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By Dominic dos Remedios

Small group personal training has been a growing trend within the fitness industry in recent years. It seems everyone is trying to crack the code, including the big gyms such as Fitness First, Virgin Active and Goodlife, as well as the smaller
specialised studios such as F45 and 38X. After all, it is one of the industry’s top 10 fitness trends for 2015.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out why. Small group PT offers affordability, accountability and results. Most
importantly, it cultivates the sense of ‘belonging to the tribe’, something that is genetically coded into all of us. In a small group training session attendees feed off the energy, passion and intensity of the group and feel they achieve so
much more than on their own.

Most trainers who work with groups are missing the mark due to the ‘onesize-fits-all’ approach. The ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ model simply doesn’t stack up any longer. Clients today have countless fitness options to choose from, therefore trainers need to adapt to savvy clients who expect more out of their group training. Engaging with the individuals in the group as well as bringing the people in the group together creates the ultimate small group training experience that clients will look forward to time and time again.

In successful groups, the trainer’s role shifts from trainer to coach and clients gradually become empowered to modify
their own effort, intensity and range of motion based on energy and fitness levels. Giving clients ownership of their
experience will encourage motivation (autonomy), which will ultimately lead to retention (mastery) and results (purpose). This is echoed in Dr Roy Sugarman’s book, Client Centered Training: A trainer and coach’s guide to
motivating clients, Level 7 Psychology.

He highlights that the key to behaviour change is following the principle of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

How can you make your small group session more personalised?

One way is to understand and cater to your clients’ unique movement styles. This philosophy has been adapted from
PTA Global’s world-class education and their proven Systems, Science and Tools™.

Understanding your clients’ movement styles

It is clear that not all people like to ‘move’ or ‘exercise’ in the same way. We each have likes and dislikes, particularly
when it comes to exercising. Think about it for a minute: some people despise washing dishes, while some people don’t mind it at all and others quite possibly love it. If you carry this concept over to the fitness arena where you tell clients who despise doing push-ups that they have to do them three times a week at moderate to high intensity, there’s a high chance they will just stop coming and find any excuse not to keep coming back.

If on the other hand you serve up movements or exercise in a manner they like, they will keep coming back for more. In order to work out someone’s movement style, you could take them through the full PTA Global Program Design Questionnaire (PDQ™) or you could simply ask them the following questions:

When exercising, do you prefer:
 Structure or  Challenge?
 Routine or  Variety?
 Practical or  Adventure?

If they answered:
• Structure, routine and practical, they have a TRADITIONAL movement style.
• Challenge, variety and adventure, they have a PROGRESSIVE movement style.
• Structure and variety or perhaps routine and adventure (a mix of the blue and green responses), they have a HYBRID movement style.

So now let’s take a deeper look into each movement style:

• TRADITIONAL clients enjoy structure, routine and exercises that are practical and well known. This includes linear movements such as squats, lunges, chest presses, pushups, lat pull-downs, rows, etc. They gravitate towards commonly known fitness equipment like the leg press, lat pull-down and pin-loaded chest press. Plan and deliver ‘traditional’ options within your sessions and programming for optimal commitment from your clients.

• PROGRESSIVE clients like variety, adventure and challenge within their sessions. Move them in many planes of motion and take them on an adventure with their training by including plenty of fun games and challenges. They gravitate toward functional equipment such as cables (or bands), TRX suspension trainers and medicine balls. The key is to
keep it exciting with plenty of variety wherever you can – or risk boring them to death.

• HYBRID clients enjoy a bit of both. They appreciate components of the traditional and progressive client styles. Some days they may want a good leg session with some heavy squats and lunges (traditional). Other days they’ll want to play and get a little creative with their movement (progressive). Of course, hybrids can sit at different places along the movement spectrum, so it is critical to gather feedback from them to work out if they are more traditional or progressive. Simply ask them what they like and don’t like and tweak your programming accordingly.

It’s important to remember when programming for different client styles in a group that there are a number of variables you can adapt to make a movement or exercise more traditional or progressive and thus cater to all styles.

You can change:

• Your environment – your traditional client will feel more comfortable in the pin-loaded area whereas your progressive client will enjoy working in the free weights area or functional training zone. If you are training in a park, using an open space with your traditional client could work well, whereas hitting the stairs or hills will likely be enjoyable for your progressive clients.

• Your equipment – typical gym equipment like dumbbells, barbells and pin-loaded equipment is considered more traditional because they are known. Using some of the more functional training equipment such as ViPRs, TRX suspension trainers and sand bells makes the experience more progressive.

• Planes of motion – for this example, let’s use a simple lunge. Most traditional movement is conducted on the sagittal plane (forward and back lunges), whereas a progressive clients will enjoy the challenge of moving in some of the other planes of motion such as the frontal plane (side-to-side lunge) or the transverse plane (a lunge with rotation).

Determining your clients’ preferred movement or exercise styles will allow you to tweak the exercise selection and programming to deliver a more personalised session and service. As trainers begin to understand their role in a group, which is not to merely instruct but to also facilitate the best possible fitness experience for individuals and the group,
their clients will bond and hold each other accountable, resulting in incredible connections, motivation and ultimately

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DOMINIC DOS REMEDIOS is the owner and CEO of the Personal Training Academy and a proud PTA Global Faculty member. He is also part owner of BioAge Pty Ltd (online fitness testing software) and Acumotum – Intelligent Fitness facility (small group training facility) in Melbourne. With over 20 years industry experience, Dom has the rare blend of skills and experience from both the health club operations side, as well as now the education and training side of the fitness industry. Prior to joining PTA he held the roles of national fitness manager for Fitness First Australia and national personal training manager for Crunch Fitness International (USA). He holds a Bachelor of
Education (Human Movement) with Honours from the University of Sydney.

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