From One Trainer to Another: My Monday Morning Blog Novel

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Surprisingly, I often get e-mails from people asking me for advice. Weird, I know. Last week I received an e-mail that I thought I would share with all of you because I feel it could be of some benefit to many of you who read this blog. Particularly to those of you who happen to be upcoming trainers in the industry.

I remember how clueless I felt when I first started out in this industry (I still do to a degree), and how appreciative I was whenever someone I looked up to was more than willing to share their experiences and expertise with me. I’ve always had a “pay it forward” attitude, and as such, I’ve never been apprehensive when it comes to helping out upcoming trainers when they happen to turn to me for advice.

Needless to say, to make things easier, I’m going to break down the following question into parts because I’m cool like that.

Q: Hey Tony,

Last time I emailed you, you gave me some great information about what types of certifications to get etc…as well as stuff on Thomas Plummer. I’m looking into getting my CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) and was wondering if I could bounce some more questions off those oak trees you call arms. (no homo).

Being that I’m looking into getting my CPT in the near future I was wondering if you could give me a heads up on how things go in that field. I’ve always been into lifting and helping people train; so I think this would be a fun way to do that on my own time. So here are some questions that I can think of off the top of my head.

1. Do I just go to a gym and say: “Hi I have my CPT and I’d like to set up shop here”…?

TG: Without question, getting certified through a nationally recognized organization is going to get your foot through the door in most cases. In my opinion, the gold standard certifications would be through the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), and the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). Granted there are a million and one other organizations that you can get certified through, but these tend to be the most reputable.

On an aside, I ranted on this before, but the ones to avoid would be any organization (or website) that asks you to pay $49 for some weekend course. To say that I think it’s absolutely deplorable that some people actually get “certified” through these websites is an understatement.

That being said, most gyms are typically always looking for new trainers (full-time or part-time). Make sure you update your resume* as well as provide a one-page “synopsis” as to why you chose to enter this field and what you feel you bring to the table. This isn’t required, but I feel it shows a level of professionalism and allows you an opportunity to sell yourself so-to-speak.

Try to steer clear of being that guy who says, “I like to lift weights, and figured that since I look the part, I’d give this a shot.” Try to add some substance. Why do you want to be a trainer? What differentiates you from everyone else? I know when we look to take on new interns at Cressey Performance, we like to see some initiative that they are willing to learn, and more importantly, that they know the difference between their/there/they’re, too/to, and your/you’re. I don’t know, I just feel that one’s writing skills is a great indicator of their sexual prowess (obviously, ladies?) ability to communicate and serves as a great way to make a good first impression.

2. What is the average charge for a session (I’m thinking 30-60min) with a client?

TG: That’s going to depend on where you end up working. As an incoming trainer, very rarely are you going to be able to set your own rates. More often than not, you’re going to be at the mercy of some sort of established “tier system,” where you get a certain percentage of the session (which is typically based off of how many sessions you do per week or how well you are at selling packages).

Personally, I despise this type of system because it rewards quantity of training rather than quality. Unfortunately you’re going to have to deal with it and accept it as a necessary evil.

If you were to find a facility that allows you to charge your own rates, you may have to do some homework to see what other trainers in your area are charging. You don’t want to be asking people for $80 per session, when other trainers in your area are charging $50. Likewise, you also don’t want to undervalue your services. Granted, you may need to offer free sessions (15-20 minute “trial run” sessions) from time to time, but one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to never (ever) discount your rates to accommodate someone.

3. Is there anything (or any type of person/gym) that you’d recommend me going to/staying away from?

TG: As an incoming trainer, and someone who has bills to pay, you’d be an idiot to turn away clients. Once you’ve established yourself and have built a solid client base, then you can start “categorizing” your clients, which is something I learned from Alwyn Cosgrove.

A Clients: Are those you would train for free. They work hard, they’re compliant, consistent, they show up on time, and they refer other people to you.

B Clients: Are loyal clients, but aren’t as consistent (train once per week, or once every two weeks).

C Clients: Are the ones that whenever they ask you what they should be eating, always come up with some lame excuse as to why they can’t eat that particular food. *Rolls eyes.* They also think BOSU balls are the shiznit and always remind you that their last trainer had them use one all the time. Honestly, you only put up with them because they’re either 1. a hot brunette or 2. They always give you a $100 bonus at Christmas.

D Clients: Simply put, these people are cancers. You’d rather pay someone to shoot you in the face than spend another hour with this person.

The idea is to eventually get to the point where you only train your A/B clients and pawn off your C/D clients to other trainers. Haha, suckers!

As far as which gyms to look for, if you can find a gym that allows group or semi-private training, then that would be your best option. One-on-one training is dead. It’s a complete waste of time. With semi-private training, clients are able to train more frequently at the fraction of the costs, which will allow them to get results faster. Additionally, you’re able to see more clients and make more efficient use of your time. At Cressey Performance, we’re exclusively semi-private training and it’s been great. My one major regret is the fact that I spent so many years training people one-on-one.

Additionally, it would be ideal to find a gym that offers continuing education, or at least some form of compensation for attending seminars/conferences, etc. When you interview with the general manager, this will be a great question to ask. Without question the places that I have enjoyed working at the most had a manager that understood the importance of continuing education.

Special Section: Me Just Ranting, But You Should Really Listen To Me Cause I’m Kind Of a Big Deal-by Tony Gentilcore

1. CONTINUING EDUCATION!!!!! It’s that important. You need to read, attend seminars, network with other professionals. Immerse yourself. If you don’t know what to read, check out my resources page.

2. You also need to start learning the business side of things. I waited forever to start doing this, and if I could go back in time to dropkick myself in the kidney for not doing this sooner, I would.

3. Remember, you’re always being observed. Whether it’s your manager, other trainers, or members, you’re always under the microscope. That being said, be professional. If someone is paying you good money to train them for an hour, don’t be looking at the clock every ten minutes, checking out other members, or just stand there and count reps while holding a clipboard like a zombie. Be proactive, be a COACH! People will notice your enthusiasm and want to train with you.

4. Also, don’t be that guy who only trains young, attractive females. Sure I joke about it, but it comes across as super tacky.

5. Three Words: BOSU balls SUCK.

6. Know your limits. You’re not a doctor or physical therapist. Know when you need to refer out to other professionals. This is why building a network of other professionals bodes in your favor; you refer people to them, they refer people to you.

7. As I stated above, don’t lower your prices in order to accommodate someone. Once you do this, it’s going to be a shit storm of other people trying to take advantage of you. People need to see value in your services. If they’re not willing to pay what you ask for, then they can stay fat and weak.

8. Learn to assess people. I always find it perplexing when trainers meet with new clients and never assess them to find out what biomechanical and/or postural flaws they may have. It’s this cookie-cutter mentality that makes me want to vomit in my mouth. Simply put, learning how to assess someone (in a matter of 10 minutes) is a great selling point as far as attaining clients. Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen would be a great starting point. And while many of you probably balked at the price, I can pretty guarantee that the knowledge you will learn will pay for the costs and then some.

9. And speaking of assessments, I’d much rather get people on the floor moving as soon as possible then spend 45 minutes checking their glute medius function. Don’t get too cute with people, they need a training effect. And if someone does in fact have a weak glute medius, chances are they’re weak everywhere. All the more reason to get them moving.

10.*Just as an FYI, writing down “being awesome,” as one of your majors in college doesn’t work. Believe me, I tried.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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