Your clients will not train like you.. Generally.

This article came after an interesting conversation with one of my colleagues about personal trainers new to the industry and specifically about how clients are trained straight out of qualification.

We know that although current PT qualification course provide let’s say an ‘efficient’ route into the industry, the model comes with many drawbacks, namely the lack of practical application when it comes to knowing the client and how to best set up an appropriate and effective program for them.

Currently, courses consist mostly of a regurgitation of information covering basic anatomy and physiology, training, assessment and nutrition with very little application to real world case studies.   Am I saying here that these courses are poor and provide no value?  Absolutely not.  I myself and many top-quality trainers I know are a product of the current system with much being learned through the process.  As a trainer who has been privileged enough to exposed to work with some of the best minds and personalities in the industry, the more I learn the more I understand that the quality of any good trainer is how much information they can understand and more importantly apply immediately to clients in real world situations while adapting to the inevitable fluidity of the program.

This brings me to the main point of this post.  How do we train our clients once we have qualified as trainers?  What do we have to call upon and how do we know what is right for the individual?


Upon qualifying as a personal trainer, you begin to take on a small handful of clients, all of which are ready to get stuck into their programs.  But what experience do you have to call upon when new to the industry when it comes to training?  If, like many aspiring PTs, the only practical experience you have is your own training.  Generally, any future PT will have attained a reasonable to good level of physical condition, you would have generally read books, magazines, followed a pre-designed e-book or gone it alone to facilitate your own results.  Then, when the time comes to working with clients who may not, and generally are not in the kind of physiological and physical condition that would befit your level of training can we expect them to follow the same protocols as you and a) expect the same level of results and b) minimise the risk of injury?  In almost all cases the answer is no.  But I see many instances where new trainers use the ‘well it worked for me so it will work for my clients’ attitude.


Do you think that a client who has no previous gym experience should be Barbell back squatting?  In almost all cases I would say no.


Beginner clients will almost always lack awareness when it comes to any of the training fundamentals.  How to hold tension, working within active range for each working muscle, understanding how to brace will all be alien to them.  Add a weighted barbell into the mix and you play a very dangerous game and one that can be completely avoided.  Yet, we see numerous new clients in the rack, squatting with less than optimal technique which does not add any positive value to their progress and in fact will almost always lead to niggles and sometimes more serious injury.  All because the trainer is imposing his or her own training techniques onto clients not suited to said method.  Am i saying clients should not squat?  No.  I am saying that there are smart and effective ways to train the client to positively effect their outcome in body composition and towards a better, more efficient and effective squat (if applicable)

Now, I do not put the blame entirely in either camp here.  The course providers want to facilitate the desires of many an aspiring PT to enter our amazing industry while the PTs themselves do not have the applicable knowledge to understand the difference between a trained and non-trained individual and the infinite nuances of each person so they call upon what they know.  I believe that the only way to gain this differentiation is through experience and endless hours of study, assessment (both academically and anecdotally) and evolution.  Understanding exercise selection, order, periodisation, exercise progression and regression takes many thousands of hours’ practical work both with clients and in your own training.  However, are there questions we can ask as new trainers to provide a safer and more effective program for our clients instantly while becoming better trainers ourselves?  Absolutely.

These are questions that I still ask myself after 13 years in the industry when planning and programming for a client.  If implemented consistently they become an important ally in your progression as a Personal Trainer.

  1. Am I assessing the client appropriately and thoroughly enough when it comes to movement?
  2. Do I understand what is meant by active and passive range for muscle tissue?
  3. Can the client execute each exercise correctly maximising tension and control through active range for the duration of the set?
  4. Will the client be able to use adequate, appropriate load to illicit the desired training effect?
  5. If I choose this exercise, where do I see it progressing and how will it positively impact the clients’ results?
  6. Is the risk of injury vs positive effect too great?
  7. Why is this exercise in the program? If you cannot answer this question it should not be there.
  8. Is the client confident in performing this exercise? If yes you should keep it in throughout.
  9. If I make a change, what other variables do I need to consider and is it worth the change at all?
  10. Am I programming to just ‘keep things interesting’ for the client? If the answer is yes, you need to rethink this attitude.
  11. Am i training body parts that need improvement frequently enough?

Apply these questions with both yourself and your clients and you will very quickly notice trends in how to optimally plan and execute effective training protocols.




Subscribe to our mailing list to get access to all of our latest news and offers! We will only send you emails up to two times a week and you can opt-out at any time by following the directions within our privacy policy.

You can view our privacy policy here