Is Semi-Private Training Overrated?

Semi-private training is not the be-all-end-all of profitable gym ownership, and people need to stop acting like it’s the only logical way to improve a gym’s performance.

I am constantly encountering gym owners seeking guidance in overhauling their existing personal training models so that they can roll out a new format that will supposedly instantaneously maximize the efficiency of each hour in the workday.

Semi-private has worked for my business. 99% of the clients who have come through our doors have trained in this format, but this doesn’t mean I think it is the definitive “go-to solution” for everyone. Yes, putting four bodies in your gym for $45/session will translate to more revenue than a single $99 one-on-one client, but it is short-sighted to think that employing this model is as simple as revising your pricing and firing off an email announcing the change to clients.

Here are three things I want you to take into consideration as you entertain the idea of this big strategic shift:

1. Your schedule is likely full because your clients are happy.

You know what makes clients unhappy? Telling them that you’ve decided to take away something that they currently love. Is it a good idea to rock the boat?

Maybe you haven’t actually hit a ceiling on your personal training rates. Your packed schedule doesn’t tell me it’s definitively time to transition to semi-private…it tells me you might be a little too affordable. Consider increasing prices in your existing format before flipping a properly functioning system on its head.


2. Your schedule is probably full because you’re a damn good personal trainer.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re good at what you do. The bad news is that being an exceptional personal trainer doesn’t guarantee success in a group setting. Coaching multiple athletes is about more than just making better use of the down time between clients’ sets.

It takes hundreds of hours of coaching in our Cressey Sports Performance internship program before coaches fully acclimate to our training model. A parent once described our training environment as a “strength training ant farm” as he observed 40+ athletes moving through individualized programming under the supervision of our team. Do you think that a handful of years of coaching one-on-one has equipped you to dive in to this type of training setting?

Maybe you should embrace the fact that you’re a kick-ass one-on-one service provider and continue to hone that craft. There’s got to be plenty of opportunity to own that segment as everyone else seems to be jumping ship with the “if some is good, more is better” training model mentality.

3. Your operation may not be designed to accommodate a significant increase in foot traffic.

When you operate a semi-private training model like the one we employ here at CSP, you quickly learn that the single most valuable “piece of equipment” you can own is open space. This presents a problem for gym owners operating in facilities that were initially designed to accommodate an entirely personal training-based format.

If you really want to do this, you’re going to need to increase your warm-up space, add second and even third units of equipment you already own (medicine balls, kettlebells, etc.), and possibly reconfigure your floor plan to accommodate a new flow of clients within the space.

You don’t HAVE TO follow the crowd…

Who cares if everyone seems to be saying that you’ve got to move to semi-private? You may have a great operation that isn’t broken, so don’t go looking to fix it if you don’t absolutely have to.

* Some additional recommended reading: My business partner Eric made a wonderful case for the staying power of quality personal training back in 2015. Check it out here.


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