Advance notice: long post. Hey, I've been reading articles from this site since it was testosterone.net, and I finally decided to become a personal trainer about 4 months ago. I've built up a decent client base, and my clients have been getting really good results. The problem is, despite having a good rapport with my clients, I have trouble keeping clients long term. I believe it's mainly because of my lack of sales skills, and my exercise selections. I'm working on the sales skills and learning progressively, but the workout programs that I put clients on are what they need... just not necessarily fun exercises (because they're hard).
The main reason I'm writing this is because of something that happened recently with a (former) client. She hit a plateau when working out on her own, and saw no results for over a month before signing up to train with me. Her goal was to lose 25 lbs. in 4 months. She trained with me for the first 6 weeks and lost 13 lbs., then stopped for a month because she said financially she couldn't afford to keep going. When she was on her own, she went against my advice and did too much cardio, lost 5 lbs., then gained most of it back. Then she did 2 more sessions with me, and out of nowhere, she signs up for over 3 months worth of sessions with another trainer at my gym. I'm not even mad at the other trainer, because the client came to her... but it's been really messing with my head. We had a really good rapport, and nothing weird ever happened, so it really came out of nowhere. I also answered a bunch of questions for her when she would come in to work out on her own, and I referred her to some great articles to read. So why would she act broke then spend over 3 times as much money on somebody else when I got her more than halfway to her goal in less than half the time? I feel a bit used. The other trainer is very good at sales, and to her credit, she is also a good trainer, so that's definitely a factor, but I'm thinking my former client didn't like the difficulty of the new exercises or something like that.
So should I give my clients what they really need, or what they think they need? I print out articles about the spot reducing myth and about how metabolically demanding lifts and interval training etc. is best for fat loss, I write up a detailed list of fat loss diet suggestions based on the things I've learned over the years, but some seem to only think I'm doing a good job when their abs are sore. At my gym, we mostly do half hour training sessions, and most clients only do 2 per week, so I don't have time to add in extra stuff to make them sore in the right places unless I replace something important. I try to give as much help as I can with the other 167 hours of the week that they aren't with me.
For the most part, I currently design programs to have 8 main exercises: 1 squat variation, 1 deadlift variation or other hip-dominant 2 legged exercise, 2 unilateral leg exercises (lunges, step-ups, 1 legged RDLs, split squats, etc.), 1 vertical push, 1 vertical pull, 1 horizontal push, 1 horizontal pull. Within that, I alter based on injury issues and imbalances, and try to get a good ab exercise in at the end (which is hard with some people). My clients alternate between two different workouts, 4-5 exercises per workout, and I usually keep them on a plan for 6 weeks before changing up the main exercises. This way, they get really good at the form and progress a lot in each exercise. For abs, I have them do exercises like planks, pallof press variations, medicine ball throws, etc. They definitely work for my clients, but they don't cause a ton of soreness in the abs, so despite my saying (with confidence) that soreness is not the best indicator of the effectiveness of a workout, it's tough to convince people. Should I just have them do ab exercises with 4 second negatives all the time to increase soreness?
Also, the trainers who I've seen make the most money seem to try to make their clients really dependent on them, and give them a ton of isolation exercises, use mostly machines, and spot excessively. On The Biggest Loser, I noticed a strategy that the trainers use to make clients more dependent; actually BEING a part of the exercise. I do that with the medicine ball throws, but not much else... maybe I should do that more.
So anyway, I know this post is kind of all over the place, but I'm considering changing up my program design and focusing on less compound lifts, then adding more exercises that I know clients would like. It feels wrong, but I think clients would enjoy the workouts more and buy more sessions, and I'm barely making it right now financially. However, those compound lifts are a big reason for the quality results I'm getting with them. Have any of you been in a similar situation? I could use some suggestions.