Today I introduced the bench press to one of my clients. I’ve been working with him for about a month and in that time he’s made some great gains, as is expected for a beginner.
After I went over what I wanted him to do on the exercise he did his first set with the bar, second set with 85 pounds, and third set with 95 pounds. After the third set, he sat up on the bench and looked at me.
“What’s a good bench press?” he asked. This client had essentially never lifted before coming to me. He has a wedding in a couple months and wanted to gain some muscle before it.
“Well, body weight is a good place to start for a goal,” I replied.
“Good, we’ll get that by May,” he responded before lying back down on the bench to finish his last set.
It wasn’t until a couple hours later that I realized this was my clients “buy in” moment.
The Big Buy In
What do I mean by buying in? It’s the moment when you know that the client appreciates the process and the work that goes into training. It’s the moment that you know your client will participate in training for the rest of their life.
It hit me because his wedding is in two months, but May is a lot further down the road. His training wasn’t going to end when the wedding ended.
Your job, as a trainer, becomes a lot more enjoyable when your clients have bought into training. At first a lot of new clients have misconceptions about training and the process it takes to reach their goals.
New clients with weight loss goals come in thinking training three times a week without any other changes will guarantee results. They might think that training is simply circuits, machines, and cardio.
When you introduce things like deadlifts, sled pushes, push-ups, and presses they might not find those things enjoyable at the time. They’ve yet to buy in because they aren’t convinced that what you do is what they need to see results.
So how do you get a client to buy in? There are 3 ways:
1. Have them hit benchmark weights on lifts and highlight their success
Once your clients start crushing noticeably more weight than when they started they tend to buy in. I’m lucky enough to have a few of these moments on camera. The first video is a client who went from zero pull-ups to seven.
The second video is of a client who’s probably put 50 pounds onto her trap bar deadlift (she’s added another 30 since filming this clip).
Both clients deserve a serious knuckle bump.
2. Have some noticeable improvements in movement or decreases in pain
Two clients come to mind here. The first had both of his Achilles tendons ruptured, one of them twice. As a result his ankles were super stiff and he couldn’t do a lunge or a squat. Over time and after some simple drills he began to improve. His lunges look considerably better and he can execute a goblet squat without a problem.
The second client had complained of knee pain, and after analyzing her movement it was clear to see why. I fixed her movement issues and the pain has continued to subside.
3. Have noticeable changes in weight loss
I find that once a client has lost a certain amount of weight momentum begins to build up and work in their favor. I can’t tell you how many times a client has been on the precipice of that weight loss number only to regress. I’ve had clients work hard to lose several pounds only to blow it in one day of binge eating.
Ten pounds is a great number — once people hit that number they’ve probably bough in to eating healthy. This is for two reasons: they’re seeing results so they’re happy, and after losing ten pounds whatever they’ve been doing has probably become a habit.
Where’s Your Buy In?
I’ve had the privilege of being a part of many “buy in” moments, which tend to be the most rewarding part of the job. Your clients get excited about coming to see you, which gets you excited to work with them because they’re chasing their goals.
There’s no guarantee when this buy in moment will happen with clients. Some, like my bench presser, could be after a month, while others could take years. It’s your job to help bring about those buy in moments so that your clients continue to create and reach health goals for a lifetime.
Justin is a certified strength and conditioning coach who teaches and personal trains at SUNY Cortland where he graduated in 2012. His website is Blood and Iron Fitness which he created for students and fitness enthusiast. He one day hopes to marry Zooey Deschanel and plans to go back to school for physical therapy.