“Do you do privates?” is one of those irritating questions that I’ve had to deal with since opening a weightlifting gym in 2014. It’s irritating because it presumes that weightlifting functions like a branch of fitness. Weightlifting is a sport and yet we rarely get considered the same way that other sports do.
The Fitness Model
The fitness segment of the physical training spectrum has long employed the options of group classes or private (1 on 1) sessions. The wealthier patrons consider group sessions to be passed, and would much rather opt for the exclusivity of private sessions, or to be able to claim they do private sessions. Instructors favor private sessions as they can charge more for them. This way of organizing services does not necessarily work better, but may be better for monetization, marketing or facilities utilization.
Here are Takano Weightlifting sessions. I hesitated about calling them classes because there are a different levels of athletes in them and so they are not all learning and training the same way. The sessions always have people lifting in them, all of them trying to perfect their abilities in weightlifting, and all of them will have at least one coach in attendance.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we have had to limit our sessions to 7 platforms and this has worked out well as it keeps the sessions from being too large. Overly large sessions inhibit the effectiveness of coaching and can make newcomers feel lost in a crowd. We may have as many as 9 people in a session.
Advantages of optimal group size.
· In a group session, individuals can interact with each other and learn the culture of training. The more experienced athletes have developed efficiency in the manner of setting up equipment and preparing for training. Newcomers can learn from watching them. More importantly newcomers can learn the culture of the gym by speaking with veterans. The importance of sleep, recovery, feeding and lifestyle are easy to learn when exposed in a group of practitioners.
· Sessions also provide role modeling. Almost everyone has some aspect that needs improvement and they inevitably have someone who can model ideal patterns in a session. One lifter may not drive well on the jerk, but has someone to model after in the gym. Lifters can provide modeling for technique and for work habits as well. Newcomers can pick these up with much prompting from coaches.
· Group reinforcement is also a critical factor in a session. If the culture is to encourage each other, a good effort can be rewarded with encouraging words from one’s peers. Reinforcement for always being on time, always having all their equipment, and finishing training are always more effective when delivered by peers within the session.
Disadvantages of one-on-one
· In a one-on-one session, there is always the danger of overcoaching and providing too much input for an athlete who is not ready to receive so much.
· Weightlifting is an individual sport and once out on the platform in competition, the lifter has no one to depend on to pick up slack. Subsequently the development of too much dependency on the coach can become a hindrance for future competitive opportunities. Sometimes it takes more than one voice to drive home a point, and if there is always only one voice, it may not be nearly as effective.
· Acceptance within a group of one’s peers is a significant part of training sessions. One-on-one sessions lack this.
· Competitive lifting is not an activity for the insecure or shy individual. Regularly lifting in front of a group of lifters who more or less know what they’re watching is excellent preparation for performing on the competition platform. One-on-one sessions are not nearly as effective for preparing the athlete for the competition paradigm.
There’s more to training than sets and reps
For the coach organizing a weightlifting program keep in mind that there are factors to be considered in preparing athletes to be competitors and effective performers.