Hello everyone, and welcome to PT Pioneer.

In this article, I will look at group fitness and how you can make a successful career.

To provide insight, I’ll take you through a few key aspects in this definitive, second-to-none guide on becoming a group fitness instructor.

I’ll touch on the following:

  • What is group fitness?
  • How to become a group fitness instructor?
  • The job profile and job description of a group fitness instructor
  • The average income of a group fitness instructor in America

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So with that said, let’s jump right into the world of group fitness

Group Fitness Instructor Career - What is a group fitness instructor? 6

Introduction

What is Group Fitness?

As the name suggests, group fitness is a fitness instruction system where a group of two or more participants is led through a set workout by a qualified fitness instructor or coach.

Group fitness isn’t a specific training system but a way to administer training and exercise.

This means the possibilities are endless, and the applications are very diverse.

You can be a yoga teacher, pilates instructor, CrossFit coach, or dance teacher.

The basis for group fitness has the ability and infrastructure to manage more than one person’s training experience safely and effectively.

That means having the right space and equipment and the right approach to minimizing the risk of injury and maximizing results.

Group fitness is typically divided into two categories: small and large.

Small group fitness is a methodology where you, as a trainer, dealing with a group of two or more clients but no larger than ten or so participants.

Based on my expertise, I use ten as a rule of thumb, but it isn’t a standardized figure.

With small groups, you can hybridize what you would offer with private clients and what you would offer a larger group.

That’s because you’ll have fewer people to manage and, therefore, can offer more personalized attention to each participant, albeit not to a high degree.

Small group training is an excellent way to deliver results-driven programs while capitalizing on the lucrative nature of group training.

With small groups, you can even develop periodized programs with progressive volumes and loads as training progresses.

You can often slot in a dedicated group consistently throughout the program.

This helps you effectively implement periodized or progressive programs that allow everyone to experience notable results.

Large group training is different because you typically can’t implement progressive programs or periodization like small group training.

Large group training is common in fitness facilities or studios with regular class schedules.

The classes will be based on a simplified method of preprogrammed workouts.

These workouts are often determined by set stations with specific equipment or exercises or based on choreographed routines.

The main goal of large group training is to get people moving in an exciting and rewarding way.

These workouts are generally cardio/aerobic-based, offering little skills development or other training adaptations.

A few exceptions exist to this rule, such as yoga or combat sports training.

These are very specialized disciplines that allow for training adaptations and skill development over time with consistent participation.

Whichever format you choose, group fitness is a highly impactful method of delivering health and fitness.

It is an energetic and self-motivating training method and should be part of any fitness coach’s arsenal.

How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

Becoming a group fitness instructor is not as simple as becoming a fitness instructor, then applying that to a group of participants.

While the fundamental tools of fitness instruction are obtained from qualifying and working as a PT, the ability to coach and manage multiple individuals simultaneously is a skill that’s acquired independently.

Firstly, being able to coach a group of people requires more and less.

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When it comes to more, the first thing you’ll need is more space. 

As you can imagine, more people training at once means you’ll need more space to fit them all and prevent them from piling up on each other.

This also means you’ll need more equipment depending on what sort of workout you’ll be implementing.

The next thing you’ll need more of is energy.

Aside from being a fitness professional, you’re an MC or hype man.

You must be a positive mental force during sessions to motivate your clients.

Group fitness is mentally demanding and requires an astute grip on group psychology and managing group dynamics.

Now let’s discuss what you need less of.

The first thing is programming. Less programming and less specificity.

You can’t have individual-specific programs in a group setting, so work on developing a one-size-fits-all workout rather than worrying about individual needs.

Another reason is that people aren’t signing up for a group session for a personalized experience, so why to bother giving people what they aren’t asking for?

Next up is you need to charge less.

Since your experience isn’t personalized, you can’t justify a rate as high as you would for personal training; that’s a no-brainer.

Pricing low for a group experience is also a good way to increase overall revenue.

Because you’re charging less per individual, you can convert more clients.

Each client is happier paying less, and you’re happier with more clients for the same amount of time.

With correct implementation, group training becomes more lucrative than personal training.

This is where the term “less is more” applies.

With all that said, you’ll need a way to cultivate and adopt these methods and practical skills.

That’s where group training certification comes in.

Group Instructor Certifications

As a group instructor, getting certified specifically as one is not necessary.

That is if you have any other credible credentials in health and fitness.

Many skills, tactics, and strategies you will need to employ as a group trainer require some form of specialized learning.

This rings true when looking at specialized systems like CrossFit, Yoga, Zumba, or combat sports.

In recognition of this, many of the top fitness certification agencies have group fitness certifications on offer. 

My top picks regarding comprehensive group fitness instructor certifications are NASM, ACE, AFAA, and ISSA.

These certs give you the skills for a general approach to training groups of individuals.

If you want to specialize in a group discipline such as Pilates, Zumba, or Yoga, you’ll have to qualify through the relevant channels and regulatory bodies of those training systems.

What Does a Group Fitness Instructor Do?

We’ve already described a group instructor’s activity in training both large and small groups.

But this job title, what is the actual execution like from start to finish?

Well, the first thing you need to do is plan your workouts.

As I’ve already described, running them is quite a dedicated skill, but it depends on how well you’ve planned the program.

Simply just winging it in a group training environment won’t cut it.

Firstly, you need a dedicated template to allow things to run smoothly; next, you need a plan that optimizes outcomes and reduces risk.

An unplanned workout is just asking for trouble.

At best, people will be unsatisfied, leading to reputational damage, and at worst, people could get hurt during sessions.

Now that you’ve planned a comprehensive workout, the next is its execution.

I briefly mentioned the need to have a strong sense of group psychology.

As a group trainer, you’re a next-level motivator.

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You need to be able to hear a group of participants towards the same training goal effectively.

Clever use of group psychology and environmental tools such as music and lighting are your friends.

Music is one of the biggest factors, so ensure you have the right playlist, as it will make a huge difference.

For instance, playing fast, jump-up drum, and bass playlists during a yoga flow are as useless as having Tibetan singing bowls on repeat during a Zumba session.

Lead your crowd while playing to them.

The last thing a group instructor should do is continue learning.

The thing with group fitness is that it’s commonly based on what’s trending.

While more traditional forms of fitness instruction, such as personal training or athletic coaching, have their methodologies set in stone based on scientific principles, group fitness is always evolving.

The next dance craze or gimmicky workout equipment could be right around the corner, ready to disrupt the status quo.

As a group instructor, staying ahead of the curve is important for this reason.

Most people attending group fitness sessions or workshops are pulled in by the trend factor, ensuring you’re learning and adapting to the industry and market demands.

Group Fitness Instructor Jobs

Jobs in group fitness are pretty diverse.

Your first port of call would be working as a group fitness instructor or manager in a commercial gym or fitness studio.

Large facilities such as big-box gyms often have a hefty group class schedule, so group instructors are constantly needed.

A large part of a commercial gym’s business model is based on offering such classes, so the demand for group-centric trainers exists.

Employment this way, part-time or full-time, offers security and stability, but self-employment is the way to go regarding truly lucrative opportunities.

As a self-employed, independent group coach, you can either rent access to an established facility and its infrastructure or set up in a privately secured location.

You can also set up your training in public-access spaces, but there is the risk of disruption by public traffic, and municipal regulations might not allow it.

However you cut it, you have many options.

You can also go online with your group fitness professional by offering online programs or live video workouts.

The age of online fitness is upon us, so whether it’s just personal training or nutrition, it is almost a must to take your fitness services online.

If you want to find job openings, contact gyms, and fitness clubs and inquire.

You’ll often find job openings listed on the websites of gyms and fitness businesses too.

Recruitment platforms like LinkedIn also offer a great way to feel the job market for opportunities.

What Is An Average Group Fitness Salary?

Now that we’ve touched on what a group instructor’s job may look like, how about we discuss how much one would earn you?

Understanding salary statistics is an important consideration for any career path.

Regarding being a group fitness coach, the national average for group fitness instructor salaries in the US is $42,401 per year.

This is considerably lower than the national average for personal trainers, which is $62,288 per year as of writing.

The truly successful group instructors are typically personal trainers, emphasizing a point I made earlier about having group training as a supplement to your current work as a PT.

Simply having the title of group fitness coach doesn’t automatically award you the average salary figure, and why settle for average anyways?

To optimize your income potential, it’s important to understand the factors that govern your success.

Let’s take a look at that real quick.

Location

Location, location, location. 

You’ve heard it before and for a good reason.

Location is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, influencing factors regarding salary prospects in most careers.

Local economies, laws, and regulations all influence the wages in an area. It’s common for people to relocate to areas where these conditions favor a higher salary potential.

The local economy determines how much money people are willing to spend and how many opportunities and infrastructure exist to do business successfully.

Regarding group fitness training and most other professions in the health and fitness industry, the health status of the general population is another location-based sub-factor that can have tremendous sway on your income prospects.

The health of a population is determined by general health statistics such as diabetes and obesity rates and the level of access to health care, wellness, and fitness.

The higher the population health stats are, the more likely people are to buy fitness-related products and services.

Qualifications

Your qualifications are another near-universal influence on your earning potential.

While I have mentioned that group fitness is a profession without much demand for specific credentials, having your qualifications in place still helps big time.

Having a certification in group training and another fitness-related field, such as personal training, would be the basic requirement, in my opinion.

You can take it further and go advanced. A college or university program in an exercise-related field would greatly boost your credibility.

Having a bachelor’s degree or higher not only allows you to add a premium to the value you offer but also has the benefit of leverage owing to your present credibility.

Employers and clients alike will be attracted to more qualified group trainers.

Both the number of qualifications you hold and the level of your qualifications can impact your income.

Level of Experience

Your level of experience communicates your success and reliability in any chosen field.

Unlike location and qualifications, you cannot immediately control your experience level.

The only way to control experience is by simply sticking to the process while continuously delivering the best service possible.

While working, however, you can boost the value of your experience by building a top-notch reputation and brand.

Using good marketing practices and maintaining stellar reviews and testimonials, your time working as a group instructor will improve value.

I go over salary in more detail in a separate article with this one.

Conclusion

So there you have it, life as a group fitness instructor.

At face value, it seems like a very straightforward approach.

Get a bunch of people together and lead a workout.

But as you can tell, quite a few valuable inputs are required for the desired outcomes.

Income is determined mainly by what other qualifications you hold, as just being a certified group fitness instructor doesn’t open all possible doors.

I hope you enjoyed and found value in this article; if you have any questions or suggestions not mentioned, please feel free to comment below, and I’ll get right to it!

FAQ

What are some Group Exercise Instructor requirements?

The first requirement is to qualify in a fitness-related field, ideally in personal training.

After that, having an astute sense of handling group workout scenarios.

What are a Group Exercise Instructor’s responsibilities?

Planning comprehensive, safe, and effective workouts and conducting motivational, results-driven workout experiences.

Is being a Group Fitness Instructor worth it?

Working as a group fitness instructor can be very lucrative.

The sheer volume of numbers easily compensates for the tradeoff of lowering per-person rates.

This creates a win-win scenario where you invest the same amount of time with less personalized effort for an ultimately higher payout.

Is it hard to become a Group Fitness Instructor?

It’s not difficult to become a group coach, especially since there’s no urgent requirement for qualifications.

However, becoming a decent group fitness instructor is difficult due to all the requirements and demands of group management and coaching psychology.

Pros and Cons of Being a Group Exercise Instructor

Pros

– More attractive pricing
– Interaction with a larger client base resulting in better ratings and reputation
– A greater sense of authority and influence
– Versatility in the type of training systems

Cons

– Managing large groups can be stressful
– Can get monotonous
– Significant results in terms of body transformation are slower

What does a Group Exercise Instructor do?

A group instructor develops, plans, and directs group fitness programs in a uniform, effective and safe way

What is a Group Exercise Instructor

A group exercise instructor is a fitness trainer professional skilled in training two or more participants during group exercise classes.

Group workouts are general and designed to be applied to various fitness levels.

Citations

  1. “A Quick Guide on How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor,” Glofox Blog, https://www.glofox.com/blog/a-quick-guide-on-how-to-become-a-group-fitness-instructor/.
  2. “How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor,” Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), https://www.afaa.com/how-to-become-a-group-fitness-instructor.
  3. “All You Need to Know About Becoming a Group Fitness Trainer,” International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Blog, ISSA Online, 2019, https://www.issaonline.com/blog/index.cfm/2019/all-you-need-to-know-about-becoming-a-group-fitness-trainer.
  4. “How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor,” American Council on Exercise (ACE), https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/group-fitness-certification/how-to-become-a-group-fitness-instructor.aspx.
  5. “Group Fitness Instructor Salary Calculator,” Salary.com, https://www.salary.com/tools/salary-calculator/group-fitness-instructor.
  6. “Pros and Cons of Being a Group Fitness Instructor + Weekly Workouts,” Dominique Cheylise, https://www.dominiquecheylise.com/blog/pros-and-cons-of-being-a-group-fitness-instructor-weekly-workouts.
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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