Remembering the “group” in group training

Teaching a fitness class is a balancing act.

On the one hand, people want to feel challenged. On the other hand, they don’t want to be left behind.

No one wants to feel as if they’re wasting their time, especially if they’re paying top dollar. An uninspired trainer doling out a routine of easy, simple, repetitive exercises is enough to empty a class. Lowering the bar for everyone isn’t the answer.

At the same time, most people who are ready to pay for a small group fitness class don’t want to struggle just to keep up. In so many classes, you can see them–at the back of the room, gasping for breath, barely able to hold their technique together. They stick around for a while, thinking ‘no pain, no gain,’ but they usually drop out.

There are so many ways to strike a balance. Here is one very effective method:

For every body weight exercise, there is an easy, medium, and difficult version. The best example is the greatest upper body exercise ever, the push-up. An easy version can be done with the knees on the ground; harder still, it can be done with the legs straight; even harder, it can be done with one foot lifted–do 2-4 with the right foot off the ground, then switch. This is just one example.

When I’m demonstrating the exercise, I give the students the three options.

Another method I find very effective is the ‘timed + hover’ technique. First, I time the exercise rather than dictating a number of reps. In this way, the students can choose their own pace and focus on good technique. If a student maxes out before the time is up, I give him/her a ‘hovering’ exercise until the time is up. Here is an example: leg-straight push-up for 20 seconds; if you max out before 20 seconds, stay in elbow plank position until the time is up.

By following this simple technique, no one feels underwhelmed and no one feels left behind.


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