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Managing

Group Training
Programs
Joel J amieson

Managing Group Training Programs

Joel Jamieson

egardless of your level of experience as a trainer or coach, few things are more
challenging than taking a large group of people with different backgrounds, abilities,
strengths, weaknesses, genetics, commitment levels, etc. and getting each and every
one of them the best results possible. The truth is, in the fitness industry today, far too many
coaches and trainers dont even attempt to pull this off. Instead, they go into teaching a
bootcamp or large group class knowing full well that many people enrolled in the class or
program will ultimately drop out before the end, and only a small handful will really get the
results they came for.
Rather than spending the time and effort that it takes to effectively coach and manage the class
so that everyone is pushed to their appropriate level, they hide behind the latest buzzword
intensity and drive a large percentage of the group into the ground. To make matters worse,
clients these days are being bombarded with infomercials and sales pitches selling the idea that
insanity is actually a good thing when it comes to training.
Sadly, this has become all too common in the fitness industry and the trend isnt just hurting
those in the class and robbing them of the results they could be getting, its also hurting the
trainers and coaches that take their jobs seriously and those that understand training and
coaching is about more than just how hard you can blindly make people work. Being a great
trainer and delivering results is about far more than yelling, screaming and making your clients
feel like they are a true military bootcamp.
Fortunately, change is on the horizon as more and more fitness professionals start to work
together, united under the belief that health and fitness is a life-long project, not a six week
class. Its only with this mindset that real coaching can be done and the training professional as
a whole can evolve beyond the level of simply a wannabe-drill-instructor.
Im going to assume that since you took the time and spent your hard earned money to buy this
product, you want to separate yourself from this sort of mentality, and youre willing to do
what it takes to get each and every client the best results possible. As I said in the beginning,
this is certainly a challenge, but it can be done.
In the next few pages, Im going to share with you the piece of the puzzle thats missing from so
many large group type training programs and give you the tools that you need to make sure
that its not missing from yours. These are tools that Ive used the greater part of ten years
developing and refining, and when utilized properly, they can help you deliver the nothing short
of amazing best results to a wide variety of people of all fitness backgrounds and abilities.

Tool #1: Heart Rate Variability


Just a few years ago, when I asked a room of trainers how many of them had ever heard of
heart rate variability, very few, if any, would raise their hand. Now, whenever Im giving a
lecture or presentation and ask the same question, a good percentage of them invariably raise
their hand and at least a few in the room are already using the technology with their clients.
In case you arent familiar with heart rate variability typically referred to as HRV for short
its a technology that was originally pioneered by the Soviets back in the 1950s as part of their
space program. It was developed out of the need to monitor the health and wellness of
astronauts that were thousands of miles away.
Through complex mathematical analysis of a heart rate signal that was beamed back to Earth
from space, the Soviets were able to measure the stress and fitness levels quickly and non-
invasively and thus keep tabs on how well their astronauts were doing. Fast forward to today
and this same technology is now being used to help everyone from weekend warriors, to
housewives, to some of the worlds top athletes, easily measure their fitness, fatigue and
overall stress levels.
If you are serious about getting your clients the most out of group training, HRV technology is
not really an option, its a tool you must use. Not only will it allow you to see in real-time how
well your group is responding to your training program, it will allow you to identify individuals
that may be more prone to overtraining and/or injuries, as well as find those people that need
to be pushed harder to get the best results.
This is incredibly important because
the unavoidable truth is that your
clients spend less than 2% of their
time in a week with you and you
have no real way of knowing what
they are doing the other 98%. Are
they eating well? Are they sleeping
enough? Is their work stressing
them out? Without any form of
objective feedback, youll have no
way of knowing any of this
information and how these different
factors may be impacting their
ability to train and recover.
The BioForce HRV Training System
www.bioforcehrv.com

This powerful feedback makes it easier than ever to treat everyone in your groups as individuals
and customize their program accordingly. When HRV identifies clients that are fatigued and in
need of extra recovery, you can make simple and easy modifications to help put them in the
right training zone for the day. This means that rather than pushing them as hard as everyone
else and going down the dangerous path towards overtraining, you can instead make sure they
get the extra recovery they need so they are ready to come back in a day or two and train
again.
On the other hand, when HRV shows you that certain individuals recover very quickly, you can
make equally simple changes to increase the intensity of their session so they get the work they
need to keep getting better. Over time, these small differences in each training session will add
up to massively better results for everyone. Once you learn how to effectively utilize HRV with
your clients, youll wonder how you ever trained without it.
To learn more and get started using HRV technology within your
group training format today, make sure to visit
www.bioforcehrv.com now

Tool #2: Monitoring Training Load


For all intents and purposes, the simplest way to think about
training load is the amount of training volume multiplied by some
gauge of intensity. In other words, a very brief but intense workout
may have the same overall training load as a longer, but less
intense training session. Its important to have some measure of
training load within your group programs simply because you need
to be able to scale this load up or down as necessary depending on
how well the group responds to it.
To give you an example of how this works, lets say youre using
the simple RPE x duration example of training load as described in
the sidebar. Each day, you have members of the group write down
their RPE on a whiteboard, or on their workout sheets, and then
you multiply by the workout duration to get each persons training
load, as well as the group average.
Now lets say that using BioForce HRV with the class, you find that
12 out of 16 members of the group appear to be significantly
fatigued and not recovering as well as they should be over the
course of the training week. Because you have an objective gauge

Training Load
The easiest way to track training
load without any equipment is to
use a simple RPE Ratings of
Perceived Exertion scale of 1-10
and multiply this number by the
duration of the w orkout.

All you have to do is have each


client rate how hard they felt their
workout was on this 1-10 scale
and then take this number and
multiply it by the number of
minutes in the training session to
get a simple gauge of training load.

For example, if you are teaching a


60 minute class and a client rates
the workout a 6 that would
result in a training load score of
360. A shorter workout, lets say
30 minutes for the purposes of
illustration, at an RPE of 8 would
be a training load of 240,
accurately reflecting that even if
you w ork harder, the load will still
be less because the training
session was only half as long.

of how much load everyone has been under based on their RPE and the class duration, you
have an easy way to scale it back.
If you see that the average RPE for your class has been an 8 lately, for example, you simply dial
back the intensity until you see the average coming down to a 7, or even a 6. You can then look
at BioForce HRV to make sure your changes are having the desired effect and your clients are
recovering as well as they should be.
For most class environments, the use of RPE and duration to calculate
training load will work just fine, but if you really want to go high-tech, you
can also use a heart rate monitoring solution that will give you a Training
Load calculation. My personal recommendation is the Polar RS300, which
will give your clients the ability to upload their workout details and track
things like calories burned, average and max heart rate, training load, and
more on the Polarpersonaltrainer.com website.
Regardless of which method you decide to use to calculate and track training load, the
important thing is that you find a quick and easy way to store and track it and for that, MS excel
is the way to go. In just a few minutes, you can set up a spreadsheet to track the RPE and
training load for each client and the average for the group as a whole.
Training Session Record
RPE

Training
Load

Steve

360

Mike

360

Jason

420

Rob

420

Jake

420

Blake

480

Adam

480

Chris

360

Client

With the use of this spreadsheet format, you can quickly Average
6.88
412.5
view how hard your clients felt like they were working
and over the course of a week, you can add up the total training load and track how much total
work each client is putting in. When combined with the info you can get from HRV, this makes
for an extremely powerful way to help you plan your training sessions.
Armed with the weekly training load and HRV results, you can decide if you may need to make
changes to the training plan for the following week. If the average training load for a week is
1200, just to use a random number for example, and you see the group needs to be pushed
harder, you can then crank up the intensity until you hit an average training load of 1500.
Its with this constant monitoring of loading and the effects that its having on all your clients
that youll really be able to fine-tune your programming like never before. This is how you make
sure that each person in your group is trained to the peak of their limits without going over and
what it takes to deliver incredible results.

Tool #3: Questionnaires


Aside from keeping track of the training load and monitoring the HRV of your clients, another
incredibly simple tool to incorporate into your group training sessions is the use of
questionnaires. The type of feedback you can get from the use of questionnaires is invaluable
because you can use them for two different reasons, both important to your success as a coach.
First, you can put together a questionnaire to give to your clients on a weekly, or semi-weekly,
basis that ask a variety of questions related to the many different potential symptoms of
overtraining. Often, your clients may be noticing different symptoms during periods of intense
training where they may be headed towards overtraining, but they wont put the pieces
together and realize that too much stress, typically from training and/or life, could be the cause
of these different symptoms.
When you ask them to go through the process of filling out a questionnaire that asks them a
series of questions around changes in things like mood, sleep, appetite, etc., then it can quickly
become clear that theres a pattern of symptoms that are identifying a problem. Which
questions you ask and how you ask them is up to you, but the most common symptoms of
overtraining/too much stress includes:






Change in sleeping patterns


Increase/decreased stress levels
Feelings of lethargy/fatigue
Changes in appetite
Differences in mood





Loss of sex drive


Increase muscle soreness
Sudden changes in bodyweight

If you find a client thats noticing some of these different symptoms, its a clear indication that
they are headed down the path of overtraining and their program needs to be altered until they
recover. These questionnaires typically take only a few minutes to fill out and you can pass
them out before or after a training session and ask your clients to fill them out, or you can sign
up for a service like Survey Monkey and send them via email whenever youd like instead.
Another reason surveys are such a fantastic and important tool, is that aside from screening for
potential overtraining symptoms, you can also use them to improve your classes based on
client feedback, and to gather testimonials and referrals. To do this, all you have to do is add a
few questions about which elements of your classes they like the most, which ones they may
not like, if there is anything theyd like to see done to improve the class, etc.
This type of feedback can be invaluable for understanding how your clients perceive your
training and your program, and help you really fine-tune your business to deliver what they are
looking for. If youre a gym owner and have several instructors teaching the group classes for
you, this is also an opportunity to find out which ones are doing the best job, and which ones
may need some additional coaching in order to get it right. Never underestimate the power of
listening to your clients because its one of the real keys to delivering long-term results, as well
as building a successful training business.
At the end of survey, its also a good idea to ask if theyd like to share any successes theyve had
recentlymaybe theyve noticed their clothes are fitting better, maybe they have a ton more
energy than before they started the program with you, etc. This is how you can start to gather
powerful testimonials and success stories that you can then use in your marketing to help build
your program.

Tool #4: Performance Measures


At the end of the day, each of your clients is coming to you with a specific goal in mind.
Whether they want to lose fat, build muscle, improve their performance for a sport, or just slow
down the aging process, your job is to help them reach that goal as quickly, safely, and
effectively as possible.
Within this process, there will be many different measures of progress, but often the most
important ones are the ones that take place daily in each training session. Even though your
clients are almost always focused on progress towards their end goal, (i.e. whether or not they

see changes on the scale or in the mirror), your job is to look at each and every training session
as an opportunity to gauge whether or not they are
on the right track toward achieving them.
Group Management Checklist
What I mean by this is that one of the most crucial
aspects of managing any group is paying close
attention to their training sessions. Is each client
getting stronger and/or in better shape? Are their
movement qualities improving? Are they learning and
perfecting the exercises youre asking them to
perform? If youre not constantly monitoring all of
these areas, youll have no way of truly gauging the
success, or lack thereof, of your program until its too
late.

Getting started managing your training


groups is easy as long as you have the
right tools. Before you begin, make sure
you take the time to plan your own
management strategy and put together
all the tools youll need to effectively
manage your groups.

BioForce HRV
Heart rate monitors
Workout Record Sheets
Questionnaires and Surveys
Training load measure
Management Strategy

This monitoring typically starts with the process of


keeping track of factors such as their training weights,
heart rates during training, bodyweight/bodyfat, etc. Your clients should be asked to keep a
detailed training log where these variables can be written down for you to review. For the vast
majority of clients and groups, a weekly review of these logs will give you a clear indication of
their progress and provide you with the information you need to manage their training
effectively.

Putting it All Together

nce youve committed to taking the time to treat everyone in your groups as
individuals and put together your own management toolkit, the final piece is to
develop an overall group training management strategy. What I mean by this is that
you need to put guidelines in place, both for yourself and for any trainers/coaches that you
might have working for you, that outline how youre going to effectively manage the details of
your training program.
The specifics of this management strategy will depend on factors such as: how many clients you
have in each class, their experience level, what your training program consists of, etc. If youre
following the workouts and program included within this product, then putting together your
management strategy should be simple. All youll need to do is go through each workout and
make notes as to how to modify the workouts for individuals that your tools may identify as
needing lowered volume/intensity, as well as for those that might need
more.

In some cases, this might mean nothing more than cutting back or increasing the number of
sets for a given person, in others it might mean adding/subtracting the use of certain exercises,
or it may even mean that different activity recovery methods may need to be employed. Youll
find a very thorough and detailed discussion of how to manage each training session in the
Ultimate Guide to HRV Training Manual thats a part of the
BioForce HRV Training Management System.

As with anything else, the more time you spend managing your training groups, the better at it
youll be, and the easier it will become. Youll be able to quickly and easily identify how well
your clients are responding to your program and youll know precisely how to modify individual
training sessions based on their needs. Once you have the system in place and your
trainers/coaches are up to speed on how all of the pieces fit together, putting it to work and
delivering amazing results for your clients is the easy part. Youll quickly find out just how
powerful the simple tools Ive discussed can be, and youll be well on your way to helping each
and every client reach their goals in record time.

Joel Jamieson is widely regarded as one of the worlds foremost authorities on strength and
conditioning for combat sports. He has more than 8 years of experience working with many of
the top fighters from all over the world and has trained over 30 of the biggest names in MMA,
including 8 world champions. He has served as the Director of Strength & Conditioning for Pride
FC, Dream FC and worked as a consultant for countless top level teams and organizations.
Joel is also the founder of 8weeksout.com, author of the highly acclaimed book, Ultimate
MMA Conditioning and creator of the BioForce HRV Training Management System. He is a
highly sought after speaker and is regular featured contributor to Fight! Magazine, Fighting Fit
(UK) Sherdog.com, Mens Health, Muscle & Fitness and his training programs and articles have
been featured in a variety of online and print media throughout the globe.

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