Monday, April 22, 2013

Training the Client That Hates Exercise - GUEST POST

Today is a guest post from Adam Tombelaine from

 If you have spent any length of time in the fitness industry the wake up call comes pretty quickly. You get a solid education of exercise science along with a couple high level certs. You are up to speed on the sliding filament theory; the energy system; and how to target the biceps femoris. You are excited about getting people into the best shape of their lives. Right? You meet and assess your first collection of clients and you realize something. Something that you hadn’t even considered before - the stark reality that a good amount of the people you are excited to motivate and inspire absolutely hate exercising. If it wasn’t for their doctor scaring them into exercising by telling them that they will die young, they’d be on the couch right now eating some potato chips and watching Two and a Half Men. 

But alas, they are in your world, fighting kicking and screaming as this is the last place they want to be. So how do you give these people the same joy about exercising that you have? How do you make them FEEL what being strong and fit makes in their life? How do you get past the easy road of wanting to punch these people in the face and really get in their corner to get them some sweet results? Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Find Their Sweet Spots 

 I see it all the time. A trainer will take this person and perform their highly technical FMS screen ---not communicating with the client at all.  And then go on some rant about how their hip flexors being too tight, their OH SQ score is low, and their rotational stability needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, you tell them they are going to need 6 weeks of intensive corrective work before you even let them into the big boy area to touch some weights. Then you go home and write some ridiculously elaborate program that looks more like Kobe Bryant's rehab program than an appropriate training program for this client. Nice work. 

 The first week should be all about courting this individual. You should run them through a battery of exercise testing, communicate with them to find out what exercises this person feels good doing, which ones they completely suck at, where their comfort zones are, what makes them feel confident, and what makes them feel completely defeated. Then take this compiled data and compose a program that allows you to slowly target your objectives---while simultaneously breeding confidence and trust in the program you are creating. Did I mention communication is extremely important? In other words figure out what will make this person want to come back week after week again to train with you.

 2. Compliment when needed...not when wanted.

The person that hasn't exercised much in their life and would rather just avoid it altogether, will need constant positive reinforcement during the first phases of your program. Reiterate accomplishments often.

“Hey last week you could only do 8 squats at that weight now you get 15 easily, great work!”...or...
“2 weeks ago you couldn't even do a single leg squat now they look solid, great job!”...or...
“Wow you are making those dumbbell presses look easy!"

You’d be surprised at how far saying the little things takes you. Fact is people seek instant gratification. It is the way our society works now and these tidbits can give this person confidence. Even if they have a very long way to go; highlighting their improvements gives them the mental boost of reaching goals quickly.

 3. Set Up Periodic Challenges 

This is a great achievement oriented strategy that can build confidence and belief in the system of training. Here is an example:“Hey you are really improving your conditioning and I want to set up a little fitness challenge for you. Let's try 100 Bodyweight Squats, 100 Push Ups, 100 TRX Rows, and I bet you can smash it in under 10 minutes”. 

Then when they do it, pump them up. They will get a huge ego boost from conquering a challenge they probably would have been scared to perform before. Once completed they can brag to their spouse, peers, or whoever about how they are killing their fitness program!


 These are 3 very applicable ways to handle the new client that is very adverse to exercising. Remember, these folks are the ones that prove how good you are at your job NOT the triathlete that would be highly motivated and in incredible shape with or without you. Plus, if you master this population you will have endless income. Now, get out their and crush it!


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