T Nation

Tips for a New Personal Trainer


I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this thread but here goes.

I've been lifting for about 3.5 years now and eating clean for about 2 so i think i look the part enough to attract a few possible clients. I've never formally trained anyone; with my only experience teaching being the assistance i provided friends getting in on the sport.

I've been in the military for the past four years and i had them pay for my brand new personal fitness trainer certificate through the America College of Sports Medicine. I'm seperating shortly and i'll be looking for employment as a trainer as i work towards a degree in exercise science or human performance...i want to make this my life.

I was wondering if any of you out there have any good little tidbits for a new trainer on the scene.

I'm particullary curious about how you put up with BS. Throughout the certification course it seems that bodybuilding gets bashed a lot and it also seems that the average client demographic is women in the 30s and 40s. I would love to help people become stronger and bigger and i'm not too excited to help old women shed their fat asses but hey....whatever pays i guess.

I've read T-Nation so much....its actually the reason i aced the course. There was hardly any new information pressnted to me in that course that i didn't already know from cruising the forums and reading the coach articles. Thanks guys!

That being said, it's obvoius that i've adopted a certain mentality to training and nutrition. I bring up nutrition because during the nutrition portion of the course all kinds of BS was being flung and my teacher critized me on my diet because of the carbs and amounts of eggs/meat that i take in and whatnot. I tried to talk about cholesterol (ldl and hdl) and how it helps T production and all that jazz but she called it a 'jump in one science to another'. Ya i know cholesterol is dangerous and i wouldn't load a client up on it and all but jeez gimme a break. i'm eating according to my goal ya know.

But she also wrecked my paper about the dangers of soy...which used T-Nation articles as a reference i might add :D. What i'm getting at is i can see a trend coming about with my new clients. I get a guy that wants some size. I deem him safe to exercise and make a program for him. Not being an actual nutritionist, i point him to the one on staff. And i find out later that they have him on some bitch diet that won't help him at all.

Does this happen much to yall??

Also, do you implement much from T-Nation at all? And if so do you feel you are critized for the 'not so norm' techniques?

Any other information would be awesome too! just stuff that you think would have been great to know when you were first starting out.

i look forward to yall's replies!


1- it's all about the client

2- care about every client (if you're not into training certain niches, then don't just because it pays the bills)

3- it's all about the client, when they are with you, be sure that you are with them and don't let others in the gym or other things distract you

4- be professional. seems obvious, but it covers a vast array things

5- if you have great people skills you'll do great in this field

there's obviously more, but that's a start


A few things.....

You can give diet advice for mass gain, fat loss, or general health, but not for the treatment of any conditions, like diabetes, or high blood pressure. When in doubt, rely on the nutritionist, but there is nothing wrong with telling someone about eating clean, or eating for size, or whatever.

As for adapting to the industry, thats been the hardest thing. It really depends on the clientel you are hoping to work with. From my experience there are 2-3 types of average clients.

1) The one that is paying you to get the results they are looking for.

2) The one that is paying you because they feel guilty about not being able to stick to a diet or whatever

3) The one that really just enjoys working out and likes fun and entertaining workouts.

The most important thing is to figure out where your client falls and cater the workout to them.

The person that is highly motivated to reach their goal of losing 10lbs of fat will be happy with whatever you do with them, as long as they feel you are helping them reach this goal. Whereas the person in the number 3, will get pissed off with a similar program because the basic effective lifts are not that fun.

Theres all different types of clients, and the best IMO are the ones that are coming to you to achieve there goals at all costs. But you gotta cater to them all..

Aside from that, a lot can be used from T-Nation and other sites. Much of the info on here is a step or two above what the average trainer might know. I also always try to stress safety and preparedness. I deal with mainly men and women 40-50. I find no reason to train any of them with barbell movements at the moment for various reasons, and thus have had to change my training style a lot.

You'll learn as you go, and its a good idea to keep some form of journal and notes, to right down things as you learn. Otherwise time will pass and you wont reflect on your experiences.

Hope this helps....


I hate to kill your hopes, but the Soccer Mom's will likely be paying your bills. Especially if you get a job at a commercial gym (ie. anything with the word 'fitness' in the clubs name.).

My advice: Make it fun, but give them a hard workout. I see some trainers that are dull and have their clients spending a half hour doing various bullshit on a bosu ball. The result is the client is bored, isn't seeing results, and stops seeing the trainer. But then there are a couple of trainers at my gym that give their clients a "real workout", give them good advice, and are friendly. Those clients see results, keep coming back for more, and in turn the trainers make a decent living.


A couple of the PTs that I knew personally, would tell me that they're job was to get the client tired at the end of the session. They knew that a very small percentage of them were serious enough to commit to a life changing process, but knew when they encountered someone that was. Sex sells, stuff an inflatable phallus in your XS sweatpants to attract clientele.


It is mostly women clients and i find they also love to do boxing and kicking pads.
Get yourself some pads and gloves, most women love it.


Most clients will have been misinformed about training and nutrition from media and 'friends'. Do not come across harsh when this becomes an issue ("your friends don't know what they're talking about!"). Explain things as well as you can. but do not drown clients with info. THey want results, not a degree. Find the middle ground with each client.

Every client is different. I had a stripper years ago who wanted a bigger ass. I had here doing all of the exercises I wouldn't have any of my other female clients doing -lol. Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, especially women, who will come with the worst misconceptions about how they'll accidentally get huge.

If a client comes to you with something that someone they obviously know/respect advised them, do not trash it no matter how wrong it is. Say "that's pretty good, but lemme show you one better!" (I do this when I teach - compliment, then 'correct' or 'readdress')

Do not get into your head that you have to help everyone on the floor. It's annoying, and the experienced trainers will not be cool with you.

Understand that no matter how much you keep up with 'stuff', you will never know everything. I have been training 16 years, and my training partner only 2, but he'll come up with some great issues, or bring in some articles with concepts I never thought of. Once you think you know it all, you're done.

Good luck bro.



Hopefully, they didn't think that was even remotely one of the major parts of the job.


Thanks for the tips yall! there's some good stuff in there.

I'll try to maintain a professional atmosphere while being charismatic and fun. I get that it's all about the client too..i just look up to these guys like CT and Waterbury and i just aspire to be as knowledgeable, helpful, and respected as they are.

As for nutrition. You're saying that i can offer them general guidelines but not a specific meal/supplement plan right? (i'm not sure how to quote multiple people on here).

Generally, are trainers allowed to give their clients supplements. I ask because i remember reading an old Waterbury article where he said that when he got a new client he would have preworkout and postworkout supplements ready for them for the beginning phases of a program so they see better results. This is good because not only are their goals being reached faster, but they are more likley to sustain a contract with the trainer...good for business ya know. Does this generally fly?

Also, how many of the trainers here have degrees and do you think that most gyms want more than just a certification to employ? I've seen both.

I can only hope to get motivated people who really really want to get somewhere in a gym. I knew that i wanted to be a trainer when i picked up this skinny kid during one of my trips to iraq as my training partner. I wanted to go with a guy more advanced than me to possibly learn some stuff but he reminded me of myself when i started and i wanted to save him that 'bumper year' where you just fuck up and do wrong shit.

Thats what happened to me. I was making gains...of course. i was responsive as a newbie and all the gains were neurological and not so much hypertrophy. But i saw results and kept plugging away at my retarded program that i got from a friend. It did not suit my goals whatsoever. SO! i helped this kid and i was as stoked as he was when he looked in the mirror and began to see results. It's just exciting!

A journal is DEF a good idea. Thanks for that tip; i'd never considered it.

Lastly, stu i think i got the most out of your words. Very inspiring stuff! i think i'm a little nervous about being able to cater directly to a client's needs. ie...your strippers butt. but i know that the knowledge will kick in and it wont be a problem. The whole gungho helping everyone thing is good too. I don't want to be that new douchebag guy.

I really like the whole not to trash their bad info or overload them. i once overloaded a friend with leg info and muscle fiber stuff. i thought it was incredibly easy and i thought i broke it down but she was still lost as shit. So yeah...general terms. And the hunt for knowledge never end!

Thanks much yall! thanks for the motivation and good wishes.


Glad to help bro, keep us informed how things are going. Also, remember that you have a pretty knowledgable bunch of people on here who are really into learning new things, and advancing their own training to bounce ideas off of.



You can give general nutritional info, yes.

You can't prescribe a diet.

I go over Berardi's 7 Habits, and his 21 Superfoods. And have the client construct their meal plan from those foods mainly, with other foods obviously being ok.

Supplements are tricky too. Protein you're probably ok, can't really go wrong there.

Other things like Fat-Burners, be very careful, cover your butt. I wouldn't recommend them to a client, if you do, make sure to have them sign a waiver similar to what Biotest does when you order HOT-ROX from here.


A few points to add to the killer info the other guys already covered:

  • For nutrition, suggest guidelines (rather than detailed, specific diet plans) and explain how important a 24/7 diet is compared to the two or three hours a week they're training with you in the gym.

  • For supplements, again, suggest guidelines. Regarding fat burners, I don't even bring it up, I let them inquire first. For example, you could mention the importance of PWO shakes, and maybe offer to pick them up their first bottle (which you may or may not want to do for free), but if you work in a gym with a smoothie bar, your manager might not like it.

  • Build your toolbox. The more open-minded you are, the better trainer you'll become. Learn a little bit about every type of training you can, and then process it through your own sieve to find out what you can apply to each client.

  • In a commercial gym, especially as a beginner, you'll have to work with every client you can, but that's a good thing (see above). Eventually, you can branch out on your own and consider specializing.

In your case, if you wanted to, you could play off your military background - boot camp fitness classes (very popular), "get a military workout", etc. It might seem like a schtick, but when you're an independent trainer, you've got to stand out among the crowd.

  • Build that portfolio with before/after pics and testimonials from every client. Each one is a reference tool to convince future clients (and future employers) that you can deliver results.

  • Read through this thread, where a bunch of T-Nation trainers have vented and spilled their brains:

  • Network, network, network. I know a little fella from humble beginnings in Montana who took one plane ride across the country to meet some people, next thing you know, two years later he's writing for the best training website on the Web and has a nationally-published book.


And he's banged a stripper!

This thread is awesome. I'm currently taking my CPT course and I was going to start a similar thread in the upcoming weeks.

Thanks for that other link, too, Chris.


[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

  • Build your toolbox. The more open-minded you are, the better trainer you'll become. Learn a little bit about every type of training you can, and then process it through your own sieve to find out what you can apply to each client.

Ya i've thought about this before. the course included info on some stuff that i thought was a bit goofy...series of balance moves or actual routines based entirely on stretching exercises.

I can see why this would help someone with a below average range of motion on a joint or something like that but i don't see much more application than that. Also...plyometrics. They seem to me that they might be useful for athletes in season training to maintain but not so much for actual gains in a gym. Thoughts?

In your case, if you wanted to, you could play off your military background - boot camp fitness classes (very popular), "get a military workout", etc. It might seem like a schtick, but when you're an independent trainer, you've got to stand out among the crowd.

hmm that may work. to be honest military training is such a joke. its designed for the masses so if you are an avid gym goer then it isn't going to do much. but....most of the clients will be below average so you may have something worthwhile with this idea :D.

  • Build that portfolio with before/after pics and testimonials from every client. Each one is a reference tool to convince future clients (and future employers) that you can deliver results.

Do you find it difficult to have people get over their embarrasment to take before photos?

hmmm...biffed up this quote thing pretty well.


A good majority won't do the picture because they are afraid of facing the reality. They will however bring in an old picture for you to copy to compare to your after picture more often then not.

Also the best tip I have found is in the beginning it's 90% what the client wants and 10% what you feel they need. So if your clients posture sucks but she has great legs. If she says she wants to hit the legs hard. Make them butrn and then with the last five, ten minutes work in the postural exercises. Why?

Because by demonstrating you listen to their wishes you are validating them. And this establishes trust. Then as time goes on the percentages change 80/20, 70/30, etc.

Till finally they are listening 100% to what you feel they need.

Now some will actually have the right attitude coming in. Especially after your reputation is established. But for those clients who seem for lack of a better term "stand-offish", this tactic works.

Good luck.


this is what I do

you definitely need take make up some contracts and business cards, flyers, if you can afford radio ads go for it

  1. Insurance, if ur club doesnt provide it get your own-or if youre like me and dont work in a club get insurance

Have a strict rule set tht displays all you feelings for certain behavior, like skipping workouts or being a lazy or dragging ass during a wokout- you cannot be afaid to put a boot up someone's ass

and on that note lol, have a reward system, i have Animal clothing that I give to my clients when they reach a certain goal, ranging from a hat all the way to the Animal sweatshirt and jersey,

be available, if u work at home like me, allow your clients to schedule th workouts when ever-it makes them feel like they have more control-and when the customer feels they have control, they are easier to control!!!

sell supps, if u want I can hook u up with my supp guy and u can get in our biz,-trust it man, this will def put some cash n you hands

um yea man, hope this helps, and get back to me


Is that insurance generally expensive?

My schedule will be very flexible as i'll be doing schooling online and i imagine i won't be training fulltime so i'll have lots of slots open.

I totally forgot about the whole crapping out part. Do you have your clients pay full ahead so they have more incentive to not drop out? How many 'freebies' do you give them for skipping out on a session without giving a heads up or anything like that? Do you still charge them for the session?

I'll definatly contact you about the supplement dealio. I've got to find employment first and see what the atmosphere is like before i start planning anything.

For exapmle, some of the gyms i've talked to said they watch for the trainers doing 'crazy stuff' with people. to me this screams that they are ultra foofoo...like anti deadlift and supplement scorners!

I once worked out at a 'fitness center' with a large red alarm on the main wall above the mirrors. It said, "MEATHEAD ALARM". Underneath was an explanation of the term meathead with things such as, grunting, yelling, dangerous exercising, and judging. so ridic hahaha.


insurance is about $160-180/yr


Develop a cancellation policy with your clients. Whether it's 24-48 hrs, have them read and sign in, stating that they are aware of the terms of it.

Now, there are some clients that down the line once they show commitment and a good history of showing up, then if something comes up, no biggie, I'll RS them with no charge.

You'd be amazed how many people will not respect your time, unless you make it clear that your time is valuable.


Yes they do. Women love anything which makes them forget they're "working out". They will eat up every new gimmick this industry comes up with.