3 Tips for Transitioning Your Training Model to Semi-Private


How can I convince my personal training clients to embrace a semi-private model after years of one-on-one attention? I can’t decide where to start logistically as it relates to schedule modifications, and also as it relates to communicating the benefits of this change to my existing clients.

This inquiry arrived in my inbox earlier this week from a facility owner in England. This is far from the first time I’ve been asked this exact question.

Let me put something on the table right from the start: I’ve never taken a pure personal training facility and transitioned it to a semi-private model.

I am fortunate to have fallen into a business opportunity with Eric Cressey after he’d identified the semi-private group-training model as his training format of choice. Since July 13th of 2007, Cressey Sports Performance has operated almost entirely as a semi-private model. This being said, I have helped to create a training environment that has now seen well over 100,000 semi-private training sessions executed, with nearly 4,000 athletes having made their way through our doors. If there is one thing I am certain of, it is that the group-training format can be more profitable than a personal training model while still delivering an effective and memorable training experience for your clients.

Instead of pretending to have a “how-to” guide for making a wholesale transition to a semi-private model, I’ll tell you the first three things I would do if I were the owner of a personal training business looking to make the change:

1. I wouldn’t try to do it all at once

Want to know a great way to antagonize your existing clients? Tell them that you’ve decided to no longer offer a service that they know and like with little or no notice. This isn’t a facility re-model we’re talking about; you can’t close the doors for a couple of days to give your training model a face-lift and then re-open with an entirely different identity. 

Start by selecting a single slot in your current personal training calendar and designating it as your “semi-private hour” moving forward. I would imagine that there is a specific hour in your day that you know you could fill effortlessly if your current client were to opt out. Instead of plugging in the next personal training client on your waiting list the next time this happens, begin informing existing clients and incoming leads that the slot is now reserved for groups of 3-5 athletes. Emphasize that participants will receive an individualized approach to their program design while also experiencing the camaraderie and enhanced training environment that comes from integrating additional personalities to the training space.

Selecting a high-value hour in your schedule to allot toward this cause may seem reckless at first, but you’ll soon see that what may initially appear as one step backward takes you several steps forward in the very near future. Create a great training environment during this single time-slot and your personal training clients during the hour before and after are eventually going to see it in action and realize that they just may be missing out on a better experience at a lower price point.

2. Focus on delivering value to opinion leaders

Write down the name of a client who will not shut up in between sets. You know the one – it’s the person who might as well be paying you to be their sounding board for gossip distribution instead of fitness instruction. Every gym has one (or ten), and they’re going to be the fuel that drives the news of your new semi-private model into the ears of every single person they come in to contact with upon leaving your facility feeling invigorated from a brand new training environment.

Now that you’ve identified this client, approach him to discuss your great idea to make his training experience more effective. Don’t be afraid to butter him up a little bit.

“I was thinking that you’d really thrive in my semi-private training format. You’re clearly a people person and the higher-energy training environment would both push you to work harder, and allow you to positively influence someone else’s training experience at the same time. ”

You may be thinking that adding a couple more sets of ears to the training floor will make the client that much more tolerable, but all he’ll be hearing is that you think he's a people person who would make great progress in the gym with the right boost of energy to the training environment. Everybody wins.

Your client will soon realize that the exercises executed during a semi-private session are identical to, and every bit as supervised, as they were in a personal training setting. Arguably more importantly, he’ll see that the social component of the experience has multiplied. You’re going to have a walking and talking billboard outside of your gym. A boisterous extrovert might occasionally be a headache on the training floor, but he's also your most efficient form of advertising.

3. Document the process

Don’t just tell your current clients that a semi-private training format is the change they didn’t realize they needed; show them.

Record video of your group training sessions and showcase it on your website and social networking platforms. Document a client hitting a personal record on the deadlift as their training partners cheer them on in the background. Ask a group participant to record a quick testimonial video or write down a few sentences about how impactful it is to train as part of a community of likeminded individuals and share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Let the energy of the group setting shine through right in front of your skeptical client’s eyes.

I’m struggling through it with you…

As I was driving to work this morning I found myself thinking about how much my son Collin’s life has changed since his brother Owen was born. In a lot of ways, my wife and I have asked Collin to suddenly transition from his personal training lifestyle into a group-training format. While it is difficult for a two-year-old to emotionally process the reality that he’s now splitting the attention of his parents, I know that he’ll one day come to realize that his brother is the best thing that ever happened to him.

He now has a lifetime playmate, and someone to push him to be a more competitive and productive individual. Unfortunately, he’s years away from appreciating these perks.

Your personal training clients are likely in a similar position to my son, but they don’t have to wait for their potential training partners to learn to walk and talk. Free up that single hour in your training calendar today and you’ll be one big step closer to showing them what they’re missing.