The Fall of Private Training
Private training was a successful model for getting people into the gym that were less inclined to go. If they had an appointment, they were showing up. It is already set up for disaster. The motivation is to drag your butt over to the gym to do something you don't want to do, to avoid losing the money you spent on your expensive training session package. Not only does this affect your performance, it affects your trainer's performance as well. I will explain why.
Hopefully your trainer is not one of the struggling actors who decided to take a weekend certification course as a better option than bartending, and let's assume your trainer chose fitness as a career, has a degree in the field, and loves what he/she does. Do you think they are going to be incredibly excited to work with someone who has been dreading there session all day? Following up with the list of injuries that prohibit your trainer from getting you to perform the exercise that you coincidentally hate doing? Of course your trainer should be professional and still put their heart and soul into your programming but it sheds light as to how the dysfunctional relationship begins. The icing on the cake is that you and your trainer become friends. Now you feel uncomfortable telling your trainer he/she is not counting, or checking their messages, and your trainer is not comfortable telling you you will never achieve your goals with the reality of what your workout has become.
So 3 years later, looking and feeling pretty similar to where you were 3 years ago, you finally have the guts to break up with your trainer for something new....
The Rise of Group Exercise
The Solution, getting the living crap beat out of you in a classroom with loud music and no need to learn anything. An entire week costs less than your 1 apathetic training session. They are scheduled every hour so you can go whenever you want. You have never worked harder before in your life. You are motivated to not be at the bottom of the class, so it drives your competitive spirit. And for the first time in 3 years, you have abs! In addition to some lower back pain, achy wrists, and maybe a little tendinitis. But who cares?! YOU HAVE ABS!!!!
Until you cant go to class because the pain is so bad you can't get through a full day at work. Now you go to physical therapy where you are taught to exercises that are more boring than the stuff you did in your dysfunctional training relationship. This is done until your pain is gone or you have lost your abs and can't stand it anymore, so you go back to group classes and bingo! Your abs are back, and your competitive spirit returns until the next overuse injury. Why is this happening?
Everyone has imbalances, and everyone has different needs/goals. With 25 people in a classroom together, there will be a mix of shoulder issues back issues, knee problems etc. If we assume all of the selected exercises are perfect and they are not; they still need to be performed correctly. The best instructor on the planet still has only 2 eyes. They cannot keep an eye on 25 people at once. If you have done group classes before, you know your form gets much better when the instructor approaches your region. So what happens when he/she is on the other side of the room? What if your instructor doesn't know you have a herniated disk, or what the hell to do with a herniated disk in the first place? This was covered in the waiver you signed stating they are not responsible for what you do to yourself in the class.
If that's not enough, lets add to this scenario. Why are you using a medicine ball or kettlebell? Is it because it's really the best exercise for you? Or is it because 25 of them take up much less space than 25 racks. Is the weight prescribed or is it whatever is available?
You now take your random weight kettlebell and your herniated disk to perform a questionable exercise, that your pretty confident your not performing well, and attempt to the maximum amount of reps possible in the least amount of time. Or at least more than the person next you. The icing on this cake is that when you return to the next class it's a different exercise, prohibiting you from really dialing in your mechanics and learning the movement.
Credit must be given to the high intensity group exercise movement, because it has broken through the apathetic mold of private training. It has empowered people to believe in their abilities, and to strive for a higher level of performance. The drawback is that in order to deliver it on such a large scale it must be diluted.