Are Your Group Classes Coached with Clarity or Chaos?

“My class ended 10 miuntes late because”

  • Five people all decided to go to the bathroom two minutes before I was about to start the workout. 
  • There were so many Chatty Cathy’s who took way too long to get their equipment set up.
  • Right before the workout, Jim came up to me and told me about his shoulder injury and I had to quickly come up with three movement subs for him. 

It’s easy to blame the 20 people in class for a class gone bad, but instead of pointing fingers, consider asking yourself what YOU can do to avoid this from happening again.

The bottom line is: More often than not the solution comes down to preparation on the coach end.

But I was prepared. I got there 15 minutes early and looked at the workout ahead of time…


If you still find yourself feeling frantic, annoyed, stressed out, or tight for time at times during a class, here are 7 simple preparation tips:

1. Create a Mental Timeline

Often it’s not just enough to know there’s a 20 minute strength piece and a 7-minute AMRAP.

Consider also:

  • How long, and what you need to go through, during your coach led warm-up
  • How long it will take you to brief each portion of the day
  • How long, and what type of movement prep, is required for each piece
  • Transition time between different pieces of the session
  • How long will it take the group to set up their equipment
  • Are there any announcements you have to make at the start of class, and how long this will take
  • Other logistics, such as do you have to break the group into two heats, because of equipment or space limitations

Building a mental map of the entire hour, not just the official programmed pieces of the training session, will go a long way in helping you manage time effectively. 

One more tip: Be conservative with the time to allow for the unexpected, like those five people who have to pee right before the conditioning piece at the end, or the 10 questions suddenly getting thrown your way right before the workout. Finishing five minutes early is a lot less stressful than running 10 minutes overtime and delaying the start time of the next class, or being 10 minutes late for your new personal training client.

2. Equipment Preparation

To make your life easier, do what you can beforehand to deal with equipment that needs to be brought out or set up, such as bringing our rowing machines or sleds, or making heavy slam balls more accessible for the class. Or maybe it’s as simple as readjusting some of the squat rack heights because it’s bench press day today. 

3. Safety First

Consider how much space each person needs for any given part of the training session. Plan this out ahead of time, instead of having to stress about and waste time adjusting and moving people around in the middle of class. 

4. Consider Common Faults

Take a good look at the movements of the day and make a mental note of the types of common faults you know you’re going to see, and start building some cues beforehand. Include some of these cues in your workout briefing, instead of waiting for predictable egregious movements to occur.

5. Consider Common Questions

Do we start each round at the top, or where we left off?

Anticipate common questions you know are going to arise, and build them into your briefing. Not only will this help save time, but it also helps those that might be intimidated to ask questions in front of the group. 

On the flip side, always ask, “Are there any questions” to avoid having five people with a last minute question 20 seconds before you’re about to start. 

6. Don’t Assume they Know

It can be easy sometimes, especially if you have a group of experienced athletes in the class, to assume they know the basics, and not bother to go over all the details as diligently as you would with a group of beginners. Everyone can benefit from rehashing the basics, no matter how experienced.

7. Look at Who is Coming

Since COVID, most gyms have a reservation and sign-up system in place these days, which is incredibly useful for the coach. 

Oh, Jim’s coming and he has a shoulder injury. 

This can help you think about how you’re going to modify the workout for Jim ahead of time so that he still is able to get the intended stimulus for the day.

…So that’s the preparation part. What about the in-the-moment class flow? 

5 Tips to Running a Smooth Class 

1. Confidence, Confidence, Confidence

If you’re a new coach, it’s time to fake it until you make it. A confident coach commands the attention of the group, which plays a big role in keeping the class running smoothly, not to mention keeping the Chatty Cathy’s in line.

2. Give Specific Directions

Give clear directions. 

Give me some good mornings, for example, isn’t as clear as, Go ahead and grab a circular resistance band, hop in it, take a nice wide stance, and give me 20 controlled good mornings. Send those hips back, keep the spine long and neutral, and squeeze your bum cheeks together at the top.

3. Common Gathering Spaces

While COVID made this difficult, as soon as you can do it again, get back to using a common gathering space when going over something important. The white board has long been the place to gather and brief workouts, which is great, but here’s another tip: Mix it up sometimes!

Switching up the common gathering space sometimes helps regain people’s attention, especially the more experienced clients who might get complacent and tune out when you’re briefing the workout because they assume they know what’s about to happen. So changing it up sometimes helps keep people honest, and reminds them they need to listen because you’re about to explain something important.

4. Touch Everyone

By this we mean, make sure each client, no matter how experienced, gets some of your time. 

The 90-second rule is a common one, meaning each client should receive 90 seconds of your undivided time each class. That being said, it’s not always possible to give 90 seconds to each person, especially in a large class, but the 90 second rule at least gets you thinking about ensuring you take the time to speak with and give at least one cue, correction or feedback to each client in the class. 

5. Address Common Faults Globally

It’s important to take the time to give each person some individualized coaching, but it’s also useful to address common faults you’re seeing to the entire group. If you see five people making the same mistake during a strength session, for example, turn the music off, stop the group, and quickly address the fault to the entire class.

In other words, address common faults globally, and unique faults locally. 

To learn more about the art of coaching a group class, check out the TwoBrain Group Coaching Course. 

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