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Making A Success In Group Training - Gym Floor


With Rigs of all shapes and sizes now being a regular feature on the gym floor, and the huge variety of quality small equipment available that together can contribute massively to a group experience, the aim of this blog series is to explore some of the factors that contribute to the success of a ‘Group Training’ on the gym floor. 

This article is not meant to be a deep educational piece of work around fitness industry standards or the roles and responsibilities of staff. It is purely a personal view of the ingredients that should be considered to ensure a group training or group space successful.

There are a number of books and individuals that have inspired this series of blogs; I would like to thank both Chris Stevenson and Matt Wright, whose sessions and conversations this year, made me think about all the constituent pieces that lead to success.

The decision to deliver group training as part of the gym floor experience should not be taken lightly. To dedicate a space that could be used for other gym modalities is not just a question of current trends, fitness fashion or the fact that a local competitor has just invested in such a space: it is a question about the facility community, the facility values and beliefs, as well as the facility mission, and the current membership base, and maybe future aspirations of the facility. There is plenty of evidence to back up the importance of group exercise, but whether it enters the gym floor space requires a lot of careful consideration.

One of the biggest considerations [and one that I’ll investigate over the next few posts] is the decision around staff, and who [among the current staff] is going to deliver such an experience, and their confidence and competence levels. Staff skills and behaviours have a huge impact on the exerciser experience; group teaching is a skill, it’s an art, a craft, and matching, assessing and developing staff’s current skills and behaviours against how your group sessions are designed and structured is a major factor in the success of the group experience. Before moving on, when using the term experience, I am talking about ‘occupying a space in the customers’ (exercisers’) mind beyond the primacy of the product (fitness)’ [1].  Make no mistake the instructors and the instructors’ skill set is vital in creating the group experience. Some members of the team [staff] are good one-to-one instructors and PTs and provide a quality service to the exerciser in that domain (this should never be underestimated), but whether they would make a good group teacher or be willing to develop themselves into such a person is completely down to the individual. One-to-one skills and group teaching skills are different. The ability of a group teacher to create a safe, trusted, valued environment that exercisers crave is a set of skills that is fundamental in the success a group space.

Design and structure of the group space is a consideration when choosing and developing staff to deliver the group experience. Are the group sessions to be similar to most studio sessions where everyone when in the main session is doing the same exercise at the same time, or is the session and group space designed that during the main workout every participant is doing a different exercise, or that you have different groups doing different activities at the same time (all of which are effective)? Is the space to be designed in a linear, grid-type fashion, is the Rig against a wall, or in the centre of the space?

The skills, behaviours and confidence of the instructor clearly have a huge impact on the group experience. The instructor must consider positioning for individual eye contact, movement opportunities to observe individual performance, opportunities for individual praise and both verbal and visual reinforcement. It is important to consider the pathway to staff gaining the skills necessary to successfully deliver group training alongside the design of the group training space and the equipment to be utilised. Feelings, not logic, drive exerciser behaviour; exerciser adoption, not training innovations, are the key to success [2].

The teacher has a part to play in the success of the group space. Matching, assessing and developing staff’s current skills, behaviours and confidence levels against how your group sessions and spaces are designed and structured is a major factor in the success of a group experience.

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll investigate some of the key factors that will contribute to a successful group experience on the facility floor.

[1] adapted from j. trout (differentiate or die)
[2] adapted from j. bezos (t. goodwin digital darwinism)