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Session #025 - What Makes an Epic Personal Trainer?

Show notes

Today I thought we would take a step back and from all the marketing, all the strategy and get down to basics.

I wanted to ask a question. It’s a question I ask on almost every interview at Invictus during our hiring process.

And that question is, ‘what makes a great personal trainer?’ Or rather now…what makes an Epic personal trainer?

So here are a couple of my thoughts on this and I hope you can find it useful!

So let’s get started!

First up! When I ask this question about what makes a great trainer in an interview, the most common answer I get back is knowledge.

As a personal trainer you have clients that are putting their bodies, their health and their trust in you to help them reach whatever their goal is. So obviously, as a trainer, need to know what you are on about.

Just knowing how to lift or compete is not enough. That makes you a great lifter and champion maybe, which is amazing! But being a trainer is a different skill set that requires some level of additional specialised training.

Now, to be a great trainer with a lot of knowledge doesn't always mean a high level certification. Or even lots of certifications. You can gain valuable knowledge and experience from mentorships, from working with other great coaches or even with self study when it is done in the right way.

As a trainer you need knowledge on anatomy, physiology, movement, common injuries, nutrition and a whole lot more. And that requires some study and research and for sure a lot of learning.

It means trying to stay up to date with the latest info coming out of the industry. This is not only going to keep you knowledgeable, but it’s going to help make you an epic trainer. Above and beyond what your peers are doing since most trainers never bother with this.

But you do! So you’re always going to help your clients in the best way possible.

But the one area of knowledge that is often missing is the knowledge on how to teach. For example, you know how to squat or deadlift. But do you know how to effectively teach someone how to do these things?

You might know what nutrition plan to give a client. But can you teach your client to follow and stick to it day in day out.

Teaching is having the tools to educate your client and have them take action on the instructions you are giving them. Your knowledge from your courses give you the details to give great instructions. But your knowledge of teaching or coaching is what is going to get your client to take action consistently.

And to do that really well as a trainer, you’re going to need some skills and ability for the next point on today’s list.

So next up is communication skills. One of the biggest parts of being a personal trainer is knowing how to work with people. While having a ton of knowledge is great and obviously beneficial, you need to be able to apply that knowledge in a meaningful way. And that means working with people, your clients, to make changes and be consistent.

Consistency is probably the most important area for you to work with clients to help them succeed.

Because no matter what you know, or what you tell a client to do. Unless they actually do it…they will never get anywhere.

And this is an area I think we as trainers are lacking overall. It’s that mental, even psychological side of what it takes to reach a goal that will make such a massive difference.

The change in habits, routines is one thing. But the change in beliefs, perceptions and in some cases identity can be a really big thing for clients to overcome.

Now some trainers kind of have this skill naturally. They are great with people.

They just have this way with people that helps clients make these changes which in turn helps them to keep coming back to the gym and working their ass off.

But for most trainers, it isn’t natural. It takes practice, a bit of work and experience to reach a point where you are talking to your clients in the right way to create the right mindset and the environment for success.

Remember, good communication skills can include your body language, how you listen, having empathy and using the right words at the right time to affect your clients in the right way.

Easier said than done! But that is what it comes down to.

All these things come together to create this mindset in your client to help them reach their full potential at every small step along the way. And it’s those small steps that keeps you making progress week after week and the small successes of each of these steps that keep you and your clients going and having fun along the way.

Third up on this week's list is trainers having leadership skills. Now, I’m not talking about some army general level of leadership. But a trainer needs to have enough presence and authority with a client to lead a session.

I've seen a lot of trainers lose that level of control of a session and clients will start to dictate everything by going off-plan and just telling the trainer they just want to do this exercise or that exercise for today’s workout.

First off, proper personal trainers will always be working from a plan. A plan that is carefully created where everything on it can be justified as a way to help a client reach their specific goal.

Going off that plan, means you are not working towards that goal in a specific way anymore. By letting a client dictate this stuff means you have lost control and the client is probably not doing what needs to be done.

To lead a session well, your client needs to see you as the expert. They need to see that you are credible and they need to believe in you. This creates a level of trust and respect and confidence that what you say and ask them to do is going to help them along the way to reaching their goals.

I guess you have heard the question about what is the best diet? Do you know the answer? With this question the actual answer isn’t keto or fasting or anything like that. The best diet is the one that you can stick to.

And the best training program? It’s the one that you can stick to! Shocker!

Once a client can stick to something, then you can start to optimise it because you’re getting data and feedback from a structured plan. If you have a mishmash of training with no consistency, then any data you get back will be mush. You can’t make any decisions based on it because nothing will be clear about what is working or not.

So going off plan is the opposite of sticking to something. And if your client is trying to go off plan for another reason, like they do not enjoy the session. Then it is down to you to first listen. Then understand the issues your client has. So that you can then make the changes needed to keep them sticking to a plan that keeps their goal in mind.

Last on the list for today’s session is that you need to be passionate.

But I'm not talking about a passion for lifting or working out. I mean, that is important.

But lifting and working out isn't what you actually do as a trainer. The training session is for your client, not you!

So what you need to be passionate about is actually teaching and helping people.

It is very different. And very important.

Wanting to truly help people is what is going to help keep you going when things get tough. When the hours sometimes get long or you need to go that extra mile for a client to help them bump along the next obstacle in their path.

Clients pick up on this more than you realise. They will feed off it which will also help with the previous point about getting clients to stick to the program and be consistent.

Putting your own mindset to one of service is a great way to approach things. To build relationships to be as helpful as possible for your clients to help them get over obstacles is what will help grow your business.

Put yourself in service and the money will follow.

It’s that kind of authentic approach you have when you truly give a shit about your clients.

In interviews passion is the most common answer when I ask someone why you became a trainer, or why you want to be a trainer.

Passion in what I get back. But you know what? When I ask about the last fitness book they read, or podcast or even YouTube video, I get nothing.

So I ask, what was the last thing you learned about how to be a better trainer? Many will say it was when they were on their CPT course. Their personal trainer certification course. Which just happens to be one or two years ago.

To me there's a disconnect. If you are really passionate about something, you are going to immerse yourself in it. You are going to be reading everything you can find to help you be better, to gain more knowledge or skills.

I call this passion-work. It’s the extra work you do, not because you have to. But because you love to, because you need to and you have this inner drive to do so.

You’re going to do this in your free time, because you actually find it fun to do. And you are going to discover the thought leaders in your industry and get a wide scope of knowledge because you find it interesting.

And you’re going to take all of this and go above and beyond to help your client do what they need to do to get going and get results.

That is what a passionate person does. So are you really, truly passionate? Or do you just tell yourself that?

Now, what I know is that you are passionate because you are listening to this podcast. So we both know you are putting in that ‘passion work’!

So keep it going and put that passion-work into action so it isn't just knowledge in your head. It’s knowledge that will help all your clients make the changes they desire in the best way possible.


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