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Small-group training: A sample program for fitness professionals

three people exercising in park

The pandemic has meant many of us have been working out alone in the comfort and safety of our own homes. When restrictions begin to ease will we run back to our old fitness classes, or will we be seeking smaller group sessions? Working out in a smaller group may allow some to feel more comfortable following the pandemic restrictions and may help create more of a community team spirit amongst participants.

In this post, adapted from Keli Roberts’ A Professional’s Guide to Small-Group Personal Training, we take a look at a sample partner programme for you to implement in your small-group training.

Why partner or team training?

One of the main advantages of partner and team training in a small-group setting is that it provides an excellent opportunity to build community and accountability in a more social environment. Participants develop bonds and become accountable to each other as well as to the group as a whole. This helps build consistency in attendance and makes it easier for trainers to retain clients. It can also provide some healthy competition and will help build camaraderie.

Partner training is also an ideal way to cut down on equipment needs. If you have a larger group of six or more, then circuit training is the perfect solution. Note, however, that when guiding participants in this setting, instruction needs to be clear and concise! When your group is talking, laughing, and working together, it is easy for the class to become out of control, so your cueing needs to be simple and easy to understand.

The Partner Play Workout

This partner workout is designed to enhance muscular strength and endurance while simultaneously improving functional whole-body integration. The exercises all rely on a coordinated effort between partners. Participants not only have to move efficiently as individuals, but must also synchronize timing and rhythm with their partner.

Setup and guidelines

This program has four series; each full series is performed twice in order, with 60 seconds of recovery between each series. Each exercise should be performed for 60 seconds with 15 to 20 seconds of transition and rest between exercises.

Duration: 45 minutes

Number of participants: 4 to 6 (2-3 partners)

Equipment: Resistance bands

Additional workout notes

  • Allow 5 to 7 minutes of dynamic total-body movements to prepare for the workout.
  • Try to partner clients of similar size and fitness levels. Pairing similar-sized individuals optimizes the line-of-pull angle for exercises using resistance bands. Pairing fitter individuals can also provide a little more challenge through some friendly competitiveness, and they will also be more likely to work with similar levels of resistance and load, making equipment selection easier. If you have an uneven number of people, partner up with the least strong person so you can give them a little more encouragement. Depending on current coronavirus restrictions it may be preferable for participants to pair up with someone from their household where possible.
  • Choose the participant with the best coordination and body control to use as a partner to demonstrate each drill. This way you’ll be able to provide the best possible demonstration while still accommodating less-conditioned folks.
  • Regularly inspect your rubber resistance bands for wear and tear, and dispose of any worn or damaged bands.
  • By nature, elastic resistance is unique compared to equipment like dumbbells or barbells. Always focus on controlling the eccentric phase of each movement to resist the elastic recoil of the band.
  • At the completion of the workout, be sure to provide your class with plenty of time to cool down. This is a great opportunity to improve flexibility and develop good stretching habits.

Series 1

Sets/Time: 2 × 1 min each with 15-20 s rest between exercises. Allow 60 s recovery between each series.

Adaptations: To progress, try a heavier resistance band or stand with feet further apart. To regress, leave knees on the floor. To progress, lift top foot into a star position.

Exercise 1: Split squat and bow-and-arrow pull (1 resistance band per pair) 

Setup

Stand facing a partner with the left leg forward in a split squat, each holding the handle of a resistance band in the right hand. Raise the left arm level with the shoulder and pull the elbow back to increase torso rotation like a bow and arrow (see figure a above). Make sure there is tension on the band from the start of the movement.

Execution

Pull the right hand back and rotate the left hand forward, extending hips and knees to rotate the torso with the arm movement (see figure b above). Exhale as you raise up and inhale as you lower into the split squat.

Exercise 2: Transverse lunge with sword draw (1 resistance band per pair) 

Setup

Stand tall with the feet together and core braced tightly, facing a partner. Hold the handle of a resistance band in the right hand. Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Exhale and step the right foot back to 4 o’clock, bending the right knee to sink the hips back. Simultaneously, pull the band diagonally to an overhead position with the arm slightly abducted and externally rotated. Keep the left leg fully extended and the foot flat and facing forward (at 12 o’clock). Inhale and return to the starting position. Repeat for reps or time, then perform on the other side.

Exercise 3: Side plank and row (1 resistance band per pair) 

Setup

Assume a forearm side plank position facing your partner diagonally, each holding the handle of a resistance band in the top hand with the shoulder flexed and the arm extended with light tension (see figure a above). Brace tightly through the core and maintain a neutral spine.

Execution

Both partners pull the handle toward the side of the rib cage, driving the elbow back (see figure b above). Maintain a stable side plank position as the rows are performed. To regress, perform the side plank from the knees, in a side bridge.

Series 2

Sets/Time: 2 × 1 min each with 15-20 s rest between exercises. Allow 60 s recovery between each series.

Adaptations: To progress, try a heavier resistance band or stand with feet further apart.

Exercise 1: Squat and high pull (1 resistance band per person) 

Setup

Stand tall with the feet shoulder-width apart, spine neutral, core braced, and shoulders down. Facing a partner, hold the handle of a resistance band in both hands in front of the hips. Stand far enough away from the partner to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Partner A squats and pushes the handle of the resistance band down, while simultaneously partner B extends the hips and knees and performs a high pull. Partner A then extends hips and knees and performs a high pull, while partner B squats and pushes the handle of the band down.

Exercise 2: Front lunge and chop (1 resistance band per pair)

Setup

Stand tall with the feet together facing a partner. Hold the handle of a resistance band in both hands with the arms extended to shoulder height. Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Both partners pivot and step forward with the left leg while simultaneously chopping horizontally to the left with the resistance band. Step the left foot back to the starting position and square the body off to the center. Repeat on the right, alternating for reps or time.

Exercise 3: Side-by-side front chop (1 resistance band per pair)

Series 3

Sets/time: 2 x 1 min each with 15-20 s rest between exercises. Allow 60 s recovery between series.

Adaptations: To progress, try a heavier resistance band or stand with feet further apart.

Exercise 1: Chain-gang squat (1 resistance band per pair) 

Setup

Stand tall and face a partner with the feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, toes slightly turned out, and core braced tightly. Hold the handle of a resistance band in both hands. Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band. The core is braced tightly.

Execution

Partner A squats down and pulls the resistance band between the legs, like a kettlebell swing. Simultaneously, partner B extends the hips and flexes the shoulders, raising the arms overhead. One person is up while the other is down, like a seesaw.

Exercise 2: Chest press with front lunge (1 resistance band per person)

Setup

Stand tall with feet together facing away from your partner. Loop two resistance bands so each partner is holding the handles of their own resistance band in each hand. The shoulders are abducted so that the hands are directly in front of the shoulders and the band is on top of the arms (see figure a above). Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Both partners simultaneously step forward into a front lunge while performing a chest press (see figure b above). Brace the core tightly and exhale while stepping forward. Step the foot back and inhale. Repeat alternating legs.

Exercise 3: Side-by-side alternating chop (1 resistance band per pair) 

Setup

Stand side-on to a partner with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of a resistance band in both hands with arms extended at shoulder height. Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Partner A performs a high rotation movement away from partner B, while partner B performs a low rotation movement away from partner A. Both partners return to the starting position. Alternate high and low for reps or time.

Series 4

Sets/Time: 2 x 1 min each with 15-20 s rest between series.

Exercise 1: Side lunge with high pull (1 resistance band per pair)

Setup

Stand tall with feet together facing a partner. Hold the handle of a resistance band in the left hand with arm extended to shoulder height. Stand far enough apart to maintain tension on the band.

Execution

Both partners simultaneously perform a side lunge to the left, keeping feet parallel and sitting back slightly with hips as knees flex. While performing the side lunge, pull the resistance band towards the shoulder, driving the elbow back, to execute a high pull. Return to the start position and repeat on the right side. Alternate sides for reps or time.

Adaptations: To progress, try a heavier resistance band or stand with feet further apart.

Exercise 2: Push-up with high-five

Adaptations: To regress leave knees on floor. To progress, lift opposite foot from the floor with the high-five.

Exercise 3: Partner bicycle

Setup

Sitting on the floor, face a partner and press the soles of the feet together off the floor in a V-sit. Lean the torso back slightly and place the hands on the floor close to the hips, using the arms to provide support. Sit far enough apart that each person can move through a full ROM.

Execution

Working together, push out one leg and pull the other in, like a bicycle (see figure). Keep the soles of the feet pressed together and move back and forward with the legs. To regress, drop back onto the elbows. To progress, reach the arms out to the sides.

Adaptations: To regress, place a small ball behind lower back to add support. To progress, sit taller and lift hands from the floor.

Summary

Small-group training could not seem more timely with people looking to engage in physical and social activity as lockdown restrictions ease for many. Small-group training is a great way to build the team mentality and help participants stay motivated, engaged and feel like they are part of something. Further training programs can be found in Keli Roberts’ book below.

Header photo: Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

A Professional's Guide to Small-Group Personal Training book cover

Adapted from:

A Professional’s Guide to Small-Group Personal Training

Keli Roberts

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This entry was posted in: Coaching & PE, Fitness & Health, Sport Business

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