10 Must Haves to Run a Successful Group Training Program

About the Author: Dan Kemp is a personal trainer at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Health & Fitness Center in Barrington, Illinois.

Group training can be defined as a trainer, coach, or instructor-led training environment in which a single fitness professional leads a small group of participants through a safe, motivating, and personalized fitness program. It is an excellent way for your facility to introduce training to those who may be interested but not able to afford one-on-one training.  It also allows your facility to add another revenue stream that it may not have been able to capture before. 

The group training format is advantageous for both members at a facility, the facility itself, and the trainer conducting the GT (group training) session. The GT session allows for a small group of individuals working toward a common goal to work out together at a reduced price point.

Here is a list of the Top 10 must-haves to run a successful and profitable training program:

  • Market accordingly. Know your audience. Make sure that you are offering a program that will interest the group you are selling to. If your membership base is an older population, you may not want to offer programming that is surrounding a power-lifting format. 
  • Thoughtful pricing. Offer correct pricing structure to make GT more accessible for members but still lucrative for facility. Pay attention to your demographics within your facility.  Are you selling to children, young adults, middle aged, or an older population? This may dictate groups who may have expendable income or may not be able to afford a specific price point. 
  • Plan around high traffic times in facility. More eyes on the product may elicit a better response. Having a GT session going when there are only 10 other people in the facility may not be as good as running a session when there are 100. People enjoy working out in groups; it allows them to have comradery and a sense of belonging. Check with membership or the group that handles your check-in process to evaluate when your facility has higher foot traffic or usage. 
  • Dedicated space. Make a concerted effort to dedicate space to GT. This may be in a certain area in the facility or around a new or unique piece of equipment. In doing so, try not to block off the training area from others to see the small group session. Being visible throughout the facility may pique others’ interest. 
  • Provide great programming. This is the cornerstone of making your program successful and profitable. Don’t put out a product that is unsafe, lazy, or that just goes through the motions. Always be prepared to roll with the punches and take anything head on. 
  • Stay fresh. Always be changing. Even if you’re taking a group through specific progression, make sure to change things up.  You never want to have a situation where the group knows what’s coming before you tell them. At that point, you may have effectively replaced yourself. 
  • Know your participants. Even if you have a group of individuals that are focusing on a particular goal, each individual within that group may have specific goals they are trying to attain in addition. Have worthy dialog with each participant to know exactly what he or she is trying to accomplish just like you would with a one-on-one client.  Know your participants’ limitations/injuries. Make sure to always provide exercises with modifications. This will ensure that one-on-one feel in addition to providing a safe environment for all.
  • Be early and talk to potential participants about trying out a session. Sell to hesitant bystanders that may be on the fence. Don’t hesitate to offer the first session for free. They may not know how hard they could be pushed and how well they might do had they never had someone leading them like this before. This leads back to the fifth bullet point of provide great programming. Make them realize that this is what they’re missing and need to add to their regimen. 
  • Keep a positive environment. Some individuals may have different needs and each person may be there for different reasons but make sure you always champion success and be positive and supportive. That positive individual touch may be the thing that brings them back. No one likes a ‘Negative Nancy.’
  • Keep participants coming back. Your participants are what drive your success to becoming profitable and successful. Ask for feedback - Figure out what the participants liked or disliked. Sure, you are running the programming, but making sure your groups are having fun and getting the most out of their workouts is the key to bringing them back.

Over the past 10 years, the staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Health & Fitness Center tried to start GT sessions a few different times, but had little success. We never really had a dedicated space for conducting group training sessions. We tried different days and times but to no avail. So we started to do some forward thinking and changed the model of our business approach. Historically, we had been a medically based fitness facility that had an average age of around 52. Newer management came in and decided that we needed to be a more family friendly environment and really change our focus to ‘whole family fitness’. We now offer programming for children as young as six months (Aqua Babies), and have classes ranging all the way to ‘Silver Striders’ and ‘Living the Good Life.’ These classes help people with diabetes or those that have graduated out of their cardiopulmonary programs and are looking for a way to stay active while still feeling comfortable that our fitness professionals are monitoring their workouts.    

In addition to changing our model, we made a conscious effort to make GT a prime focus. We moved equipment to better suit the GT training experience and allow outsiders to see and become interested in the SYNRGY360 system. We offered multiple intro days/times to get people interested and educated on exactly what all could be done with the SYNRGY360. Making it a focal point allowed us to provide a great training mechanism for trainers and members alike. The SYNRGY360 GT class has been successfully running for three years.