Strengths (and weaknesses) of Group Training

by Michael Plank

If you know much about CrossFit, you probably also know that group training is a big part of it. There are some amazing things about training hard in a group.

First, the biggest physiological changes happen at the edges of your limits. In other words, training harder will make bigger changes to your body than training easier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people achieve new things, lift more weight, go faster, go farther, and overcome obstacles, all because there was a group of people there doing it alongside them. The added pressure of knowing that your effort is visible, combined with the support and cheers from other people who know what you’re going through because they’re going through it too, makes for impressive results.

Second, it’s fantastic for general fitness. “General fitness training” means stuff that will make almost anybody stronger, faster, and healthier. If you are just training to be better at life, or training to keep aging at bay, or training because your doctor said you should, or training because you’ve got to do something, but are limited on time, general fitness training is absolutely the best thing going. You probably don’t need to work Gunthar Rows and Panda Pulls and Single-arm Standing Flyes. You should squat some, hinge some, pull some, push some, carry some, and occasionally go fast. General fitness training will take care of it all.

Third, it’s amazing for building community and making friends. That’s not always easy to do as an adult who’s not in school anymore. It’s super undervalued. (Do a google search for “health risks of loneliness” if you need more justification for hanging out with people you like). Having a place where you belong and people you enjoy being around on a regular basis does amazing things for you.

Where group training falls short is when it comes to specific goals.

If you really want to get your first pull-up, or your first muscle-up, or to improve your squat clean, or grow your deltoids, or improve your mile time… general fitness training can help, but it might not be enough, and it’s going to be slower than something like personal training. If you want to get better at running, running will do that better than squats and burpees. General fitness training is designed to do a little bit of everything. It’s not going to focus on one thing.

The other drawback is that you get less attention. We pride ourselves on our coaching and always limit our regular classes to 12 people so that a coach can always work with every member of a class. But you still only get 1/12th of that coach’s hour. With personal training you get all of it. This is especially helpful if you’re stuck on a skill or struggling with a movement.

I can’t imagine UPCF will ever not offer group training. We value being a community so much, and group sessions are a big part of how we build that community. It’s just good to know what group training is good at doing and what it’s not.

But the good news is that you don’t have to choose! We have plenty of members who combine group training and personal training (or nutrition coaching or habit coaching) in a way that works for them.

Our job is to get you from where you are to where you want to be, and there are lots of tools we can use to do that!