The Fitness Zone

How to Balance your Clients’ Needs and Wants

Dec 14, 2020 | by Nathan Yannakopoulos

Personal trainers have a wide range of clients with an equally wide range of goals. While it is important that the client has a clear want, it is vital to also establish what they need from an exercise program, in terms of promoting optimal health, writes AIF Coach Nathan Yannakopoulos.

Give them what they want – and need

Your client may want to achieve fat loss, hypertrophy, improvements in performance, increased energy, or other health-specific outcomes – and it’s your job as their PT to help them do just this. In order to do so, however, you may also need to train them in ways that do not immediately appear to be supporting their goal.

Even though the client may not think they need a particular exercise, you may regard it as being important for them in order to correct their posture or improve their functional movement patterns. You must make it clear to them why they need to follow this part of the program you have designed for them, and implement it seamlessly into their session so that they are still getting what they want from their workout.

Personal trainers that don’t manage this balancing act between want and need will struggle to retain clients. Giving them only what you deem them to need will make them feel as though they haven’t been listened to – and people who don’t get what they want will typically stop paying for that service. Giving them only what they want, meanwhile, could increase their risk of injury or other problems. The following three tips will help you keep your clients happy while also enabling you to do a first-rate job as a trainer.

1. Educate your client

Your client may not know the benefit of a certain exercise, understand how correcting posture is important, or appreciate how activating weak muscles can assist them in reaching their goal. It is your job to tell them – or even better show them!

You may, for example, have a client who wants to increase their muscle mass but regards warming up as a waste of time. Prove the value by taking them through a comprehensive warm up and then getting them to lift. This will show them that they can squat or deadlift more effectively and comfortably, and most likely be able to lift a heavier weight. This demonstrates that spending some extra time doing some glute activation or hip mobility allows for an increase in hypertrophic response, which will get them to their goal faster in the long run.

2. Divide the session into two parts

This strategy is useful for most sessions, but especially with weight loss clients whose intensity can be limited due to them experiencing pain or niggles.

A lot of clients think that less intense, corrective exercise will not help them achieve their goals. When programming such movements, I make the first part of the session revolve around technique correction, proper activation of muscle groups and moving pain free. I then spend 25-30 minutes focusing on conditioning, through high quality movements at an appropriate intensity. The outcome is maximum energy expenditure and the client leaving feeling fatigued. The first part of the session meets the client’s needs, and the final part gives them what they want.

3. Give your client homework

This is usually my last resort, but for some clients that can only do 30-minute sessions there is only so much technique work and muscle activation that you can do face-to-face.

In such instances, assign a client certain stretches, activation and mobility techniques to help correct some of their postural issues, so that you can spend more time on their body composition goals during their PT sessions. This works well if your client is accountable and willing to do work outside of the gym or on their own terms – so you may find that it may not be suitable for everyone.

Meeting both the needs and the wants of your clients is the art of PT, and it takes some time and experience to get right. Keep working on it though, because the end result is happy, healthy clients who are achieving their goals and spreading the word about your impressive service.

Nathan Yannakopoulos

Nathan Yannakopoulos

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.