With the next set of government restrictions to be lifted from May 17th, this is a perfect opportunity for personal trainers to add group training to their repertoire.
But what exactly is Group Training?
Let's start with what it's not!
Group training isn't a class. A class is where the participants turn up, perform, socialise and go home. No understanding of how they've performed, no tracking of calories burnt, weight or volume lifted and no check in. In a class, it's you and 10, 20, even 30 other participants working out. (We‘re not taking a dig at classes here)
Group training isn't a Bootcamp. When thinking of bootcamp, it's usually an instructor giving army style commands at the top of their voice aiming to motivate others. Usually consisting of high intensity exercises and pointless, endless burpees, participants can easily hide, underperform and even be pushed to injury. Once again, participants will turn up, pay on the day, perform, have a chat and go home. (We’re not taking a dig at bootcamps either)
Group training isn't personal training. Although performed by a personal trainer, the difference is, group training isn't 1-2-1. Participants don't get that 1-2-1 attention they would in a personal training session, this is now split amongst 4, 5 or more people in the group. This is however, a more affordable way of having a personal trainer conduct a session and for you to partake in such.
So what actually is Group Training? When done correctly, group training is a periodised, tailored and structured grouped training session consisting of more than 2 and less than 8 participants who all have an identical end goal. Participants are tracked from start to finish, whether the finish is immediate (the session) or for the long term (a periodised time frame.) Participants should have some sort of testing completed prior to the launch and then during each session and/or at timely intervals throughout a given period (4, 8, 12 weeks)
For example - Let's use a weight loss theme. There's a group training session, taking place every Monday, Wednesday and friday for the next 8 weeks which will focus on weight loss. The marketing and advertising for such, should focus on those that want to lose weight, they see this advertisement, it matches their goal, they join. Ideally, to create "buy-in" the payment consists of a bulk payment for a number of sessions, usually lasting the duration of the periodisation (8 weeks in this example)
Participants have their anthropometrics taken before starting and are tracked weekly or bi-weekly at the same time on the same day, for consistency for the duration of the period, then tested again at the end of the block.
This can then be tailored for any goal. Let's now look at strength work. 5 participants join a group training session focusing on building strength. They sign up to a 12 week package and on day 1, the trainer tests each of their 1RM's on the big 3. Bench press, deadlift and squat and records this information. During the next 12 weeks, the 5 participants will train together, under the instruction of the personal trainer, on set days performing the same exercices, using not only his/her motivation and enthusiasm, but each others. It creates competition, they all want to increase their numbers, they don't want to be the guy or girl who progresses the least at the end of the 12 weeks.
Very similar to groups such as weight watchers et al. The weekly check in or "weigh in" in front of the rest of the group should create accountability, knowing you have to step on the scales in a week's' time in front of an audience. You don't want to be the one letting the "team" down therefore you stay within your points like a good boy or girl, all week. (We’re not bigging up weight watchers here!)
So, what are the benefits as a trainer?
More money! Less time! More fun! Better adherence
More money: Whereas you'll charge £30-40 for an individual PT session, you can charge up to 8 participants half of that and come out on top. 8x£15 = £120
Less time: Group training sessions shouldn't and don't need to be an hour long. Often in PT sessions, this time is filled with nonsense. Get them in, work, get them tested, get them out. Sessions can run for 30-45 minutes.
More fun: It creates a buzz. A better training atmosphere. Participants are bouncing off each other, motivating each other and using each other as competition. You, the trainer are just overseeing it all.
Client adherence: Clients will form social circles, they'll now hold each other accountable. They may not want to let their team down, or let themselves down in front of the team
So what are the benefits as a participant?
Participants can save money. Rather than paying a personal trainer £30-40 per hour, you can pay £10-15 a session for the "same" thing, albeit not 1-2-1. Participants will however benefit from some of the above, such as: More fun, more accountability, more motivation, increased social aspect. Results and performance are still being tracked, sessions are still being tailored to the needs of a group with the same outcome and it brings about behaviour change, knowing you not only have just a personal trainer to answer to, but your group, your new community to answer to also!
Things to remember whether you are a group personal trainer or participant. It isn't personal training. Your attention is now split, as the trainer, to the number of participants and not focused on one individual, and in regards to the participant, the same, you aren't going to get that 1-2-1 attention in a group training session. For the trainer, to slightly contradict one of the aforementioned benefits, it could lead to more work, for example tracking clients and monitoring performance on a weekly basis, before, after or even during sessions can be hard work and become time consuming. Putting an initial group training session together, which will have to be progressed over time, to meet the principle of adaptation and progression, can take time! But when done properly, there's nothing like it. Investing in smart technology can also alleviate some of this (The use of HR monitors, such as MyZone offer this service and clients' performance and results can be shown on screens around the gym / studio or on your own device and easily shared)
There are some really good group training focused studios around now that will charge a (usually higher than normal) monthly fee to their clients, giving them unlimited group training sessions to attend.
These studios will put on a number of different group training sessions to cover the typical goals, wanted by clients (lose weight, gain strength, increase flexibility, strengthen core etc etc) and members can often drop in (with booking) as and when the please and pay a monthly fee to only attend these sessions.
An example of a few that do this really well are The Foundry in London and Rigs fitness in Birmingham. Pay them a visit if you’re ever in the vicinity.