The Most Important Metric of a Training Program Is…

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[Cue EPIC drum roll here]

First…lets first delve into what’s not important:

  • Access to special, fancy schmancy equipment.1
  • Being anal about nutrient timing/intake.2
  • Posting a picture or video of every workout and every exercise you performed on Instagram.3
  • Following the programs elite lifters do.4
  • The whole BS notion that muscle confusion is a “thing.”5

And those things that are important. But really only kinda-sorta important. Actually, we’re all just a bunch of a-holes who like to argue over the internet.

  • Exercise selection
  • Exercise order
  • Exercise technique
  • Goal(s). Powerlifting vs. bodybuilding vs. OLY lifting vs. CrossFit vs. Fat Loss vs. Mechagodzilla

  • Training history/age
  • Past and current injury history
  • Ideal number of sets/reps
  • Time of day to workout
  • Length of workout
  • The fact I’m referring to things as a “workout” and not a “training session.”

[EPIC drum roll is still cued]

Facetious tone aside, all of the things mentioned above are important and play an important role in program design. However, there’s one metric that seems to always get overlooked.

And that is…..

Attendance

You can write the most baller scientifically-based program addressing all the criteria listed above that’s based off block periodization with meticulous percentages written in, laminated with Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s6 chest hair, and none of it will matter if people don’t show up.

Make no mistake, though, getting people to “show up” is a skill in of itself.

Of course, the monetary commitment to hire a personal trainer or coach is enough to motivate most people to “show up.” But even then it’s often a crap-shoot, let alone entices someone to invest their time (and in themselves) long-term.

There are numerous, outside-the-box factors that often come into play:

  • The ability to listen to and validate someone. Are you a trainer/coach who likes to “win” or prove to everyone how smart you are and how you’re always right? Better, less uppity communication skills can have a profound impact on your sales and retention as a trainer/fitness business.
  • It’s not about you. It’s about THEM. Get your clients to talk about themselves.
  • Take the time to introduce your clients to one another. Maybe you have two clients who really enjoy squatting or, I don’t know, old-school Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Either way, introducing client A to client B often helps build camaraderie and community.

  • With regards to program design: it’s not necessarily about choosing the best exercise possible. Rather, it’s about choosing the most appropriate exercise(s) to better set people up for immediate and long-term success.
  • “Think trainer, speak client.” Giving credit where it’s due: I stole that quote from Nick Tumminello.
  • Design for your space. You don’t always need all the bells and whistles to impress people.  Audit your equipment. Almost always, the less you have, the better your programs will be. Most people don’t need as much variety as they think they need anyways.
  • Strive to make your clients autonomous. Educate them. Tell them your objective is to make it so they won’t need your services. It’s a total mind-f***. And they’ll end up staying.
  • Most people know what they need to do given “x” goal. Thing is: most need someone to tell them to do it. Read more of Steven Ledbetter’s stuff HERE.
  • Play more EDM. Just, because.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do feel serves as a delicious amuse bouche in helping fitness professionals understand that it’s not always about credentials, certifications, and deadlifts.

Getting people to show up via other means is often the key to effective program writing.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  1. It doesn’t really matter. Barbells, you know, work just fine

  2. You know it’s only a matter of time before someone takes things too far and invents a protein shake enema.

  3. I guess it doesn’t count if the internet doesn’t see it.

  4. You’re not an elite lifter. And what you should be doing is following what those lifters did 10, 15, 20 years ago to become elite in the first place. As my friend, Mark Fisher, noted this past weekend, “ruthless savage excellence at the basics” is where most people’s wheel house should be.

  5. It’s NOT.

  6. Don’t know who that is? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Read THIS.

  • Amen! This is so true. Thanks Tony

  • Tony, this has been the biggest selling point for clients with me: “Strive to make your clients autonomous. Educate them. Tell them your objective is to make it so they won’t need your services.” When people know you’re teaching them to fish rather than giving them a fish the whole coaching dynamic is 1000% better. Thanks for saying this here.

    • This is a good point. I am wondering whether the same applies to online training. These days, market is flooded with online training (customized and not so much) programs. And most of them have a limited duration. I am wondering whether the same approach works. Disclaimer: I am not online trainer, but I have used such services.

  • Guzzy

    Ya know it’s a good thing I love my trainer or I’d be a little offended at all the Ice Cream talk (yes I’ve read a couple of Dan John’s books), but nonetheless awesome writing, valid points and so funny as usual Tony. Never stop writing. I think my trainer is coming to see you in Seattle in April!!!!!

    • TonyGentilcore

      That’s amazing! I can’t wait to visit Seattle……(and Vancouver…..wink, wink).