Personal training is an interesting career. It’s one of the easiest jobs to jump into as long as you look the part, but there’s a reason--well, 101 of them actually--why some coaches are far more successful than others. The coaches at Melbourne’s JPS Health & Fitness have put together:

A list of the top 101 “must knows” for personal trainers!

Do you know all of them?


1. Being sore isn’t indicative of a good workout. Smashing clients is not the answer.

2. Squats aren’t bad for your client’s knees.

3. A detox doesn’t “cleanse” your client’s body. Their liver will do that for them.4.

4. There is a limit to how much protein your clients need. More protein doesn’t equal more muscle growth.

5. Punishing clients with harder workouts for poor dietary decisions is poor personal training.

6. Mobility is important, but making your clients spend 30 minutes on a foam roller is not an effective warm-up.

7. Calories count and macros matter, but your clients don’t necessarily need to track calories to gain/lose weight.

8. Remember joints, actions, muscles, or also known as JAM. All exercises are movements about a joint, where muscles perform an action.

9. VFI are the three key variables in program design.

10. Energy balance: Your clients can get fat eating broccoli, kale, and organic produce. They can lose weight eating donuts.

11. Empathy: If you don’t care for your clients, you’re in the wrong industry.

12. Coach your clients, don’t “train” them.

13. Exercise principles are exercise priorities.

14. Adopt a long-term focus with your clients for long-term results.

15. The answer to most questions is, “It depends.”

16. Focus on the clients you do have, not the ones you don’t have.

17. Your work with your client doesn’t end when the session finishes.

18. A cert 3 and 4 in personal training isn’t the end of your learning.

19. Specificity: Your training sessions will cause specific adaptations to the demands imposed on your clients. Make sure your programming is specific to your client’s goals, not yours.

20. Reversibility: If your clients don’t use it, they’ll lose it.

21. MRV: There is only so much volume your clients can recover from in a given session. You don’t need to hit 15 chest exercises to build size.

22. Progressive Overload: If there is no form of overload, there is no adaptation.

23. Individualization: Nobody is a special snowflake, but all snowflakes have slight variations.

24. Levers, fulcrum, moment arms, torque are essential for understanding resistance training.

25. Don’t try and fit a square peg in a round hole. Your clients are all unique, to a degree.

26. There is no such thing as an “anabolic window.” It’s more like a barn door.

27. Protein powder does not build muscle without sufficient volume overload or a calorie surplus.

28. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired.

29. Don’t downplay the role of the central nervous system, regardless of goal.

30. Exercises are simply plug-ins. There is no one movement to build fitness, muscle, or strength.


31. Resistance training is the application of external load to movement. Make sure your clients can perform the movement safely before applying load.

32. Stimulate don’t annihilate. Smashing muscles into oblivion will not yield better outcomes.

33. You can’t “stoke the metabolic fire.” Meal frequency plays a small part in body composition.

34. Screening your clients is essential for injury prevention, longevity, and continued progression.

35. Adherence is king. If your clients can’t follow the plan consistently, it won’t work.

36. A well-designed program incorporates multiple planes of movement.

37. Artificial sweeteners are not fattening nor bad for your health. Too much of anything is unhealthy.

38. Personal training is a profession, so act like a professional.

39. Communication is key. If a 10 year old doesn’t understand, your client won’t either.

40. You aren’t there to make decisions for your clients. Instead guide their decisions so they can make informed choices to suit their lifestyle and preferences.

41. To ensure that your clients do not stagnate, there must be variation within their training to avoid accommodation. There is, however, a trade-off with specificity, so beware!

42. Nothing in the body is either on or off; it’s a continuum.

43. If in doubt, refer out. There is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer.

44. Know your scope of practice and respect that.

45. Meal plans are effective tools for weight management, but often do more harm than good.

46. Personal trainers are problem solvers. Use your tool box of knowledge to solve your clients problems one at a time.

47. If you give your clients a fish, they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Holding secrets is counterintuitive to the role of a coach.

48. You can’t change your clients until they are willing to change.

49. If you’re not measuring, you’re just guessing. What gets measured, gets managed.

50. Clients lie, so get used to it and learn how to read between the lines.

51. Misreporting: On average, people underreport food intake by 50 percent and overestimate energy expenditure by 50 percent.

52. Carbohydrates after dark can be beneficial to improve sleep, recovery, and adherence.

53. Textbook knowledge is one thing, but experiencing first hand what you are about to put your clients through goes a long way!

54. Breakfast doesn’t have to be at a specific time of day. Just break the fast and make it fit your client’s lifestyle.

55. Methods are many, but principles are but a few. Learn the principles and devise your own methods tailored to your clients.

56. Personal trainer jargon doesn’t help your clients understand or perform the task at hand. It’s not what you know, it’s what you communicate.

57. Yelling “chest up, knees out” when your clients squat is not always effective cueing – remember external versus internal cues.

58. Everybody learns differently, so tailor the teaching to your clients’ preferred method of learning--be it visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic.

59. Science is the shortest way to the truth, and finding the best way to apply it to your clients training is key for a successful personal trainer.

60. Many roads lead to Rome, but one will get your client there quicker--find it.

61. Glutes are keystone–train them heavy, light in all planes.

62. Deadlifts aren’t bad for your client’s back. Poor execution, load selection and programming will make your client’s back sore.

63. Personal training is the intricate blend of the application of science and the art of coaching–find your style.

64. Personal training is more than rep counting or yelling and screaming. It’s about taking your client from point A to B on the most effective, safe, and enjoyable route.

65. You don’t need to be friends with your clients to be a good coach, but you must give a sh**!

66. The fitness fatigue model underpins all athletic performance. It’s important to know this!

67. Buy-in, habit formation, and incremental lifestyle changes are how to get long-term body compositional results, not detoxes and fad diets.

68. Listen, observe, assess, identify, devise, communicate, re-assess and amend. Together, these are all coaching…

69. Make mistakes, but make sure you reflect, learn, and grow.

70. Integrity goes a long way toward your tenure as a personal trainer.


71. There are many ways to skin a cat. Similarly, there are many ways to program for any goal.

72. Mobility may be cool, but stability is an important factor in all movements. Note Boyles’ joint-by-joint theory.

73. Dunning Kruger: The more you learn, the less you know.

74. Overtraining is near impossible, under-recovering is easy.

75. Training a muscle group once a week may be what pro bodybuilders advocate, but it doesn’t mean it’s the most effective or optimal training frequency for strength and size.

76. There’s a difference between exercising and training. Know that difference.

77. Social media may have trends, but sport science hasn’t changed all that much in the last five decades.

78. SRA: Stimulate, recover, adapt.

79. Success is found at the intersection between what your client wants and what your client needs.

80. Moderation is key.

81. Some things can’t be said enough.

82. Moderation is key.

83. Anyone who claims to be an expert most likely can’t be trusted.

84. Your clients don’t pay you to hear about you, watch you send text messages, or talk to other people in the gym. While they may just be one of many sessions that day for you, but to them that’s their only session.

85. The number of followers someone has is not an indication of what they know.

86. Cookie-cutters are good for cutting cookies, but not for making training or diet programs.

87. Core workouts are good for your core, but should not be the core of your workouts.

88. Functional, adjective, is defined as “of having a specific activity, purpose or task.”

89. Celebrate the little things.

90. Focus on processes, not outcomes.

91. Nobody ever shocked a muscle into growing, unless they used progressive overload as their method of surprise.

92. Bang for buck is key with gen pop clients.

93. Pareto principle: 80 percent of results are achieved with the first 20 percent effort. It’s the remaining 20 percent of results that require exponentially more effort.

94. You cannot isolate a muscle.

95. There are different recovery curves for different systems.

96. Wide-grip pull-ups and pull-downs don’t equate to a wide back; strict form and progressive overload do!

97. Determining the appropriate range of motion will depend upon your client’s individual structure and function.

98. You can’t target the inner/outer portion of a muscle with a specific exercise.

99. If your clients goals are related to fat loss, plyometrics isn’t the answer.

100. Don’t do an exercise “just because.” Do an exercise ‘because: ________.

101. Knowledge isn’t power, applied knowledge is power.

If you are a personal trainer, make sure you’re familiar with everything on this list. Otherwise, hopefully you have a plan to learn and rectify that. And if you are someone who has hired a personal trainer and they don’t know far too many things on this list, well, maybe it’s time to reconsider your investment!

This blog post originally appeared on It has been reposted here on The PTDC with permission.


Photo Credit: All images (Featured, Image 1 and Image 2) from Stock Unlimited