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The 3 BEST Ways to Get Clients in a Gym

personal trainer sales pitchGone are the days when a personal trainer walks up to someone in the gym, points out their poor form, and then suddenly gains a client because of that interaction (in truth that never worked all that well in the first place).  Finding clients is typically the hardest part of a personal training job.  If correcting gym members on the floor isn’t the best method, and I can promise you that standing with your arms crossed at the personal training desk isn’t the best method, then what can you do if you aren’t a marketing wizard or a social media expert to find clients?  The good news is I have a solution for you.

Offer a Mini-Workout

I just finished teaching my current class at NPTI the quads and hamstrings.  Typically once we learn all the ins-and-outs of a muscle group from an anatomy point of view, we go to the gym and we practice exercises that are beneficial for those muscles.  My students had already mastered the basics such as squats, leg presses, deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions and the like so I wanted to show them something a little different.  And because I am normally working with 20+ students that are training to become personal trainers at once, I needed to set something up that works for a group.

To that end I created a short circuit for them to follow.  The goal wasn’t to kill or maim them (remember that) but to make them feel the muscles working and to show them something that was likely new to them (remember that too), and I wanted to have a little fun with it (key point #3).  Here is the circuit I created:



  • Banded Leg Press (8-12 reps)
  • Sissy Squats (8-12 reps)
  • Reverse Landmine Lunge (6-8 reps each side)

Repeat for 3 total rounds


  • Glute Ham Raise (4-6 reps)
  • Romanian Deadlift (8-12 reps)
  • Slide Leg Curl (6-10 reps)

Repeat for 3 total rounds

Quad Circuit:

Hamstring Circuit:

Each circuit was completed 3 times.  Just to make it easy, I had all the females start with the quad circuit and the males start with the hamstring circuit, and then once they were done they flipped.  For that sized group it took about 15 minutes to complete each muscle group.

I want to be clear.  The magic isn’t in the specific workout I created, the magic is in the little mini-workout and the effect it provides.  In my experience this is the easiest way to show a potential client what personal training is all about.

Imagine this scenario.  You have been working the floor for a few weeks and you now recognize some regulars.  You know their names (if you don’t – start learning them now) and you know their routines.  And over there is Mary getting on the elliptical just like she always does this time of day and she’ll go for a classic 30 min workout.  She can do better.  You know she can do better.  Approach her with a warm and friendly smile, greet her by name, and ask her if she has time and if she is interested, would she like to try to a quick 15-minute conditioning workout?  If she says no – no worries, leave her be.  If she says yes, great, now go show her a fun and effective conditioning workout.  It should be something she has not done before; she will feel while she is doing it; but it doesn’t crush her and she has fun while she is training.  When that is over tell her you enjoyed working with her and you’d love to sign her up for a full complimentary session where you can complete a proper intake and really understand her goals.

One of the best things about this method is even if a person says no, it is not a permanent no.  If you walk up to a gym member and say “Can I show you how to do this?” and they say no, that is a more permanent no.  They are really saying “please just leave me alone and don’t talk to me again, I don’t want to be bombarded with sales tactics while I workout.”  Once they create that wall it can be hard to get through it.  But with this scenario, when they say no they are just saying “I can’t do this right now.”  But the idea will fester.  While Mary is on her elliptical she’ll be thinking “I wonder if I should have accepted that offer – is there really a better way to do this?”  And if the gym members see you doing these types of mini-workouts with other members regularly they will be more receptive to it.

Certain workouts and setups work better for this method than others.  Teaching a novice how to properly squat with a barbell often takes more than 15 minutes and I don’t think that is ideal for this type of setting, you want immediate success here.  That is better suited as part of a true one-on-one personal training setting.  I think the following works very well:

Abs/Core – most people are bored with how they train their abs.  Pick 2-4 exercises that are new to them and hit the core in fun, effective ways.

Conditioning – get the person who only does cardio off the machines and onto the turf.  Have them use the prowler, battling ropes, med ball slams, and other low risk, highly effective conditioning exercises.  If they puke, you went way too hard.  The goal is for them to experience success, just get them huffing and puffing a bit, that is all you need.

HIT Cardio – If someone just loves their cardio but only does steady state, hit them up with some intervals, step, or repetition style cardio training.  You can finish the last 10 minutes of their regular 30 min workout like this.  Show them there is so much more to do on that simple machine and the workout would be so much more fun, if only you were around all the time to help them

Size – if someone is training for size, pick one muscle group and hit it hard and fast paced with some new twists for 15 min or so.

Strength – if someone is training for strength, pick one main exercise and come up with a creative and effective set/rep scheme for them to follow on that exercise.  Maybe try negatives or paused reps or the like and provide tweaks on their form as needed.

                To summarize this point, offer a short workout – 10-15 minutes.  It should be fun, they should feel it, but you should also leave them wanting a bit more.  Even if it is going well don’t turn this into a grueling 60 min session, just end it there and tell them you are available if they want to sign up.  I find this to be extremely effective because the workouts are easy to create, clients are willing to give it a try, even an initial no often turns into a yes, and the simple act of asking someone to do this is much easier than feeling like you are approaching someone with a quick goal of asking them for a sale.


Give Free Classes

The second best way to get clients in the gym is to offer free lecture style classes.  These are typically done in the group exercise studio but it can be anywhere that can accommodate the attendees and is reasonably conducive to you teaching about a topic.  Pick any fitness, health, or nutrition related topic you want.  Attacking myths or controversial issues works well, but so does simply addressing the basics.  Just because it seems super simple or obvious to you, a professional, doesn’t mean everyone knows it.

If you aren’t used to public speaking this can be a little daunting but suck it buttercup.  You are a fitness professional, you should have the ability to talk to a group of 5-15 people about a topic of your choosing.  If you can create a 1-2 page handout that is better for you and them.  Open it up to questions and the like.  When you do this you automatically create the impression that you are the expert, you are the one who knows the answers to the questions.  Gym members and class attendees will immediately turn to you for advice.  At the end of the seminar let them know you are a personal trainer and you would be happy to answer any questions that they have.

The educator and the teacher in me is hesitant to mention this but the most important factor in these presentations is NOT how factually accurate you are.  For the good of the nation and the field, yes, I implore you to do your due diligence on the topic; but the reality is you don’t have to be a foundation of knowledge or even master the basics of science to be good at marketing and to get yourself clients.  If this was the case the Food Babe and Tracy Anderson wouldn’t have much of a following.  If you speak with passion and authority and have any sort of results to back up what you are saying, clients will believe you.  I only mention this because you don’t have to an international expert or possess 10 yrs of experience in the field to give a presentation in your gyms group ex studio to 5-15 people.  Just get up there and do it.  If it sucks, cie la vie, you’ll get better at it the more you do it, just like you did with demonstrating exercises.  If it is great, now you likely just earned yourself a client or in more simple terms, you just earned the opportunity to make a few thousand dollars from someone.

To help ensure that at least a few people show up, especially to your first couple of presentations, feel free to invite friends, guests, etc.  No one wants to be the first person to sit down for a random lecture.  But if there are already 3-4 people there, then more will come in.  Of course advertise in the gym (over the urinals or in the stalls, plus at the front desk) about when the talk is, what it is, and why it would benefit someone to attend.


Become a Group Exercise Instructor

Group exercise is a great compliment to personal training.  I certainly don’t think that trainerone can become a good personal trainer by simply buying a book, doing some self-study, and taking one test on a computer – if I did I wouldn’t run a brick and mortar personal training school.  But I think for group exercise – especially after one becomes a personal trainer – that can be fine.  Become a group exercise instructor.  This will help you by:

 Adding to your toolbox various skills you can use with your clients

Make you more comfortable leading small groups for training

Revenue generation – you can teach a class in that session it was hard to fill with personal training.  Most group exercise instructors make $25-35/hr, on par with running a PT session at a gym.

Lead generation – each time you run a class you are in front of 10-30 people who like fitness, and you have a full hour to show them how awesome you are.  If you are good very often 1-2 of those people will come up at the end and pay you a compliment.  This is the perfect time to mention you are a personal trainer and you would love to work with them more individually.

Some trainers, particularly males, poo-poo the idea of becoming a group ex instructor.  I would strongly urge them to reconsider.  Indeed, because the vast majority of group exercise instructors are females, actually being a male would then be unusual and the trainer would stick out more in their memory, which is particularly valuable in this instance.  Showing someone you are not just a “meat-head” but you have a variety of skills can be just the icebreaker a potential client needs to start talking to you.

 All it takes is about 20 clients, working out two times a week, and you are a full time personal trainer.  In the DMV area a full time personal trainer with that book of clients is easily earning 50k+, and I’ve had lots of students in the 60-70k range with about 10% cracking the 6 figure number.  The clients are out there and need help, what are you waiting for?


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The Most Glorious Smoothie

fair life milk

Most trainers and fitness enthusiasts consume protein shakes on a regular basis.  The shake is nice because it is convenient and reasonably healthy but more often than not the goal is simply to make the shake “not bad” instead of “really good.”  I am someone that wants to enjoy what I am eating, and I have found that if I don’t like the taste, I typically won’t eat it for very long.

Here is a video that shows how I make it:

I am excited to say I found a protein smoothie that not only tastes awesome but it is super easy to make.  Here’s what you need:

Milk – I like Fairlife Milk for lots of reasons.  It has 150% normal protein (so 8 oz has 12 gr instead of 8), it has no lactose, it lasts forever, and it has half the normal level of sugar.  You can get it at Harris Teeter and Walmart (at least in Virginia) so hopefully it isn’t impossible to find.  It is also super smooth and creamy.  But you can use whatever milk you prefer.

Protein – I like Quest Nutrition All Purpose Protein Powder.  I am allergic to sucralose which is found in many protein powders to enhance the taste.  This prodcut mixes easy, has no sweeteners, and I digest it well.  You can get it off of amazon or for a reasonable price.

Crushed Ice – about a handful

quest nutrition

Blender – you can use a fancy Vitamix or whatever blender you spent $400 on, I found the Hamilton Beach that was $30 at Walmart works just fine for this particular smoothie.

Here’s the deal

  •     16 oz of milk – I use Chocolate 2% milk from Fairlife
  •     1 scoop of protein powder
  •      Crushed ice

Mix for about 30 seconds or so

This smoothie yields the following nutritional information:

50 grams of protein
26 grams of carbs
9 grams of fat
358 cals

I have one of these a day.

Give it a try and see if you also think this is one glorious smoothie.


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What if You Only had 5 Years Left?


                A while ago I was listening to a radio interview.  It was of a man in his early forties and he was sharing his experiences.  He had been feeling poorly and expressed some unusual symptoms so he went to get checked out.  They ran some initial tests and it came back that the man had a rare and aggressive form of cancer and he had less than six months to live.  Of course the man was devastated.  He was married, he had young kids, and he felt like everything had been taken from him and with such little time left there was nothing meaningful that he could do.  Then a month later the doctors ran more in-depth tests and they realized their initial tests had been wrong.  The man was still sick, he was still going to die from his disease, but he likely had 5 more years to live and he could live in good health for most of that time.  In his words the man “felt blessed” to discover that he had this much time left after coming to terms with the fact that he was going to die in just a few short months, and in his words “now there was so much I could achieve.”  That interview and the man’s viewpoint stuck with me ever since, and I believe adopting the attitude that one has 5 years left to live is extremely useful, motivating, and gratifying. 

                In general people tend to take one of two views on life.  They either think “they are going to live forever” – by that I mean they don’t really think about their death and they see their time on this earth as very long and not very limited.  These people tend to assume they’ll live average or longer in terms of lifespan so if they are 20, 30, or 40 years old now they are thinking they still have 40-60 years left to live, essentially they still have a ‘lifetime left’ to spend as they wish, despite the fact that they had already lived a ‘lifetime’s worth’ of time.  Then there are others who try to adopt the attitude that you should live everyday like it is your last because the end could come at any time.  While I think there are a few positive attributes one could gain from adopting this viewpoint, the reality is you are not very likely to die tomorrow and you have to do certain things such as hold a job, get a home, and pay bills and if you don’t address those things today, they will very negatively impact you tomorrow.

If someone told me I was sure to die in the next month or two, I can’t say how I would react.  But my guess is I would probably adopt a more maniac depressive personality with a very short moments of extreme highs as I realized how precious and beautiful life is, combined with lots of deep lows as I thought about not seeing my kids grow up, widowing my wife, and all of the things I wanted to accomplish that were still undone.  I would also adopt some behaviors that are likely not very ideal long term.  For example I would quit my job even though I love it, I would stop working out even though I love it – if you only have a month or two left what is the point of doing those things?

On the flip side if someone guaranteed that I would live until I was 80 or 90 or even 100 years old, that leaves me with a huge amount of time.  I likely wouldn’t change any of my behaviors, indeed I might approach some bucket list items I have such as writing a novel or taking that ‘trip of a lifetime’ even slower because I feel as though I am assured I will have plenty of time to address those items later.

But what if you only had 5 years left to live?  What if someone told you that 5 years from now, 5 years from the day you are reading this – you will be dead.  What would you do now and how would that change you?

I believe this attitude is extremely useful because it forces you to address the here and now while motivating you to use your time wisely for the future.  If I had 5 years left I wouldn’t quit my job – I still have to pay my mortgage and pay my bills so I would go to work.  However I would probably delegate some of the more BS stuff and paperwork stuff at work that I don’t enjoy even if it meant I would make less money.  But I love most of my job which is why I would have little hesitation continuing with it.  But what if you hated your job?  Would you still work there if you had 5 years left, or would that motivate you to find a job or a career that you did enjoy?  If you are thinking to yourself ‘if I only had 5 years left I would quit my job tomorrow’ then to me that is a sign that you should begin actively looking for a new job – or a new career path – today.


                 If I had 5 years left I would still workout, I would want to spend those last years as healthy as possible.  Being fit will actually help increase one’s productivity because you can get so much more done when you don’t get tired easily.  But I might not stress so much about how my abs look or how my calves are a bit smaller than I wished or how I am not as ripped as the guy in the picture.  I think most of us – particularly in the fitness world – tend to obsess a bit over our body image on issues that don’t really matter too much in the broad scope of things.

If I hadn’t already accomplished some of the bucket list items in fitness I had established for myself, 5 years could well be enough time to really motivate one to go after those goals.  If you have never been ripped but you always wanted to do that, you could focus 3-6 months of time on that goal if it was important to you.  On the flip side if you are spending 10+ hours in the gym working out and you are not on the verge of accomplishing something huge, you might think about scaling that back a bit.  For most people the point of fitness is to enhance the other aspects of their life, the goal usually isn’t that being fit dictates how you run your life unless you are a really high level athlete.  You can still maintain a very healthy body and a high level of fitness exercising 3 hours a week especially if you have already established your base, and now you have 5 or 10 hours a week to focus on other things.  5-10 hours – spread out over 5 years – that is 1,250-2,500 hours of time you can devote to something else that you believe is important.  You can do a hell of a lot of good in 1,000 productive hours.


I believe the idea of having 5 years left is a great litmus test to apply to activities to see if they are really worth your time.  Would you sleep 10 hours a day if you only had 5 years left?  I’d just sleep the minimum so I could still be productive.  Would you play endless hours of video games?  I might play some video games with my sons or friends as those moments can provide some excitement and fun memories, but I would not play any solo computer games (and I have spent many an hour on them in the past) and I would play less video games in general.  If I had 5 years left I would still watch some TV (at least I could still see the end of Game of Thrones in that timeframe) but my TV/movie time would be quite limited and I definitely would not spend my time watching that episode of Friends that I have already seen 3 times.

If you were in an unhealthy relationship, what would you do if you only had 5 years left?  If you were estranged from someone you cared about, would knowing you only had 5 years left change how you handle that situation?  Are there trips you would take?  Are there plans you would cancel?  What chores or duties would you cut from your daily to-do list if your time suddenly became that precious?  Would you still flip out on your kid because he spilled his juice or because she didn’t listen when to said to put the phone away?  Are there things you want to tell the world or those you love (in whatever format you desire – print, audio, video, art, etc)?  What would you do if you had 5 years left to live?

Outlined below is a list of activities and the attitudes one might take (or at least what I hope I would take) if they knew they had 1-2 months left to live; 5 years left to live; or they would live a normal lifespan.



1-2 Months Left 5 Years Left Normal Lifespan

Go to Work

No Yes – at a place you value Yes – keep status quo

Pay Bills

No Yes Yes

Deal with tough relationships

Screw ‘em Yes I’ll handle it later


Bare Minimum Just enough Yes please


No Yes I’ll start later

Eat Healthy

No In moderation I’ll start later

Work on Bucket

List Items

Do top 1 or 2 Yes I’ll start later

Stress about

the Future

No Minimal Yes


No Yes I’ll start later

Play Video Games

No Minimal Yes

Focus on

Social Media

No Minimal Yes

Watch quality TV

& Entertainment

No Yes Yes

Watch ‘mindless’ TV & Entertainment*

No No Yes

*note – it isn’t up to me to tell you what ‘quality’ versus ‘mindless’ entertainment is, I simply ask that you think about it


Puggle-Puppy                  Interestingly, having only 5 years left might also provide just a bit of relief over one of the things we humans tend to stress about the most – the future.  I am not suggesting one should act with a complete disregard for the future or how their actions affect will future generations, but the bottom line is the real problems that people will face in the future are likely things we are not even thinking about now.  Our life now is so different from people 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago, they would have no concept of the things we are stressing about now.  In that time we have solved most of their biggest challenges but at the same time new problems have arisen.  50 or 100 years from now that same theme will probably be true.  Technology or other means may well have fixed or cured the things that we stress the most over now, but of course there will be other problems for that generation to worry about.  My point is that stress about the future is often needless.  One spends a huge amount of time and energy stressing about events that may or may not happen and yet it is the events you never even considered that tend to cause you the biggest issues.  I often marvel at how my dog can be so happy all the time and I believe one of the reasons why is because he doesn’t stress out over the future, he takes each moment as it comes.  I think there is a lesson in there somewhere.




                  Life can only exist when there is time.  And when life ends your time is over.  As such time is limited.  You might live until you are a 100, I hope you do.  You might die tomorrow, and while you should consider that possibility the good news is that the chances of that happening are infinitesimally small.  But time is limited.  The sands in the hourglass are draining out and they cannot be replaced.  You want a philosophy that allows you to enjoy and focus on the present moment while at the same time motivating and empowering you to be productive as you work toward the near future.  In my mind adopting the philosophy of “what if have 5 years left to live?” works very well.  5 years is a very long period, one can accomplish much in that span of time.  Yet it is short enough to give you the kick in the pants you may need to get going.  Think about the last 5 years of your life?  They probably seemed to go by pretty fast.  Hopefully you got a fair amount done and you enjoyed the majority of those days.  Now think about what you could accomplish in the next five years of your life?  How much more would you achieve if those were the only years you had left?  Ultimately your time is yours and you alone control how it is spent.  I only ask you that you recognize time is limited and that you spend it only after mindful consideration of its value.


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Science vs Anecdotal Evidence



A colleague of mine make a quick post on facebook that you could not emphasize one head of the triceps over the other just by changing the grip you were using.  This is different from what I believed to be the case, so it got me to re-examine how I look at triceps specifically and in more general terms how I view “science” vs anecdotal evidence when it comes to exercise program.

The full blog is over on All About Powerlifting:


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What if YOU have to Cancel on a Client?

cancel last minute meme

In personal training, a client canceling their session on you is a common occurrence.  But what if you have to cancel on them?  How should you handle it?  That is the theme of this article and it is an important one.  In my opinion a trainer cancelling their sessions – and how they handle it – is the number one way an otherwise good trainer will lose clients and ultimately lose their job.


Life happens.  The kids get sick, you get sick, the power goes out, there is a horrible traffic jam on the way to work.  You cannot control everything and sometimes even the most organized and dedicated trainers will have to cancel a session.  It should happen very rarely, but at some point it likely will happen.  What should you do and how should you handle it?

Relate this to a situation you are likely familiar with – a client canceling on you.  If they give you tons of notice it isn’t as big of a deal.  If it happens extremely rarely and they seem to put their best foot forward on all other occasions, you will be more forgiving.  Clients will treat you the same way.  If you can give them more than a days notice that is not so bad and everyone can re-arrange the schedule.  If you are going on vacation and give plenty of notice I have found clients to be fine with that, particularly if you attempt to fit their sessions in before or after you leave.  But the thrust of this article is how to deal with last minute cancellations.

If you have to cancel last minute, still give as much notice as possible.  Even an extra 15 minutes might save the person the headache of showing up and waiting for you.  Try to contact them via various methods so they are not wondering where you are.  Call them, text them, message them, call the gym if necessary and leave a message with the front desk attendant.  Even if it is overkill it shows you care and are concerned about their time.


Don’t lie about why you missed the session.  When we put ourselves in a position where we look bad, we want to save face.  It is a natural instinct.  It appears to be helpful (to us) if we can place the blame elsewhere.  It is very common for people to white lie (or worse) in these situations.   “Oh the traffic was so bad, that is why I am 30 min late,” or “my relative is sick and so I couldn’t make it in”.  There might have been some traffic and maybe you have a sick relative but just be honest.  “I messed up, I am really sorry, it is my fault, and I won’t let that issue happen again.”  People respect when someone just fesses up and takes the blame.  And if they find out you were lying and/or exaggerating (and with social media it isn’t that hard – if your relative is so sick you cancel on me, why is there a picture of you partying on Facebook the night before?) that will really sour the relationship.

Offer a make-up session.  If you cancel the session last minute or no show, you should immediately offer a make-up session.  The goal for the person is still to get their workout in.  If you are canceling with short notice, this is a significant inconvenience for the client.  You in turn should be willing to inconvenience yourself with a make-up session.  Ask the client what are some times they can still train and do your best to fit the missed workout in so they can still progress toward their goals.

Remember, most clients don’t workout that frequently anyway.  This is a broad generalization, but an easy way to look at it is as follows:

Training 4 x week: Optimal Results

Training 3 x week: Good results

Training 2 x week: Minimum necessary for results, good for maintenance

Training 1 x week: Minimal results for beginners; minimum for maintenance

It is a rare client that trains 4 times a week.  This means we are left with clients training 1, 2, or 3 times a week.  The client will cancel occasionally anyway and they will go on vacations, etc so most clients are lucky to truly average training 2 times a week every week over the long haul.  If you compound that situation with regular cancellations on your part you are really hindering their fitness progress.  If you have to cancel the session, do your best to give a make-up session.  If the client can’t do that, so be it, but it should be offered.


Give the client a free session.  When a client signs up with a trainer, if they cancel they are still charged.  Part of the justification for that is people do need motivation to get their butt in gear and there is a penalty for missing the session.  The same needs to be true for a trainer.  If you cancel last minute you should offer a make-up session AND you should give the client a free session.  This will help keep you honest and will help keep the cancelled sessions down to an absolute minimum.

Do a periodic assessment of yourself.  One of the nice things about personal training is that you are often your own boss in most respects.  Even if you work for a gym, once you are established most gyms leave you alone as long as you are making money and clients aren’t complaining.  But there is a negative to this as well, in that you can become compliancent and you may not hold yourself up to a high enough standard.  You may not even be aware of the habits you are forming.

Just like when your clients cancel you should keep a record of that for billing, you should keep a record of how often you cancel on your clients.  Again, I have not found clients to get too upset about pre-scheduled vacations and time off unless you are gone so frequently they can’t establish a regular routine.  But last minute cancellations is another story and clients will have little patience for this.  It is simply unprofessional and should be avoided at all costs if you are serious about your job.  Here is how I would look at the cancellations:

  • 1 or fewer cancellations per 100 sessions – excellent, this is the standard to shoot for
  • 1 or fewer cancellations per 50 sessions – pretty good, clients will likely not complain about this
  • 1 cancellation per 25 sessions – if you are really good in other respects this is about the most a client will put up with, and with every new cancellation (regardless of excuse) they will be thinking about finding a new trainer
  • 2 or more cancellations per 25 sessions – say goodbye to that client, they won’t be around for a long

arnold cancel meme

In summary, there may be times when you have to cancel on a client at the last minute.  If you do the following it will help minimize their frustration:

  • Contact them as soon as possible
  • Contact them through several methods so you know they get the message
  • Offer a make-up session at a time of their convienence
  • Give them another free session on top of the make-up session
  • Be truthful about why you had to cancel (with them and with yourself)
  • Record how often you cancel on clients so you will truly understand if this is an issue for you or not
  • Keep last minute cancelations to an absolute minimum (1 or less per year is the goal; 1 or more per month will cause problems)

No matter how ‘good’ of a trainer you might be on paper, no matter what certifications or education you have, if you are not there you are not helping the client.  You can’t do your job if you don’t show up.  If clients are not renewing with you (or even worse asking to transfer to someone else) you are not helping them.  There is a saying that half of life is just showing up – well half (or more) of personal training is just being there for the client without fail.  Make the client and their sessions a high priority and they are very likely to do the same with you.


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Tips and Tricks for Using Exercise Bands and Tubes

Beautiful Female Doing Resistance Training

Exercise bands and tubes can be a valuable tool for a personal trainer to use. This article will detail ways in which they can be used more effectively. I am assuming that as personal trainers one already has a decent understanding of exercise program design and resistance training exercises in general.

First, two definitions. An exercise tube will have a handle; a band will not – it will look like a giant rubber band. In general tubes are a bit easier to use (because of the handles) but bands can provide noticeably more resistance and are often attached to a barbell.
exercise bands

Exercise selection is almost limitless when it comes to using bands and tubes. These items work via elasticity, which means the more it is stretched the more resistance it will apply. A bigger, thicker tube (or band) will be able to apply more resistance. It is worth noting that they can snap with excess resistance, it is much more common for exercise tubes to do this. Also if the elastic wears down or incurs a tear then its integrity is compromised and it can rip fully under pressure.
exercise tube varying thickness

In my opinion the easiest way to visualize a tube is to simply mimic a cable on a machine. Anything you can do with a cable you can also do with a tube, just anchor in the same position. Care must be taken to anchor the tube/band securely so it does not disengage or move significantly under resistance. But just think of all of the things you can do with a Free Motion machine by changing the position of the arms – you can do the same with tubes.
free motion cable machine
When lifting, you have 4 main styles to choose from tubes. You can do the same with dumbbells but because the resistance is often light you will frequently want to employ these variations. They include:
Normal style – 2 arms moving at once as though the hands were connected to a bar.
Alternating Easy – 1 arm does the exercise, the other rests in the “easy” position, then you alternate arms every rep. This is easier than lifting the normal style.
Alternating Hard – 1 arm does the exercise, the other arm remains in the loaded position (generally at the beginning of middle of the concentric phase of the lift). You alternate arms every rep. This is harder than lifting in the normal style.
Exchanging – 1 arm is performing the concentric phase while the other arm is performing the eccentric phase, so the arms pass by each other (exchange position) every rep.

If you want to increase the difficulty, there are several strategies you can employ:
• Use a bigger, thicker band
• Move farther away from the anchor point
• Tie one or more knots in the band (thus shortening it)
• Wrap the tube around the anchor point (thus shortening it)
• Have the anchor point move away from the lifter during the exercise (this occurs when the trainer is holding the band and moves away while it happens)
• Hold both ends of the band in hand (or foot)
• Change styles or have the lifter pause (squeeze) each rep in the hard position
• Perform a pre-exhaustion style workout doing isolation exercises before compound exercises for the same muscle group (ex: perform standing tube flies followed immediately by standing tube chest press)

Here is a list of common tube/band exercises to incorporate
 Standing Chest Press
 Standing Chest Fly
 Push-ups with band around back (makes it harder)
 Tube row (can use neutral, supinated, pronated grip and can pull with shoulder extension – easier – or horizontal abduction – harder)
 Tube Lat Pulldown (either anchor higher or bend forward at the waist to 90 degrees to emulate a lat pulldown)
 Tube Shoulder Extension – isolation exercise
 Tube Military Press (sit on tube if it is too hard on the ground)
 Tube Lateral Raise
 Standing Tube Rear Delt Reverse Fly (anchor point same as a cable row)
 Standing Tube Bicep Curl
 Standing Tube Preacher Curl (anchor point same as a cable row so arms are out in front of you)
 Incline Tube Skull Crusher
 Standing Tube Overhead Tricep Extension (mimicking a dumbbell overhead tricep extension)
 Standing Tube Tricep Kickback
 Standing Tube Overhead Rope Tricep Extension (similar to the chest press position but mimicking the overhead rope cable tricep extension)
 Incline sit-up with a tube
 Ball crunch with a tube
 Tube side bends
 Tube rotations and wood chops
 Plank hold with a tube row
 Reverse Crunch with Tube attached to feet/knees
 Leg Raise with tube attached to feet
 Mountain Climbers with tube attached to feet
 Hip Thrust with tube/band
 Quadriped extension with tube/band
 Tube Leg Extension
 Tube Leg Curl
 Tube Hip Ab/Adduction
 Penguin Walks
 X-band Walks
 Band Calf Raise
 Lying band lateral leg raise
 Band Leg Press

One of the best things about bands and tubes is that they have almost no weight, which means they are very portable. They are great for clients that travel a lot and they are also useful for trainers that conduct a lot of in-home personal training sessions. Most commonly they are used with beginning and/or older clients, but there are some band/tube exercises that can be very advanced.

There is one significant negative with bands and tubes (in addition to the possibility of them snapping) and it is that progressive overload is very difficult to measure. Unless you literally use a tape measure each rep, the overload from set to set and session to session can vary considerably if the anchor point and end point are not the exact same. You also don’t want to get in the habit of substituting in an easy exercise for a harder exercise and calling it a day. For example a client could perform 3 sets of push-ups or they could do 3 sets of standing tube chest press. In the vast majority of cases, the resistance generated and thus the benefits incurred will be greater with the push-ups. Progressive overload is one of the most powerful tools the fitness world and the fact that use of bands and tubes makes measuring this challenging is a significant negative.

All implements have pros and cons. The band or tube, like a barbell, dumbbell, or exercise machine, is simply a tool. There is no tool that is ideal in every circumstance, thus it is ideal to have a variety of tools in one’s toolbox to best fit the specific job at hand.

For more information, here are some videos with that incorporate exercise tubes and bands into training
30 minute workout (toning oriented)

10 band exercises:

Spartan home workout demo:

Quick tutorial on using exercise tubes and bands

Additional Reading:
The Great Resistance Tubing Book

The Great Stretch Tubing Handbook

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Take Your Own Body Fat

Figure 4.1 Suprailiac Site Broad

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take your own body fat whenever you wanted to?  What if you didn’t need a partner to conduct the test or help reaching the hard to grab spots some of the tests require?  Well, now you can!

Let me introduce the Henriques 6 Body Fat chart.  It is very simple.  Measure your body fat on 6 easy to access sites using a standard caliper, add them up, and then look on the chart.  That is your body fat percentage.  Now you can track your body fat whenever you want to.  You can assess your progress in the privacy of your own home at the same time each day or week.  And because you are the one always measuring it, the methodology and thus the results will be consistent.  In other words, this will clearly show you if you are making progress or not.

slim guide caliper

For the full details on this formula and how to use it, including pictorial and video guidelines, go here:



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It is Time to Raise the Bar

Studenten lernen im Seminar

People often lament about the lack of regulation in the field of personal training.  I agree that it is odd that it is much harder to become a massage therapist, a nail technician or even a bartender then it is to become a personal trainer.  Clients usually have no idea how easy it is to become a “certified” personal trainer and I know of no other industry where you can self-study for a few months and then starting charging people $60-100/hour right off the bat.


It is true that there is very little external regulation of the fitness industry.  But that doesn’t mean there can’t be any self-regulation.  Just because an arbitrary law has set minimal qualifications doesn’t mean you can’t raise the standard.  Yes, almost anybody with a couple of hundred bucks and decent reading ability can become a personal trainer after a few months of self-study, without setting foot in a gym.  But who says that is the way it should be?

To me it is simple.  Those in the industry, those that understand how important education and qualification really are, should set their own standard for what is acceptable.  And to me it is an easy solution.  What if this was the industry standard?


Any fitness professional in a hiring capacity should look to only hire new trainers that have earned a diploma or a degree in personal training/fitness or a related field.

By applying that one litmus test hiring companies will greatly raise the bar for entry level positions into the fitness world.  True, the sheer number of applicants for any given job is likely to decrease, but the goal isn’t to have a 100 underqualified people apply to a job; the goal is to get one good qualified person in the role.  I believe doing this would greatly reduce turnover in personal training, which is a significant problem for most fitness companies; and it would significantly improve the retention rate of clients – which in my opinion is the single most important measure of a personal trainer’s ability.


If this was implemented almost overnight you would see a shift in the world of personal training.  Companies would no longer be able to fill jobs where they charge clients $80/hour but they only pay the trainer $15/hour because no one with formal education will find that arrangement acceptable.  But in return you have employees that are looking for a career – 5 years later they are still with the company with a full book of clients – and ultimately both the company and the trainer will significantly benefit from that arrangement.

Do note the suggestion is that this guideline applies to new personal trainers.  I am not suggesting any current personal trainers lose their job; if you have made it in the industry so far good for you.  But if you want to break into the industry now, you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.  Indeed, because it is not currently mandated that personal trainers receive this type of education, those that do actually speak volumes about how much that trainer cares about their career.  Trainers do not have to go to school and spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on their education – they can take the easy way out.  But the fact that they don’t – the fact that they want to learn the right way and they want to challenge themselves – think about what kind of an employee that person will become?

I think most would agree there is a need for greater regulation and higher education among personal trainers.  That is not the standard today.  But that doesn’t mean we have to accept the current standard.  We can look to ourselves and we can hold others around us to a higher standard.  If you want this job, this career, and this field to be held in the esteem it deserves as part of the health profession, then it is time to raise the bar.


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Is Nutrition within a Personal Trainer’s Scope?

salmon dishes

In my last post, I defined the scope of practice for personal trainers.  In case you missed it, it is to enhance the components of fitness for the general healthy population.  People often ask is giving nutritional advice within the scope of practice for a personal trainer?  Using the scope provided then answer is a very clear yes.  But sometimes those in the fitness world will suggest it is not.  I could not disagree more.  Let’s examine the situation.

First, is nutrition related to the components of fitness?  Yes, very clearly.  It will affect all the components but one component – body composition – is directly related to a client’s dietary intake.  Body composition is the percent of lean mass (fat free mass) compared to the percent of fat mass in the body, in other words it is your body fat %.  Obviously having a high body fat affects your physical fitness as well as your health.

apple and weight

Second, let’s use some common sense.  What is the number one goal the majority of personal training clients have?  To lose weight!  And what is the number one way to address weight loss?  With sound nutrition.  Exercise is great and it obviously does have a positive impact on one’s body composition, by both building lean mass and helping burn fat; but diet is key.

Third, whom are trainers trained to deal with?  This the second part of the scope – the general, healthy population.  I am not suggesting trainers give out detailed nutritional advice to clients with diabetes, HIV, cancer, or other serious medical conditions.  Those clients would not fall into a trainer’s scope of practice and nutritional information for them should be referred out.  But for general healthy clients – eg the client that wants to lose 20 lbs of fat or add some muscle, trainers certainly can and should be able to give that client the dietary information necessary to accomplish their goals.

Fourth, how complicated is it?  Nutrition, at its heart, really isn’t that complicated.  There are certain aspects of nutrition that are complicated, but when it comes to practical guidelines it isn’t that hard.  The best science we have to date says that to lose weight you need to create a caloric deficit: exercise helps but again nutrition is king, you just have to eat less.  For the majority of clients the specific type of diet is less important than the simple idea of eating less.  And for those trying to gain muscle, eating a little more than maintenance levels combined with a resistance training program is the ticket to success.


Trainers should generally stick with the RDA when it comes to a dietary breakdown.  In case you have forgotten this is a diet consisting of 45-65% carbs, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fat.  The RDA gives reasonable ranges so you can move a certain number up or down as you prefer.  Another simple guideline is don’t eat less than 20% of any nutrient particularly if you are active.  Each nutrient offers the body specific benefits and the main fear that nutritionists have with trainers offering dietary advice is they will simply eliminate a key nutrient or suggest a radical fad diet.  Finally trainers should not recommend a VLCD (Very low calorie diet) as that is outside the scope as well (any diet less than 1200 kcal/day is a VLCD).

In summary

  • Follow the RDA guidelines for the nutrients
  • Adjust caloric intake to meet the client’s goal
  • Don’t eat less than 20% of any nutrient (protein, carbs, or fat)
  • Don’t suggest a diet of below 1200 kcal/day for any client


It is worth noting that right now it is up to state law, which can vary considerably, as to how much dietary advice a non Registered Dietician (RD) can provide.  About a 1/3 of the states are reasonably strict and would not allow trainers to write specific meal plans for their clients, although giving broader, sample guidelines is likely still fine.  The other 2/3 of the states are not as strict and trainers can provide more detailed nutritional advice and specific meal plans as long as they are not presenting themselves as nutritionists.  This information applies to the US, other countries may have different guidelines.



In my mind the real issue for those that don’t want trainers to propose dietary advice is their fear is that the trainer may not be properly educated in nutrition.  I agree that is often the case, but that is the issue to fight – not simply making a blanket statement that trainers can’t talk about nutrition.  It is true that many trainers are taught through self-study and they simply take one computer based test and suddenly they are certified.  Obviously this is woefully inadequate.  The real issue is that the education standards for trainers should be raised, not that the scope of practice for trainers should be changed.  Trainers should receive adequate education on nutrition, something along the lines of a 100 hour long nutrition program would generally work well.  This would provide the proper education for the trainer to work with the general healthy population and make it even more clear when to refer out those clients that fall outside of the scope.  I agree something must be done, but with 67% of the population being classified as overweight, telling personal trainers not to dispense dietary guidelines is, in my opinion, not the way to start.




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Trainers Don’t have a Scope?

npti logo

I read an article recently that claimed that personal trainers do not have a scope of practice and thus it is unclear what they should and what they should not do with clients.  I respectfully disagree with that opinion.  While it is true that not all personal training organizations have adopted the same scope, the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI) has been defining the scope for personal trainers since its inception.  The scope of practice for personal trainers is to enhance the components of fitness for the general, healthy population (1, 2).  In my mind this scope clearly defines what personal trainers should, and by default should not, do and it clearly identifies who personal trainers are trained to work with.  There are 2 key things to explore in this operational definition.

First, fitness is not one singular thing, it is made up of various components.  There are 5 classic components of fitness: strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, body composition, and cardiovascular endurance; and there are several subcomponents of fitness including but not limited to power, speed, agility, quickness, balance, and skill.  Personal trainers are (or at least should be) experts in the main components of fitness – they should be extremely well versed in understanding what those components are and how to improve them.  With this knowledge and experience they will be able to help clients achieve their fitness related goals.

Second, trainers are taught to work with the general, healthy population.  This is anyone classified as ‘low risk’ as defined by the ACSM risk stratification guidelines (if you are a trainer and you don’t know what classifies someone as low risk – go back to school and get properly educated in your field).  In short it refers to adults with no diseases and minimal risk factors for coronary artery disease.  If a client does not fall within the low risk category it doesn’t mean that a trainer can’t work with that person; it does mean the client needs to receive a medical clearance to be placed back in the personal trainer’s scope before intense training.


How Does This Help Us? 

Having a clearly defined scope tells one what they should and should not do.  Is a personal trainer able to help improve a client’s strength?  Of course.  Can a personal trainer help a client lose 20 pounds and reduce their body fat?  For sure.  Is a personal trainer able to help a client work on their 10k time or get better at push-ups?  Obviously.  Will a personal trainer make a diagnosis about a specific injury?  No, tha is the role of a medical doctor.  Can a personal trainer write prescriptions for medicine?  No, again that is for a doctor to do.  Is a personal trainer skilled in cracking someone’s back to adjust their spine back in proper alignment?  Definitely not,that is what chiros do.  Should a personal trainer run out on to the field and tape up an athlete’s ankle?  Nope, that is the job of an athletic trainer.  Is a personal trainer trained to manually increase a joint’s range of motion 3 days after surgery?  No, that would be the role of a physical therapist.  Should a personal trainer write a specific meal plan for someone with diabetes?  No, that client would be referred to a registered dietician for that information.



The Gray Areas 

There are areas of gray in virtually every field, and because fitness is so broad there are areas of gray in personal training.  I don’t think we should shy away from these areas of discussion, instead I think should do our best to flesh them out.  And when in doubt refer back to our scope of practice.

What about posture?  Posture clearly affects fitness although it is not typically considered a component of fitness.  Are trainers experts in posture?  I would answer no, posture as a whole is not under our scope.  Some organizations, like the NASM, would disagree and a large part of their educational material would be focused around assessing and attempting to improve posture.  That is not true for most other US based personal training organizations such as the NSCA or the ASCM.  I am not arguing that trainers will not have any knowledge of posture and being informed about some common postural distortions might be valuable.  However understanding posture can be complicated; how to improve posture can be even more complicated, and posture itself is not well understood.  Even something as simple as “what is normal posture” is a hard question to answer when you try to apply that to the myriad of individual variation we see in our species.  Trainers certainly will not be manually adjusting a client’s posture – that falls under the realm of chiropractors.  As I see it proper fitness training might improve a client’s posture, but trainers are not, and should not be expected to be, experts in posture.

What about manually stretching a client out, can a trainer do that?  I would argue yes, absolutely.  Flexibility is a clearly defined component of fitness that lies within our scope.  Trainers should be very familiar with all types of stretching including partner and PNF stretches.  You don’t have to be a medical doctor or a massage therapist to simply place your hands on a client’s body.  However this would be different than manually massaging an area with an end goal of improving flexibility, that is something a massage therapist would be trained to do.


Having a clearly defined scope is very important for our field just like it is for doctors, lawyers, chiropractors, physical therapists, etc.  But our scope is not elusive; it is already clearly defined and available for use.  Use the scope of practice presented here as a guide and you may find your mission as a personal trainer suddenly became just a bit more clear.  If you think you have a better scope that is legally defensible and more precise than the one presented here, please share it, I’m all ears.


  1. Henriques, T. (2014)  NPTI’s Fundamentals of Fitness and Personal Training, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics