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

Hello friends, Coach Tyler 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 do you want a coach to come train with you at home?

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

Finding out which is 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 so you can help them decide.

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

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 training, 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 for the long term, for both the trainer and client.

For the client, this is important because you have the opportunity to set long term goals and work towards them through a tailored program.

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

On the flip side, as a PT, you preferably want long-running clients. This not only ensures continuous, higher revenue margins, it also means you have more opportunites 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 constantly move, hunt, and carry. 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 and transportation devices, as well as a focus 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, systems of martial training from combat sports to obstacle training, used by ancient militaries 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 in the same way as a doctor would administer treatment.

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

Today, personal training can be a lucrative career path, not only due to the cutting edge methods now available but also because of 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.

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, making sure the process runs smoothly.

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

Today, a personal training experience can be administered and monitored remotely through online coaching.

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 have your program modified 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 at hand. 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.


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 in part 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 not quite sure how to get there, one-on-one assistance could be the way to go.

What Are Your Goals?

Like I mentioned, if you have very specific and also realistic goals then a personal trainer is good for you.

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 your goal is just to sweat a bit and just get some therapeutic exercise, then 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 so that your trainer can give you 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, all together doing the same exercise routines that are 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 simply requires sustained movement, while resistance training is a whole different ball game in terms of form and technique.

It becomes hard to monitor with 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 world’s 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.

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:

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Another big trend with group training is the home workout.

Well, this isn’t really 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

To figure out if group training is what you currently want to be doing, let’s go into some of the pros and cons.


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 an essential aspect of 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:
Because the focus is more on the fun element than on any strictly defined goals, there is less pressure.
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 a bunch of 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 quality of the workout:
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. When it comes to group training, you get tons of options within options.

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

What Are Your Goals?

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

Group classes are usually focused on aerobic or cardio training.

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

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 just 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 a very lucrative venture. 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 just be for you.

If your goal is 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 for frequent reviews and influence
Can set your own time and schedule
A unique experience for each client and each session


Can place a lot of pressure on you as a trainer
Can be frustrating with difficult clients
Must constantly come up with 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, it’s fairly possible to become a PT with no formal qualification, but 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 very specific learning experiences and knowledge 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.

There are tons of certification agencies 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 certification you’re looking at is legitimized by the highest panel of experts in the field of sports and exercise science.

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

My top 5 recommendations are:


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

As a trainer, coaching groups can open you up to a world of opportunity.

Just the fact that 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 to actually 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 applying your PT knowledge to a bunch of people at the same time.

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 in order to correctly convey instructions 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, there are certifications that completely focus on group instruction.

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

As I mentioned, there are differences in the psychological approach when dealing with groups of people as opposed to 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 decide to go for 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

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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