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The Characteristics and Tools Your Personal Trainers Should Possess

Club operators are constantly challenged to provide their employees with the best tools and resources to help them perform at the highest level. Even though the art and science of personal training has evolved over the years, several core components have remained constant. Just as all athletic and business endeavors embrace fundamentals, your personal trainers must possess important basic fundamentals, too. Without these essential components, your trainers will not be effective with your members. A brief review of the ABCs of the characteristics and tools trainers should possess offers some insight into both acquiring and retaining personal training members.

A=Attitude. The core skill that trainers bring with them is their attitude before and during the training session. On occasion, trainers may fail to maintain an attitude of respect for clients and their needs. Many members have canceled their memberships because of a bad experience with a trainer who was overzealous or had little concern about helping the client achieve results. Club operators should make sure their trainers have the right intentions. One of the best ways to do this is by asking trainers why they pursued this career. Their answers can be revealing. The hope is that trainers will say they enjoy working with people and helping them accomplish personal objectives, but some may reveal that the position is nothing more than a paycheck to them. If you ensure your trainers are bringing an encouraging and respectful attitude to a session, you will ensure that members are more satisfied.

B=Behavior. Your trainers' behavior both before and during sessions has a great deal to do with the members' outcome. Make sure they are helping the client set achievable goals that stay consistent with their end objective. Trainers need to make sure they are listening to what their clients want to achieve. Too often, trainers may mandate an exercise they personally favor that may not address the members' objectives. Communication takes multiple forms, and you need to ensure your trainers have a good balance in their communication so they talk enough to their clients without talking too much or not at all. Your trainers wear many hats when it comes to keeping clients satisfied, and what satisfies clients varies from client to client. Sometimes, just being a good listener is the difference between keeping a client happy or losing them completely. Also, confidentiality is important when working with clients. What trainers hear, verbalize and record must be kept in confidence because clubs are bound by the same HIPAA laws as the medical profession.

C=Content. The content of the session pertains to the actual workout. Although each member likely will have different goals and aspirations, workout structures remain similar. Most workouts consist of a warm-up, strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, cool down and flexibility training. Many workouts can incorporate several of those simultaneously. However, the workout must have a careful balance between what the client wants and what they need. A workout should be prioritized as safe, effective and then fun. For example, a power clean may be an effective exercise for gaining strength; however, this particular exercise is not safe for many individuals. A key component in the content of the exercise session is to start slowly. A workout session can always be increased in intensity during the next session, and trainers should remember that they can never take back what has already been done. What seems to be minimal for one individual may be excessive for another. Therefore, trainers must assess the fitness and tolerance levels of each individual prior to the workout.

Building off the basics represents the foundation of any great program. If you make sure your trainers keep the ABCs in mind, your club’s personal training program will prosper.


Matthew Wagner has a Ph.D. and is an assistant professor of kinesiology at Sam Houston State University. He has owned Nautilus Health Center in Huntsville, TX, for 31 years and specializes in working with high-risk clients. He also is a director of the National Institute of Preventive Medicine.

Gary Oden has a Ph.D and is a professor of kinesiology at Sam Houston State University. He has been involved in personal training for more than 25 years. Oden also is a director of the National Institute of Preventive Medicine.

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