5 habits of a successful personal trainer


By Vania Hau

The life of a new personal trainer can be unpredictable and uncertain. However, the payoff of helping people go through life-changing transformations more than makes up for it. Here are 5 steps to help you minimize the uncertainty by making you a better trainer, faster.

  1. Observe

    Observe other trainers, other clients, your own clients, and anyone you encounter throughout your day. Observation is a key skill to develop as a personal trainer. Observation helps with spotting various movement deficiencies someone may have in order to adjust your training, accordingly. This observation should begin the moment you meet your client before any hands-on assessment or exercise instruction.

    When I took a seminar with Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned back expert, he talked about the importance of greeting his patients in the waiting room. He did this so that he could observe the way they sat in a chair. As he led him to his office, he noted the way they walked. His observation skills are so developed at this point, he is able to get a good sense of why a patient is experiencing pain before they even reach his office. Of course, he still does a full assessment to confirm his initial suspicions and to be able to develop a sound treatment plan, but the important thing to remember is how much information can be gleaned simply through watching people move.

  2. Develop Systems

    You should have set protocols for all interactions that you have with clients. As you work with more people, you will begin to notice patterns developing with respect to the kinds of questions you get or what type of program works for certain goals. Take the time to produce a FAQ page or articles about topics that seem to interest a lot of your clients. Having these handouts that you can quickly print off or email can save you hours in time compared to having to email the same response to different people over and over again.

    You are being paid to keep people accountable. If you don’t do scheduled weigh-ins or measurements, you will not know what is happening with your clients. If you don’t know if change is happening, you will not know if adjustments need to be made to your clients’ programs.

    Finally, create programming templates to deal with different goals, such as weight loss or strength building. These programs should take a client through at least their first three months of training. This way, you have something to refer to for all new clients, which cuts down on programming time. There are essentially five basic exercises: squat, deadlift, push, pull, and core. Everyone will be doing some variant of all of these movements. You can easily modify any of the basic movements to suit the individual’s needs.

  3. Set money aside for professional development

    Start by automatically deducting 5-10% of your total paycheque. It might be tough in the beginning, but professional development should be seen as an essential part of building your business. Part of getting more clients is showing that you are a good trainer. Good trainers are knowledgeable and are always trying to improve their craft.

    Buy books, take courses, and attend seminars. Most certifications require you to do some sort of professional development in order to retain your credentials, anyway. Choose things that interest you the most. Don’t just take the most convenient ones available or ones that just reach the minimum requirements.

    I have met and worked with many trainers with different personalities and training styles. The one common denominator among the best trainers is that they always learning something new and trying to improve. All quality courses will be worth at least double the amount of money that you spend.

  4. Read regularly

    Depending on how diligent you are with your personal development, there will be a steep learning curve during the first few years on the job. Take these first few months to develop the habit to read as much and as often as you can. As you build your clientele and get busier, this will be harder to develop, so get used to it now when you have the time.

    Start with subscribing to free blogs (like this one!). You get new articles delivered right to your inbox and it takes very little time to read at least a couple of articles a day. At this point, you should have several large gaps of free time where this is easy to do. Don’t waste your time on Facebook or Candy Crush. Make effective use of your time. Here are some other great blogs to check out:

    The Personal Trainer Development Center
    Precision Nutrition
    Strength Sensei

    Always have a book around. Quick articles can offer insight and spark an area of interest. Books go more in depth and give you a more detailed examination of a topic. They give you a deeper understanding than a blog article can, which allows you to take the information and apply it towards different problems. A blog article might only give you an idea to solve one specific problem. You can find a list of books that all trainers should read along with other good resources here.

    Finally, learn how to read and decipher research articles. This is the most difficult stage to get to, as it can be quite expensive to purchase just a single journal article, but there are free articles out there. Begin by searching things that you are curious about or interested in on Google Scholar and Pubmed. Read a few abstracts to get a feel for the language that is used. To make things easier, there are several services that exist that send out monthly research reviews. Not only do you get to discover the latest research, it is also dissected for you into practical terms. Some examples are:

    Strength and Conditioning Research
    Examine.com Research Digest

  5. Stick to a schedule

    In the early stages, you may have a very irregular schedule. You may have a 6 am client one day and then not start until 2 in the afternoon the next day. Try to make it a habit to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. By waking up early every day, you will be more prepared to do so once you have more regular clients at that hour. It can also help build the habit of reading regularly and developing systems. If you treat these hours as work hours rather than free time, you will be more productive. Have set hours for work and set hours for time off. If you only have four clients one day, it does not mean that you have 12 hours of free time. Build the habit of a strong work ethic by actually doing productive work even when you don’t technically have to.

Training is very hard work and the first few months are always a struggle. If this is truly your passion, follow

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