How to Design Small Group Training Programs

by Jon Rimmer |   Date Released : 10 Mar 2011
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Jon Rimmer

About the author: Jon Rimmer

Jon Rimmer began his training career over a decade ago as a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM, later adding NASM’s advanced credentials of Sports Fitness Specialist, Integrated Flexibility Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Currently he holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from the California University of Pennsylvania. He’s the founder of The Training Rim personal fitness studio in Belford, N.J. where he is the Director of Training. Jon is the author of “Iron: Kettlebell and Body Weight Training 101,” has been interviewed by News 12 New Jersey, and his articles have appeared in IEEE Potentials Magazine,, and

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Comments (13)

Rimmer, Jon | 25 Jul 2012, 20:10 PM

Great questions/points Teri. A couple of things: All the sections are modifiable and can/should be adjusted somewhat depending on your logistics. The numbers aren't a draconian decree, but just a guideline. But you're right, the 1st few times there is more instruction and demonstrations from the trainer and more questions and mistakes from the exercisers. As time goes on less talking is necessary and more "doing" occurs - this is something to factor into the scheduling. In terms of the mobility we ask them to get there a few minutes early to do rolling on their own, and the workout begins with a dynamic mobility component. When we're done they can stay to do any stretching or drills that they've been assigned based on their particular needs/goals.

Chadwick, Teri | 25 Jul 2012, 01:52 AM

Hi Jon, I notice that the workouts get longer as the months progress. I'm assuming that the classes are 60 minutes long and that you're using the remaining time at the end of each class for stretching/foam rolling, etc. Is this correct? I tend to be one of those who want to make each class work entirely within a 60 minute format. Does your 1st month workout lend itself to that because you're spending time teaching the basics? And if that's the case, you still have about 20 minutes left in the 2nd month workout. Are you simply spending the time stretching, rolling, etc?

Rimmer, Jon | 27 Mar 2012, 14:53 PM

Kevin, I hope your loss of respect for me didn’t cloud the larger point: Success and results are relative terms. Periodized and adaptable programming will elicit superior results to repetitive one size fits all programming – pretty sure this isn’t open for debate with anyone that’s been doing this a long time.

mccarthy, kevin | 24 Mar 2012, 02:42 AM

I have seen many members at the club participate in Group Fitness Classes only and have seen incredible results. As a personal trainer, you lost my complete respect by stating, "Group fitness is surely not the way to go if results are the goal. "

Rimmer, Jon | 31 Jan 2012, 23:09 PM

Teri, in that case I congratulate you on your professionalism, as you are in the minority (in a good way). Keep up the good work - Jon

Chadwick, Teri | 31 Jan 2012, 21:54 PM

I teach a bootcamp class. I do NOT "scream(s) highly informational, scientifically based instructions such as “TWELVE MORE!” and “COME ON, MAN UP!” I actually give my members highly informational, scientifically based instructions. Let's not paint all Bootcamp instructors with such a wide brush. Thank you.

Rimmer, Jon | 30 Mar 2011, 17:14 PM

GREAT question Neil, you're not wrong at all - power exercises are definitely more likely to cause injury under fatigue. This is one of those questions where I think it's OK to break the rules as long as you understand the rules. For starters, many exercises can be used as either power exercises or conditioning exercises if the acute variables are adjusted. But more importantly, what I try to do is choose exercises that are self limiting (battling ropes, jump rope), easily regressible (lunge jumps, plyo pushups which can be changed to regular lunges and pushups in a second) and keep the intervals short. These thin gs make it almost impossible for a client to do too much with bad form. Obviously being a good trainer and reminding your clients it's better to stop too soon than too late, and being observant so you can pull the plug on those who won't do it themselves helps too.

Collom, Neil | 30 Mar 2011, 17:11 PM

Hello. Great article. I have one question for you. It has been drilled into my head that plyometric exercises, such as jumping (plyo) lunges and power push ups should be done when fresh, not at the end of the workout as a conditioning exercise. I agree that a participant should be fully warmed up and primed for movement, but I feel that the risk of injury would be far greater when plyometric movements are done last. Have I been taught wrong, or is there something that I am missing? Neil Collom, CSCS

Rimmer, Jon | 21 Mar 2011, 12:13 PM

Joe – check the ptonthenet library. If they aren’t there get back to me and I’ll see if I can post a video and/or pictures.

Mark – I’m not criticizing group fitness participants or instructors personally. I’m making a point that repetitive, one size fits all workouts are more likely to create injuries and stagnation than progressive adaptable workouts.

Wrench, Mark | 20 Mar 2011, 18:30 PM

You state group fitness is surely not the way to go if results are the goal. What about the content, the expertise of the instructor, the passion of the instructor, the common sense of the instructor? You pretty much lost my interest early on with that sentence. Many group fitness instructors do a fantastic job. How dare you say we don't help people get results and promote injuries. Millions have changed the lives with group fitness.

Raiti, Joe | 18 Mar 2011, 21:25 PM

Great article Jon.
Just one thing that you might help me clarify, where do I find those exercises that you have unusual names for such as Prisoner squats, bird dogs etc?

Even though I run Boot camps and call them as such , my sessions are more like what you mention in your article.. I find this a far better system of progressing people rather than smashing them and hoping they recover.

I've had some great gains from my participants eg: going from kneeling push-ups to toe push ups and belting out 20 easily...

great work.


Rimmer, Jon | 17 Mar 2011, 17:29 PM

Thanks, glad you liked it.

Ng, Nick | 16 Mar 2011, 19:39 PM

Hi Jon. Thanks for clarifying what small group training is and what it is not. The adaptability of your philosophy is better than what many places offer. Thank you.


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