Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Top 10 Things Great Trainers Do to Stay Great

Today we are inundated with Top 10 Lists all over the Internet.  After reading a few over the last couple of months, I felt compelled to write my own. It seems many are written listing the Best or Worst personal trainers, coaches, exercises, or fitness tools--but I don't get the feeling that these articles are really being written by someone that knows the "in's" and "outs" of fitness. Alot of these lists remind me of college parties...they are written by the guy that talks about a cool party the night before but never actually went to it. He is simply telling everyone what his roommate---who DID go to the party---told him.  Basically, alot of these lists are written by people on the outside looking in. Now, it's my turn to compile a list-because I am "in"---really training clients and really making a living doing it. 

This Top 10 list is a collection of what makes trainers and strength coaches great at what they do. How did I compile this list? Easy...I thought of REAL people that I have met personally or online and have demonstrated the qualities that I feel are pertinent to becoming great at training others. Be've probably never heard of some of these people--but rest-assured there is a reason why: They are busy doing exactly what they say they are doing; and getting better everyday because of it!

1.) If you want be a great trainer, you need ENERGY. Trust me, you don't need to be on a caffeine kick 24 hours a day and have pom-poms readily available every time a client walks through your door, but you need to have an energy about you. Tyler English is a guy that comes to mind when I think of energy. Every time I see Tyler, he ignites my day. He has a special aura that surrounds him and it pulsates energy. I've had the opportunity to attend two conferences at Tyler's facility last year and his facility oozes energy! And there is a reason for this.  The vibe created among  his staff, clients, and classes are a direct result of their owner and chief operator, Tyler English.

2.) If you want to a great trainer, you need to have GRACE UNDER PRESSURE. If you are a personal trainer and everyday seems the same, there is something wrong. It is nothing that can't be fixed, but it is something that will cripple your skills and leave you under-developed. You see, not everything goes as planned in life. Sometimes, your day goes a little differently than you expected. However, it is how you react and respond that makes a difference. You can have the best exercise program planned out---but there will be a day when your client doesn't feel like giving you 100% or has shooting pain down his leg. There will be days when you have to modify things--think more critically and go against what you had planned. Some of the best trainers react so well under pressure that you would never had known that their plan was changed in the slightest bit. I'll use Mike Robertson as a example. Two years ago, I watched Mike speak at a seminar and he put together a great PowerPoint slideshow detailing core development. I was really looking forward to his presentation--as I can assume, everyone in the room was. Needless to say, Mike's computer failed and fried. He couldn't set up his PowerPoint and you can tell he was feeling stressed. Keeping his cool, Mike presented for an hour without any slides, video or notes. All the information was straight from his head. It was the best presentation of the day. That is grace under pressure. Well done, Mike! Check out this interview with Mike Robertson.

3.) If you want to be a great trainer, you have to be willing to REACH OUT FOR HELP. Kevin Dean is a great trainer out of Middletown, CT and someone that I have known for years. We both worked as trainers in a commercial gym, but Kevin took the plunge and opened his own studio years ago (way before I did). Recently, Kevin was in a rut. He had worked with so many clients over the years that he needed an outlet. He needed to be injected with some inspiration and ideas to really feel like his hardwork was paying off. It is not uncommon for trainers to feel "burnt out" after training so many clients for so long. God knows I had felt it myself at times in my career. Kevin was in a phase where he needed to connect with another trainer. He reached out to me and I suggested that he should attend some conferences and seminars. It would give him the ability to network with other fitness professionals and open his eyes to industry trends. Soon enough, Kevin and I attended two conferences together. He began implementing group training classes and sandbag training into his services. Not only did his business take off, but his enthusiasm had risen and he has become a respected professorial among his peers.

4.) If you want to be great trainer, you have to be HUMBLE...BUT STRONG. We live in an age where the Internet and social media sites allow us to be more than what we really are. Everyone is stronger, faster, smarter, and leaner online. There are plenty of positive quotes thrown into the mix with more "life coaches" popping up every day. We tend to focus attention on our strengths, feats, and attributes. However, patting yourself on the back is not always a good thing. It promotes complacency and slothfulness. I see this many times in the interviews I conduct and the classes that I teach. Many trainer-hopefuls enter the field thinking they know-it-all because they know all the girls' names that run the front counter at their local gym; or they deadlift the most--or they follow the strictest Paleo diet. Truth is, none of that impresses me. I will tell you about the time I met James "Smitty" Smith at a seminar. I respect Jimmy and believe he is one of the brightest guys in the strength & conditioning fields. He is an innovator, motivator, and a great coach. He also  writes for national magazines; has a popular website and YouTube channel. The guy is everywhere in the fitness industry. However, when we met...he was very humble, down-to earth, and genuine. You would have never had known it....all that knowledge and coaching experience...came second to simply being a nice guy. Possessing 'know-how' and contacts doesn't always mean you need to be identified with it. If you are truly good, there will be no need to wear it.

5.) If you want to be a great trainer, you need to HAVE COMMON SENSE. Having common sense is a dying trait in today's society--let alone the fitness industry. When someone screams "FIRE", everyone runs in a desperate panic. But only a few will calmly map out a route and safely get out. That is what Nick Tumminello brings to the table. In the personal training industry, where everyone is shouting back and forth, Nick is the guy that slows everything down and makes you think. It was Bruce Lee that once said, "Absorb what is useful, discard what is not...", but Coach Nick is the only guy I see actually doing this.

Common sense is an important characteristic to have --not only in career, but in life. Personal trainers have trouble building confidence because they do everything by what some textbook says...they do not use common sense. Therefore,  this characteristic goes under-developed. Check out this interview I did with Nick Tumminello. 

6.) If you want to be a great trainer, you need to be CONSISTENT WHERE YOU STAND ON THINGS. Concreteness pertains to actual realities and actual instances...not abstractions or temporary instances. Humans need structure. When you honestly say and do the same things consistency, you build structure. People know where you stand, and that develops attraction and leadership.  Rob Pilger comes to mind when I write this. I have never met Rob, but we interacted years ago (and still do from time to time) on a strength and conditioning forum. I have always known Rob to be a "boxing guy". He is a strength and conditioning specialist that trains fighters and has a strong demeanor about him. He has never wavered or flip-flopped in his beliefs and attitude. And because of this, he has built a highly energetic boxing gym that transforms clients into fighters...and ultimately, better people because of his consistent stance and coaching. Rob has always been my "go-to guy" for boxing information and this is the reason for it. Check out this interview I did with Rob Pilger. 

7.) If you want to be a great trainer, you need to SPEAK WITH CONVICTION. There is nothing that captures an audience better than speaking with a charismatic and engaging tone. The only way to do that is to speak about the things you know 100% forwards and backwards. When you look people in the eyes and speak to them with a gentle authority--doesn't mean drill sargent--it means you are confident in what you know--people are drawn to that. Juan Carlos Santana comes to mind when I think of coaches that speak with conviction. The first time I heard JC speak, I was captivated by his presentation--as I'm sure everyone else was. He simply sounded like he had "been there, and done that". He spoke with confidence and enthusiasm that was enough for me to believe him and model myself after. Nowadays, when I hear certain speakers present, I can't get over the "umm's" and "drift-off's". I usually ask myself if they are really speaking about something they have experienced or researched, or simply reciting something from a textbook or another coach. If you are 100% sure about something, you will have no doubts and you will not cast any doubts. Check out my interview with JC Santana. 

8.) If you want to be a great trainer, you have to be WILLING TO WORK HARD. I have to admit...I don't like getting up early. I have documented this dislike here. For years, I have structured my day to train clients at "my best". I plan my day accordingly and it allows me more freedom and dictation. But I know there are trainers and coaches out there that work harder than that. Andy Moses is a trainer our of Durham, CT that I had the pleasure of meeting. Andy is at his facility everyday at 5am and I don't think he leaves until 8pm. Hardwork is what usually breaks new trainers. We live in a society that cultivates "convenience" and "quick" schemes...but hardwork is hushed or left for motivational quotes. Incoming trainers are willing to "bend" to make a statement to their employers or clients; but soon they break. Being willing to work hard towards your business goal or personal goal is what separates great coaches from others. 

9.) If you want to be a great trainer, you have to DO WHAT WORKS AND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. It seems we spend alot of time trying to "blend" in with the majority or popular crowd. Personally speaking, I fell into this trap many years ago. When the "functional training  craze was in full swing, I jumped on board. If so and so was advocating balance training or 1/4 squatting, I was following it. I felt like I needed to be accepted among my peers. It helped me to be validated and secure with my identity. With more reading and application, I soon began to learn FOR MYSELF what worked with my clients  Results gave me validity. Results gave me the confidence and "acceptance" I was looking for. Nowadays, I have no concern with what my competition is doing. I know what I am doing and have figured out what works and what doesn't work. The research only validates and confirms what I have discovered.

10.) If you want to be a great trainer, you have to ACT PROFESSIONAL, NOT IMMATURE. On any given day, I check out Facebook and see alot of stupid things posted by people in the fitness industry. Generally speaking, it is their prerogative to post freely. However, as a hiring manager I have to admit I do Google and search Facebook when an applicant submits a resume. If your Facebook privacy settings are not set up  in your favor, I'm going to check out your drunken photos and sleazy friends. Will it make or break whether I hire you? It all depends on your interview. Your interview will dictate your demeanor and personality--however, what I find online will also be taken into account. Rule of thumb...want to be taken seriously? Don't act like an ass...all of the time. Sure you can let loose and be funny and let your sarcasm shine...but put the "act" away once in a while and let people see the "real" you. 


  1. Thanks for the shout out John. I really appreciate it.


  2. Good list! I'm over the craze of people listing other trainers and vids of trainers on their blogs. Who cares?! Good trainers that are busy don't even have time to read top 100s of people simply to create a spike in web traffic.

  3. Hi, just a moment back I was searching for the information about business motivational speakers and now I am here. So much information, really well executed blog. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks


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