Monday, February 27, 2012

Comparing Yourself to Other Trainers

Here is a message I received from a reader:

I'm a new trainer, and am facing a slight dillema with the industry. One of my problems is that I was told that my workouts are "too basic" The basis of my program is progressing in strength and work capacity. Now I was told that these exercises are too basic, and that I need to learn more "creative exercises". I've also been told that as a trainer you need to have a ton of variety in your programs. Most of the other trainers I work with tend to mix up their workouts with their clients. They never seem to do the same thing and their clients look happy with that. My clients seem bored and I am afraid of losing them.  I understand the purpose of variety in creating value with clients, but at what point does it become detrimental to results? Thanks for reading!
Dan from Chicago, IL

My Response: First of all, stop comparing yourself to what others are doing. As long as your clients are seeing results and you are pulling in your numbers, than nothing else should matter. Stick to what works...some clients will benefit from the basics, and some may need the cute exercises...what does it matter? In the end, what matters is that you learn more and more about how people respond to exercise and stress; and how you can apply those to reach maximum benefits. Sometimes, we get too worried about what others do or we are afraid to "mess up". My first year into training, I think I used my first 20-30 clients as guinea pigs in an effort to learn more about which exercises were useful and which were wasteful.

However, variety is a good thing. When working with the general population (non-athletes), you will find that your clients become bored or disconnected very early on in the program if the exercises seem the same session after session. This is the what happens when you work with the general population. As a coach, you try to swing more towards coaching clients to improvement, but find yourself entertaining also at times. We understand that there needs to be a physical adaptation for progress to commence. But you have to remember, the general population doesn't want to view regular exercise "as a job"; because most likely they already have one of those and simply want to lose the fat in a manner that is fun and somewhat challenging. 

I will say this...there will be times when you have to curtail what you know or believe in order to get a person to cooperate...and as long as you understand that the premise of your knowledge is on one level--than it shouldn't hinder your confidence when you have to lower that level. In other words, there is a difference between "ignorance" (actually not knowing that a deadlift may have more carry-over than a BOSU step), and simply "improvising" in order to reach a specific goal. Let's get out of this "accept me into your club" mentality. Show me what you have done with your clients and then be ready to explain to me how and why you did what you did.


  1. The question he asked is something I've been asking a lot myself too as first year trainer - and what you just said it very true.

    You can't always get clients to do three days of metabolic strength work and three days of high intensity interval sprints when you don't see them..

    I'm still working on finding this balance, and having the ability to compromise and sometimes teach a less effective hard as it is sometimes--

  2. You can actually have a lot of variety with the basics. Just consider squats.

    Bodyweight squats
    Goblet squats with dumbbell
    Goblet squats with dumbbell racked on one shoulder
    Sumo dumbbell squats
    Sumo dumbbell squats with feet on steps to increase range of motion
    Barbell back squats for 3x5
    Barbell back squats for 1x20
    Barbell front squats
    Barbell front squats, 1x5 done every minute on the minute for 10 sets.

    If you've got someone say 2/week, then choose 3-4 and cycle through them, the person can still progress.

    There's a difference between "basic" and "repetitive." Most clients don't mind basic, since it gets results. They're not that keen on repetitive. Many trainers, including managers, can't tell the difference.

    As trainers we often overestimate how much variety and novelty a client needs or wants. Remember that most of our clients ave never done effective training before. Even a pushup is new to them. It's basic to us, but not to them.


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