The simplest way for a personal trainer to make more money for their time is to train two clients at once.

If you have two people with similar capabilities and goals or even two people who just want to train together, you can put them in the same training slot and charge more for it.

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Ideally, both people will follow the same training plan between sessions (or homework, if you assign it). To be clear, these are not two 1:1 sessions done concurrently. If two clients have very different needs and follow different training programs, that’s not a 2:1 session.

If you have to do extra work between sessions — like writing two completely separate sets of homework — then it might not actually be worth training two clients at once. But in most cases, this is the fastest way to scale your income without adding additional time.

CrossFit is widely understood to be group training, but it actually began as 2:1 training. When founder Greg Glassman couldn’t fit any more clients into his schedule, he began partnering some of them up. At first, he thought it would be most attractive because each client would save money (more on that later), but he quickly discovered that the clients worked harder when they had a partner!

The program evolved to 3:1 and 4:1 training, and then eventually became small-group training with common programming. But that’s another story, and might not actually have been Greg’s intent.

Greg didn’t invent 2:1 training, but he popularized personal training in small groups far more than anyone ever has. When I was a personal trainer in 2002, I remember hearing about a trainer who was taking two clients at once. He was in a different city, four hours away. That’s how rare it was!

Muscular couple doing jumping squats in crossfit gym

How to Charge for 2:1 Training

First, multiply your normal rate by two. Then reduce the price by 15 percent.

Fifteen percent is the minimum threshold to elicit a change in the perception of value. People don’t notice 10 percent discounts, but they do notice 15 percent or above. And there’s no need to give more: you won’t do less work with two people, but you will spend less time.

How to Partner People Up

In most cases where two people want to train together at my gym, they come in the door as partners. Often, it’s a husband and a wife. Since they usually have similar goals (they’re either both overweight or they both run marathons), the benefit they receive can be far greater than the sum of their individual results. For example, if I put them both on the same training schedule, they can train together. If I put them on the same diet, they don’t have to prepare separate meals. And frankly, training with your spouse improves your marriage.

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In other cases, I use affinity marketing to have clients invite their spouses or best friends. When I know exactly who they want to invite, I offer one free 2:1 training session as an introduction. I want them to have fun together; that makes it easier to keep them coming together later.

As a third example, I could look for overlap when doing client goal reviews. When I see two cases where men want to run their first marathon, I can approach each guy and suggest that a partner will help with training and accountability. And if I see five people who want to run a marathon, I tell my coaches they have an opportunity for a specialty group.

When to Prescribe 2:1 Training to a Client

I do this when I know, without a doubt, that they’ll benefit more than they already are. I don’t try to clump mismatched pairs together just for the sake of saving time or making more money.

How to Deliver Their Programming

When I’m running an in-person session, I like to give each client something tangible: a printout of their homework assignment. When they hold the paper with my logo at the top in their hands, it makes them feel like they’re leaving with a gift.

We also put their workouts in Trainerize, which is very handy for tracking their progress and integrates with MyFitnessPal for food tracking. They can see videos, text me through the app, and even pay me. But that hard copy is priceless for creating a sense of value… and for advertising purposes.

Before I had a gym where people could do their homework, my clients typically kept a cheap globo-gym membership in addition to paying for private training at my private gym. They would carry their homework with them — with my bright green logo displayed at the top — and set it on the bench beside the squat rack or on the treadmill while they ran. Many of them were asked about their workouts; their descriptions became conversations about me; and I gained new clients. The hard copy was a conversation-starter that no app would ever be.

What to Put in Their Programming

The more people you train at once, the more general your programming has to be. No two people have exactly the same goal, and every additional person multiplies the potential variance.

That’s where “constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity” (CrossFit’s credo) came from: the needs of most were addressed by a few movements, like the deadlift. Everyone needs to deadlift, regardless of their goal. Pareto’s Law (that the needs of 80 percent are met by 20 percent of the work) becomes important when programming workouts for multiple people.

READ MORE: Ocham's Razor and the Pareto Principle in Weight Training Programming

So stick to the big important basics. Teach the squats and deadlifts, presses, and pulls. Make workouts interesting not through exercise selection but through combination.

2:1 training is two clients sharing the same time slot and workout plan.

However, clients are not carbon copies of one another. A trainer will still have to work harder to train two people than to train one. On the flip side, sometimes the hardest part of a 1:1 session is just maintaining a conversational flow. With two clients together, that problem is largely solved.

Images courtesy of Wavebreak Media Ltd ©