5 Keys to Communicating Effectively with Personal Training Clients

5 Keys to Communicating Effectively with Personal Training Clients

The fitness industry is funny.

You might do the exact same job but be called something completely different depending on where you work and who signs your paychecks.

Personal trainer?

Fitness professional?

Strength coach?

Movement specialist?

And then there are all the certifications to put behind your name…

Just remember, your client doesn't care about your designations. They care about what you can do for them. Whether you were hired to help Suzy look stunning in a bridal gown, or help Joe to get his vigor back, they all require the same basic blueprint to get from point A to point B…

A blueprint comprised of coaching skills.

What does a good coach do? He sees.

He sees potential. He also sees the path.

Then he guides - in whatever way speaks best to the athlete.

No matter where your fitness career takes you (or what your title is), being able to elicit real change and growth in people is always what you're in the room to do.

This is a lifelong process, but here are 5 places to start practicing:

1. Have Empathy.

Who are your clients? We're not talking census figures here. WHO are they? What do they think about first thing in the morning? Last thing at night? What are they afraid of? What do they hope for?

What do they think about working out, the gym, you as their (potential) trainer?

Can you relate to their struggles? In other words, can you empathize with them?

These are not easy questions. But if you have a real grasp on even a few of them, you'll be the best coach they will ever find. Period.

2. Be Conscious in Your Communication.

Once you can really empathize with your client, you should have a very little problem speaking to them.

Avoid common mistakes like using fancy fitness jargon. It's called a shoulder, not glenohumeral joint. Don't try to make yourself look smart by making them look stupid. Make them look smart by showing they hired a genuinely caring trainer who delivers results and has fun doing it.

Also, practice asking better questions.

"How was your day?" is ok.

"What did your boss say about the big project?" is better.

3. Be Fluid.

You're going to interact with lots of different personalities over time. Even if you have a very specific niche, you'll need to be able to tailor your message to whoever is in the room.

Good communication is dynamic communication.

"Be like water," as Bruce Lee would say. When poured into a cup, it becomes the cup. When met with obstacles, it flows around. Many trainers like to plant a flag in the ground and huff and puff about why their way is the right way.

We are here to help people, not debate or lose business over semantics.

4. Be Enthusiastic!

Maybe you're not a morning person. Maybe you're not a motivational speaker.

But you don't have to be a "ra-ra" cheerleader with a pasted-on smile to be enthusiastic.

Remember - you have the best job in the world. You get to help people make a positive change in their life. And that's something to be excited about.

Express enthusiasm in your own way. You can be quiet or loud, funny or professionally reserved. The point is that you might be the only source of positive energy in someone's day.

Enthusiasm is energy… and work, meaningful work, takes energy.

And the most important coaching skill of all….

5. Listen.

Think back to your latest training session. What was the most important thing your client told you? How about the session before that? You may have all their sets, reps, and weights written down, but are you gathering deeper outputs from your interactions?

Listening creates understanding. Stephen Covey's first habit in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is to seek first to understand, then be understood.

If you really understand your client's problems, and they fully understand how you can help them… you have the basis for a long-lasting relationship. And as we know, client retention is priority #1.

Show your clients that you genuinely care about their health, well-being and reaching their fitness goals by listening carefully and repeating your understanding of what he or she has stated. By doing this your client has the opportunity to either confirm or correct your understanding. Over time clients will begin to see you as someone who really gets them and is truly invested in helping them reach their fitness goals.

Clients will begin to open up to you in ways that help you to understand how to become more influential in guiding their beliefs of how to properly achieve their health and fitness goals. This new found understanding will drive your client to make smarter, more informed decisions about how they achieve and maintain these goals.

Many volumes of books have been written about effective listening, but let's wrap up with this easy-to-follow strategy - RASA.


  •  Don't interrupt. Allow your client to say everything they want and need to say. This also means creating an environment that they are comfortable sharing all relevant information with you.


  • Thank them. People should always feel good about talking to you. They aren't annoying you, they are really showing you how to help them!


  • Say back the gist of what you just heard. This helps to clarify the message and shows that you're actually trying to listen and understand.


  • Make sure you've understood correctly by simply asking. This is your chance to ask intelligent follow-up questions.

These make up the foundation of the many, many coaching skills you'll develop as an effective coach.

"Sure, but I don't even have any clients!" you may say. Well, you're in luck.

These skills are the foundation of effective marketing and sales too!

By adhering to and practicing these skills, you'll be booked solid in no time. And stay that way.

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Zack Henderson is a strength coach in Nashville, TN and holds Strong First certifications in kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight training. Zack's students include nationally ranked powerlifters, obstacle course racers, and everyday strength enthusiasts. When not lifting or coaching, he's probably playing guitar.

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