How to Personalize Group Training

If you’ve been following Smart Group Training for any time, you should know that we are all about individualizing training rather than providing a watered down program by creating a WOD (workout of the Day).  Sure, you can get benefits and results by creating a general workout template to put everyone on.  However, without customizing each routine, injury rates will increase, results will be minimized, plateaus will be harder to break, and overall…the training will be sub-par.

It’s been our mission over the past four years to provide something better.  We want to provide each of our clients the absolute best training program available.  We quickly realized that using a general workout template just wasn’t cutting it for us, so we decided to put our heads together and make some changes.  It took countless hours to develop the systems needed to make this happen, but honestly…it’s not that hard if you break it down into a series of processes that need to be followed to maximize results.  This simple process works in all scenarios.  It works in one-on-one, semi-private training, and most importantly…group training.  The reason why we say “most importantly” when it comes to group training is because this is the area we always see general workout templates, or WOD’s, being used.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Here is a general guideline to follow to individualize each program you write:


Individualized Screening – As the popular saying goes, “If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.”  We are asked all the time about specific scenarios and what we would do to “fix” or help a client progress.  The 1st thing we want to know is screening information.  Without us personally knowing what is going on with the client, it makes it impossible to help the client.  The screen will identify each person’s weaknesses and strengths.  Work on the weaknesses and dysfunctions and everything else gets better.  However, you’ll never really know this information without a proper screening system in place.

Red Lights – After the screen, the first thing we want to do is apply “red lights.”  This simply means we will restrict exercises that are only going to do more harm than good.  The screen gives us the information we need to know how that client will move while training.  If we see a major dysfunction, we want to clear that dysfunction…not train it.  We don’t try to fix everything at once, but we most certainly ensure our clients are only doing the things that will help them improve, not get worse.  If the screen shows you a major dysfunction, make your programs without any movements that will be impossible for them to do.

Assign Correctives – In order to get the best results, we only focus on the biggest dysfunction we found during the screen.  A heavy majority of the time, multiple dysfunctions stem from one major issue.  If someone has a major mobility restriction, there’s a good chance that multiple exercises are going to be hard for them to complete.  If the body can’t move the way we want it to, we’re asking for something the client cannot do.  All we do there is set them up for failure.  Focus on one issue at a time and clear that pattern.  After clearing that pattern, re-screen the client to find the next issue to tackle.  Attack mobility and breathing dysfunctions first, stability next, and finish with global movement patterns such as squatting and lunging.  If you work in reverse, you may never get there.  You may just be trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.

Put the Client at the Proper Progression – Now that we know what to red light, programming becomes much easier.  Feel free to use a general template, but make sure you have plenty of progressions and regressions for each pattern being trained that day.  It’s pretty safe to say that everyone shouldn’t be doing certain exercises.  If you can’t squat….DON’T SQUAT.  Instead, red light the squat and find the right regression that the client can do safely, correctly, and still challenge them.  Corrective work and regressions shouldn’t be looked at negatively.  If the client struggles with a certain pattern, it’s our job to find the right level they can train at and still provide the stimulus needed to adapt and get better.  With each program we write, we generally have a minimum of 4-5 progressions/regressions we can choose from.  Let the client experience success at each exercise and their results will improve.

If you take that simple four step process, your programming will start to become more individualized.  It will start as a WOD or general template, but with minimal work, it can turn into a customized program in minutes.  We personally write each person’s routine that comes in to train with us by following this exact method.  It doesn’t matter if the client is working with us one-on-one, in a small group or semi-private format, or if they are in our large group programs…we still take the extra time to personalize each routine.  We get better results by doing this and our clients love us for it.  It shows that we are here for them and care about maximizing their results.  Try out this simple process and see how it works for you!

Jared Woolever