How to Motivate Your Personal Training Clients

Dec 14, 2020 | by AIF

Motivation to keep training does not come easy to all of us. If you’re thinking about a career as a Personal Trainer, or are one already, it’s your job to inspire clients through positive reinforcement and smart training methods.

Putting fire in the belly of a particularly stubborn or unmotivated client can be a difficult, but not impossible task. Here are nine strategies to help you motivate even the most apathetic of clients.

#1. Understand their motivation

Before you start training a client you need to find out exactly what it is that is motivating them to train with you – their ‘why’. Whether they simply want to get fit, shed a few kilos in the lead up to their wedding, or are training for a strenuous upcoming marathon, the training routine you design for them must match their ultimate motivation.

People often find their drive when working towards something they really want. By understanding what their end goal is, and what they hope to achieve, you’ll be better equipped to motivate them by regularly reminding them of their ‘why’.

#2. Set short-term goals

Working towards their long-term goal can be an arduous process for clients if you don’t help to make the journey fun. Real progress and results take time; your client won’t magically become ripped or drop several dress sizes overnight. By setting short-term weekly goals, you can keep training exciting, and rewarding. For example, ask your client to run one extra minute on the treadmill each week to improve their endurance. Short term goals also make the end goal feel more achievable.

#3. Help to set incentives

It’s not all work and no play when it comes to working out. If your client is working hard and achieving goals, but failing to reward themself, their motivation levels can be impacted. When considering your client’s goals, chat to them about their incentives. Ask them to think about how they will reward themselves when they reach certain goals. The right type of reward is important when determining goals. If a client is trying to lose weight, for example, perhaps avoid food rewards. Instead, they may choose an experience like a trip to a day spa or to purchase some new activewear.

#4. Track progress

Personal trainers must monitor their client’s progress. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’. Tracking progress for fat loss clients can include gauging body fat percentages or recording weight. For all clients it should be training focused, and include measurements pertaining to changes in strength, flexibility, stability, movement and cardio capabilities.

Is your client lifting heavier weights compared to last week? Are they able to maintain a faster speed for cross trainer intervals? Record this information in your client’s profile so that you can both see at a glance where improvements are occurring. There are numerous apps and software available to help PTs manage their clients progress.

#5. Frequently change programs

The body is believed to plateau after six weeks of vigorously undergoing the same program or training style. For this reason, it’s very important that personal trainers change every client’s program every four to six weeks. This not only ensures that clients continue to make fitness gains, it also makes their sessions more enjoyable and prevents them from getting bored with the same old routine.

#6. Communicate

You don’t need to be best friends with your clients, but you should be friendly, patient and understanding. Talking to them about everyday life and their interests is part of building a professional relationship. Your clients need to feel comfortable enough to trust you. But being friendly doesn’t mean going soft on training – you need to remain firm and professional in your exercise prescription so that your clients can achieve their goals.

Whether you have a separate business phone or use your personal one, you can give your clients your phone number so that they can contact you whenever in doubt of their progress. Exchanging numbers also gives you the opportunity to send inspirational messages or quotes to boost their morale and show them that you are as committed as they are to achieving their fitness goals.

#7. Reassess over time

Plenty of clients start out their workouts and programs with a goal in mind. However, things change. Your client, upon starting their regime, may have wanted to lose 30kg, but as time went on they may have decided they don’t want to lose that much weight and would rather work on increasing their strength. Changes like this can result in them no longer being motivated by their original goals. Setting time aside every so often to regroup and go over the client’s goals is a great way to ensure you’re both on track with their needs.

#8. Remind them of their progress

Your client might be feeling down that they put a kilo on. They may be feeling demoralised after failing to lift as much weight or complete as many reps as last week. The fact is, this happens. While it may be a small step back, they have previously taken ten steps forwards.

In such instances, remind your clients of where they began and how far they have come. When improvements are incremental, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how much has changed. As their trainer, you need to give them a friendly reminder of their achievements and to reassure them that their disappointing week is merely a glitch, and certainly not irreversible. So they put on a little weight? They’ve already lost 15 kilos. They didn’t do enough reps? Remember when you couldn’t do even one? Simple reminders like this are perfect.

Showing your client photos and videos of them that you took earlier on in their training journey can also help bring things into focus. By asking them to look at these, you will enable them to appreciate the hard work they’ve put in so far and remind them that they have the willpower and determination to continue making advances with their training.

#9. Do YOUR best

If you come to the gym or meet with a client and you’re feeling down or unmotivated, soon enough your client will feel the same way.

You’re only human, so there will be days when, for whatever reason, you aren’t in the mood for training clients. It may sound harsh, but the fact is, your personal issues are not your client’s problem and they are paying you to be on your game.

If you’re having troubles outside of work, try to ‘put them in a box’ until you can deal with them later. If you really feel unable to deliver a high quality session, it is better to postpone the appointment.

When you are working with clients, you need to have positive energy and be entirely focused on them and their workout. You’ll find that by doing so you will actually lift your own mood which will help you get through the day.


To learn how to help people reach their training goals safely and effectively, click here to check out the AIF’s Master Trainer Program™ course which includes dual qualifications in Personal Training (Cert IV in Fitness) and Fitness Coach (Cert III in Fitness).



At the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF), we are no stranger to the competitive and evolving nature of the fitness industry. That’s why we remain the #1 fitness educator since 1979. We continuously raise the bar by providing the best education and resources through dynamic and hybrid training methods that mould to your lifestyle. We are strong believers in evidence over fads, so you can be assured your training with AIF will solidify your career for the long-term.

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