The opportunity to work with clients one-on-one is a luxury--not only for our clients, but also for us coaches and trainers. Clients pay a premium of $60-200 to have our undivided attention for an hour. In turn, we use this time to motivate, challenge, and educate our clients with the hope that our influence carries over into the other 23 hours of their day. It only makes sense, then, that we need to use every minute of that time with the client wisely and effectively.
In order to do so, I propose that we stop warming up and stretching with clients. Why? They're a waste of time within the session, and not to mention, a waste of money.
When I used to work for other personal training companies, I would spend 10-15 minutes warming up with my clients in the beginning of the session, and then leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the session to stretch them. That's almost 30 minutes of the session spent doing things that the client can do on their own. If all a client has is 60 minutes, 2-3 times per week, these warm-ups and stretches are eating up big chunks of their real workout time.
Whether we like it or not, the only exercise most of our clients get is when they're training with us in the gym. For the rest of the 167 hours of the week, they're driving to work or their kids to school, sitting at their desks at work, or melting into their couches to spend time with their family. That means we have typically two to three hours a week to get them in better shape, leaner, stronger, and healthier.
So when I quit working for a company and started working for myself, I stopped stretching my clients. Now I still give my clients what they want, plus some of what they need. More importantly, I give clients more autonomy, increase efficiency of a session, and continue to deliver a great service.
Enter the new warm-up system.
Warm-ups are important for the client, and it's equally important that they do them well. However, you don't need to spend 10-20 minutes warming up with the client every time. What I like to do with a new client is take them through their warm-ups for the first two to three sessions. I keep the warm-up exercises simple and in an easy-to-remember sequence. Usually, I'll do a "core to extremities" format that I picked up from my time at Cressey Sports Performance.
As an example, perform the following after some soft-tissue work and foam-rolling:
- Dead bugs (core)
- Supine bridge march (glutes)
- Bird dog (core/lumbar)
- Quadruped extension rotation (T-Spine)
- Inchworms (posterior chain)
- Cradle walk to lunge with overhead reach (lower and upper extremities)
After the first session, I email the client video links of all the warm-ups we went through, so he can practice them on his own workout days, or at least become more familiar with them before our next session.
As a side note, I suggest you film your own videos via your phone, or create an Excel sheet with video links of videos from other coaches on YouTube so that you have an existing, organized resource to send to all of your new and existing clients.
By the third session, the client should feel confident enough to go through their warm-up exercises before future sessions. If not, I haven't done a good enough job of simplifying and coaching. In those cases, I try to figure out how to lower the barrier more for the client. Keep on regressing until they are able to meet the demands without crushing their confidence.
Keep the client accountable.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: how do you hold a client accountable to do his own stretches and warm-ups? Other than having a closed-circuit camera watching their every move, your clients need to understand that accountability is a two-way street.
Be upfront and let them know that they're not making the best use of their money if you're warming up with them every time they come in. If that's not important to them, relate it to something that hits home with them:
"Hey, if we keep spending 10-15 minutes warming up every time, that's taking away from your workout time and slowing down your fat loss."
Similarly, if your client wants to put on size, you can tell them that less workout time means fewer sets, which simply equals less muscle stimulation and growth.
This lets us get more of the meat and potatoes of a workout--the part that produces a training effect--done during the session. Instead of only training at a high intensity for 40 minutes, we now have 60 minutes at our disposal. That's a lot of time to be filled with heavier working sets, if that's the client's goal.
Ditch the post-workout stretch.
Similar to the warm-up, the post-workout stretch and cool-down can also be taught during the first few sessions and be followed up with videos. Typically, for cool-downs I like to pick two or three exercises from the client's warm-up and repeat them. For example, if the T-spine needs attention, then we would repeat some foam rolling on the lats and upper back, followed by quadruped extension rotations.
And instead of the 5- to 10-minute post-workout stretch, I like to do one of three things:
- Go over food logs from the previous week and discuss the upcoming week.
- Update clients' measurements if they're tracking them and their goals.
- If you send articles to your clients during the week, this is a good time to discuss those further.
- Spend those last minutes doing a finisher with or without other members in the gym. This is a great way to create bonds with other members, raise the energy in the gym, and finish the session on a high note.
These alternatives make the client feel like they're getting their money's worth, and as a coach you can deliver more. Whatever that "more" is to you and your client. For me it's being able to give more autonomy to my clients and have them feel like they're less reliant on me and have them more engaged in the process.
Surprisingly, there's been a massive jump in motivation and confidence for most clients when they say to themselves "I can finally do this on my own!"
Giving more autonomy to your clients is only a testament to your coaching, not your laziness as a coach. As coach Nick Winkelman has said,
"Do not judge your success as a coach when they're with you; judge it when they're not with you."
Other coaches found these articles helpful:
- You Need to Change the Way You Think About Success by Kia Khadem
- Should My Clients Stretch At All? by Adam Fisher
- Why You Must Not Stretch Hypermobile Clients by Eric Cressey