Personal Training VS Small Group Training: Which One is For You?

It all comes down to your goals—and what motivates you to get moving!

By Allison Jones March 26, 2015

Looking to find some renewed workout motivation? You're not alone. When morning dog jogs around the neighborhood or hour-long treadmill sessions aren't generating the desired results, many turn to a trainer for support. Not long ago, folks looking to get fit needed to choose between finding (and paying) a personal trainer, sweating along with dozens of people in a group class, or going it alone. These days, gyms and fitness studios are bursting with options for something in between—classes from barre to kettlebells to TRX training, capped at around 8 students for maximum personalization and modifications, along with the handy health boost of friendly peer pressure. 

The middle way: Small Group Training

According to Portland trainer Paisley Meekin, "small group training is the best of both worlds. You get the attention to detail, help with technique, as well as the group energy of support and encouragement that comes with a community." At her small-but-mighty Northeast Fremont gym, Honest Personal Training, Meekin coaches groups of 2 to 6 people through strength-building, heart-pumping circuits and indoor cycling classes—for a fraction of the cost of one-on-one training.

"Small group training allows for lots of modifications and alternate exercises geared toward each of our client's needs and goals. It's also nice to give clients some time to practice a movement without a trainer all up in their grill—because, as we know, they take practice."
The benefits of small-group training don't stop there. According to Meekin, "people work harder and smarter in a small group. Natural willingness to push and do the best you can is a side affect of working out next to others—a small amount of competition is healthy! It's also a great way to see others in action, creating a great visual for perfecting form and technic. Group dynamics also increase the fun factor! When you have a room of fun people (versus just one fun trainer) it creates an environment that really does feel more fun—and humor and camaraderie no doubt ease those not-very-fun moments of a workout."

But Is Personal Training Still Worth the Cost?

Local pro trainer Kisar Dhillon—who gets sweaty one-on-one with some of Portland's top chefs, smoothie emperors, entrepreneurs, and tech stars at Southeast Portland's the Art of Personal Training—weighs in. "If someone is looking for training that will be safe, relationship-based, and 100% focused on them, then private one-on-one personal training is the best bet." Dhlilon argues that private training yields the best results, because "the personal trainer is going to gear every workout, exercise, repetition, and set towards their client’s main goal—whether it's to trim down for a role or reach a goal weight. Personal trainers do whatever it takes to make that happen."

Whereas small-group training can work up a full-body sweat, personal trainers can go deeper and develop workouts tailored to a client's injuries, abilities, preferences, and body type—safely. According to Dhillon, "private personal training is safer than working in groups, because the trainer is focusing on one person's moves, form, biomechanics, and breathing technique. If a client has a dragging shoulder, or their breathing is off, or any other minute discrepancy, it can be corrected immediately."

Stil not convinced? Dhillon believes one-on-one personal training is unique thanks to "the relationship between the client and trainer, which is a huge factor in the success of the client’s training program. In my experience, clients not only feel at ease expressing how they truly feel without the competition of others, but it also creates a level of trust, openness, and accountability towards each other."

Now it's your turn. Would you consider a personal trainer? Do you work out in a small (or large) group? Or are you the lone wolf at the gym? Tell us in the comments! 

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