Small group training (SGT) can vary greatly from club to club in price, programming, instruction and participation. What doesn’t differ is the fact that members want it, and they want it now!
“Small group training came about at UFC® Gym™ because our members asked for it,” explained Derek Gallup, the SVP of Fitness and Retail for New Evolution Ventures. “Many who trained one-on-one with UFC Gym coaches wanted to bring their friends, share a fun training experience and get great results at the same time.”
When asked how SGT got its start at O2 Fitness in North Carolina, Bobby Hall, the VP of fitness services, echoed Gallup’s sentiment: “It was decided for us,” explained Hall. “Thanks to things like TRX, P90X, CrossFit and so on, people have come to see the value in being told what to do. This means more people coming into the gym looking for instruction than ever before.”
Hall said that instruction more often comes in the form of small group training due to its perceived lower cost than traditional training. “Less cost per session means members can afford to come more often,” Hall explained. For many clubs, SGT has become a large percentage of personal training revenue.
At Brick Bodies in Baltimore, Md., SGT accounts for 30 percent of the club’s total personal training revenue. “Brick Bodies’ group training programs have become a big part of our programming over the past few years,” said Dustin Blackwell, the personal training director for Brick Bodies. Members can choose from a variety of small group programs that train them in TRX, boxing, boot camp, Pilates and Barre, in addition to several trainer-developed programs. For these types of sessions, drop-in rates are $15 for members ($20 for non-members). A 10-session pass will set members back only $125 ($170 for non-members).
“We feel that group training provides a fun and ultra-affordable way for the majority of our members to enjoy the benefits of personal training,” said Blackwell. “We have been able to reach so many more of our members through these programs and have created some amazing social communities in the process.”
According to Gallup, members looking to train in small groups at UFC Gym can choose to be taught in many forms of MMA, including Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing. Members can expect to pay around $20 per session, although prices vary depending on the instructor’s credentials and experience. “We found that members in the group classes wanted some more individualized attention to help them advance in their goals faster or to take their already advanced MMA skills to the next level in small group training,” detailed Gallup. “Additionally, some wanted to supplement their one-on-one personal training sessions with small group training with their coach, where they would be challenged, not just by their coach, but also by other members with similar fitness goals.”
According to Gallup, members are fans of the quality training they receive at a lower cost. “Small group training is fee-based, but is significantly less expensive than one-on-one personal training,” he said. “Small group training can be very motivating for members wanting more instruction than a large class, and for members who like to have camaraderie or even some competition when they train.”
Not only is SGT cost-effective for members, it is for personal trainers as well. “Personal trainers can see more members in the same amount of time,” said Hall. At O2 Fitness, an average session for members runs around $12 per hour. “In a class with 10 participants paying $12 a head, the trainer is making double the income in the same amount of time,” explained Hall.
According to Hall, “SGT is one of the more profitable machines out there.” However, Hall said this is dependent on the club and its SGT instructors. “You have to have the right person to champion your program,” he said. “Without it, a program can lose money or dwindle away.”
Gallup agreed, stating that the key to a successful and profitable SGT program lies with the trainer. “A great small group training coach must combine the science and service of a great personal trainer, with the charisma and ability to motivate groups of the best group fitness instructors,” he said. “Encourage your group fitness instructors to get certified for personal training. Additionally, encourage your personal trainers to teach group fitness classes. Team members who do both of these activities are the best at developing successful small group training programs.”
Hall imparted some final advice on how to make SGT profitable at your club: “Do your homework,” he said. “There needs to be something different and exciting about your program. Think about what separates your program from any other group fitness class.”
By keeping Hall’s advice in mind and offering one-of-a-kind SGT programs, you could create a profit-generating machine almost equal to personal training in the amount of revenue generated. Doing so will not only benefit your club’s bottom line, but also your members and personal trainers.
If you attended IHRSA’s 32nd International Convention and Trade Show in March, you would have noticed a multitude of “jungle gyms” gracing the trade show floor. From Life Fitness’ Synrgy 360™, to Power Systems’ SpaceStations, manufacturers are producing more and more jungle-gym-like pieces of equipment each year. These jungle gyms for adults are equipped with multiple stations ideal for small group training and generating club buzz.
“SpaceStation and jungle gym set-ups allow you to attract attention to your space more than anything,” said Bobby Hall, the VP of fitness services for O2 Fitness. “We all want to turn every square inch into a profit center, so sometimes it pays to invest in something people walk by with bewilderment. It’s great to see the reaction from people on the cardio deck when they see eight members doing TRX, while three more are slamming battle ropes, and another is running monkey bars. It looks different and it looks fun. Just make sure not to hide your set-up in a back room somewhere! Put it on display; it’s like live fitness art!”
Dustin Blackwell, the personal training director for Brick Bodies, is a fan of smaller functional pieces of equipment for SGT, in addition to multi-stations. “Our classes utilize heavy bags, TRX® straps, medicine balls, training ropes, [Life Fitness’] Synrgy 360, [TRX] Rip™ Trainers, Pilates Reformers, as well as a variety of other equipment,” he said.
Guy Caracciolo, the fitness director for Dedham Health & Athletic Complex in Dedham, Mass. hailed TRX’s Suspension and Rip Trainers in combination with the TRX TEAM program for SGT purposes. “TRX is great because in terms of running a small group, it allows everyone to work out at their own level,” said Caracciolo. “It allows for modifications and can fit a wide variety of individuals.”
As team camaraderie is one component of SGT that appeals to members, look for pieces of equipment that can be used by two or more people. The more use you get out of equipment, the better the investment.
By Rachel Zabonick