We've all seen the SNL skit with Will Farrel and Christopher Walken.  If you haven't seen it, or feel like a laugh check it out below.


I'm going to the skit down for you.  It starts with the Blue Oyster Cult playing their famous song "Don't Fear the Reaper". After a couple seconds Will chimes in with his cowbell.  He's in the background but the band is visibly annoyed by him playing.  Walken's character loved the cowbell sound and, to the chagrin of the rest of the band, encourage Will to "Explore the Space this time".

Needless to say Farrell explored the space.  It made for a hilarious video (in fact, if you watch closely even the actors were laughing).  The video spawned a massive cult-following selling tons of t-shirts and a new buzzword in our vocabulary.

Working out is embarrassing

Recall back to a time when you tried something new.

Last year for my birthday my friends and I rented a curling rink.  It was something different so we dressed up foolishly and curled for a hour.  Needless to say, we were terrible.  The next day was filled with ice packs on whatever parts of our bodies were bruised from falling.  Thankfully we rented out the whole place so everyone was in the same boat.  We laughed at each other.

Now think about what your clients feel when you try and teach them a new exercise in a large gym.  I want you to read this next section and close your eyes to picture it.

Put yourself in your clients shoes

You've been thinking about working out for the last year but have been too busy.  You have decided that it's time.  Time to make a change and time to take control of your life once and for all.  This time I'm going to stick with it, you think to yourself as you walk up to the receptionist and ask about learning more info about the gym.

As you read through magazines that you don't care about your thoughts are consumed with doubt.  Doubt that you can actually do it this time.  Doubt that you can change your life around.  Suddenly an attractive salesperson approaches and introduces themselves.  You are sold right away by their spirit and energy.  After a quick tour you're excited about working with your new trainer that the sales person thinks is perfect for you.  it's Saturday and you start first thing Monday morning.

Monday morning 5:30am.  You wake up grudgingly convincing yourself that you're doing the right thing (doubt is already kicking in).  After eating half a piece of toast and coffee you're off to the gym.  To your surprise other crazies are already working out.  Uh oh, all of these people appear confident and you're new.  They're all staring at you, judging you, snickering behind your back.  Maybe joining a gym was a bad decision after all.

After what feels like an eternity your trainer shows up.  First thing they have you do is an overhead squat test... you butcher it.  Reality sets in and doubt starts to take over.

This story is not uncommon

You are a fitness professional. You connect with the gym in ways that most people don't and it's become a part of you. It's a comfortable place. For your client though, everything about the environment is uncomfortable. The energy it's taken for them to step in there in the first place is huge and you need to make sure to appreciate it. In fact, a huge advantage that we have over other health professionals is that our clients enter our facility in the action phase of Prochaska's Stages of Change Model.

According to Prochaska the hard work is already done for us. Clients have already progressed through the pre-contemplation, contemplation and determination stages. Our job is to take them from action to maintenance and keep them there without relapsing.

Christopher Walken helped Will stick to his guns

The band looked at him funny. They told him off and he was visibly upset. Walken then entered the scene and used his position of power to offer encouragement. This encouragement was enough to propel Farrell and the result speaks for itself.

How you can give your clients more cowbell

To preface the action steps part of this post I want to make it abundantly clear that keeping your clients in the maintenance stage of Prochaska's model will determine your success. If your clients are relapsing you WILL NOT succeed. Here's how you keep your clients coming back for more.

1. Encourage them to bang their cowbell

They are going to be different and they are going to be unique. You are in the position of authority not only for your client but also in your club. Build a strong relationship with your client by celebrating their uniqueness. Ask them for movie, restaurant, and book suggestions.

Explain your exercises clearly and concisely

If your client understands why they are doing a movement specific to their goals they start to feel ownership over that exercise. With the right explanation a client can quickly go from being scared of a dead lift to telling all of her friends and family about this great new exercise she just learnt.

The steps of exercise excitation are:
1. Say the name of the exercise
2. Explain why it's the right exercise for them referring to their goals, imbalances, body type etc.
3. Demonstrate the exercise cueing on 2-3 main points (no more)
4. Have them attempt an un weighted rep
5. Correct form by showing them proper form again, followed by explaining where they went wrong emulating their form, followed by proper form again highlighting 1 main habit they want to change

Introduce them to everybody

Make the environment comfortable. In any facility the same gym rats hang out at the same time in the club. The same trainers are usually around and the same receptionist usually works the desk. By incorporating your client into the community early on you add a social dimension to their experience. All of a sudden they are the cock of the walk as everybody knows their name in the gym.

This is a huge benefit to having a trainer for the client and one that's often overlooked. As a trainer, you also benefit from your clients being popular because they will be more inclined to spread your gospel. All of a sudden your client army is formed ready to tell the World about how great you are. Hard sells are no longer a part of your day.

Encourage the Cowbell

We don't appreciate enough the struggles and doubts that clients have before stepping into a gym. Refer back to Prochaska's theory stating that new clients have already gone through pre-contemplation --> contemplation --> determination --> action. Action, on the brink of relapse. Think about how powerful of an impact you can have by following 3 simple steps:

1. Encourage them to bang their own cowbell
2. Explain your exercises clearly and concisely
3. Introduce them to everybody

Follow these steps and your clients will stay in the maintenance stage adding to your army and spreading your gospel. You will love the benefits of a dedicated tribe.