A Personal Trainer’s Credo
Maybe I should have used some other fancy schmancy word instead?
Whatever the case may be, if you’re a personal trainer what follows are some potent “rules” you should be following.1
A Personal Trainer’s Credo
1. Write Programs For the Client’s Goals (Not Yours)
You may think it’s badass to be able to deadlift 3x your bodyweight or look like He-Man (and I’d agree2), but that doesn’t mean all your clients will feel the same way.
- Some people will want to look good for an upcoming life event (like a wedding).
- Some people may want to reduce their chronic lower back pain.
- Some may want to
not pull their hamstringcrush the competition in their recreational softball league.
- And others may have a goal to grow a lumberjack beard.
The examples are endless.
(I’m just gonna toss it out there that, not coincidentally, a healthy dose of deadlifting will likely be on the docket for every one of those goals).
Your job as the fitness professional is to write (safe & efficient) programming that caters to the person standing in front of you. Weird, right? Who would have ever thought that one of the best ways to improve client retention is to do that?
2. Actually Do Your Job (Coach!)
Fitness business legend, Thomas Plummer, is famous for referring many personal trainers as “clipboard cowboys and girls.”
Meaning, many portray themselves as nothing more than glorified (and disinterested) rep-counters.
At a rate of $70-$100 per hour no less!
In my experience, what separates the great trainers from the sub-par ones is the fact the former actually does his or her’s job…
They routinely provide feedback, make adjustments, and progress/regress exercises according to one’s health & injury history, goal(s), as well as ability level.
In short: They give a shit.
3. Being a Hardo is Lame
I’ve never really understood those coaches/trainers who feel the need to showcase this incessant “hardo” I-am-going-to-beat-you-into-the-ground-now-KNEEL-BEFORE-ZOD! attitude.
You do you.
However, it’s also been in my experience that most people, most of the time, don’t respond well to that sort of silliness. It may work for a week or two, but before long the schtick is going to get old.
As renowned strength coach, Mike Boyle, has routinely said throughout the years…
“Don’t be an asshole.”
Or, maybe Mike didn’t say that? But it sure sounds like something he’d say. Did Gandhi say it? Either way, it resonates with me.
Instead, I feel the more cogent approach is to unabashedly champion SUCCESS with your clients.
Demonstrate and focus on things they CAN do rather than what they can’t.
I’m going to tell you right now, most people are not going to be able to walk in on day #1 and perform a pristine barbell back squat. If you’re the type of trainer who insists on forcing it onto everyone, you’re going to fail, and more to the point you’re most likely going to turn people off from training.
This is not to say that that individual may one day have back squats placed in their program. I love back squats and think they’re a splendid exercise for most people to master. That being said, it’s imperative to ensure you find everyone’s appropriate “entry point” to certain exercises and movement patterns.
A Goblet Squat is generally a better entry/starting point for most trainees over a back squat. The former will feel more natural and doable.
The latter will often be seen as intimidating and feel like fire ants eating away at their hips and lower back. Then again, this is where BEING A COACH comes to fruition. Ensuring the appropriate joints are doing the work and are loaded correctly during a squat (and that the client feels the correct musculature firing) is the job of the trainer.
You don’t have to be hardo to accomplish those things, though.
You can absolutely do it in a manner that’s accessible to the client and prioritizes success.
4. Wash Your Shaker Bottles (For the Love of God)
5. Practice What You Preach3
Call me crazy but I like to actually test drive an exercise before I put it into a program for a client.
Likewise, it’s rare for me to put a “concept” into program – density sets, drop sets, 5/3/1, undulated periodization, rest/pause training, nunchucks – and not have experienced or toyed around with it myself.
How can I expect my clients to “buy in” to something if I myself haven’t done so?
Integrity is important to me and it’s something I don’t take lightly.
You shouldn’t either.