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Maximizing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of Your Small Group Training Programming – Part II

Maximizing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of Your Small Group Training Programming – Part II

By Sarah Rippel, Rippel Effect Fitness


In Part I of this article series, I covered a few ways in which you can decrease the amount of time you spend correcting movement, keep the emphasis on the basics, and crank up the intensity as needed during your small group training workouts:

  1. Stop relying on verbal cueing as a main means of correcting movement. 
  2. Realize that 80% of the time, the basics are going to give you the most bang for your buck.
  3. Use easy tweaks such as isometrics, slow eccentrics, and band-resisted movements to help your clients groove those basic movement patterns.


With Part II I wanted to share my thoughts on equipment selection. I have years of experience running a highly-successful outdoor fitness boot camp program. This program had its beginnings in 2006, but I consistently ran an outdoor program month after month from October 2009-October 2013. After this time, I brought my groups indoors. 


For the past three years, as the owner of a private fitness facility, I have been able to take all those years of designing and implementing outdoor workouts & capitalize on many things I learned. My ability to make the most out of having minimal equipment in an outdoor setting has really come in handy indoors, even though my facility is outfitted with plenty of barbells, bumper plates, kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, bands, cardio equipment, squat racks, and pull—up stations.


Here’s where I stand: Simplicity is Smart.


Do not be quick to write off something as being too simple to be effective. We must always be keeping our clients’ goals in mind, and sometimes it can become difficult to see things through their eyes due to our own experiences with exercise, our biases, and/or our affinity for certain training methods or equipment. I believe it is important to have a rich experience working with different pieces of equipment. This coupled with a solid understanding of various training methods gives us more ways in which we can provide an amazing fitness experience for our clients! 


Working with people in a small group setting is not the same as working with them individually (although there are many similarities). You must be able to not only look at things through the eyes of a personal trainer who is focused on one client at a time, but the eyes of someone who is responsible for orchestrating an entire group of people who share a common goal. With group training, the common goal can be “meeting together consistently to get into shape.” Yes, everyone in the group has their own unique goals, but this blanket statement gets the point across. Essentially, when you coach a group of people who are working out together, you are not unlike the conductor of a symphony. Not only must you think about the performance of everyone, you must consider the overall experience, as you are helping create a masterpiece!


Being the leader of a group training masterpiece is not for every fitness professional. To those who have realized they are cut out for it, you have my standing ovation!


Without further ado, here are my suggestions for keeping things as simple yet effective as possible when it comes to selecting the right instruments, I mean training equipment, for your group training experience!



When we are talking about equipment selection for group training, it’s a no-brainer that plain-ol’ bodyweight reigns supreme. Having a solid background in the foundational human movement patterns is a must when it comes to understanding how to modify any exercise to suit the individual. 

Knowing that if a person has difficulty performing a loaded movement, they will benefit from taking that load away is the first step in not only helping them become more proficient at moving in a safe manner, but in long-term fitness progress. 

Even better would be having a system in place that enables you to have a better understanding of everyone’s competency regarding foundational movement patterns. From here the job of programming appropriate exercise variations is made less complicated. 

I believe everyone should begin their fitness experience with movement screening & establishing a baseline of bodyweight competency. This occurs on day one in my facility with every person I train. 

From a foundation of appropriate bodyweight standards can come more advanced movement training with bodyweight itself or with loading!



In second place to bodyweight comes kettlebells. I just cannot think of a more well-rounded tool. Kettlebells can be used for exercises that improve mobility, strength, and conditioning. 

Yes, dumbbells can be used as well but kettlebells win out in my opinion. Why? At the risk of sounding like many others, the offset shape of the kettlebell lends itself to improving the effects of numerous exercises. In addition, the fact that grip is tremendously involved with all kettlebell exercises makes it beneficial for everyone. 

Take the basic kettlebell overhead press – the same exercise can be done with a dumbbell, but because the bulk of the kettlebell’s weight rests against the back of the wrist, it helps to open up the shoulder in the overhead position. Having to crush the kettlebell’s handle while performing an overhead press adds to the overall benefit because irradiation has a positive effect on the surrounding muscles. In other words, when you maximize your grip while performing a kettlebell overhead press, every muscle from your hand to your shoulder (and even the lats and pecs) works together, thus creating a more strong, stable “environment” as you perform each rep. 

In addition to providing these benefits, kettlebells don’t take up a lot of room and they are portable. Furthermore, it is easy to switch from various sizes. More reasons why they rock!



My third and final choice for a piece of equipment that is easy to use & works well for the group training environment is the almighty resistance band. Bands come in a variety of styles and resistance levels. Depending on the exercise at hand, a band can be anchored to a stationary object or simply held in the user’s hands. Furthermore, band training in the group setting can be a lot of fun when you incorporate partner exercises. One of my long-time favorite partner exercises that uses either a long-looped band or a long band that has handles at each end. I have always just called it the “Partner Tight Rotation,” and it’s great because while one partner is “working,” the other is having to serve as the “anchor” as they rest, so they are both working the entire time! Here’s a link to an Instagram post I made a while back showing this exercise: https://www.instagram.com/p/BXRRZcilH_7/?taken-by=fitprosarah


So there you have it. My top three fitness equipment choices for small group training workouts when the goal is maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your program!

Check Out Sarah Ripples Brand NEW Done for YOU Group Training System for Fit ProsBuild N’ Burn 


Other articles by Sarah Rippel Maximizing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of Your Small Group Training Programming Part I

Modifying the High Plank Hold for ALL Fitness Levels


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