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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.

Training Ropes: Adding Fun and Ease to Group Fitness Training

If you are not using training ropes in your group workouts, you are missing out! Training ropes are one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal for fitness. They are versatile, low-impact, and many fitness levels and ages can enjoy the benefits of working with training ropes.

What are training ropes? 

Training Rope
Training Rope

Essentially it’s a long thick rope with handles. The length, diameter, and material will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. From a training standpoint these variations are important to take into consideration before implementing them into your training program.  I’ll touch more on that later.

These long ropes with handles are usually wrapped around an anchor of some sort. You can buy anchors specifically for mounting the ropes to the walls of your facility or you can simply wrap it around anything that won’t move such as a rack, pole, or tree.

How are training ropes used?

There are many, many, exercises and progressions, but I’m just going to give you a starting point and an example of ways to adjust the intensity. The primary rope exercise we use is rope waves. Assume an athletic stance with one handle in each hand and make a drumming movement avoiding rounding of the shoulders and upper back .  Using that as an example: if I wanted to increase the difficulty I might add squats to this movement, if I wanted to decrease the difficulty I would simply have the client drop one handle and do waves with only one side of the rope. That’s pretty much the ease of coaching ropes. If you would like more examples of exercises that can be done with battling ropes, click the link at the bottom of the page.

What are the benefits of training ropes in group exercise?

Ropes are hands down the number one way to get an individual with a knee or foot injury some high intensity, low-impact conditioning. How many of you have clients with lower body injuries they have acquired at some time in their life?  How many times have you wanted to get that heart rate up a little more without, bending, twisting, jumping, running, over head, or lateral movement? J Sometimes it’s hard to come up with “that exercise” on the fly while coaching a group session.  Ropes make that really easy.

Children love them! Child and teenage athletes are full of energy and spunk! Any new addition to the gym is immediately noticed and inspected.  Hand them a training rope and say “grip it and rip it” and watch the smiles. From a trainer’s standpoint, training ropes are an excellent way to start to introduce maintaining good posture through vigorous movements.  We usually line the younger children up each with one handle, two kids to a rope. That also helps incorporate sharing.  J

The biggest, baddest, most ninja like athlete will get smoked. Training ropes are great for injured and young populations but that does not make them easy to do.  You, the coach, even with a shorter, lighter rope, control the intensity of the training.  There are many, many progressions that can be applied to any training rope exercise.  Again, click the link at the bottom of the page for 20 example rope exercises.

It is easy to coach.  Any client can rip some rope waves in a group session. With the world of training advancing and more and more trainers are becoming more form intensive, this is a tool that involves minimal cuing.

What do you need to know before using training ropes?

When you look into introducing training ropes into your toolbox, you want to take into consideration who your primary population is.  At our facility we train a very mixed population and went for ropes that would literally work for anyone.  We use the poly ropes because they are a little lighter than nylon. They are also water resistant which makes them great for using outside. As far as size, 1’ to 1 1/2’ diameters are usually best. 2’+ diameter rope can be hard to hang on to and is usually too heavy for most people to use in good form.  The length can affect this as well.  The longer the rope the heavier it is. Length is a little less important than diameter and material when it comes to training intensity.  How much space you have is a better dictator of how long of a rope you need.

Our friend Justin Yule put together a great video on rope exercises. Check out training ropes in action at

I hope this article might inspire you to take advantage of one of my must haves when coaching group sessions.  Increase your client retention by developing strength, power, and endurance with this fun, easy to learn how to use fitness tool.


Sarah Spaulding


“Red Lighting” Exercises In Group Fitness and Sports Training

Red Lighting exercises is one of the most important aspects of Smart Group Training.  Doing screens or assesments, giving people corrective exercises, and better programing are great, but none of that makes a difference at all if people are doing exercises that causing them more harm than good or reversing all of the good you did with your corrective exercises.

So what exactly is “Red Lighting”?  

It’s very simple. Red Lighting exercises means ensuring that your group training clients don’t do exercises they should’t be doing. Pretty easy concept in theory, but how do you make sure it is happening?

So how do you incorporate proper Red Lighting into your group training? 

First things first, you have to make sure you have properly screened the client.  We use the FMS screen because it’s easy to run in a group and sets a standard that we can use to make sure we are properly progressing and red lighting our clients.

Second you have to have a system to make sure you know what limitation your clients have when you are training them in a group.  In some situations you will know all of your clients and you will know what they should and shouldn’t be doing by heart, but what happens when you get over 100-200+ clients with multiple trainers working with the same people?  You need a system, and the FMS and Smart Group Training can help you develop your system.  In fact, just use ours!

What we do

Like I mentioned above, the FMS screen is the first thing we do.  Each person is screened on intake before doing anything.  With the FMS screen, we find the major limitations that each client may have and relate those back to training.  From there we we have a Red Light Poster in our studio that we made which has each movement and some examples of exercises that are red lighted for people with 1’s on that part of the FMS screen.  We decided recently to take that a step further and color code each movement in the screen.  If the client scores a 1 on any of the movements they receive a colored bracelet that corresponds to that movement.  Each exercise listed for that day has a color next to it if it’s red lighted and if you have that color bracelet you do the alternate or corrective exercise instead.  This really makes it easy for the trainers to know if the clients have any 1’s on the FMS screen, by quickly glancing at their wrist.

Here’s an easy example…..

A client scores a 1 on the shoulder mobility screen

They receive a yellow bracelet

Tall kneeling shoulder press is a selected exercise in the group training session

Tall kneeling shoulder press has a yellow square next to it on the workout card indicating its Red Lighted for Shoulder Mobility 1’s

The client does a shoulder mobility corrective like reach backs or wall slides during the time for shoulder press

All that they have to do is look at their wrist to see what is Red Lighted and the trainers can quickly see if they made a mistake or were sneaky

That’s a pretty good summary of how to Red Light certain exercises in group training.  If you have any questions about Red Lighting please feel free to post in the comments section and we will be glad to help!