Hey there! Yes, you. I want to introduce you to an amazing way to boost your personal training business and skyrocket your income.
Many personal trainers struggle to find the groove between earning what they deserve and charging what is fair and reasonable.
It’s not that complicated, but it’s an often overlooked service in the fitness industry.
And that is small group training. What do I mean by small group training?
A group of no more than 10 individual clients, all coming together to do a progressive exercise program.
The main benefit of small group training is you boost your per session revenue while also discounting the cost each client has to pay, all while retaining the attention to detail that comes with a regular one on one session.
Sounds like a win-win situation correct? Well, that’s because it is, and I’ll show you just how to set it up.
What Is Small Group Training?
Small group training, as I explained, is training a group of no more than 10 individuals and no less than two.
Unlike regular group training, which will have a set program that doesn’t progress and allows for a constant flux of drop-ins and non-committed trainees, small group training adds the same value as a one-on-one client relationship in a group setting.
Large group training is typically an aerobic session with no intended goal in terms of progressive adaptation for participants.
Examples of group training or large group training are yoga, Zumba, boot camps and spin classes.
These classes have a program that never changes or progresses and is just workouts for the sake of working out.
There’s nothing wrong with this sort of training, but it has a rather low-value proposition when considering client specificity and progressive outcomes/goals.
This low value also translates to a low income potential, which is why training large groups typically net a small flat rate.
This is despite the fact that you have used the same amount of time and energy to conduct fitness services.
Small group training, on the other hand, means your clients are gaining the value of progressive fitness training while in a close-knit group which has its benefits from the camaraderie and moral support aspect.
Small group training implements a periodized program that typically stretches over 3 months, aimed at progressively improving fitness and body composition.
You can divide this periodization into a 3 month period for example, with each month focusing on a different aspect or pillar of fitness.
The first month can go into activation. Allowing your client’s bodies to adapt to the oncoming training stimuli through workouts that ignite neuromuscular activation and motor unit innervation.
This will build the requisite stability, coordination, range of motion and balance for the strength and power phase which follows.
Once clients have adequately progressed in strength, power, and endurance, you can move to the final phase of your program, skills, and conditioning.
In this phase, you are now polishing the functional tools and ingraining the training methods gained throughout the program.
With this level of value provided, your income potential drastically shoots up, but at the same time, it still remains attractive to clients.
Pros and Cons of Small Group Training
So far I’ve shed light on what small group training is and it’s benefits, but as with anything, your best approach is to weigh out the potential advantages with the likely drawbacks and decide how to make things work from there.
- Small group training earns you more for the same amount of work
- Small group training costs clients less for the same value in results
- Small group training is easy to implement if you already have 1-on-1 experience
- Small group training gives clients the “tribe vibe” benefits
- Small group training can be done as an online service
- Small group training gives you a broader sphere of influence for good reviews, referrals, and word of mouth marketing
- Small groups can be tricky to build
- Individuals have different set points in fitness and motivation, so progression may not be suitably uniform
- Optimal success is subject to consistent availability of all members, which is not always possible
- Friction between members can happen which can complicate the group dynamic
- Although easier to manage than large groups, small group training does suffer from some loss of attention to detail
With all that said, I personally find the pros to outweigh the cons, especially from an income and revenue perspective, which is what this guide is all about.
13 Pro Tips For Small Group Training Success
1. Get Your Group Trainer Credentials
The first thing I will ALWAYS suggest you do when it comes to venturing into any aspect of the fitness business is to get certified.
Credentials are king, and while new clients won’t always look for your credentials right off the bat, there will be a point in your business relationship where your qualifications count.
Aside from credibility, having a cert allows you access to insurance and liability cover which is essential when running your own fitness business.
If you’re working out of a gym, you’ll almost certainly be required to have a certification.
When it comes to small group training, I suggest a group training certification of course.
From a knowledge perspective, you’ll also learn how to manage small groups from a programming and instructional perspective.
Training a group of people has different coaching psychology from training one-on-one clients, and with the right certification, you’ll be introduced to this concept for effective implementation.
For example, dealing with multiple personalities means dealing with different limiting factors, levels of motivation and discipline.
It also means dealing with potential personality conflicts between group members.
That’s why when it comes to small group training, I always suggest getting together an established group of people that already function well together.
But we’ll get to that later.
My best suggestion for a group training certification is the NASM GPTS. other agencies such as ACE, NESTA, and ISSA all offer group training certs.
You might be naturally confused on which cert will ultimately work for your aspirations and curation.
If you need help with that decision, I suggest you take my quiz here.
It will help you sort through the various options so you can arrive at the best possible choice for yourself and your PT career goals.
2. Start With 1 Client
We all have to start somewhere, and when it comes to building a great small group training operation, sometimes just starting with a one on one client might be your best bet.
A client who has experienced favorable interaction and achieved results under you is likely to provide an excellent record of what you can do for others.
This is especially effective if those others happen to be friends, family or colleagues. The influence is a key factor, especially off the back of positive outcomes.
One easy way to build a small group off just one client is to leverage the benefits in terms of reduced cost.
Your client will be getting the same value in terms of results and achieving goals, while also making a decent saving.
They also get the support, motivation, and fun of training with their besties or family.
Starting with one client and building a group around them also allows you to have one member of the group who acts as sort of an intermediary between you, the trainer, and the clients.
This group dynamic has its benefits in building a strong cohesive structure and team balance for more effective results and group accountability.
That’s because your client number 1 will be able to vouch for your process to the others, while also communicating the needs of the group to you.
Start by asking your client for referrals, then asking if they would at all be interested in a small group scenario with close friends or family.
On the flip side, you also have the opportunity to convert group class clients into one-on-one clients if they see value in a more focused, individualized approach.
3. Market Your Expertise
Marketing your value is a big part of getting your small group training game on. In order to effectively reach out to the clients you want to convert, they obviously need to know where to go.
Positioning yourself effectively requires a multi-faceted approach.
I will be introducing you to some key marketing strategies when it comes to optimizing your presence and making your expertise known in whatever capacity you undertake as a fitness pro.
In the meantime, I want you to take a look at where you are currently making yourself visible to potential clients and how you are presenting your experience and credentials.
If you are working out of a big box gym, chances are you have constant access to a flux of potential clients.
This is a great place to start but is limited in terms of the impact you can have as a stand out small group trainer.
You need to take things online and create your own platform for self-promotion. A big box gym will only promote you within the scope of the gym’s business model and interests.
So take your value and own it.
Social media is a great way to present your expertise.
In your profile description or bio, always include your scope of expertise as well as your credentials. You want the first thing people know about you to be what you can do and how qualified you are to do it.
Going beyond this, try and plug your services through the content you share.
In your Instagram captions, present a common problem or desire your audience might have and cap it off by offering a solution in the way of small group training.
Your website should also be optimized in such a way as to lead traffic to your small group training services through useful navigation strategies.
In your taglines and stories, always include your small group training expertise as part of the normal call-to-action in order to attract prospects to this service.
4. Target Existing Groups
I briefly touched on using one-on-one clients as a way of building a small group of clients.
You can also use a similar outreach method to target an existing group.
People who normally function in a cohesive group such as siblings, besties, work colleagues or classmates are a good choice.
One good way of appealing to existing groups is by reaching out to schools, universities or colleges.
These institutions will have no shortage of small group pockets, many of whom have a positive dynamic between them and can encourage and offer morale to each other in a workout setting.
Another way to net an entire existing group easily is to go for a corporate wellness or team-building approach.
Corporate wellness is always in demand for health and fitness solutions given that health and the benefits of regular exercise are leading factors in improved productivity.
The corporate sector is, therefore, a gold mine when it comes to small group training prospects.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to go that far and deep. Within your own friend and family circles, you can gain a decent amount of small group potential.
Many trainers tend to avoid approaching their own social circles for clients. People who you know and have personal bonds with tend to expect a discount on everything, if not free service, and you might also feel wary about charging a sibling, parent or best friend for anything.
That’s where the beauty of small group training comes in.
Because clients are able to pay much less for your services, you can turn this into an opportunity where both sides win.
The win-win aspect of small group training is one thing I will always vouch for.
5. Set Your Group Size Limit
My suggestion for a small group limit cap is 10 clients.
Anything beyond this and your effort and strategies begin to shift from the more personalized potential to a more large group blanket program approach.
With enough skill and attention, I’ve found a group of no more than 10 clients is easy to manage and give personalized attention to.
It’s also easier to track the progress of individuals the smaller the number of them you need to tend to is.
Another benefit of limiting the group size, besides the admin of it all is the marketing potential.
You’re probably wondering how group size determines marketing potential.
Well, the secret here lies in scarcity marketing.
Scarcity marketing is a potent play in consumer psychology.
By limiting the amount of time that a service or product is available for, you end up increasing demand.
Scarce or limited things inspire a sense of aspiration or exclusivity that people buy into.
By using a “Limited Space Available” or similar calls to action, you can boost sales tremendously by making your small group training packages more attractive due to limited availability.
You can take this a step further and add a time limit to your service availability.
Of course, you will naturally have a time limit since once your intake capacity is met, you will be focused on that group fro the program duration.
But a smart move would be to use this reality as a form of scarcity marketing to boost your sales rate.
6. Niche Down
Niching down is one of the core principles of building and growing a solid business.
Find something that people want and hardly anyone else is offering, add your unique twist to further differentiate and sell, sell, sell.
Niching down, as the name suggests, essentially means carving a niche.
In the world of fitness, having a niche is pivotal to success.
With the constant influx of new trainers every year, the burgeoning level of competition compels you to strap up and stand out.
Small group training is in itself, a niche, so you’ve already got the ball rolling by focusing on a specific industry segment.
Taking this further and giving your training its own unique focus.
Perhaps you could hone in on a specific method, like offering HIIT classes or functional mobility programs.
You can also focus your small group training service on specific population groups or demographics.
An example of this is offering training to kids or senior citizens. Focusing on specific demographics can really help you to focus on your business and less on what the competition is doing, which is where the real growth comes from.
Developing a niche also sends a message. You can go from being another PT service to being a stand out reputable brand.
With a reliable approach to exercise programming, and a compelling message and brand image, you can take your group training experience from humble beginnings to a household empire.
Just look at CrossFit and F45, prime examples of how small group training can morph into a profitable institution.
7. Create A Program Template
I just mentioned having a reliable approach to exercise programming. This is essential to developing a structure that works.
You want to have a standardized way of doing things, but at the same time, you want to be able to modify according to personal preference and shifting scenarios.
As any personal trainer knows, things are constantly changing on any client’s path to their intended goals.
As your client progresses, naturally, resource expenditure and requirements shift, load, frequency, and volume of training changes progressively with adaptation.
Clients can also suffer setbacks, our unforeseen events based on stuff not detected in your analysis phase.
All these things are compounded by the fact that in a small group training setting, you’re dealing with up to 10 unique individuals with their needs and wants.
So working within a framework that can be scaled within reasonable parameters when and where needed.
For example, having a variety of training loads according to different 1RM readings as per individual while maintaining the same exercise methodology.
The key to developing a template is to remain true to the framework and not disturb the fundamental structure.
If you do this, your programing can easily go out of what, making you feel just as lost as your clients.
Only change where necessary and not just for the sake of changing. You still want to be able to challenge your clients, otherwise, the sense of achievement and any effective results could be lost.
8. Use Periodization
Having a structured template is one thing, but how it’s structured is another.
For a mall group training system, you should ideally go for a periodized program that progresses over multiple phases and training effects.
I touched on this briefly, but to go further in, I suggest an undulating periodization programming template.
Periodization means there is a set time-frame for completion.
Having a deadline for completion is another great selling point.
People like beginnings and happy endings, it’s your job to guide your clients to a favorable conclusion by effective use of periodization.
The macrocycle can be anything from 3 to 12 months, with microcycles that shift between blocks of functional biomechanics and cardio endurance blocks, and mesocycles that progress different aspects such as balance, power, range of motion and endurance for example.
The key to periodization is to make the transition between mesocycles seamless. You don’t want your clients noticing a drastic shift in their programming, only you should be aware of where and when it’s time to switch gears.
Periodization also allows you to track progress, and so with each cycle, you must have some method of reviewing data, even if it’s just from a visual perspective.
Like I said earlier when discussing program templates, you can be flexible in your implementation.
This applies when considering your cycle periods.
For example, if your clients are booking a 6-month program and you decide to split this macrocycle into 3 mesocycles with 4 micos each, you don’t have to strictly adhere to a 2-month meso and 2-week microcycle.
You can modify periods based on how quick or slow results are being produced and adaptation is taking place.
Remember, periodization is a roadmap, going about the actual journey and what the exact outcome will be is always with a degree of unpredictability.
9. Make Your Program Flexible to Client Numbers
So I’ve gone on about how to structure, but flexibility within that structure is essential to programming a successful small group training plan.
But flexibility should also be applied to your client numbers.
What I mean by this is your program needs to be able to deal with all possible client numbers within the typical small group range.
From the minimum of two clients per session all the way to ten.
Group size not only affects your ability to provide focused, good quality coaching, it also affects how participants achieve the training agenda.
For instance, space and equipment availability are one surface-level concern where flexibility is applicable in terms of group size.
A program with hefty equipment and machine demands isn’t flexible to the larger end of the small group range.
Another consideration is exercises that require client interaction. If you have a system that includes a large partner exercise component, you will be stumped in situations where your final group number isn’t even, meaning there will be an odd participant.
Avoid exercises that are number dependent such as paired exercises.
This will help drive a more flexible approach no matter how many are in your small group classes at any given time.
Flexibility should also accommodate absenteeism.
Over a long program period, you are bound to have no-shows or even dropouts.
Life is constantly changing and happening, a client could fall ill, get pregnant, move for work, or just lose interest.
Whatever the case may be, you want a program that takes a flexible approach to fluctuate attendance figures and allows for some sort of catch up the potential for sessions missed while not holding back more consistent members.
You can do this through intensity scaling and not having too much of a complex progress curve in your periodization when it comes to exercise methods.
10. Choose Appropriate Exercises
Your exercise selection needs to do a few things.
Firstly it needs to be effective. This is an obvious consideration since the whole point is to deliver results.
An adequate challenge that presents a higher than usual degree of mechanical and metabolic stress are the key components here.
Effectiveness is rarely achieved through complexity, so you’ll also want to aim for a simple approach with your exercise selection.
Practicality in this sense means how executable is your small group program in relation to the infrastructure and resources at your disposal.
If, for example, you have a functional program that requires equipment based, compound movements, you will, of course, need to have all the right equipment.
Space constraints also play into this aspect of practicality. Do you have enough space to execute the exercises in your group program?
If the answer is no, then your exercises are not very practical.
Safe and Sustainable
Next up, you want the exercises you implement through your program to be safe and sustainable.
Adhering to proper principles of safe exercise is important. Choose exercises and training loads that don’t place unusual or unnatural stress on joints, bones and connective tissue.
Even when implementing good exercises, your clients need to be guided on safe execution.
Make sure you monitor correct form and technique with an emphasis on things such as posture, foot placement, and grip.
Safety considerations will also vary depending on the group type or client by client. If you’re training elderly people, pregnant women or kids, your safety protocols will be different than you would adhere to for more capable or active individuals.
In terms of sustainability, you want to introduce your clients to exercises that they can adapt to their own individual training and approach to fitness beyond what they do with you.
The goal of any fitness pro is to equip their clients with the tools and to teach methods that carry through for a lifetime of safe practice.
Must Be On Brand
The exercises you include in your small group program should speak about the brand and niche you’ve positioned yourself as.
If your brand is called “Flowgillity” and speaks about functional, bodyweight movements, you don’t want to throw in a bunch of lifting and machine work, it disturbs the messaging and can derail your marketing strategies completely.
Stick to your strengths as a trainer and develop workout programs around these strengths and your brand ethos.
11. Include Nutrition
As much as exercise is essential to any healthy lifestyle or fitness goals, its nutrition is the true cornerstone of progress and results.
If you are having great workouts, just to go home and eat a ton of crap, it ends up being all for naught.
You know this as well as any other well rounded trainer.
The problem is, many of your client prospects don’t, and that’s a massive opportunity.
If you can broadcast the value of nutrition effectively, you can create a larger revenue stream as a small group coach and lifestyle specialist.
Nutrition services come at an extra premium, and by leveraging how important they are, you can build up your projected income.
Another reason you should seriously look at implementing nutrition is that it is the best way to guarantee results.
This is especially true if body composition is on the agenda.
If your clients are aiming to lose weight or build muscle, nutrition is the main tool.
By implementing effective nutrition programming, you can make sure visible results are achieved.
Results based data is your best resource when aiming to continue enticing and converting clients.
The positive word of mouth reviews from trained clients as well as the library of before and after pictures are premium marketing material.
Speaking about marketing, stay tuned for more content on that, which I will be bringing out soon!
12. Have Online Integration
One of my biggest pieces of advice when considering going into fitness is having an online service.
Nowadays more and more people are engaging with the economy through the internet.
The online economy or eCommerce is set to eclipse many traditional ways of doing business.
The fitness industry is no exception.
More and more products and services that help people with their health and fitness goals have found their groove online.
Take fitness tracking apps for example.
Apps like Fitbit and MyFitnessPal are providing assistance for people who want to manage their goals and needs when it comes to monitoring food intake and activity levels.
But even with such innovations now in the palms of most people’s hands, there still lacks a definitive human touch.
That’s where you come in, offering the irreplaceable value of having an expert human set of eyes and ears guiding and offering accountability to clients.
When it comes to small group training, you can implement online coaching through an online interface simply by delivering your program in a digital format.
You can record exercises in the plan and set intensity, volume, and frequency based on individual needs.
In fact, online small group training may just be more versatile than doing it in-person due to the fact that your clients don’t need to congregate or train at the same time in the same place.
You can have an online group sign up for your program and have each member participate independently of the others, so long as exercise tasks are completed within a given timeframe and within program specifications for maximum results.
Online small group training also allows you to train multiple groups at any given time, further boosting your income potential tremendously.
In the near future, I will be producing some premium content around how to set up and execute an online personal trainer business model, so stay tuned for that.
13. Make The Price Right
The best aspect of small group training is pricing benefits.
As I’ve already stressed, small group training is a win-win situation from a price and income perspective.
Let’s say you have a one on one client and you have them on a 3 month undulating periodized program.
You would likely charge them between $50 to $6o per session.
That means for your effort and time, you’re making no more than $60 in an hour-long session.
Now let’s say you have a small group. Let’s say that the group consists of 5 members.
You decide to charge them $15 each.
That means your total per session shoots up to $75.
This is for the same amount of time and effort as you would expend on a one-on-one client.
That means you can be more relaxed with your pricing while also being confident that you’re optimizing revenue.
14. Make It Fun
When clients approach you and you manage to convert them, you can be assured that they trust in your expertise, that’s a given.
But one thing that clients can’t read immediately is personality and energy.
Because of this, the bar is pretty low in terms of what to expect besides just an effective workout.
This is where you can step in and add some flavor and energy by being a pleasant personality.
Bring your A-game as a professional for sure, but you also want to step things up in terms of positive energy and an engaging personality.
Building rapport with prospective clients is one of the keys to converting and retaining them.
By presenting positive energy, you’re giving your clients something good to look forward to and something valuable to talk about.
This means the potential for referrals and word of mouth marketing shoots up.
It also makes your job much easier.
Having a group of clients with a disarmed and engaging attitude towards you as a trainer greatly improves the quality of communication and cooperation.
This allows clients to reach their goals much quicker and easier and allows you to work more meaningfully and with greater satisfaction.
Having fun vibrant energy also motivates clients to work harder and to tackle greater challenges.
This helps push past plateaus and avoid anxieties that might hinder progress or even lead to client dropouts.
Conclusion on small group personal training
Small group training is a burgeoning segment of the fitness industry.
It hasn’t quite reached the saturation point of conventional one-on-one session training.
That’s why I would strongly consider jumping into this approach and reap the big income benefits that come with it.