In the years that I have been a fitness instructor I have had the opportunity to teach mainly in three different settings; large groups(over 15 people), personalized groups(2-10 people), and on a personal training basis. In my experience I’ve seen the greatest amount of lasting quantifiable improvement within personalized training programs. Even when a large group program has had a specific goal in training, i.e. technical proficiency, I have still seen more progress per capita when the student/teacher ratio is relatively low, allowing individuals to receive specific personal attention. This doesn’t mean that I have not seen individuals thrive in larger group settings. I have definitely seen tremendous individual progress in larger settings, due specifically to the camaraderie that comes out of a large group environment, and how that motivates participants. But, as both an instructor and a student, I’ve also seen how easy it is for individual participants to get lost in the crowd and how that affects the learning curve.
For example, someone who has had 1 year of experience with the Kettlebell Swing in a group setting but is still uncomfortable with the movement, versus a person who spends 1 hour covering Swing technique with a professional trainer and can perform the movement freely. The latter is in a better position because they have had a concentrated focus on their personal performance and individual cues for the movement. On the other hand, the 1 year participant may only need a few technical adjustments for the movement to feel more comfortable and be over all more effective. This is where getting lost in the crowd can be detrimental and personalized focus becomes paramount.
It is because of my experience, again both as a teacher and as a student, that I encourage individuals taking part in group fitness programs to enhance their experience by seeking out as much technical support as they have access to. This is both for increased comprehension as well as safety, and applies to beginners and long time practitioners alike. Even most veteran lifters and fitness professionals constantly seek information and deeper instruction in their personal fitness practice. So find a trainer to spend some time with, catalog a few blogs that you like, or get a book and video series to follow, but do what you can to make sure that your exercise practice is having the intended effect and not putting you at risk. Trust me, you owe it to yourself.