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Semi-Private and Small-Group Training: What’s the Difference?

A semi-private fitness coach works with a client while two others rest in the background between sets.

As a gym owner, you need to know about all the services that can help you build a strong business.

You don’t have to offer all of them, but you should know your options so you can create a business that helps clients and generates the revenue you need to live the life you want.

I’ve got two less-common, high-value services for you here: semi-private training and small-group training.


High Value, Low Overhead


Here’s the simple explanation:

  • In a semiprivate group, all exercisers follow their own customized programs and share one coach who skillfully moves around the group to provide a ton of attention to each person. The clients are essentially doing personal training with a few other PT clients present.
  • In a small group, all exercisers follow the same program and do the same workout at the same time, with the coach providing modifications as needed. The class is capped at a small number of participants, so the coach can give each person a lot of attention—much more than they would receive in a general group class.


These are high-value services because each client gets a lot of attention.

In a group class of seven to 12 people, a good coach circulates and connects with clients periodically as they perform variations of the same workout. In semi-private and small-group sessions, coach-to-client contact is dramatically increased. Workouts are unique to the individual in semi-private sessions, and small groups allow for increased adjustments and far more feedback.

With all that in mind, both semi-private and small-group training are priced closer to personal training than to conventional “group” memberships found in CrossFit gyms and spin studios. Clients are getting greater value, and they’re happy to pay for it—both parties win.


Big-Time Benefits


Other key benefits of semi-private/small-group training for the gym:

  • The model requires far less space and equipment.
  • You need fewer clients to earn the same amount as you would with group classes at lower rates, so marketing and onboarding costs are lower.
  • Small groups can dramatically improve retention. Stronger coach-client relationships create retention rates similar to those of PT, and the added camaraderie in a group of clients creates another bond that ties people to the gym. Many training groups stick together for years!


Here’s one final thing to consider, and it’s a big one:

If you have some very small classes of two or four people, you’re essentially offering small-group training without being compensated for the increased attention clients receive.

I know this because I regularly delivered personal training to a single person who showed up to a badly attended class and paid the group rate. I essentially offered my highest value service—my undivided attention—for about $7 an hour. Clients were thrilled to get great coaching. My wife was less thrilled when I told her not to buy “the expensive cheese.”

I’ve told you how to calculate the value of your group classes here.

Do that exercise again and zoom in on slots with an average attendance of one to four people—I’ll bet the gross revenue in those classes is something like $10 to $40, depending on your membership price.

You probably pay a coach about $25 for the hour, so you might lose a little money, break even on labor without earning anything to cover fixed costs and profit, or hold onto about $15 or $20 after labor costs are deducted.

Compare that to this:

One Two-Brain gym with a strong program charges about $60 an hour for semi-private training. A four-person hour grosses $240, the coach is paid $80 for the hour (wow, right?), and the gym takes in about $160 after labor costs. If you allocate about $55 to cover fixed costs (approximately 22 percent of gross), the gym earns $105 in profit for the hour.

If you run your numbers and find poorly attended group classes that are costing you money, you need to kill them, fill them or spend the time doing something else.

Dig into the semi-private/small-group model. Could it work for your clients and your business?

To help you answer that question, I have a new guide for you: “5 Gym Business Models That Work.” I break down this model and four more in detail. To get the guide, DM me on Facebook or click here for more info.

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One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.