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How To Transition From Personal Training to Group Personal Training?

Dear Dr. Bell, the gym I’m working at just started this new program, where 5 clients can work with a Personal Trainer at one time to get discounted personal training session. I have only ever worked one-on-one with clients. What is the best way to design workouts  for 5 clients at a time? Any advice at all would be much appreciated!

“Group Personal Training” is a method used to make Personal Training more affordable, for more people. Some gyms will set-up a specific area of the gym where machine/exercise stations are placed in a circle/square to make it easier for one personal trainer to monitor numerous clients. The exercises will be set-up in a circuit training format.

It is recommended that the first session be primarily a “Basic Exercise Technique Training Class.” You would use this class to teach your attendees basic exercise techniques, safety guidelines, proper timing and breathing for each movement, how to adjust the machines, what they will feel and experience, the goals of Circuit Training, use of water, towels, etc.

The next classes will be actual workouts, where your program should include Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for any workout. The SOP for Group Personal Training is a Group Warm-Up, the Group Workout (where each client begins simultaneously completing each Rep in unison on adjacent machines through the Circuit, until each client has done their prescribed sets on each of the prescribed machines). Finish with a Group Supervised Cool Down that may include stretching. Watch every client equally. Give praise and motivation to those who master the techniques quickly and adhere to “Good Form” and praise and instruct those who are less than perfect.

Establish great rapport with everyone, since you never know who will want you for one-on-one Personal Training. You also want to be fair with everyone to earn their loyalty and referrals.

During the Group Workout arrange the machines as you would any Circuit, starting with the large muscle groups first and alternating the machines according to agonist/antagonist muscle groups. Make sure there is proper spacing between machines.

Do not accept anyone into the program who cannot follow instructions (i.e., very young children-undisciplined kids and machines don’t mix and the machines always win)!

I have found using a timer is a big help. You can vary the timer based on the goals and conditions of your Group. You can use the timer to signal when to begin, the Work Interval (i.e., 2 minutes), the Rest Interval, time allowed to move to the next station (i.e., one minute) and leading into the next Work Interval until the program is complete. Each client can carry their own clip-board with their own document for recording their machine adjustments, weight used and Reps completed.

Don’t forget that all your IFPA Guidelines and Key Teaching Points still apply, as well as the Exercise Science Principles you learned in your IFPA Personal Trainer Certification Course. This includes Periodization Principles! You will need to get creative in your programming when you only have a limited amount of machines to use, so you may want to consider adding bands, balls, ropes, TRX, etc. to offer your clients variety they will need to satisfy their physiological and psychological needs.