The skill set required to be a successful trainer is multi-faceted.
- The trainer needs to be personable and relatable,
- have the nuts & bolts knowledge (programming, assessment, coaching etc.),
- and have business sense (time management, sales, marketing, etc.)
That same trainer must be able to cater all these skills to each person and situation.
The practical aspect is the biggest skill set of all. You can have all the knowledge and personality but if you don’t know how to apply and adapt your knowledge then you’re in trouble.
This is what separates you from the pack, mastering the fundamentals of a training session.
With that said, here are three considerations to help you in strategically planning your training sessions so that they operate more smoothly.
1. Location, Location, Location
When programming we want to structure exercises that are effective for the client’s goals and their time.
So you program the bench press and complex it with the lat pulldown. That’s a solid selection, a push and pull — who doesn’t love that?
The thing is, the lat pulldown is on the other side of the gym.
The distance also presents an opening for other members to take over the machine. This is fine, however, if you’ve ever stepped into a commercial gym, you know the situations this can cause.
For whatever reason people turn into kindergarteners as soon as they step into the door:
- Sharing: working-in is unheard of to these people.
- Clean Up: apparently if you use the dumbbells they’ll somehow re-rack themselves. Same goes with sweat — it magically evaporates and smells lemony fresh.
You get the point. Try to set yourself up for success by working around your gyms obstacles.
Choose exercises that are easily accessible. If you have a poor layout then choose an exercise you can bring to the client:
- Bench + Single Arm Dumbbell Row
- Bench + Banded Rows
- Bench + Reverse Fly
After the main lift, do 2-3 exercise selections that usually require one stationary piece of equipment.
- Barbell Rows and Push Ups.
- Split Squats, Leg Curls, and Side Planks.
- Front Squat, Banded Lateral Walks, and Banded Pallof Holds.
2. Rush Hour
If you train in a commercial gym, you’re going to have to adjust your session based on equipment availability, space, and gym culture.
Programming Prowler pushes with sled pulls may look great on paper but may not make sense during peak hours — especially if the turf is popular with the other members.
The client will constantly be interrupted, forced to maneuver around members, or worse, hit someone. You may be rolling your eyes at the last point but a client that’s exhausted might not pay attention to others. This is especially true if you’re motivating them to go faster when fatigued.
If you’re looking to do conditioning at peak hours, machines and gym space will be limited. So doing stationary or limited space exercises like kettlebell swings, dumbbell thrusters, or other stationary complexes can be a great alternative. Doing a multi-station circuit style workout like the rower, thruster, pull-ups, and Farmers walks probably isn’t the best selection.
Choose exercises that are readily available and use the least amount of space.
It’s basic professional courtesy to minimize space taken, particularly during peak hours. We’re all intelligent trainers that can work around any limitation. Sometimes we may just need to think outside of the box.
3. Don’t Ignore the Power of Basic Instructions
If you’ve ever been on the NYC subways system during rush hour, it’s a hot mess. People try to flood in as others are trying to get off, no one wants to move all the way in. After decades the MTA finally did a small initiative to “help” with these issues:
- Placed reminder signs – “STEP ASIDE” for people to get off the train a bit easier.
- In the train there are images reminding people of basic courtesy: don’t clip your nails, take off your book bag, don’t play loud music, etc.
- Sometimes they’ll do audio announcements: “step all the way in”, “use all available doors”, “please be courteous and cover your mouths when coughing/sneezing”, etc.
While these small reminders may seem pointless to some, the mass population needs to have guidance and direction. That’s why we have streetlights, speed limits, and so on — otherwise there would be chaos.
This is very similar to training, especially for group/semi-private classes. If you’re doing stations there’s bound to be a person that will leave the dumbbells in the sprint pathway and so on.
You’re the professional here, so it’s up to you to plan ahead, designate a clear path to walk, and for the clients to have enough space to do the exercises without falling on top of each other.
Leaving dumbbells, plates, med-balls and so forth lying around is a hazard. Especially considering everyone will be fatigued and not paying attention. It’s on you to tell them ahead of time where the designated areas are for the equipment, to remind them to place it in the correct areas, and to remind them to be aware of their surroundings.
You control the pace and order of the group not them, so lead. After some time, eventually the “vets” will buy into the system and will keep everyone on point, making your job easier.
If you’re doing a 1-1 training session, move the equipment out of the way for the clients and other trainers in the gym. It’s basic professionalism. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see trainers selfishly use up an entire warm up area that would’ve fit in two or three more trainers.
We’re all working within the space, let’s work together to make it a positive environment. Be a professional.
Hopefully the other members and other trainers will eventually follow your lead!
Our Profession’s Reputation Isn’t Great
Our profession already has a certain stigma, so it’s all of our jobs as professional trainers to raise the standard and lead by example. It may mean a little work in planning your training sessions and building the systems but once they’re there it will work in your favor.