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Try these keys for smooth (and effective) small group training.

Small groups are hot. In 2011, about 7.7 million Americans participated in boot-camp-style cross-training classes, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. What’s more, 2.9 million of those people went to such classes at least 50 times a year.

“Group training — usually between three and six clients — is a great way to expose your personality, style, and services to a lot of people,” says Eric Beard, LMT, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, NASM’s director of advanced education.

“Small groups can be fun but more challenging,” Beard says. “One-on-one training is like a waiter serving one person at a restaurant but the small group training is more like being a bartender at happy hour.” To run successful small group sessions:

• Assess levels. Determining fitness levels can help you create effective groups. For example, in a group of higher-level clients, you can be more creative and incorporate more complex exercises.

• Mix it up sometimes. One or two clients at a higher level in small group can serve as examples and motivators for other clients who need help.

• Pay attention to technique. The biggest challenge for small group trainers, say Beard, is ensuring that clients stick to proper form. Trainers will need to use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues to explain exercises.

• Turn to NASM Resources. Beard specifically recommends kettlebell, sandbag, and sports performance workshops for instruction on running successful small group classes. For more information check out

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