I was recently asked what I’ve learned during my time as head of education for Lift The Bar, interacting with 1000's of personal trainers. After a little reflection, and in no particular order, here’s what I came up with.
1. I’ve learned enough to know I know relatively little.
2. Almost everything has a level of uncertainty. Control the controllable knowing you can’t control everything.
3. This job comes with peak and troughs, those that do best are those that learn to ride the waves.
4. Human first. Those trainers we look at with contempt due to their lack of professionalism or technical ability yet are fully booked often communicate well and make people feel great. We can learn from this.
5. Everyone needs support, no matter how “strong” or “confident” they are.
6. Some days you can feel like you’re flying, the next, falling. It might happen less frequently as you progress, but it still happens.
7. There is no magic formula for anything.
8. That one extra course, book or seminar you attend will never make you feel like “you’ve made it”. Stop looking for magic bullets.
9. Very little in this industry is black and white. Learn to think in shades of grey.
10. We are a service industry. The trainer that creates the best experience for their clients wins.
11. “Learning” and improving are not the same thing.
12. “Debating” arguing on the internet is a waste of 99% of people’s time.
13. Physiology only matters when someone is invested psychologically - Greg Nuckols
14. The better you are able to manipulate the physical the more chance you have of nurturing the psychological.
15. No one is going to save you. If you’re up shit creek without a paddle stop waiting for the tide to turn, hold your breath and swim like crazy.
16. Advanced does not mean better, advanced means advanced, which can mean inappropriate for most of our clients.
17. The industry often sells a narrow view of success (6 figures). This leaves many feeling like they are failing despite succeeding in other areas. Success should be self-defined.
18. You will often expect/hope for more for your clients than they hope for themselves. Remember, it’s their journey, you’re just the support act.
19. We “learn” too much and apply too little.
20. Be confident enough to allow imperfect (but safe) technique in the right situations. Your client’s sense of competency will thank you for it.
21. Design learning opportunities, don’t tell.
22. You’ve not known love until you see a StrongFirst instructor talk about kettlebells.
23. Forget what other (non-mentor) trainers think. They don’t pay your bills.
24. For the last 20 years, we have agonised over the content of our client’s programmes whilst neglecting the delivery of said programmes.
25. For the last 20 years, we have agonised over the content (macros) of our client’s diets and neglected the client’s ability to adhere to said diet.
26. The grass can often appear greener in certain parts of the industry, often due to its fertilisation with bullshit.
27. The industry talks a lot about “taking it to another level” and “continual improvement”. Many want to “tick the box” three times per week and age well whilst enjoying a few drinks on the weekend.
28. Cooldowns in session time are over-rated.
29. If a picture can paint a thousand words and analogy can speak a thousand words.
30. This industry is so embryonic those that claim to have all the answers still haven’t grasped how many questions we haven’t yet considered to ask.
31. Moderate levels of exercise will do little to create fat loss yet your client’s fat loss is often the barometer the industry will use to judge your competency as a trainer.
32. Industry defined “transformations” often have little to do with the trainer and everything to do with the client that’s willing to do anything to get in shape.
33. The real “transformations” often have nothing to do with the mirror.
34. It’s human nature to look for hacks and quick fixes. If they worked, they would just be called “the way”.
35. Constant lead generation problems are often a retention problem. Fix the hole in the bucket before looking to pour in more water.
36. The majority of commercial gym trainers are spending 95% of their CPD focusing on less than 5% of their paying clients (contest prep, powerlifting or athletic development). Get savagely good at coaching “the basics”.
37. I’ve learned enough to know I know relatively little…… because I still need to remind myself of this at times.
Want to Learn More About Lift The Bar Training?
If you’re thinking about becoming a personal trainer who doesn’t become part of the statistic of not lasting longer than 18 months in the industry and you want to give yourself the best learning platform for becoming a trainer, our course is for you.
The Lift The Bar Training qualification is the industries first personal training course that merges both online and offline learning while also having an extended Applied phase that supports you in the early stages of your new career. Rather than just receiving your qualification and throwing you out into the world (like Sarah experienced above), we guide you so that you get a fantastic platform to build from in one the most challenging stages of your career.
Having worked with 1000’s of personal trainers, the education team at LTB Training have created a 12-month long industry leading personal training course that includes a foundation level 2 and entry level 3 qualification, which allows you to become a fully certified personal trainer. This has been created with practical application at the core and with cutting edge research in mind so that you’re left with no stone unturned for starting off your career as a personal trainer. You’ll then complete our qualification by going through a 6-month applied phase, which teaches you the essentials of how to work with personal training clients and arm you with the knowledge on how to build a business that lasts and helps as many people as possible.
Our next course launches on the 4th of February 2019. You can find out more about what it includes by clicking on the "certification" tab at the top of this page. Our early bird offer starts on 5th of November 2018!
I've learnt a lot about programming in the time I've been a personal trainer, so here are 4 of those things:
1. General population clients are not the same as athletes
We've been pulled into thinking that we should periodise our training plans and set up general preparation phases for our clients, but we are not working with people (for the most part) who are looking to win gold at the next Olympics. We can get away with putting in more random elements and having whole days dedicated to arms and abs because the client enjoys that.
Don't forget who you're programming for and what their goals are.
2. There are no "bad" exercises
Are upright rows bad if you have healthy shoulders?
Are deadlifts bad if you have a healthy lower back?
Are leg extensions bad for your knee's if you want bigger quads and have healthy knees?
No. There are no "bad" exercises. There are exercises that are not optimal for some clients and there are some exercises that do not align with the client's goal or their level of skill, but this does not make the exercise bad, it makes the exercise not right for that particular person at that time.
3. Fun sometimes has to come first
To reiterate point number one - we're not working with athletes. We can allow more room for experiments, games, fun finishers and programming that may not look too different from a Crossfit workout.
Fun will come before fitness and function for some clients.
They may not be in the gym to hit a 100kg deadlift, but they may be in the gym to live a more enjoyable ageing life and making exercise fun could be an important element of that.
4. The client should be involved
Give the client some choice and say in how you set up their programme.
- what exercises or body parts do you enjoy working on?
- what exercises haven't you enjoyed?
- would you like to go up in weight or up in reps next set?
- would you like to finish with finisher A or finisher B?
- would you like to use a barbell or a kettlebell for this overhead press?
It doesn't need to be complicated and some clients will have no interest in having a choice, but it makes sense to get the client involved in how you set your programming up. It will likely encourage them to want to turn up to your sessions if they feel like are involved in the process and given a feeling of autonomy.
The fitness industry is full of myths, misconceptions and bad information. When starting out in your career it’s hard to know what is right, what is wrong and how to tell the difference.