I have noticed a remarkable trend in the fitness industry over the past several years.
The strength coaches tend to be extremely innovative in terms of creating better systems for training many people at once, but the personal trainers tend to be extremely innovative in terms of creating strategies for training one person at a time.
Strength coaches tend to be incredibly practical and efficient, while personal trainers tend to be creative and adaptable.
While I had my training studio Lifts, I did small group training. Sometimes I would have five clients at a time, while other times I’d have only one client at a time. Often during the 5:00 and 6:00 time-slots I’d have around 8 clients. The most clients I ever trained at once was 12 clients, although I had one other trainer working with me at that time.
The strategies are quite different when you train one person at a time versus many people at a time. When you train large groups, you must take into account equipment availability and the lifts you’d like to coach intensively, as you can’t be everywhere at once. When you train one person at a time, you can modify the workout, prescribe more difficult variations (since you’ll be right there watching their form), and rig-up MacGyver-like exercises on the spot.
I believe that every strength coach who is always training multiple athletes at once should do at least one one-on-one session per week with a certain athlete or client in order to keep their creative juices flowing. When I was a high school math teacher I would also tutor students after school. You can work wonders with kids when you individualize their instruction. A considerable more amount of learning can take place under individualized circumstances as opposed to group circumstances. Similarly, when you train an individual one-on-one, if you see something wrong with form you can test (assess) them right then, you can switch exercises, you can have them do more or less sets depending on how they feel on that particular day, and you can change strategies altogether and work on a different quality (for example if they are drained on that particular day maybe you’d want to work more on mobility or energy system development). In essence, much more athleticism can be gained from training an individual one-on-one as opposed to tossing him into a group-system.
Conversely, I believe that every personal trainer should do some group training at least once per week as it really leads to improvements in a trainer’s systems and philosophy. When you train a bunch of people at once, you learn what your “big rocks” are and how to get as much work done in as little amount of time as possible.
I believe that most of the creative trainers in the fitness industry who come up with new exercise variations are personal trainers, while most of the creative trainers in the fitness industry who develop the best systems are strength coaches. In other words, trainers tend to get really good at what they do most. If you want to be the best trainer possible, dabble in one-on-one training, small group training, and large group training.