What Is Small Group Training?

What Is Small Group Training?


What is Small Group Training? You may have heard it your local gym promotion or even online somewhere; yes, its group training, but what does it entail? Small Group Training (SGT), or “Boot Camp” as many others know it by, is a form of fitness training that combines the personal one-to-one touch, with the intensity and dynamic of a group class. It has been the recent fitness craze along with fitness styles such as HIIT, Circuits, & TRX work. While the phrase may give off a ‘military’ connection, it is more so geared towards signifying the sense of camaraderie and interconnection among the group.

SGT vs. One-to-One vs. Group Training

An article on ACE Fitness by Jonathan Ross, sums up the concept of SGT perfect:

“Big enough to be fun, but small enough to still be quality.”

-Jonathan Ross

As stated above, SGT is a hybrid child of personalized one-to-one training and energetic group scale training. While 1-1 training is considered very tailored and specific for each individual client’s respective goal, it is usually more expensive than SGT for this purpose. 1-1 is focused on not only a client’s goal, but also detailed analysis on form, technique, nutrition, and overall mentality. A trainer acts as a full-on coach for the client, in all aspects. Furthermore, 1-1 training is also generally longer in programming and overall duration so clients must be willing to stick with the frequency and length. This could extend from 3-4 months to half a year or more depending on goal.

Group Training comes in on the other side of the spectrum. Group classes come in many shapes and sizes. Zumba, yoga, spin, tabata, and circuits all go under this category and class numbers can range up to 30-40 people in one studio. The purpose is to offer a fun, engaging, and energetic atmosphere for those who want to get their body moving, without going full-on working with a personal trainer. In this sense, it is cheaper per session, but one loses out personal tailoring, and form critique by the instructor.

SGT takes the energetic and upbeat atmosphere of group training with a slightly more denounced personalized 1-1 feel, to give a great killer workout, while allowing the instructor to be able to personally assist each client. SGT classes usually consist of less than 10 people at once and program length is usually no longer than a month or two.


One-to-One Training

  • PROS
    • Very tailored and personalized
    • Trainer devotes full attention to one client
    • Form, posture, habits, nutrition, mindset, etc. are all paid attention to
  • CONS
    • Most expensive of the three
    • No group dynamic for those who enjoy an upbeat workout with others

Group Training

  • PROS
    • Fun, energetic and motivating atmosphere
    • Teamwork & camaraderie
    • Cheaper than 1-1 and either cheaper or on-par with SGT
  • CONS
    • Generally, no tailoring or personalized suggestions
    • Can be tough when no progressions/regressions are put forth for the client
    • Some classes can have up to 30-40 people, which may bother certain individuals

Small Group Training

  • PROS
    • Fun and energetic environment
    • Still offers a good sense of tailoring and personal help
    • More niche environment
    • If SGT is goal focused, everyone attending is working in tandem for the same overarching goal
    • Not as hectic
    • Cheaper than 1-1
  • CONS
    • Not as tailored and personal as 1-1

What Are Common Program Styles of SGT?


This form of programming is when the class is made upon a common outcome or goal. This can include options, both general or specific, such as “weight loss”, “booty toning”, or even “4 week ab annihilation”. All members that participate, can expect the same focused end-goal.


This form of programming is based upon what equipment is used as the focal point of the class. Examples can include, full bodyweight only, TRX, Kettlebells, free weights/barbells, or even simply resistance bands. Whatever the type, the class is generally centered around heavy usage of that implementation.

Skill or Activity Based

Style of SGT where the major focus of the class is on a targeted sport, activity, or skillset. This might include a Baseball or Golf centered class, where emphasis is place on trunk rotation and heavy core utilization. Or maybe endurance focused such as triathlon or marathon training. I’ve seen a SGT class on strictly moving the limbs and body with more control and stability for daily acts.

A Fun & Efficient SGT Class Has…

An Instructor That Cares!

Just like any Fitness training or coaching, your instructor/trainer is your leader; he’s supposed to not only instruct and educate, but also provide motivation and commiserate. If you find that your instructor is very work focused with no sense of acknowledgement or care towards you and the rest of the class, it may be time to check out alternatives.

Progressions & Regressions!

This is a huge one. Just as stated before, despite this not being a 1-1 training session, there should be some tailoring and respective personalized care. An instructor should have an implementation of both progression and regression exercises for their class so there are options for exercises that may either be too difficult or easy for someone. An article post on The PTDC, by Trainer George Kalantzis, enforces an easy acronym for this concept:

K.I.S.S – “Keep It Stupid Simple”

Clients should not be sitting there dumbfounded trying to understand what a “proprioceptive single-leg isolateral cable contraction” is.

An Energetic & Inspiring Atmosphere

At the end of the day, clients engage in instructor-led training for not only an educational purpose, but for a motivational and inspirational sense as well. As an instructor, offer an engaging atmosphere where clients feel connected. Maybe allow them to pick the music that blasts out. Or have a group pre/post workout huddle to congratulate everyone. Whatever the case, make people feel appreciated!

I hope you enjoyed reading this and were able to take away something new for your mental toolset! Drop a like, comment and share so others can see! I appreciate you folks viewing! Thank you!

While you’re here, check out my article post on the 3 main reasons to hire a personal trainer! Cheers!

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