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Motivating General Population Personal Training Clients

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

It’s the start that stops most people. You can write the best workout in the world and it doesn’t matter if nobody does it.

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The following is a guest post from Doug Balzarini.

[Enter Doug]

If you think personal training is holding a clipboard, wearing a stopwatch around your neck, and counting to 10 you’re sorely mistaken.

Personal training is about establishing a relationship, building trust, working hard, and growing that relationship around client-specific goals. Creating those goals will help us develop the “road map” that will become our health & fitness program.

While I think goal setting and programing are both vital pieces to helping your clients achieve greatness, I feel that motivating and coaching your client to be a more critical component. Great goals and a world-class program don’t mean anything if they aren’t motivated. The result? You fail as a trainer. Your clients don’t get results and you get fired.

To motivate clients, you need to provide them with more than, “All you”, “You got this”, and “Is that all you got!?”. It’s about connecting with your client and stimulating the necessary triggers to help them reach their goals. There are some tactics I use with one population that I don’t use with the other.

My Motivation Evolution

I had the opportunity to work alongside Todd Durkin for 6+ years. For those that don’t know him, let’s just say he is a mildly energetic (read with sarcasm) and someone who made it impossible to have a sub par training session if you were under his watch.

The enthusiasm and energy he would display was contagious, not only to the person or group he was working with, but to the entire facility. From a client’s perspective, you could not help but give it your all because you could see that he was working hard to inspire and motivate you.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have nowhere near the energy and stamina that he has (despite my mild caffeine addiction). Does that mean I can’t be a successful trainer? Can I not help clients reach their goals? Do I have to have an upbeat and “rah-rah” attitude 24/7 in order for my clients to reach their fitness goals?

Since I don’t have that type of personality, how do I motivate my clients? It starts with me and an examination of who I am.

I can say that one thing I do have is passion. My clients have my undivided attention and their goals are my goals when we are working together.

motivating personal training clients

When I first started my personal training career back in 1996 (yikes!), I was really timid. I was in school, interning at a local health club, and I didn’t really know much. With experience comes confidence. And with confidence comes the ability to be more sure of one’s self.

Fast-forward 10 years and I was training at Fitness Quest 10 (FQ10) in San Diego. A number of the coaches there were extremely upbeat and motivating their clients in a more “boot camp” style approach. I feel that I adopted a bit of that “energetic” style early on in my first year or two there. Over time, I began to develop my own style…and the client I was working with for that particular session would ultimately determine my style.

I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle as far as verbal encouragement goes. With some clients I will simply give the occasional, “Good job” and with others I’m much more animated and loud.

My 72 year old client who’s primary goal is to stay pain-free doesn’t need me blowing my whistle in her face and yelling at her because she lost cervical alignment on the last rep of her wall pushups.

What’s worked?

General Population

I realize “general population” is a generic term. I’m referring to the client that drives to work Monday through Friday, sits at a desk much of the day, meets me at lunch or after work for their hour-long workout 2-3 times a week, and then drives home after work to be with their family.

If you can get to know your client and know what motivates them and what inspires them and what makes them tick, then you are armed with powerful information that you can use effectively to produce results.

I suggest sitting down with clients on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a weekly meeting. 10-15 minutes every 4-6 weeks just to step off the gym floor, review the goals, and make sure everyone is on the same page should suffice. Write down their goals, make eye contact, and repeat their goals so they know you hear them. These little steps will go a long way in terms of success.

√ Face to face time

√  Eye contact

√  Listen

√  Write out goals

Once their goals are established encourage your clients o share them  with family, friends, co-workers, and any other people in their “inner circle”. Friends and family have a significant role in achieving results. Better yet, get the family or friends involved and have them all train together. Pick an event to train for that will keep everyone motivated as a team. Examples can include a local 5k run, a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder event, or any number of charity based events that are offered today…especially if that charity has meaning to them.

Think writing out goals is a quick meaningless step? Quick, yes. But meaningless, no? When it comes to weight loss goals, food journaling and writing out your food intake can nearly double weight loss effectiveness (Hollis et al. 2008). When you actually see your lifestyle patterns, you are much more apt to maintain a healthy behavior.

Some additional simple strategies include:

√  Reach a goal and get a free training session

√  Fill out a food journal for a week straight and get a free t-shirt

√  Write out a thank you card showing your clients you appreciate their hard work

√  Congratulate them for their results in your newsletter or on your gyms “information board”

√  Praise them on Facebook for their new PR

√  Send a text message showing them you are thinking about them on their day off

It’s the start that stops most people” – Brian Cain – Click to Tweet

Just focus on achieving one small step at a time and don’t dwell on the “big picture” goal.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

About the Author

Becoming a personal trainer motivating

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his own 2-DVD set on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was recently a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” TV show.

For more information please visit

photo credits: Eric “Claptøn” Nelsøn ericmcgregor

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.