Is One-on-One Personal Training Dead?
Personal training might have a poor reputation in some places, but that doesn't mean it is dying.
Many people have heard a horror story about personal training. Trainers on their phones, clients vomiting during the first training session and getting ridiculous nutrition programs that restrict every nutrient that we have so far discovered.
Many people who hire a trainer leave them within four weeks and typically leave with buyers remorse. The didn’t enjoy training (vomited), could not stick to the nutrition plan (too hard) and the trainer never listened (too busy on their phone). The entire process feels like a waste of time and money, and they vow to never do it again.
Whilst this is no-doubt the minority of Trainers, word quickly spreads and trust is lost, even in those who have not had a poor experience...
What is personal training?
Let's set the scene - I consider personal training to be a 1:1 coaching session with a trainer and client. You could argue that 1:2 or 1:3 is personal training, but I consider that to be small-group training, and anything 4+ to be medium or large group training.
Personal training is a great way to get highly personalised coaching, help people improve technique and push intensity beyond standard levels.
One of the greatest benefits is the one-on-one nature of the training. Many beginner trainees are coming in with minimal training experience. As a result, the last thing the way to do is something they are learning and uncomfortable with (ie. resistance training) in front of an audience.
Having a Trainer to guide them through the gym and learning phase of technique can be extremely beneficial, and may be the difference between someone turning up three times a week or not at all.
Sounds good - so why might it be dying?
Group training is all the rage in the fitness industry. Group training allows lesser cost per session, as the cost can be shared across the group. A one-hour session with 6 clients paying $30 each is an income of $180 per hour – which would be in the top percentile for one-on-one training sessions in Australia.
You can see why small-group training is so popular with Trainers...
Since cost is a significant barrier to entry for clients, anything that decreases cost - without decreasing hourly earnings - is of huge value to the Trainer.
However, group training comes with less attention than you would otherwise get one-on-one. In small-groups this is not a big issue, as the training session can be set up so that when one person is resting, the other is lifting. This allows the coach to see almost every much more of the session.
Group training and one-on-one sessions are a different beasts. The style of training, exercise selection, feedback and coaching are often quite different. One is not better than the other, just different. Individuals need to know what they need and make a decision based on that.
I know from personal experience that when the group goes above four people – I am of less use than I can be in the smaller-groups. I like to see every set, provide feedback and give points to work on for the next set.
With that many people in the room, I simply cannot, but that is not to say other Trainer's are not able to manage these groups very well. There are coaches who thrive on running the medium and larger groups, and deliver phenomenal coaching to them.
Neither is one-on-one or group training is better than the other, but simply individual clients will be better-suited to one or the other.
TRAINER QUALITY & POOR EXPERIENCES
As the group training space is certainly growing, it is taking a lot of Trainers with it who previously trained clients one-on-one.
With the proliferation of online courses, easy qualifications and the ability to run a business with small cost, there is a new-wave of ‘sometimes trainers’ who take clients when they want to whilst working other jobs full time.
These enthusiastic amateurs have good intentions but not-so-good knowledge.
Personal Training will never die
These could be famous last words - if I was famous - but let me explain.
KNOWLEDGE IS INCREASING
The standard of good fitness professionals is increasing at the top-end. You are probably thinking 'hang on - didn't you just say that poor qualifications and decreased time was an issue? How it that be a good thing!'
What we are seeing now is a decrease in the average quality of personal trainers at the bottom of scale, yet seeing improvements at the top-end.
Trainers now have a wealth of educational resources and connect with leading experts all across the world. It takes time and money to tap into these resources, but for full-time professionals looking to increase their knowledge, it is a no-brainer.
I can speak from personal experience. Up until this point, it has been possible for me todo the following:
- complete an Exercise Science/Human Nutrition double-degree;
- be mid-way through a 52-week course with one of London's top Personal Trainers;
- be four weeks away from completing a top level certification with the leading sports nutrition associations, based in Florida;
- be able to listen to interviews with a range of top training and nutrition coaches via podcasts and interviews.
The majority being completed online and all based in Canberra. You could not do that five years ago, let alone ten!
Better education is leading to a higher knowledge base for top-level coaches.
Ask any trainer the following question: would they get the best results training a client one-on-one or in a small group?
Assume cost does not matter – just focus on the training.
I think you can guess the answer...
There will always be value in having an expert in their field of work with you on a one-on-one basis.
One-on-one personal training is not for everyone – due to cost, training preferences and many other reasons. However, there will always be a market for personalised training sessions and the people to utilise them will continue to find significant return on their investment.
One-on-one personal training is alive and well!