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Small Group Coaching

April 03, 2013 by NCSF 0 comments

The increased popularity of social interaction in guided exercise instruction has allowed personal training to take on an expanded role into small group coaching. This training style allows participants to enjoy instruction from a qualified professional, which in turn provides a greater reach to client markets who otherwise would be unable to participate due to lack of resources or an interest in the one-on-one model. The added benefit, documented from data on participation rates, suggest that the small group model may be superior in terms of retention, weekly participation and overall motivation. There seems to be a matrix between professional instruction, social interaction/inadvertent competition, and the collective motivation of the combined peer and instructor support. This bodes well for all stakeholders and defines an important evaluative component of one’s program. Ensuring it meets these criteria warrants an audit of weekly participation rates, participant perceived value (enjoyment and motivation), as well as the average tenure of participation.

Other known aspects of program efficacy suggest a need in defining appropriate structures so the model is sustainable. Trends in the fitness industry clearly suggest that attention span is a major limiting associated with motivation and continued program participation. Simply stated, people like things that are fresh or perceived as new. In most cases, programs should not last longer than 8-12 weeks. Six-week periods are a well-supported time frame before programmatic changes take place (in whole or in part) to keep the participant engaged and the activities from causing overreaching syndrome due to mechanical overuse. Secondly, the model must match the participant; empirical evidence suggests high rates of attrition when the intensity or challenge exceeds the capacity of the exerciser. Both psycho-emotional and physiological aspects affect one’s motivation. Oftentimes, when the intensity is too high or the exerciser perceives being last in fitness capability or athleticism, they tend to quit. Therefore, not all participants should be grouped in a single bout together but rather grouped based on physical proficiency and/or potential risk factors. Modifications can certainly be made to exercises and assigned to specific participants, but in this model people tend to overexert themselves to keep up with the others to avoid the perceived embarrassment of physical inferiority. Personal trainers leading small groups are held to a higher standard than group exercise instructors as each candidate in the class needs to have appropriate screening and evaluation based on the activities they will engage.

Next, all participants must be cleared to perform the actions in regards to technical skill. The new popularity of small group training has allowed for a compromise in technique in exchange for perceived intensity. It must be understood that a personal trainer’s main role is protection of the client’s wellbeing. Any trainer that watches a client perform a task with poor execution technique and fails to intervene is being negligent in their fiduciary duties. In many cases when glycolytic circuits or stations are employed, the activities should reflect the work-rest interval and consider the effects of fatigue on movement execution. This often means gross applications of physical exertion (e.g., medicine ball rebound drills) rather than activities requiring high levels of technique, particularly when combined with loading, such as Olympic weightlifting. By complying with these standards and recommendations personal trainers can ensure their programmatic offerings provide an appropriate combination of safety, effectiveness and retention with low levels of liability.


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