All personal training clients can be split into 3 categories. Which do you want to train? Here's how to follow whichever path you want to choose.
All personal training clients can be placed into one of the 3 following categories:
- Performance clients (athletes). These clients participate in a sport, whether recreational or professional, and are training to compete at a higher level.
- Physique clients. These clients want to look great naked. In other words, they’re striving to achieve the perfect physical form.
- Fitness clients. These clients work out for a variety of reasons including stress relief, weight loss, health improvement/maintenance, adding muscle or toning, increased productivity, and enjoyment.
This article is about the 3 types of personal training clients and what you need to know in training each one.
Do You Want to Train Athletes?
Stop working at a commercial gym training average Joe’s and Jane’s.
If you want to train athletes for a living you have a long road ahead of you, but it isn’t impossible. To become a strength and conditioning coach for a professional team there are two general paths to take:
- Get an internship with a facility that is known for training clients. Cressey Performance run by Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore is a good example if you want to train baseball players. If you’re more interested in hockey, you might look into Endeavor Sports Performance and Conditioning run by Kevin Neeld. For one of the best all-around sports performance training centers in North America, check out one of four Athlete’s Performance locations run by Mark Verstegen
- Work for a minor league or small college team and do a great job. The NSCA has a jobs board for Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS) and has a list of a lot of minor league teams looking for help. Start at the bottom, do a great job, network, and work yourself to bigger organizations.
The gyms mentioned above are exceptions. There aren’t too many facilities dedicated primarily to training athletes. Most trainers who train professional athletes, for example PTDC coach Bill Sonnemaker of Catalyst Fitness, make their livings from training average clientele and take on a select few high performance athletes during the athlete’s off season. The regular clients pay the bills, not the athletes.
Here’s a video of Bill training a couple of his NFL outdoors in hotLanta:
Do You Want to Train Physique Clients?
Like high performance athletics, there are very few trainers or facilities that continually make astonishing physique changes. If you want to train bodybuilders to get ready for the stage or models ready for fitness shoots — you need to look into learning from the people who continually achieve astounding physique changes in their clients.
Physique clients aren’t just people who want to get ready for photoshoots, but the reality is that most clientele just aren’t willing to put in the work, dedication, and sacrifice it takes to get the type of transformation we see in magazines.
There are some amazing trainers who pride themselves on being able to get these transformations. I suggest you study their work and, if you’re really serious, look into applying for internships or mentorships with the best of the best. PTDC coaches Nick Mitchell of Ultimate Performance in London (and soon to be Hong Kong) and Dan Trink (along with my friend Joe Dowdell) of Peak Performance in New York City are two of the best out there.
Do You Want to Train Fitness Clients?
You probably won’t admit it, but most of you are doing this right now. I trained fitness clients my entire career. I also trained celebrities and numerous athletes, but considered myself a fitness trainer through and through.
The fitness industry was worth $17 billion last year and a huge percentage of that was from regular people. High performance athletes and physique or transformation clients were a tiny piece of the pie.
If you to have a rewarding (personally and financially) career personal trainer, you must get good at training fitness clients. This means two things:
- Understand the soft side of training and recognize that adherence and consistency far outweigh advanced physiological knowledge when it comes to helping clients achieve long term results.
- Relationships are everything. Fitness clients buy trainers, not training. Don’t be a jerk, don’t hold any knowledge back, and become the most popular person in your gym.
Taking on fitness clients is challenging because of the large variety of people you will see. In addition, unlike training high performance or physique clients, you are in charge of your clients entire well-being and not just their programs. This means that you’re a personal trainer on Monday, psychologist Tuesday, motivational speaker on Wednesday, Boot camp instructor on Thursday, post-rehab specialist Friday, and seminar presenter on Saturday — Sunday you rest.
It’s the most rewarding job in the world but one that takes a lot of practice. If you’re serious about making a career out of personal training, I suggest finding a great manager or facility to work at. For example, Body + Soul Fitness in Toronto was where I worked for years. It’s a small boutique gym with one of the best personal training programs around for regular clientele. They offer a great educational program run by PTDC coach Scott Tate and have lots of in-house workshops.
Some big box gyms also have passionate and dedicated management. An example is Crunch Fitness managed by my friend Mike Spiegal in New York City. Any new personal trainer would be lucky to get a job there.
Let Me Tell You a Story
A year and a half ago I got an
essay email sent to me. It was not from anybody I knew and ignored all the rules of convention — long run-on sentences, walls of words, and no real introduction. It was an email from a young trainer who hailed a small town in Vancouver.
He was working in the one gym near his house but recognized early on that it wasn’t right for him — he wanted more and was asking for advice. After a couple emails and speaking on Skype I recognized that there was something special about Josh Hamilton.
I wasn’t the only one.
Josh had stayed up until all hours of the night reaching out to all the fitness pros whose work he admired — essentially everyone who he wanted to meet and learn from.
Before long, Josh picked up and moved to Toronto for more opportunities. He had no money and slept on a mattress on the floor of a co-workers apartment and got a job at a gym in the city. For months he lived out of a duffel bag on the floor. He spent every spare penny on self-development materials.
Josh quickly found a mentor in one of Toronto’s top trainers, Mike Demeter (who the Godlike superhero from MightyTrainer was loosely based on) and spent every second learning from the best. He also networked and is now working alongside my friend John “Roman” Romaniello.
Josh knew exactly what he wanted and he did everything in his power to get it.
Don’t first opportunity that comes your way. Like any other job, the beginning of your personal training career is for development, not to make millions.
You need direction. You need mentors. You need to screw up. You need to go outside of your comfort zone in order to place yourself in the best position possible for whatever you want to achieve in your career — it’s up to you, and nobody else.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments below what kind of client you want to train and the steps you’re taking to make it happen. I’m looking forward to reading them.