At Body Harmonics we work with clients one-on-one and in group classes. We have more than 1,100 visits per week at our studios and both our classes and one-on-one sessions are equally popular. Some clients have a preference between one method of training and other clients do both.

Although there are similarities, in the equipment used, exercises done and care and attention that goes into both, group classes and one-on-one classes are different. And the two should be taught to reflect the uniqueness of each.

The temperature check

Before teaching any group class or one-on-one session, it’s important to do a temperature check with the clients. Basically you’re getting a sense of your clients state walking in the door and where their energy’s at so you can manage the time you have with them.

In a group class, this means spending time in the reception area or the classroom casually chatting with clients before you begin. You may not get to everyone in the class and the conversations will not be completely thorough because there are many people in the class and not much time to gather information. However, even a few words in passing can give you a lot to go on.

With one-on-one clients, this is the most critical part of the session. Asking appropriate questions is key. Some clients love to chat while others don’t. Make sure to respect the client and their boundaries. In your initial conversation with them, you want to get enough of an update so you know where to start your session. This discussion should happen at the beginning of every session and not be forgotten after the first session with the client when goals are reviewed.

Level of customization and collaboration

When teaching a group class, you will likely be teaching a class with a specific objective and/or level of intensity that you want to meet. For example, a Core Dynamics 1 and Core Dynamics 2 class would both focus on Core, but the Level 1 is beginner and Level 2 is intermediate. An Abs, Hips and Thighs class is also an intermediate level class, but participants should walk away with a renewed sense of awareness (and strength) in their abs, hips and thighs every week. When designing and teaching a group class, these are important goals and objectives you must help the clients meet.

Group classes should be choreographed to a certain degree so that exercises build on one another, transition and flow from one to the next. They should build up to a larger exercise or two at the peak of the class and end with a cool down. The primary purpose of most group classes is fitness and you as the teacher are there to guide them through it.

When working with one-on-one clients, you must know what the client is coming in for, what they’d like to achieve with their Pilates sessions short and long-term, and how they’d like to feel walking out that day. Because you’re working more closely and intimately with a single person, the exercises are not likely to be fully pre-planned and choreographed. You will be working with that person, their posture, their strengths and limitations and desires that particular day. During the session, you may choose to change course based on how the previous exercise felt to the client or how their body responded to it. This can be a very collaborative process between the client and teacher.

If the client has any injures or physical considerations or needs, you can customize the exercises and props you choose in your session.


In group classes, you’re working with many people and will need to communicate with them all at once. You must guide them and keep a rhythm throughout the class so they keep moving.

Each client has a different personality and learning style, so it’s important to balance your verbal cues and demonstrate when possible.

Even though you may be communicating with 20 people at once, when giving each cue, speak as though you’re speaking to one person at a time and do your best to “speak” to every person in the class by the end of it. Making eye contact can also help with this.

The communication that happens in a one-on-one session is a conversation that flows back and forth. While you as the instructor is guiding the client through exercises and keeping them moving throughout the hour, the flow will likely be different and there may be more opportunities for reflection. It’s important you ask great questions and deconstruct the answers based on the words, body language and tone of voice the client uses to reply. Sometimes what the client doesn’t say is even more powerful than what they do say.

In one-on-one sessions, you’ll discover the preferred method of communication the client has and you can emphasize that more with them. Many need visual cues so some demonstration will be helpful. Touch is also a great way of communicating information to your client and is easier to do in a one-on-one setting than in a group class.

How do you differentiate between a group class and one-on-one session?

I’ve shared three key ways one-on-one and group classes are differentiated. Do you have any other ways you approach these? If so, please share in the comments section below.


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Author: Larisa Makuch

Larisa Makuch Pilates Larisa Makuch is a Pilates & Movement teacher, teacher trainer and ELDOA instructor. She draws on her experiences to create innovative teaching and business strategies. Larisa has a Body Harmonics Comprehensive Pilates diploma, several Specialist diplomas and a BA.

“For me it’s all about helping people move better, feel better and build their confidence each and every day. I especially enjoy those ‘aha’ moments when clients and colleagues make discoveries that translate into more freedom, more joy and less pain in their lives.”