Small Group Training – Breaking it Down

There has been a significant shift within the fitness industry over the past few years with Small Group Training growing in leaps and bounds.

In the age of quick information where trends travel fast, savvy fitness professionals are getting on board with their entrepreneurial spirit by realising the benefits of training more than one client at a time.

And when you look at bottom line, Small Group Training makes inherent sense.

Total Gym®, one of the first international fitness equipment companies to truly embrace the Small Group Training model, brought this concept to the forefront of peoples’ minds when they launched their commercial product line in 2003.

With their education programs centred around Small Group Training on Total Gym, fitness business owners everywhere quickly recognised the benefits of this highly profitable and time-efficient training model.

In the following article we break down the Small Group Training model and take a closer look at this new phenomenon that is transforming fitness businesses around the world.

Small Group Training can essentially be broken down into two formats:

  1. Team Training
  2. Multi-Client Training

1. TEAM TRAINING

Team Training offers camaraderie – a group of individuals getting together for a common purpose. With a general target of 4 – 12+ participants, this is most commonly a pre-programmed approach which may or may not be musicality-based.

Different approaches fit within this model including Circuits, Stations (e.g. 2×2 or 3×3), 50:50 set up (e.g. Total Gym and Spinning), as well as Bootcamps or Challenges.

Payment is low per person, anywhere from around $10 – 20 per session (depending on what your hourly target is), making it incredibly affordable for clients.

Fiona Caddies of FiTraining, Australia, has set up her studio with the Team Training model in full effect.

She uses two Total Gym Classic PowerTowers, TRX, spinning, dumbbells, Bosu and other training tools to train multiple clients at a time.

As a result, she ensures that she lives the lifestyle of her dreams.

“I have a four day weekend, every weekend. It’s a great lifestyle choice.” Says Fiona.
Click here to view her story.

So…if you’re on board the Team Training approach the question is – how should you charge your clients?

Within the Team Training approach the most common payment options are:

  • Class Model
  • Program Model

Class Model

The class model is based around the “pay per session” concept, with the most common method being via concession card. Whilst this leaves it open for clients to drop in when it suits them, it means that attendance is uncertain and income is dependent on all booked clients showing up.

This is an unstable model that results in fluctuation in attendance and income, which can be highly affected by seasonal changes. This makes it difficult to run a business with any form of consistency.

Program Model

The Program Model is centred on certainty and is the recommended option. With a general target of around 4 – 8+ participants per program, payment is made either in advance or by direct debit / AP.

Each program has a start and end date, often 4 to 6 weeks in length, and shows active progression. Within this model your payment per session is guaranteed and the client is more motivated to attend.

In addition, by offering “make-up” sessions every week, you increase the buy-in at the beginning and ensure that your clients have the opportunity to make up any session they may have missed, but you still get paid for each and every session, regardless. You can also use this make-up session to invite any leads to experience a free session – making the most of your time.

The Program Model also works well in conjunction with the Waterfall Structure – which has been promoted heavily by Total Gym after the success of this format was seen in a US gym.

The Waterfall Structure is all about staggering your programs. This method of scheduling is centred on five key factors that ensure your success:

  1. Book out programs in advance
  2. Stagger the program start dates
  3. Ensure progression
  4. Utilise the “Sold Out!” strategy
  5. Only schedule what you can book out in advance

So there are obvious benefits in taking a Team Training approach, but what about Multi-Client Personal Training? Where does that fit in?

The distinction between the two is quite important to your business – firstly in how you position yourself and your business, secondly (perhaps most importantly) how much you charge per session and thirdly, your preferred method of training.

So now we take a closer look at Multi-Client Training.

2. MULTI-CLIENT TRAINING

Multi-Client Training is Personal Training on a slightly larger scale. Very different to Team Training, Multi-Client training is about training around 3-4 clients at a time based on their individual needs. By creating “pockets” for each client, you break each individual down into their goal, needs and challenges, and tailor the session to each individual – replicating their goal in their exercises.

This training format is more time consuming as the preparation is personalised and not as generic as Team Training tends to be. The key challenge of Multi-Client Training is working with different clients, health histories and goals and personalising the session to each individual – all in the same room.

So what are the benefits of Multi-Client Training over Team Training?

  • You can charge more per person than you would in Team Training, anywhere from $30 – 50 per 45 or 60 minute session (depending on your one on one charge out rate). This is because you are still giving a one on one training approach in your session and offering personalised attention. At the same time you are still charging less than your charge out rate for a one on one session, making it more affordable for the client.
  • By creating “pockets” or “pods” for each individual, you have each client working in their own area and you can simply rotate from client to client to help them set up each set and monitor their progress.
  • You can stagger the starting times, meaning that you can bring one client in at a time, set them up, set their agenda for the session and have them start while you bring the next client in – maximising your time with each client.
  • You empower and educate the client.

One true benefit is that clients learn how to execute exercises properly and monitor their own form and function. For those who are happy to embrace this type of education, it is truly invaluable to their wellbeing as you teach them habits for life.

David Snively of DBS Fitness, Canada, is the owner of four Total Gym Classic GTS units and is the master of Multi-Client sessions.

“It really works well from a business perspective and from a strategy perspective.” says David, whose business is completely built on a Multi-Client Training Model.

David incorporates tools such as Bosu, TRX, Cable Pulley systems, kettlebells, medicine balls and more, all around the Total Gym GTS centrepiece.

He explains how he runs his Multi-Client Training sessions in a FREE online video on GRAVITY Clubhouse. We highly recommend you watch this for ideas. Click here to sign up for free:  and then click on this link to go direct to ‘Mastering Multi-Client Sessions‘.

This video in a nutshell teaches you the best ways to master Multi-Client sessions.

So after breaking it down, you can see there are multiple approaches and opportunities within the concept of ‘Small Group Training’. From a business perspective, it’s the smart solution to training. Just be clear on how you position yourself and what you are offering.

Shara Curlett
Shara began her career in the fitness industry at Les Mills Dunedin in 2005 and from there combined her passion for fitness with her strength in business to create a niche role for herself specialising in “the business of fitness”. Shara has consulted for gyms and small studios, developed an indoor cycling program, and continues to work one on one with fitness business owners as a sideline passion. As business development and marketing manager for HQH Fitness, Shara is focused on business development, company strategy and marketing and is passionate about helping business owners achieve their goals.

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One on One Personal Training – A Dying Trend?

The small group training model is a phenomenon that has taken the fitness industry by storm.

With so many businesses and individuals embracing this new wave of training – from large club chains to small self-employed operations – fitness professionals all over the world are discovering that the small group training model is:

  • More attractive to their clients
  • Better suited to their business
  • And best of all it increases their bottom line

So the question presents itself – is one on one personal training on its way out?

The One on One vs. Group Training Debate

Many believe that small group training is the future of fitness, while others are yet to be convinced.

Group:
Small group training (also often referred to as “team training”) allows the fitness professional to earn more and provides a more affordable option for the client…which creates a win:win solution, correct?
vs. One on One:

However, there are some within the industry who believe that small group training takes away from the individual, failing to offer the one on one personalised approach that they feel clients need and deserve.

So in an industry where trends come and go and what once was right is now wrong (and vice versa), who is right – and where does one on one training fit in moving forward?

The Business of Training

  • First and foremost it is important to come back to the ultimate goal of running a business – to be successful.
  • And success in business is defined by what the owner’s ultimate goal, targets and dream is for that business.
  • Therefore anyone operating within their business goals and working successfully towards their dream are doing exactly what they should be doing. It is not for anyone else to say they are right or wrong.

So keeping that in mind…let’s break it down.

Hands Up for Small Group Training

Small group training is not just a phenomenon as previously stated; it is in fact a trend that appears to be here to stay.

And for the average fitness professional whose business goal is centred on earning money doing what they love, the one on one model no longer cuts the mustard.

It is important to remember here that having a goal or dream around money is not a bad thing! In reality, this is the primary purpose of most businesses today.

And when we’re talking about the business of businesssmall group training just makes sense – from a financial perspective, from a marketing perspective and from a time perspective.

Whether presented in a team training format, or a multi-client personal training format (the difference to be explained in an upcoming blog), small group training is all about bringing a group of people together and taking them to their goals in a fun and motivating environment.

Regardless of the fact they may not get the dedicated attention they would recieve in a one on one session, anyone being trained within a group format – chooses to do so.

Programs such as Les Mills’ classes and team training are popular for a reason. They have in fact paved the way for small group training. Within a group, people experience camaraderie and connection with their fellow “team” and are inspired and motivated to challenge themselves or be challenged. All the endorphins from fitness are enhanced within a group training format.

The benefits for small group training include:

  • Presents a positive environment, with motivation and support from within the group
  • More income for the trainer
  • More affordable for the client
  • Time efficient
  • Fun and interactive

This list could go on and on.

When the clients love it and it helps the trainer to achieve their goal of earning more – how can group training be judged as “wrong”? It can’t. In fact, it’s simply smart business.

So based on this…why would an individual want to continue to offer one on one training when small group training is so attractive?

The Place of One on One Training

Rest assured one on one or private training has – and always will have – a place in the industry.

The only difference moving forward is that with more competition and cheaper alternatives, it simply requires the person running this business model to work smarter.

“Work smarter” simply means that a personal trainer or fitness professional can no longer rest on their laurels.

With more and more trainers coming into the industry offering  lower price points, group training services, not to mention marketing superstars and industry experts who stand out from the crowd…a business that chooses to work within the one on one training model should fit within the following criteria:

  • The business’s ultimate goal is not about the money. When a trainer/business owner has the dream of taking individuals to their goals in a personalised format – the one on one model can always apply. This is because they do it for the love of it, not for the money. When you make money a non-issue, it sells itself and they can offer a competitive price point.
  • The business’s ultimate goal is centred on working with a high-end market. When a fitness professional, specialist or practitioner needs to work closely with a client, one on one training ensures that they offer focus and dedication to that client only, aiming for the best results possible. They may have a money focus/goal, however at their specialised level they are able to position themselves at a rate per individual that weeds out the non-committed and meets their target hourly income.
  • The business’s ultimate goal is about presenting a package/program approach. When a fitness professional thinks ‘outside the square’, a number of ideas will come their way. By offering a package approach (including seminars, assessments and a number of add-ons or “freebies”), they can sell a package of items to an individual, thereby getting their target hourly income while still offering a one on one model.

So…Back to the Question

Is One on One Personal Training a Dying Trend?

The answer is clearly no…and it will certainly never “die”.

There is always a market for clients who want the care and attention of one on one training. They may just be harder to find, and the trainer may need to target their market better.

Trainers working within this model will need to start working smarter, be clear on the ultimate business goal that they are working towards, and understand the model that best fits that goal.

Otherwise…they could well be left behind.

Shara Curlett
Shara began her career in the fitness industry at Les Mills Dunedin in 2005 and from there combined her passion for fitness with her strength in business to create a niche role for herself specialising in “the business of fitness”. Shara has consulted for gyms and small studios, developed an indoor cycling program, and continues to work one on one with fitness business owners as a sideline passion. As business development and marketing manager for HQH Fitness, Shara is focused on business development, company strategy and marketing and is passionate about helping business owners achieve their goals.