The following is a guest post by Chris Kelly. For those who don’t know Chris, he is a brilliant trainer in Florida. Unfortunately, he has been charged with the miserable task of training a number of female pageant competitors. His real challenge has been to manage his time well and work within his clients budgets. In doing this, Chris puts together great 30-minute workouts and, since he is the personal trainer to some of the most beautiful people in America, we should listen.
Why 30 Minutes?
Looking back on my career as a trainer, one of the lessons I learned early on is that training 30-minute clients can be possibly the hardest job in fitness.
Due to family and business obligations, most individuals in this category– who either train shortly after rising from bed or immediately after work– arrive to the session with a glazed over expression and a cup of starbucks in hand.
This usually means the first order of business for these time crunched clients is to fully open their eyes. Throw in late arrivals and frequent cell phone breaks and we are fighting an uphill battle to get the client to pay attention—let alone bust out a quick warm up and hit the weights.
With these challenges in mind, we must still somehow carve out a session containing strength, conditioning, mobility and core training all in the space of 30 minutes (try 22-25 in reality)
This means designing a template which not only takes in to account the client’s strength and ability, but also their work capacity and competence to navigate through your program.
For example, assigning complicated exercises such as multi-planar lunges may be just the ticket to improve a coordination and balance—but try doing so after a long, frustrating day at work has fried the concentration of your client and witness the results.
As you will learn in my article, factors such as the client’s occupation and time of day must be considered when programming for clients in a rush (here in a hint: keep it simple!).
Read on to learn more…
Controlling the Clock
Before delving in to program design, the most important factor in putting together your workout is controlling the clock.
Because every client moves at different pace, I have found the most practical method of doing so is allocating time—versus a rigid set and rep scheme—to each portion of the session.
Here is an example:
Peak Fitness 30-Minute Model
- Warm up – 10min (5min dynamic mobility and 5min AIS (Activated Isolated Stretching)
- Strength Training – 10min (1 push, 1 pull, and 1 leg exercise)
- Conditioning – 5-7min
- Corrective Exercise – 3-5min
After allocating time to each portion of the session, our primary means of controlling the clock is to actually set a stop watch for the time period above.
This allows me to know that I have exactly how long I have left to complete that portion of the session before moving on to the next section.
Once the clock is running, we make extensive use of methods such as intervals and timed circuits to efficiently move the client through each portion.
Understanding your Subject
In our example below, I demonstrate a standard test we utilize to help determine the amount of work and volume we can reasonable expect from each client.
Because the ultimate goal is to achieve three or more rounds of a strength circuit, whether or not the client is able to complete this. In our tests is used this as our primary criteria for scaling strength circuits.
While a standard warm up would include gradual transition from mobility drills to integration and power training, the reality with a thirty minute client is we have around 3-5 minutes to make this happen. On the other hand, this also allows us to show the client what “warm up” really means!
In my experience, I have found a gradually build up from slower mobility exercises to power and full body movements using the arms and legs are drivers is a great way to teach new movements and introduce clients to this idea of increased work capacity.
This is done by performing a medley of exercises back to back for 20-30 seconds for several minutes at a time:
If the client blows through our initial circuit (3 rounds or more), we know that it is safe to include higher repetitions, more intensity and a great number of more exercises per circuit.
Advanced Client Example
• Push-Floor dumbbell press
• Pull-One arm row
• Legs-Split squat
• Core-Push up pike
By contrast, a client who scored poorly (less than 3 rounds) is given fewer exercises which require less direction and a shorter transition period—think getting up off the floor or walking across the room.
Beginner Client Example
• Push- Push up
• Pull- Band row
• Legs- Squat
Conditioning the Client
While five minutes may not seem enough time for a metabolic circuit, short intervals (10-30 seconds) and density circuits are a fantastic way to pack a lot of work in to this small period of time.
The key as in the strength circuit is to program exercises with equipment that is close by and can work in quick transition.
Staying with our theme of timed circuits, we round out our sessions with corrective exercise circuits which follow the theme of similar equipment and minimal transition.
Based upon the client’s FMS (Functional Movement Screen) score and additional testing, we generally program 2-3 corrective exercises which are performed as a timed circuit.
While this sometimes leads to minor compromises being made, even three minutes of work or mobilizations for smaller stabilizer muscles can mean big results for your clients.
As an alternative, this sequence can also be taught to the client and performed after the client’s workout is complete.
Progressing your Client
After several weeks or months of becoming familiar with our format, clients will progress quickly in both work capacity and competency to perform exercises.
This means that progressing these two variables is the key to keeping them challenged and occupied. In order to do so, we consider the factors which go in to making up our circuits:
|Client progression factors||Month 1||Month 2||Month 3|
-Saggital plane exercises only
|-External loading introduced. -Frontal plane exercises introduced.||-Total body loading introduced. -Multi-planar exercises introduced.|
|Transition||-All exercises placed within 5-10 feet-Performed standing||-Floor exercises introduced||-Exercises intentionally spaced farther apart.-Introduce Mobility|
|Exercises and rep range||-Reps go no higher than 6-8-2-3 exercises per circuit.
- Focus on slow and purposeful execution of each rep to teach lifts.
|-Reps go no higher than 12 reps-3-4 exercises per circuit.
-Increase in rep tempo to allow for greater volume.
|-More complex loading schemes introduced.-3-5 exercises per circuit.
- Tempo variable based upon goal.
While working out for thirty minutes may seem far from ideal, a well put together session can dramatically improve body composition, conditioning and strength by allowing for fewer rest periods.
Apart from the actual program, this comes down to the trainer’s ability to bring positive energy and urgency to the workout. Knowing the client is in a hurry (or will move slowly upon arrival), be ready to go with equipment, stop watch and area of the gym reserved from your client.
Once these factors are in place, the other factor to consider is the client themselves. If they are sick, hungover or just not feeling up to the workout, be sure to have a plan B—think foam rolling, stretching and/or mobility circuits if the client is not feeling up to the session.
Do You have Different / Better Way to Organize 30-minute sessions? Please comment below and, as always, share using the social media buttons below
Chris Kelly is an experienced fitness journalist, personal trainer, teacher and owner of Peak Fitness, a personal training studio located in Tampa Florida. As both a teacher of personal trainers as well as the owner of a busy studio, Chris specializes in innovative systems for managing the training of over 100 clients which span the gambit from the general population to actors, models and beauty pageant competitors. For more on Chris’ work please visit http://peakfitnesslakeland.com/education/articles/