This is it. In no particular order these are my personal training secrets. I've got nothing left to hide...
1. I learned to manipulate grips.
Programming progression can be done a number of different ways. One of my favorites is to manipulate the grips I use. Often times with new clients I don’t want to change the exercise for the first 12-16 weeks.
To alleviate boredom for the client I’ll change the grip up. Additionally changing the grip can be a great way to continue training through injury. For example a trainee with shoulder impingement from too much bench press might benefit from pressing db’s with a neutral grip.
I recommend you take the time to learn the advantages and drawbacks of various grips and start testing them out. It’ll help your workouts as well.
2. I teach jargon to clients.
I love it when my clients know the difference between a barbell and dumbbell. Sometimes I even catch them making jokes about all exercises named after former Soviet Union countries being torturous vicious. I want to pass on my love for the gym to them and this is one of the ways.
As an added bonus the more they can talk the talk the more comfortable they’ll feel in the gym. It may not be the only reason they stay training but it will help their adherence. It was one major step in building my client army.
3. I learned how to unload a bar without breaking my back.
Step 1: Remove clips
Step 2: Remove all weight from one side
Step 3: Tip the bar dumping weights off the other end
Step 4: Wipe the dust off of my shoulder
Here’s Bret Contreras showing you how to strip the bar properly:
4. I learned to shut up.
I ask open-ended questions often like “how did that feel” or “are you enjoying the work out so far” and be quiet. I used to get nervous during a sales call after asking a question and would quickly chime in with my two cents. Since I’ve become more comfortable I let the situation get awkward.
Reason is that the more awkward the situation gets the more information my client will tell me to fill the silence. I can get to the root of problems quickly if they exist or write better programs armed with more knowledge.
5. I prepare for everything.
I went into detail on this one in the post entitled “What’s in my desk“ so I’ll refer you there to save my phalanges the work.
6. I have a soft copy of everything.
My clients lose and forget their workouts. No matter where I am I can flip them another copy electronically in seconds seconds. Have all of your clients workouts stored on a file on the computer, teach the receptionist at the club how to access your files so if you’re not around they can help your client as well. If you don’t have an internal network open a separate dropbox folder for all of your clients workouts.
7. I stopped burning out.
8. I Introduce my clients to everybody.
I aim to make my clients the most popular people in the gym. I’ll introduce them to all of the other trainers and members. Doing this involves them into the community right away. Adherence increases as a result.
The added bonus is that everybody wants to bring friends into a place where they’re popular. My clients go out of their way to tell friends and family members about the gym because of how comfortable and good they feel when they’re there.
I call this The Cheers Effect
9. Fat gripz.
My favourite dirty under-handed trick. I save these for when clients talk back… That and I want all of my clients to deadlift heavy so grip’s gotta be strong.
It also brings a sadistic smile to my face when my female clients tell me that they hurt their husband giving him a massage.
I have a really tough time putting on muscle and when it’s there I don’t want it to leave. Training 10-12 clients in a day didn’t leave much time to consume 3000+ calories. I started to add 10-15g of BCAA powder into my water and sip it throughout the day. It gives me a hit of energy and helps me maintain muscle mass.
11. I figured out that vodka bottles make great foam rollers.
Ice pack, foam roller, and a party all in one package. What could be better?
12. I learnt how to apply Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory.
This theory has shaped the way I train. Armed with it my clients confidence in the gym increases by the day. I’ve been able to recognize the specific actions that I need to do in order to make them feel like they can succeed in areas they’ve failed many times before.
13. Super shakes saved me life.
Step 1: Pick a veggie (I like spinach)
Step 2: Pick a healthy fat (coconut or almonds are my favorites)
Step 3: Pick a protein source
Step 4: Pick a topper (coconut shards and cinnamon are great!)
Step 5: Add in a liquid (I like almond milk)
Step 6: Never go hungry training 6 clients in a row again.
14. I learn constantly.
Always have two books on the go: One for training and one for business.
15. I learned to find and harness the power of the mavens.
When I started training in a new neighbourhood one client referred me 80% of my clientele (for the story check this article out). I trained her, her husband, her daughter, her two best friends, her daughter’s best friend, and her daughters husband. She was both well-connected and well-respected.
Some clients won’t ever refer you a client. In my experience the best sources of referrals always come from real estate agents, doctors, and stay at home moms. I seriously recommend reading through The Tipping Point for a overview of the power of “the maven”.
16. Caffeine tablets (not coffee).
No matter which way you spin it you’ll be in close quarters with your clients. Coffee on the floor is an obvious no-brainer (if you’re doing it now – stop). Oftentimes I would have clients right after a coffee break. My breath stunk so I had two options: Option 1 was to brush my teeth (that took time and I’m lazy with stuff like that) and option 2 is to have a 100-200mg caffeine tablet.
Since I don’t particularly like the taste of coffee I opted for the caffeine tabs. The benefits are that it’s cheaper, quicker (which meant I could put my feet up for 20 minutes instead of walking to the coffee shop), and isn’t going to stain my teeth in 5 years.
17. I learned about the aura of the expert and how to help others using it.
The expert is a fascinating phenomenom. Once I established myself as a fitness expert specializing in helping people with chronic low back pain I started fielding questions on everything.
Instead of answering questions about training for a bodybuilding competition (or a host of other topics) I learned to make connections with experts who specialize in those areas. Whenever a question came in I couldn’t answer I would simply “tap out” and call in an expert in that field. This increased my social equity by providing the person asking the question with a higher-quality answer than I could ever give.
18. I smile.
Always. Smiling is contagious. It makes people want to talk to me even if I have a wicked cool handlebar mustache.
19. I deadlift… often.
Years back I damaged a facet joint in my back deadlifting too much weight trying to impress a girl. (Did ya ever think anybody could fit that much stupid into one sentence?). It sucked. I couldn’t move for two weeks and was feeling the effects months after. Training clients was miserable and I promised myself that I’d rehab and keep my back strong to never go through it again.
Spotting clients with a weak back can be dangerous and I can guarantee that you’ll be moving weight when tired loading and unloading bars. Keep your back strong. That way if a girl is actually paying attention you can impress her with your massive lift (’cause that’s what girls like right?)
20. I spot at the wrists.
Wow I see this done wrong all the time. Spotting at the elbows on exercises with DB’s doesn’t allow you any control. In fact, in University somebody spotted me at the elbows on an overhead DB press and could have seriously injured me.
The combination of him slamming my elbows into overhead extension and rubber weights made me drop the weight and have a sore shoulder for two weeks. The weight narrowly missed breaking some poor dudes toe as well.
21. I became the “go-to” for fitness information in my network.
I realized that I already had a great network so started making sure that everybody knew I was a trainer. Fact is that not everybody was ready for personal training yet. My goal was to stay at the top of their minds so that when they were ready, they’d call me.
Facebook makes this easy (add me if you like). Try a simple “fitness tip of the day” scheme. One post a day isn’t intrusive. Share something. Anything. Make it short and add a call to action at the end asking them to message you if they ever have any questions. You’ll be surprised at how well this works.
22. I change my socks often.
You all knew it was coming. I straight up hate bad socks. For more mistakes like wearing thick cotton socks that will make your feet sweat without remorse make sure to download the massive free e-book “101 Personal Trainer Mistakes, and the Solutions to Each.“
23. I always look for ways to go the extra 10%.
The status quo never interested me. I never quite understood how people just go in to do their job and collect their paycheck before punching out to go home and feed their 7 cats.
Every second of every day I’m looking for ways to add value to both my own and others lives. Perhaps the best book I ever read on the subject is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I consider this to be the most important book I’ve ever read.
24. I teach my clients gym etiquette.
It helps them gain confidence in the gym and improve their adherence to the program with or without me. The result? Better results! Check out this post for more details as to how I do it.
25. I mastered my two sentence pitch.
You should be able to explain why you’re different and better than other trainers in no more than two sentences. Before I did this I didn’t feel comfortable selling myself to clients. In retrospect I was confused as to what my training methodology was didn’t have a personal manifesto. Write your own today. Here’s mine:
“Do great work; hang out with great people; ignore shitty people; never call out anybody publicly and always deal with disputes behind closed doors. Have an intangible element for everything you sell; create better free content than anybody else; and, perhaps most importantly, when you do decide to sell, make sure that it’s fucking awesome and sell hard.”