What is Small Group Personal Training?

What is small group personal training? It might be a better fit for most than one-on-one. Read this to find out what small group training is (and what it's not).

One-on-one personal training is often seen as the thing people need to get the best results. But I’ve never agreed with that approach because I believe most of us work better with people we relate to.

If you're dead set on working one on one with a trainer, this article isn't for you. But, if you value connection, and feel like you need someone else to show up for, small group personal training might be perfect for you.

Woman in black athletic clothing lifting a barbell past her knees

Good small group training is of tremendous value.

It's cheaper than one on one (so you can come more often). You will get the attention you deserve. It's not a boring, generic class but it's not switching things up each time "to confuse your muscles". Your trainer can still individualize things for you if they know how.

Feeling more motivated because frands is a real thing, grounded in psychology.

Let's start by defining what small group personal training is (stick around and I'll cover what it's not too).

What is Small Group Personal Training?

Small group personal training or small group training is a group exercise with a trainer and anywhere from 3-6 clients at a time.

Small group training can overlap what some gyms call "semi-private personal training" which is 2-5 clients per trainer. The biggest difference between small group training and semi-private is the amount of individualization provided.

There isn't a definitive definition of what "individualized training programs" means.

Some common ways to individualize within a small group training session include:

  • Offering specialty sessions or classes based on goals. Ex. runners, beginners...glutes.
  • Providing workouts for a group based on demographics. Ex. Seniors, women, or athletes.
  • Structured classes of different lengths Ex. 1-hour training, fit in 45, 30-minute workouts

Semi-private training is a session where you have a program but share space with others. (If you look around, most of your exercises can and should be pretty much the same.)

What Are the Benefits of Small Group Training?

Small group training is fun, motiving, and affordable enough to go pretty often (2-3x per week).

Benefits of Small Group Training:

  • Motivation - You're more motivated to workout thanks to the psychology of relatedness.
  • Stress relief - No need to worry about finding a friendly face at the gym.
  • Fun - Since sessions have other people in them, there may be some partner exercises.
  • Cost - Small group training typically costs as much as 15-25% of personal training.
  • Planned variety - Trainers have written a great training session so you just need to show up.
  • Personal attention - Small group training is sized to keep a focus on you.

How Much Should Small Group Training Cost?

Small group training should cost anywhere from $15 to $45+ per session*.

Several factors affect the price of small group training in your area including:

  1. Session length - Ex. 60, 45, 30 minutes.
  2. The number of sessions purchased - Class or session packages vs single sessions.
  3. Type of training facility - Boutique gyms and studios are more private (and pricier).
  4. The number of people in class or session - Smaller sessions are usually more expensive.
  5. Trainer certification - trainers with higher levels of education tend to charge more.
  6. Trainer specialty - different specialties bring different salaries.

*Note - costs have been going up thanks to COVID and inflation.

The education standard for personal trainers and strength coaches is increasing. As the net cost of college tuition increases year to year, it makes sense that training costs more.

Disadvantages of Fitness Classes

Small group personal training can have its downsides (depending on the gym):

  • Too much variety - Some change workouts too often to learn an exercise.
  • Group training needs space - You don't want to trip over someone's equipment.
  • Lack of attention to form - In larger groups, an inexperienced trainer's attention can get spread.
  • You might push yourself too hard - If you have a propensity for competition.
  • Group fitness instructors have lower certification standards than trainers.

Some gyms plan sessions poorly. You could end up with a mismatched workout for your skill level.

Some training gyms offer small group training with as many as 10 clients. Anything over about 6 people starts to feel like a class.

Small group PT is a good fit for some but not for all.

It serves no one, least of all yourself, to start dating a personal trainer that you don't mesh with, destined to fail.

How to Find a Personal Trainer

Necessary tools and equipment

  • Self-Awareness
  • Time to think
  • Money for training


  1. 1 Get clear on your goals

    What makes you want to hire a trainer?

  2. 2 Decide what size training session fits you.

    One-on-one personal training? Small group? Semi-Private?

  3. 3 Narrow down where you want to train.

    Do you want to go to your trainer or should they come to you?

  4. 4 Check qualifications and reviews.

    Ask the trainer to coach you through an exercise if possible.

  5. 5 Think about the trainer that fits your personality.

    You know what motivates you best.

  6. 6 Ask the right questions.

    Find out what's included and how your trainer will adjust to reach your goals.

  7. 7 If your trainer is good, you'll progress.

    Progress is only meaningful if it's relevant to your goals.

  8. 8 Set a budget.

    Based on how often you can train, how fast you learn, and how lofty your goals are.

  9. 9 Research

    Fill out contact forms, make calls, and schedule a consultation.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.