The fitness industry is shifting, and group training is becoming a norm. Today trainers are concerned about getting more people into group fitness workouts, and often throw their clients through a randomized list of workouts without paying attention to proper form, exercise selection, or flow of the class. This style of training gives group training a bad rap.

This article will show how we run group fitness workouts at Cressey Sports Performance and how you can effectively train large groups in the safest manner possible while delivering great results and creating the ultimate family experience.

Systems/Organizations are Key to success

We like to keep our group training classes to a 6:1 ratio of clients to coaches. Our classes typically run 8-12 clients and have 2 coaches. This ratio allows for optimal coaching.

Choosing the right format for the training session allows you to help clients build a base for more advanced training sessions down the road. Many group classes follow a timed interval format, and while timed intervals are a great way to get someone's heart rate going and to keep training fun, it's no place to try to teach someone a complex movement.

To teach more complex movements, try using a format that allows the client to stay with a movement long enough to receive repeated exposure that will produce optimal results.

Better yet, use the warm-up as a feel for what may come our on the floor. By incorporating new movements during the warm-up and seeing how people may respond to cues, you'll gain a better understanding of how to coach someone out on the floor.

Flow of the Gym

At Cressey Sports Performance we have a 15,000 sq foot facility that allows us optimal room for a great training environment. On the other end of the spectrum, I work at the Executive Health and Sports Center in Manchester, NH where we only have 1300 sq feet. What am I getting at?

Even though you may have a great template in place for training, it all goes out the window if the flow of the training session doesn't fit properly. Bouncing around from one side of the gym to the next does not make it easy for your clients nor does it make it easy to coach.

When you have a class, set up the training session to be dummy proof. A great coach must be able to consider what equipment is available and where the clients are at all times.

Command Presence and Coach

Not everyone can coach large groups of people. For me, the Marine Corps taught me how to become comfortable training people in complex environments. For some of you, however, that may not be an option. But with a little authoritative presence, group training can become fun and exciting.

To be good at group training, you must learn how to first communicate effectively with people. Having 12 or more people in front of you can get hectic at times, and when you have fitness levels of all sorts, you must be able to communicate what you want your clients to do.

The only way to get better at coaching large group is to immerse yourself in a group setting as much as you can. At CSP, we have our interns attend group training at least 5-6 times throughout a 4-month internship. At first, they're quite unsure of how to coach a large group; by the end of the internship they typically run the show and command a presence.

It also helps to have a loud voice -- I carry quite well across a 15,000 square foot gym. People understand that when I speak, I mean business. On the other hand, some will have to learn how to create an environment in that people know you're in charge.

How do you do that? Coach your clients! Just because you're training a group doesn't mean that form should go out the window. Sure, there will be some wiggle room when it comes to group classes, but if your class looks like crap, then it probably is crap.

If you want to create a command presence, be prepared for your classes, communicate clearly, and coach the crap out of your clients. Trust me, they will appreciate it!

The Programming

We follow a 3-day template: Mondays are Density days, Wednesdays are Metabolic Conditioning days, and Fridays are Strength Days. Each class complements each other, and all include soft tissue/mobilization and dynamic warm-ups.

Exercise selection is based upon hip dominant, quad dominant, pushing, pulling, single-leg exercises, as well as appropriate core work.  Total programming for a typical month would include 4 density days, 4 metabolic days, and 4 strength days.                      

Each class has 5 minutes of foam rolling and a 10-minute dynamic warm-up

Sample 10 minute Warm-up

Supine belly breathing x 5

Single Leg Glute Bridge 8/leg

All 4's Belly Breathing x 5

Bird Dogs 5/side

Rock Back T-Spine Rotation 6/arm

Split Stance Adductor 6/leg

Rocking Ankle Mobilizations 6/leg

Squat to Stands 8

Walking Spiderman 10 yards

Bear Crawls 20 yards

Lateral Lunges 10 yards

Inch Worms 10 yards

20 yard Sprint

Sample Density Training on Monday

Station 1: 12 minutes  - As many as Sets as Possible

Barbell Reverse Lunge x 10/leg

Pushups x10

Med ball Stomps x 10

Reverse Crunch x10

Station 2: 12 Minutes As many as Sets as Possible

Dumbbell Front Squat x 8

Dumbbell Bench Press x8

Prowler Push x 40 yards

Renegade Row x4/side

Station 3: 12 Minutes AMSAP

KB Swings x 15

Kb Farmers Walk 40 yards/Arm

KB Clean x15

Sprints 40 yards x2

Finisher: Optional depending on time 

Some video demonstrations for ya:

How to Do a Proper PushupHere's how to do a proper pushup.In this video Modestly Refined by Dave Dreas teaches Alison Chen, Naturopathic Doctor how to do a pushup.These tips will benefit yourself as well as your clients.

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Because of the position of the weight in front of you, it forces you to keep your body upright so your squat technique can actually be better.It's excellent for beginners and could be a better selection to a a barbell back squat at first.Another really good use for this variation would be in a gym without a squat rack, for example many hotel gyms only have a small selection of cardio machines and dumbbells. The Goblet Squat would be perfect!Remember to 'pinch' the weight with your elbows to keep them in, and drop them in between your knees which will force you to keep pushing them out.========This video is property of Bret Contreras (Fitness Page) and is used with permission. Learn More about Bret at and subscribe to him on YouTube at more info about the PTDC, go here

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Thursday, May 21, 2015

One of my favourite exercisesHere's a fantastic exercise to strengthen the shoulders, hips, and core that can be done anywhere. Just make sure to keep the hips level when you pull.Introducing: The Renegade Row========This video is property of Somerset Fitness & Marketing, LLC and is used with permission. Learn More about Dean Somerset at and subscribe to him on YouTube at

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Monday, March 30, 2015

Kettlebell Swings Essentials or "how to do a sexy hinge"Quick review:Porn starCare bear stareSad dogHigh school wrestler=====================This video is property of Mark Fisher Fitness and is used with permission. Learn More about Mark at and subscribe to him on YouTube at and follow him on Facebook at Mark Fisher Fitness.

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wednesday: Metabolic conditioning 

Here's a favorite among our clients: 45 seconds on/15 off 10 exercises for 3 rounds, with 90-second rest between rounds. (We try to keep this day simple to make coaching easy).

Battle Ropes

Single-Leg Hip Thrusts off Bench R/leg

Battle Ropes

Single-Leg Hip Thrusts off Bench L/Leg

TRX Atomic Crunch

KB Swings

Airdyne Bike

Prowler Pull to Push

Battle Ropes

Walking Lunges

Friday: Strength Day 

Station 1: 15 minutes

Trap-Bar Deadlift  x5

Pull-up Variation  x5

Heavy Swings x10

Band Alphabets

Station 2: 15 Minutes

Dumbbell Single Leg Deadlift  8/leg

Dumbbell Push Press x8

Split Stance Low Cable Row x 8

Slide Board Body Saw x8

Finisher: Plan for 12 clients

Timed Rounds 30/15 for 3-4 rounds

Group 1) Sled Pushes

Group 2) Battle Rope Variation

Group 3) Farmers Walks

Group4) Medicine Ball Stomps Side to Side

Group 5) KB Squats

Group 6) Mountain Climbers

Some video demonstrations for ya

Advanced glute exercise with no equipmentIf you have mastered the bodyweight or barbell hip thrust, the single-leg hip thrust Is a briliant alternative/progression to move onto.Elevating your foot as well as your shoulders as in this video increases the difficulty even further.To get this highly targetting your glutes make sure your foot isn't too far away from you. To get more hamstring activation you will want to position your foot further away.I love how this can give you a really hard glute workout with no equipment even when you can hip thrust well over 200lbs.=========This video is property of Robert King and is used with permission. Learn More about Rob and Heavyweights fitness at and subscribe to him on YouTube at more info about the PTDC, go here:

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Sunday, May 17, 2015

3 Common Faults with Chin Ups... So in order to do a correct one, well, you're not doing any of these 3 things.Want more?Improve and master chin ups and chin up instruction with this article from James: video is used with permission from James Cerbie of Rebel Performance

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Saturday, January 17, 2015

BONUS: Create a Family

At CSP we have had clients in group classes for over 3 years and they're considered family. How do you create a family? Get to know the people you're instructing. Not just from a physical standpoint, but from a personal standpoint as well.

 1. Individualize.

Individualizing group training is key to creating a family. Getting to know your clients personally can help you both inside and out of the gym. By knowing them on a personal level, you can then teach them movement through a different perspective. Pulling someone aside and showing him or her something they need to focus on helps individualize programming and make the client feel special even though it is group training.

2. Create a list of VIP Clients and reward them for their efforts.

This past year we hit 3 years for our strength camps. We rewarded those who have stuck around with free New Balance Shoes, Pedometers, and backpacks. Clients love being recognized and will help out the business when they feel valued.

3. Client of the Month

Highlighting one client each month in a "Client of the Month" program is a great way to recognize the achievements and progress of your clients. It also helps build community among your members by providing a glimpse into what a client's life is like outside training.

4. Referral rewards Program

Have incentives for referrals. Try cash back bonuses or monthly discounts. At CSP we give away t-shirts for a trial month conversion and a discount thereafter if the client decides to stay past the trail month. In March we did "bring a friend" week, and it turned out really successful, as our numbers are the highest they've ever been.

5. Social Media

Post daily photos of your group and tag the clients in it while engaging conversation.  We've found this to be a tremendous help in creating the ultimate atmosphere.

Hopefully this guide has made you want to deliver a better product than you're currently delivering in a group workout setting.

Group fitness training can be lots of fun and also individualized if done correctly. Coaching in a group setting may not be for everyone, but I promise you if you incorporate some of the ideas discussed here, you will be well on your way to success as a group trainer.

What to Read Next? -- More on Group Fitness

Below are links to a few articles that delve deeper into programming and business-building for group fitness.

The Ultimate Guide to Running a Group Exercise Program - Geoff Girvitz

How to Design Better Warm Ups for Group Exercise - Tony Bonvechio

13 Ways to Vary Any Exercise - Jonathan Goodman