for dealing with the difficulties that you may face include:

  • Offer different levels of classes; this will allow clients who need more attention to receive it, while also catering for the more advanced clients who don’t need as much guidance;
  • Buy-ins from your training staff, as well as the rest of your club. This will foster a sense of trust and your clients may be more inclined to try a program that your staff are also actively involved in;
  • Market to your specific target audience;
  • Build group training into your intake form - offer free trials and package pricing.

Group personal training is a rapidly growing avenue of fitness. Proper group programming can also bolster your regular personal training programs if clients get value from your workouts. With group personal training you have the opportunity to reach and positively affect more people. In this regard, aim to adopt these strategies and adapt them to suit the needs of your facility and client-base, and you’ll have a successful group personal training program in no time.