What Exercises Are Best for Small Group Personal Training?

Group of young sporty people in Plank pose
Push-ups are great for small group personal training. (Image: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages)

Small group personal training is a win-win for the trainer and the client. Sessions that feature one trainer with fewer than 10 clients combine the camaraderie and energy of group exercise with the personalized attention of one-on-one training. The exercises that work best for small group personal training sessions depend on the goals of the group, the amount of space and the kinds of equipment available.

Equipment Based

Small group training can be designed around a particular type of equipment, such as suspension trainers, barbells or kettlebells. For example, a small group training session on the suspension trainer might consist of push-up variations, mountain climbers, rows, lunges and curls.

A kettlebell group session could involve swings, squats, plank rows and figure eights, provided there is enough room for everyone to move about safely. When a trainer sticks to one type of equipment and has all the participants doing the same exercise, she can instruct the group as a whole on proper form. She can then walk around as clients execute the exercise to help each individual work out more effectively.

Circuit Training

When equipment is limited, circuit training is an effective strategy for small group training. The trainer sets up various stations, and one or two clients visit each station one at at a time for a certain number of repetitions or a set amount of time.

An effective circuit mixes upper body and lower body exercises with short bouts of cardio, such as jumping jacks or high knee marches, to keep the heart rate elevated.

The complexity of the exercises in the circuit depends on the fitness level of the clients. If they are new to exercise, basic strength exercises such as body weight squats, lunges, push-ups, biceps curls and resistance band lat pull-downs are optimal.

For more advanced exercisers, combination moves such as squats with shoulder presses, clean and jerks and lunges with biceps curls can keep the training interesting while providing greater challenge.

Skill Specific

Small group training may be designed for a group with a common athletic goal, such as ski conditioning or golf training. The best exercises for this type of small group are carefully designed to emphasize muscles used most during the particular sport and address common points of weakness.

For example, a trainer might focus on lunges and step-ups in a group for ski conditioning to prepare the quadriceps for the eccentric, concentric and isometric demands that skiing puts on this muscle group. In a golf training group, the trainer emphasizes core rotation and shoulder exercises to provide the clients with more power and finesse for swinging the club.

Goal Oriented

The best small group training sessions stay focused on the clients' goals. The best exercises for a weight-loss group are different than those for a senior group looking to improve balance and daily function.

For example, a weight-loss group may emphasize compound exercises that keep the heart rate elevated and burn maximum calories. These could include push-ups, pull-ups and squats. A senior group might emphasize coordination, balance and fine motor skill development, with moves such as low step-ups, one-legged toe touches and ball passes.

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