It’s early fall. You just wrapped up your 400-hour internship for your undergraduate exercise science degree.
You have experience working in the field, a great four-year degree, and a burning desire to help others achieve their dreams.
Heck, you’re even on the best site for personal trainer business development, reading how to get more personal training clients, become a better trainer, and achieve more personal and professional success.
You have it all figured out, don’t you?
No, you don’t. There’s much to be learned. Over my first couple years I made a lot of mistakes on my road to becoming a better coach. Here are my top 17 — I hope it saves you from making the same mistakes I did.
What do Personal Trainers Make as Their Top Mistakes? Here’s the top 17:
1. Thinking that the workouts are about the tool and not human movement.
Don’t fall in love with the newest gadget or the oldest tool. Master the skill of human movement and coaching. Everything has its place.
2. Not knowing that the body is the most important tool in your toolbox.
When it comes down to it, personal trainers must help clients improve their ability to move about space and work to reduce injury.
3. Thinking that it’s the clients fault.
Client is hurt? It’s your fault. Tendonitis? Your fault, too much volume or improper loading. Did they sleep funny and now have back pain? Acute trauma to the back doesn’t generally occur during sleep; again, your fault. Take responsibility for every nick and pain your client has when they are training and find out the source.
4. Not knowing the difference between “Feel & Real.”
Just because a client “feels” something doesn’t mean you’re creating an adaptive response. Exercise is not about difficulty. Exercises can seem easy but focus on the important components.
You can perform 50 curls with a 15-pound dumbbell, but are you improving your client’s athletic performance?
5. Thinking that experiences don’t matter.
We become more biased as we age. Our experiences helped mold our direction and some bias is expected. But don’t let your background cloud your vision.
6. Not questioning everything.
As the late George Carlin said, “Don’t just teach your children to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”
Using research as an example — who wrote it? Who funded it? What was the demographic being tested? These questions all help you see the full picture of what’s in front of you.
7. Over-cueing your clients and not working on small, incremental changes.
In the book Switch, authors Dan and Chip Heath state, “Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over decades.”
In lay terms, don’t change too much too quickly with your clients.
You may be in tune with your body, but your clients aren’t. Focus on the small victories. Too many cues greatly increases the difficulty to the point your client is overwhelmed.
8. Not investing in yourself enough.
You know much less than you think. If you have a good practitioner teaching, you will get as much out of one weekend as you did an entire course in college. Hands-on coaching and lecturing is paramount to your growth and success.
9. Not reading for an hour each day.
Read and take notes on research, blogs, and various textbooks and begin writing your thoughts.
Here’s a list of personal training books to get started on
10. Not building a killer network.
Build a network of health professionals and refer out. Know when things are outside your scope of practice. If a client isn’t ready to train but is coming back from an ACL injury, it’s your responsibility to take care of their needs.
Not to mention, establishing working relationships with physical therapists, chiropractors, and nutritionists can lead to referrals down the road.
11. Making things too complicated.
This comes back to trends, tools, and coaching your clients. Movement still comes down to being mobile yet stable.
Be able to run, hop, skip, jump, push, pull, shuffle, squat, lift, land, and balance in various planes all with proper body mechanics. Make proper body position an automatic response.
12. Bouncing back and forth between ideas, workouts, and instructions. (Program hopping)
Cue the same lessons over and over to your clients. Clarity yields familiarity. Familiarity drives habits. Habits drive behaviors, and behaviors drive results.
13. Not being patient.
Teaching movement isn’t easy. Often times, you’re trying to rework a motor pattern that’s been ingrained for years, maybe decades! Everything takes time, but be consistent and be patient.
14. Not picking your battles.
How long do you have to train a client? Eight weeks until the regular season? Decide what’s really important for your client or athlete. Can training that parameter really improve performance given the time you have?
15. Not educating your clients.
Explain why you do everything. By educating your clients you’re getting them to buy into your program. If you’re sound as a coach, results will skyrocket — and so will your reputation and income.
16. Not seeking out mentors.
Mentors serve multiple important roles in your professional development.
First, mentors create an open and supportive climate for discussion, something often missing in the competitive big box gym environment.
Second, mentors can provide constructive feedback and advice to help you in your career.
17. Ignoring something and passing it off as insignificant.
Sloppy, kyphotic posture during a warm up? That same sloppy pattern will negate the three weeks of corrective exercise you just performed. Remember, everything matters.
1. Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. p. 44. Print.
2. Loren Landow, ed. Train To Win Steadman Hawkins Clinic, Print.