How to Get Clients Working in a Commercial Gym

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I received the following question from another trainer via Instagram the other day:

“I wanted to know how you got clients when working in a commercial gym?”

I felt it prudent to share my thoughts as a blog post in the hopes it may help some fitness pros out there.

#1 Rule: Wear T-Shirts That Are One Size Too Small

Hahahaha – just kidding.1

In all seriousness I haven’t worked in a commercial gym since the summer 0f 2007 when I “retired” to go off and help co-find Cressey Sports Performance.

It’s been a while.

That said, I did spend the first five years of my career working in both corporate and commercial fitness and even though I may be a bit rusty much of what follows is still relevant and undoubtedly help some of you reading to separate yourself from the masses.

Lets assume the obvious: 1) You have a degree or certification, 2) you’re competent in the areas of assessment, exercise prescription & technique, and Shaolin shadowboxing (hey, I don’t make the rules),  3) you practice basic hygiene and don’t smell like an old lady fart passing through an onion, and 4) at the very least you can name all four muscles of the rotator cuff and their functions (you’d be surprised how many trainers are unable to do this).

You’re already a step a head of your competition if you can place a checkmark next to all of those things.

And while I can sit here and wax poetic on the importance of all the things mentioned above in addition to the nuances of psychology, basic anatomy, undulated vs. concurrent periodization (what they are and when you’d use them), how to write a program for someone dealing with secondary external impingement, breaking down the Kreb’s cycle, or, I don’t know, even knowing what the fuck the Kreb’s Cycle is….

…..none of that, truly, will be the “x-factor” in determining whether or not any one specific trainer is capable of filling their client roster.


Although, if you know this by heart we should hang out.

Will possessing those attributes help?

You betcha.

However, I think it was my good friend, former business partner, and Cressey Sports Performance business director, Pete Dupuis, who stated it best:

“If you can’t hold a basic conversation and make small talk with people, you’re going to have a hard time in this industry.

Also, Tony’s pecs can cut diamonds.”

You’re Always Being Watched…Always

The best piece of advice I can give any trainer is to always act as if you’re being watched and observed.

Because you are.

When I was a commercial gym trainer I always treated every session as an opportunity to audition for other prospective clients. Meaning, my actual client – you know, the person who was paying good money for a service – got my undivided attention.

I didn’t want to come across as the cliche trainer who just stood there counting reps waiting for the hour to be over with.

Or worse, this trainer:

An acquaintance of mine, who’s a coach himself, posted this picture on my Twitter feed today. This is a trainer  “working” as his client attempts a 2x bodyweight squat.


Now, if you’re a trainer struggling to fill your client roster or struggling to hit session quotas every month and EVERY other member of the gym saw that this is what they’d be paying for, would you have any room to bitch and moan about how the man is keeping you down?

A few months ago my wife and I were in Florida visiting family and we needed a place to train for a few days. We ended up going to a CrossFit that was two miles away. The first morning we arrived was Day #1 of the 2019 Open. The energy when we walked in was palpable.

Loud music, people getting after it, coaches coaching, it was awesome.

I just went into one of the corners and did deadlifts.

Fast forward 30 minutes, everyone left, and the next group came in which happened to be two older women not competing in the Open. The coach then sat down in a chair and maybe every ten minutes who would look up and half-heartedly say “nice job” and then go on doing whatever the hell she was doing.

Talk about a 180 (and a complete letdown as an observer).

Be a shark, in motion at all times.

Be an active coach…always.

Give feedback, provide cues, give a shit.

Be a participant for crying out loud.

That’s how you’ll get clients.

Oh, and Don’t Be An Asshole

This is Mike Boyle 101.

People don’t want to train with an asshole. They don’t want to train with someone who talks over their head and uses big words all the time and they don’t want to train with someone who’s a judgmental jackass.


Smile, say hello to other members, introduce yourself, offer some pointers here and there, put on free 15-30 minute clinics to get more eyes in front of you to showcase your value, and, if you’re going to train where you work, maybe consider not turning into “I’m wearing headphones, I’m a psychopath, don’t you dare look at me guy,” or be overtly obnoxious, hooting and hollering all over the place and sniffing ammonia packs before a set of deadlifts.

Being approachable is part of the game.

If members are watching you sniff ammonia packs before every set deadlifts you’re not doing yourself any favors.

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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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.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. But seriously, do it.

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