One-on-one Training Vs Group Classes, Which One is Best?

Hello friends, Coach Tyler is here to help you become fitter, healthier, and more alive!

Since exercise and fitness are two key cornerstones of healthy living, you need to consider how much physical activities you engage in daily – and how you actually get it done.

The question then begs; will you get more value with a one-on-one coach or when exercising in a group?

Will going to the gym benefit you more? Should you join a fitness club or want a coach to train with you at home?

These are some of the most crucial questions personal trainers get and I think it’s time to answer them concretely here.

Finding out the best method to achieve their fitness goals is one of the biggest considerations of any prospective client – and you should be grounded in this to help them decide.

When administering exercise as a fitness professional, coach, or instructor, you want to present yourself as a legitimate authority and back it up with effective results that you and your clients can take note of and have a positive experience.

I also highly recommend that you take the quiz and find out which personal trainer certification is best for your career goals.

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As a PT, you should know which goals are best met by which method and which method has the best overall benefits.

This article will address these questions and more from both the perspective of a trainer and that of a client/trainee.

We will compare group fitness to one-on-one training as it is perceived on both sides of the aisle.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into it, starting with one-on-one personal training.

Client’s Perspective: One on One Training vs. Group Training

One-on-one training

One-on-one training

One-on-one or personal training, as the name suggests, is a system of exercise where a professional instructor guides a single individual through a planned and coordinated workout session.

The workout session can be a once-off experience or an ongoing program.

When it comes to personal training, the most beneficial way is to do it in the long term for both the trainer and the client.

This is important for the client because you can set long-term goals and work towards them through a tailored program.

No matter how good the PT is, you wouldn’t be able to do this in a single session.

On the flip side, as a PT, you preferably want long-running clients. This not only ensures continuous, higher revenue margins, but it also means you have more opportunities to make a meaningful, results-based impact on your client’s life.

This advantage makes your job easier, and the positive word of mouth and results will also boost your marketing passively.

In other words, it translates to more clients and more income.


The history of personal training is long and storied. Fitness itself was never really a focused activity until the Greco-Roman era.

That’s because staying fit was largely a matter of necessity based on the need to move, hunt, and carry constantly. Our bodies were once constantly engaged to some extent throughout the course of a waking day.

With the advancement of civilization, humans became more sedentary. Machines, transportation devices, and focusing on intellectual and academic labor caused us to neglect our physical bodies.

In ancient Greece, it was quickly realized that there was a need to stave off the decline in physical ability that came with the trappings of civilized life.

A hallmark of this focus was the establishment of the Olympic Games in 778 BC.

Across the world, martial training systems used by ancient militaries, from combat sports to obstacle training, were now permeating all levels of society.

Personal training as an application of fitness has been on the rise since the early 90s when advances in the understanding of sports and exercise science meant knowledgeable individuals could essentially administer exercise the same way a doctor would administer treatment.

The personal trainer’s advent was seen in the same realm as a GP who specialized in exercise as a treatment.

Today, personal training can be a lucrative career path due to the available cutting-edge methods and the burgeoning fitness market as more and more people become conscious of their needs for good quality physical activity.

Current Trends

Personal training began as a simple face-to-face experience between an eager client and an experienced fitness professional.

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The trainer would instruct and guide their client through a series of objective-oriented exercises with corrections in the form of a back-and-forth feedback mechanism, ensuring the process runs smoothly.

That’s pretty much how it is today; the only difference is that so many aspects have come into play since the beginning, especially with the advent of the internet and smartphones.

Today, online coaching can administer and monitor a personal training experience remotely.

Personal training can now be achieved without the constraints of physical proximity and can even be conducted without having any real-world trainer/client interaction.

Pros and Cons

As a client or trainee, there are also a few good or bad aspects that come with training face to face.

Let’s break them down, shall we?


  • All the focus is on you and your goals, making them more achievable: That means you are constantly being shepherded towards the goals and outcomes you signed up for, giving you a more meaningful experience.
  • You can scale your pace and intensity as you choose and as your limits allow: We all have individual differences when training alone with just your trainer leading. As such, you can scale your experience up or down based on your limits which are typically influx but do decline after exertion.
  • You can discover and target specific weaknesses: With a personal trainer, you can more easily pinpoint weaknesses, imbalances, and deviations and begin working on them.
  • You can modify your program based on your needs and circumstances: When life gets in the way, you can easily arrange your schedule or workout structure to change according to the situation. No need to inconvenience a whole group of other people.
  • You can develop a personal, more constructive relationship with your trainer: Building rapport is one of the key elements of a productive trainer/client relationship.



  • It can be daunting and discouraging as all pressure is just on you: Especially if you are a newbie to fitness and your trainer looks like they were chiseled out of marble.
  • Motivation without the energy of fellow participants can be a drag: Sometimes, sharing a struggle can be a great motivator. When you’re being trained on your own, it can be a bit more challenging.
  • No social camaraderie as an added incentive: The fun of group training comes partly from the excitement of playing with your pals. This, of course, isn’t the case with a one-on-one session.
  • Generally more expensive: Be prepared to fork out way more for a PT session than you would for a group class.

Getting in with a Personal Trainer

Getting in with a Personal Trainer

As a client, personal training is something you should consider if you have clear and defined goals.

If you know what you want but are unsure how to get there, one-on-one assistance could be the way to go.

What Are Your Goals?

As mentioned, a personal trainer is good for you if you have specific and realistic goals.

For example, if your goal is to lose a certain amount of weight or gain a certain amount of lean mass, then getting a trainer involved is a good idea.

If you want to sweat a bit and get some therapeutic exercise, you can probably strike out on your own, with a friend, or in a group session, which I’ll get to in a sec.

Define your goals clearly to give your trainer the best experience and achievable results.

Find A Pro

Another important consideration before you embark on getting some personal training is finding a qualified professional.

Look out for trainers with NCCA or DEAC-accredited certifications.

Those are the ones you can realistically count on.

Group Classes

Group Classes

And now, let’s step into the world of group fitness.

As the name suggests, you’ll be training with a group of other participants, doing the same exercise routines assigned and demonstrated by the lead instructor.

Group workouts have an emphasis on fun and typically favor aerobic training as opposed to intense resistance.

That’s because aerobic training requires sustained movement, while resistance training is a different ball game in form and technique.

It becomes hard to monitor potential hordes of sweaty participants.

As a client, group sessions are more about the fun in fitness than a one-on-one setup.

You are in a social setting, achieving goals with fellow humans, and experience that automatically leads to bonding with others.

As a Trainer, group training can be a great way to share your knowledge and expertise, casting your net and impacting many lives in one single session.

Dealing with a bunch of people means you don’t have to focus on anyone’s specific goals or desires; it also frees you up intellectually in terms of program design to allow you to focus on building motivational energy.



The history of group fitness can be traced back to the late 1960s. Judi Sheppard Missett, a dance instructor, introduced Jazzercise to the world in 1969.

This was the world’s first known aerobics workout and, thus, the first group fitness workout.

Using catchy dance moves and contemporary, upbeat music as the foundational formula to get people going, Jazzercise didn’t take long to become a hit!

Since then, the concept of group training has pretty much held onto these core principles. Just add upbeat, relevant music to a set of structured, easy-to-repeat movements and exercises and you’re good to go.

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Today we have such things as Zumba, considered by many as the second coming of Jazzercise.

We just mentioned Zumba since it is one of the most recognizable names in group fitness.

This Latin fusion-inspired workout utilizes elements of Afro-Latin dance, such as Salsa and Bachata, and gets you going to music inspired by the same cultural leanings.

Another popular trend in group fitness is the HIIT workout.

HIIT itself isn’t a group workout style; it’s a training methodology that has been popularly adopted into many different group fitness themes.

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a step up from the typical aerobic intensity of group training, focusing on stressing your metabolism through intense bouts of exercise.

Other popular group training systems include:

  • Bokwa
  • Pound Fitness
  • Katami 4×4

Another big trend with group training is home workouts.

This isn’t a trend since home workout aerobic instructional videos have been around for a while.

The trend lies in how these home workouts are being distributed.

Video-sharing platforms, mobile apps, and even live streaming are now some of the many ways group workouts are permeating far beyond the confines of a fitness studio.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

Let’s review some pros and cons to determine if group training is what you currently want to be doing.


  • Fun and high-energy workout environment: The upbeat vibe of a group session is a big draw.
  • Music is typically catchy and upbeat, helping you get in the mood for a workout: Music is essential to any good workout. Group sessions typically have this one right.
  • The social aspect makes group workouts so much more engaging: The bonding experience, a motivational factor of social activity, and even the competitive drive are all great social incentives.
  • Networking opportunities: It’s not just an opportunity to make friends (or even get a date); group fitness classes might be a watering hole for useful professional collaboration opportunities.
  • Less of a strict, high-pressure expectation to hit targets and goals: There is less pressure because the focus is more on the fun element than on any strictly defined goals.
  • Great way to relieve stress: Because group training is cardio dominant, it brings with it a great endorphin rush often known as the runners high. This rush is a great and healthy natural stress relief.


  • Little to no opportunity for goal setting and achievement: Because you are training with a group of other paying individuals, you can’t rely on having any specific goals tended to or met.
  • Very little in the way of progressive adaptation: Since you’ll likely be doing the same workouts in each session or class and at the same intensity, there’s little opportunity for diversification or adapting to new stuff regularly.
  • Risk of developing poor form habits: In a group setting, it’s hard for the instructor to pinpoint and correct form and technique to a specific degree while dealing with many other individuals.
  • Might need to remember complex and sometimes confusing choreography: Step classes such as Zumba or Tae Bo can bring with them memorizing elements that add an undue challenge to your workout.
  • Will need to keep up with the class pace or lose the workout quality: If you feel tired or worn out, guess what? You don’t get to slow everything down to catch your breath. This is especially true in group workouts with partner elements or rotating circuit stations.

Jumping into a Group Class

Jumping into a Group Class

Being a fitness consumer presents you with many options. In group training, you get tons of options within options.

Whatever you choose, you need to have clear goals; without those, you won’t know if group training or any other form of training is the right way to go.

What Are Your Goals?

If you have specific lifestyle goals or want to increase athletic performance progressively, you can’t rely on group classes.

Group classes are usually focused on aerobic or cardio training.

You won’t get what you want in your average group setting if you want to push for strength, hypertrophy (bodybuilding), or weight loss.

Group classes are a great way to supplement an existing focused program as the cardio or HIIT component to your standing program, but in no way (other than some adaptations in endurance and some strength) are you hitting any substantial goals through group training.

However, if your goal is to burn a few extra calories, work some cardio, and do something fun or therapeutic, all while making new friends and connections, then yes, go the group route.

Trainer’s Perspective: One-on-One Training Vs. Group Training

One-on-One Training

One-on-One Training

As I pointed out, being a personal trainer to one-on-one clients can be very lucrative. If you nail the results and get a good review train going, you’ll be raking in the big bucks in no time.

Before looking at the dollar signs, you need to be clear on what it is you want to achieve in your career as a fitness professional.

Simply looking at the potential income won’t cut it.

If your goal is to go deep into the science of health and fitness on an individual-to-individual basis, then yes, personal training might be for you.

If you aim to touch communities in fun and inspiring ways or develop a special workout system that anyone can try, then you might actually be a closet group instructor.

Pros and Cons

Personal training has its advantages and drawbacks as a career path.

Let’s break those down, shall we?


  • Allows an interactive, focused experience that leads to greater potential for goal achievement and influential impact
  • Allows better opportunity to guide, assist, correct, and modify training
  • Constant, quality communication and feedback
  • Easier to prevent and provide care in emergency situations when dealing with just one person
  • More lucrative in terms of income potential
  • More opportunity for growth due to an increased likelihood of frequent reviews and influence
  • Can set your own time and schedule
  • A unique experience for each client and each session


  • It can place a lot of pressure on you as a trainer.
  • It can be frustrating with difficult clients.
  • You must constantly develop progressive and unique methods; you can’t rely on a single formula.
  • Must spend your own energy to motivate someone else

How to Become A PT

To become a successful personal trainer, you need to get certified!

Sure, becoming a PT with no formal qualification is fairly possible. Still, the problem with this is that it will be very hard to sell your experience and knowledge without a recognized authority backing your word.

Getting certified also affords you specific learning experiences and resources you wouldn’t otherwise get from just learning the ropes as you go.

Unless you are passionately driven to delve into the world of exercise science, there are just some things you won’t learn unless you go through a program.

Many certification agencies are out there, all promising the best industry recognition. Ignore the promises, especially for those quick-fix, one-day online courses.

The only thing you should look at is accreditation. This is a seal of approval that the highest panel of experts in the field of sports and exercise science legitimizes the certification you’re looking at.

Only go for DEAC or NCCA accreditation certifications – as a rule of thumb.

My top 5 recommendations are:

  • NASM
  • ACE
  • ISSA
  • NSCA
  • ACSM

Start off with their certified personal trainer programs, then go from there to specialize with different population groups such as kids and seniors.

Group Classes

Group Training

Coaching groups can open you up to a world of opportunity as a trainer.

Just because you are interacting with more than one person at a time means you have more access to being an influence and thus generating more word of mouth free ads.

That being said, word of mouth as a group instructor usually only relates to the system you are teaching and not you as the instructor.

So, maybe a good projected goal for you to have if you’re entering the group fitness space is to develop your own branded workout system so that your name spreads along with it.

But first things first, you need actually to become a group instructor first.

Pros and Cons

Let’s look at the pros and cons of being a group trainer just for some added insight.


  • Impact a larger network of people for more influence
  • Group classes are easier to program and administer since there are no specific individual goals to consider
  • Group classes are easy to teach and clients usually get the hang of things in a few demonstrations
  • Group classes are an opportunity for you to create and spread your own unique brand of fitness or training systems
  • Can be administered remotely through home workout videos


  • Lack of a solid trainer/client interaction
  • Not able to fully assist with pertinent goals
  • Not able to effectively monitor and keep an eye on proper form and technique with every individual
  • Influence and reputation are more derived from the class than the trainer. That means unless the group session is your own specific creation, you’re just another Zumba instructor, for example.

How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

A common misconception is that being a group instructor is simply a matter of simultaneously applying your PT knowledge to a bunch of people.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Being a group instructor requires a total shift from what you normally would do with face-to-face clients.

While a one-on-one session is more intimate and focused, a group session requires a stronger output of energy and leadership to convey instructions correctly and keep everyone in line.

There are two different psychologies at play with you as a trainer.

One is that of a guardian or mentor (personal training); the other is that of a pack leader (group training).

That’s why when getting certified, some certifications completely focus on group instruction.

While you can get away with group training on a PT certification, your credibility and confidence will be better if you have a group-specific qualification.

As I mentioned, there are differences in the psychological approach when dealing with groups of people instead of just one individual.

These differences are best learned by going through the works and getting certified as a group instructor.

Final Words

So, there you have it, folks; a quick peek into the worlds of group fitness and one-on-one training.

Both have their good qualities and their shortcomings too.

Because of that, whichever one you choose will ultimately depend on your goals and what you wish to achieve.

Whether you’re a trainer and have your fitness career goals to consider, or you’re as different as an office clerk is to an Olympic athlete looking for your personal level-up experience, the key is always to have clearly defined goals as a starting point.

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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