Dos & Don'ts of Client Development -
Written by Mike Over

Being a trainer comes with a lot of pros and cons when it comes to your clients development. We always want to give them the best, but sometimes the best is not entirely what is needed. What is needed from a client's standpoint isn’t always what they want. No one likes spending half their workouts on redundant prehab exercises or stability drills but more often then not, they also shouldn’t avoid them altogether.

So how do you convey the happy medium? One in which you get your clients progressing and still give them what they like and enjoy? Let's follow these guidelines to get the most out of each session:

1: The 70/30 rule.

This is a base percentage that can roughly estimate a solid way to think about how much you should give each client what they need (70%) vs. what they want (30%). Now, these percentages can vary based on your clientele and personal relationships build, but the premise of this rule is to make sure you prioritize the principles that will help them ultimately reach their goals.

We all love doing fun things. Some will enjoy changing things up all the time. Some will like doing the same base exercise and routine. You may have some action thriller clients who love burpees, intense cardio and metcons that make them want to puke.

Whatever the case might be, you have to be in control of finding the balance. They may enjoy HIIT but if you are doing it with them every workout, every session and their goal is to build muscle, you might as well throw gasoline on the open flame. Instead, give them a solid 70% of strength work and end on 30% of their beloved crossfit type training. Metabolic finishers have been proven to boost growth hormone, and burn some additional calories that can always aid in fat loss when paired with a solid diet. As an added bonus, these finishers have your clients leaving the gym feeling like a million bucks. Nothing beats a good blast to the end of your workout.

Be smart with your programs and knowing your clients goals are important. They may like training a certain way, but it doesn’t necessarily make it the right tool to reach their desired outcome.

2: Explain to them WHY you are doing things a certain way.

It's true, we may know what periodization, cluster sets, drop sets, isometrics and other fancy words mean; however, the common everyday client has no idea what these terms mean nor do they care. All they want to know is how it will help them!

To our dismay, the pandemic regretfully has shifted many individual's towards carrying less about others and more about themselves. What this means for the everyday trainer is to not get caught up in lecturing them over your entire NASM training module, but rather key in on the "juicy" stuff that is relatable to them.

For example, years back I worked with a 60+ year old woman who was very shy and quite scared. Most of the time I could get people to open up but she was very tough to crack. Conversations were short and would end because she never went into detail on anything. Now this is ok, but eventually stale and quiet sessions can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to keeping your client long term.

So instead of letting this happen, I decided to shift my focus towards explaining why I was doing certain things in her training sessions. It gave us something to talk about and allowed her to trust me with her goals. It even would spark her interest and make her work harder on the theory I would relate on, since she would start seeing exactly what I meant.

What I didn't do was ruin her sessions with quiet and awkward silence, nor did I run my mouth about nonsense she didn’t care about. Being over the top with your instruction and reasoning can also be damaging, so it is vital you find that happy medium to give them just enough of what they want, and fill them in on why they need it. The same principle applies here. Nobody cares about big fancy words, so keep things simple, relatable and if you can find humor in any topics, make sure you try. A smiling and happy client is a lasting one!

3: Remembering what a "good" workout really means.

Early on in my career as a trainer, I made this mistake. I wanted to make everything sweat, breathe heavy, and be on the floor leaving the gym. Any trainer who says they never had the itch to did this is just foolish. For a short period of time, I thought this is what defined a good workout and gave the clients "what they needed," but it couldn't be further from the truth.

We all love that inner "sadistic pusher" card that can give you a feeling of power and control that you don't get often, but this can really backfire quickly in terms of progress, retention, and satisfaction.

Giving your clients what they need can be eye opening. So instead of thinking about every session as "how can I get them tired," try thinking "how can I help them feel better." This simple mindset switch can make all the difference in your programming, training sessions and clientele. If you can make Beth (a 55 year old single mom with a desk job causing her so much back pain) start moving better, feeling better, and help her back pain dissipate, then you are on your way to a gold medal with her. Will she go around saying "OMG Mike kicked my BUTT this week!" Probably not, but will she be telling other people about how great she feels and that her pain is gone? You bet, and having others hear those remarks will entice people to train with you more so than the feeling of an ass kicking when they come to see you.

With our society becoming more stagnant and overweight, our jobs as fitness professionals need to become more rehabilitating and therapeutic to have your clients want to stay with you long term. Does this mean you can never put the hammer down? Of course not! There is a time and place for intensity and more physically demanding work, but like I said earlier…you need to think first about wearing the sign "how can I help you" first before "how can I crush you."

Give them more what they need and you can always finish them off in 5 minutes with some intense conditioning work. If there is one thing we know by now, it is that it truly doesn't take a rocket scientist to make someone tired, so if that seems to be what your clients like, give it to them before they head out. Just remember, you are ultimately in control of each of your client's viewpoint of your professionalism and knowledge.

What would you be better known for? Soaking shirts and having people crawl out of your gym, or making people feel like the best versions of themselves and to be pain free, happy and progressing as they should.

If you are struggling to find a coach who can relate to you, check out my free group to see how I help some of my clients feel the way they should here.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published