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How to Manage Your Clients as a Personal Trainer (8 Actionable Techniques)

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Taking good care of your existing clients is the most efficient way to run and expand your business for one simple reason:

Retaining your current clients is far cheaper and easier than signing new ones. 

Expanding your client roster is certainly not impossible, and you should have realistic acquisition goals so long as you can handle the extra workload. However, don’t ignore your current clients, who have trusted you with their time and money, to sign new ones.

Some of the best ways to manage your clients better include showing that you care, understanding their needs, listening before speaking, and providing superior service. 

Read on because we are breaking down these and other tactics below.

How to Manage Your Clients as a Personal Trainer

Here are some of the best strategies to maximize client retention:

  1. Understand your client’s needs, capabilities, and frustrations
  2. Set realistic expectations
  3. Create the best training programs
  4. Offer more than training guidance
  5. Provide ongoing motivation and support
  6. Listen carefully to what they have to say
  7. Use the right tools to offer a superior service

8 Personal Training Tactics for Superior Client Management and Support

1. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Our first tip for managing clients better is more of a mindset shift that many personal trainers would benefit from. We’ll expand upon that philosophy in later points, but here is a brief explanation of why understanding is necessary for effective communication:

To borrow a page from the late Stephen Covey and his excellent book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” good communication requires understanding the other person’s point of view.

Too many people only care about sharing their thoughts and aren’t interested in what others have to say. In his book, Stephen Covey discusses the crucial communication mistake many people make: listening with the intent to respond rather than listening with the intent to understand. 

Making that mistake might not be that big of a deal when having a casual conversation at the grocery store, but it can cost you clients in your professional practice. People need to feel understood to trust you with their time and money.

Fortunately, becoming a more understanding person isn’t difficult or complex. It comes down to setting your ego aside and changing your communication approach. Instead of being wrapped up in your head and thinking of ways to help your clients, simply listen to what they have to say.

Try to understand their point of view, the roadblocks they face, what limiting beliefs they hold, and how they feel. Then, ask follow-up questions to further see things from their point of view before ever making a single suggestion.

2. Understand Your Client’s Needs and Capabilities

One of your primary objectives as a personal trainer is to take the time to understand what prospective clients struggle with and what their current abilities are. 

Too many fitness professionals, especially new trainers, don’t take the time to get to know their clients well. Instead, they assume that all their clients have a similar fitness foundation and deal with the same issues. 

Unfortunately, that way of thinking keeps these trainers in the dark because they fail to understand how to approach each client. As a result, the service provided isn’t ideal, and client satisfaction runs low. 

Additionally, not taking the time to understand your client’s limitations can put them in danger of injury. For instance, if a client has had shoulder issues in the past, having them do certain exercises could aggravate the area, causing old aches to surface. 

The best way to get to know a prospective client and determine if the two of you would be a good fit is to conduct a personal training consultation. Sit down with the client for 30 to 45 minutes and have a simple conversation, where you primarily ask questions and listen to what they have to say.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What goals do you want to achieve? (e.g., weight loss, strength gain, improved balance, etc.)
  • What would you ideally want to achieve in the next 12 to 16 weeks?
  • What is the primary thing stopping you from reaching your goals?
  • Have you experienced injuries in the past?
  • Do you have any health conditions your coach should know about?
  • What is your life like? How would you rate your sleep and stress on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • What is your nutrition like?

Follow-up questions will naturally come up depending on the direction of your conversation goes. For example, if a client primarily wants to lose weight and their biggest challenge is not eating junk food, you might ask:

  • Do you keep junk food at home?
  • Are there any trigger foods you cannot control yourself around?

Once you’ve had a friendly chat and understand your client’s situation better, you should have a good idea if you would be a good fit to work together. If so, the next step would be to perform a personal trainer assessment, where you conduct a more in-depth analysis by looking at things like:

  • Personal info (height, weight, and body fat percentage)
  • Circumference measurements of the arms, chest, waist, thighs, etc.
  • Posture (normal, lordosis, etc.)
  • Functional movement screening to determine their ability to do various movement patterns like deep squats, overhead movements, push-ups, straight leg raises, etc.
  • Cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance

3. Be On The Same Page

Personal training is as much about client management as it is about actually coaching people at the gym. It takes a good understanding of psychology, motivation, and decision-making to provide superior service and develop a good reputation in the fitness industry. 

One of the first things you must do before signing someone as a client is to ensure you’re on the same page, which means taking care of unrealistic expectations.

Too many people, especially beginners, don’t know what to expect or believe that real results happen in the blink of an eye. When it comes time to work with a personal trainer, some clients expect immediate results and are disappointed when that doesn’t happen. 

We can’t blame people for thinking and behaving that way because they’ve been subject to sleazy marketing and false promises for years. Yes, the good old “Get shredded in six weeks!” and “Add 30 pounds of muscle to your frame in six months!”

You should care about your clients’ expectations because that will directly affect their experience working with you and how likely they would be to recommend your services to others. 

Folks will be more likely to enjoy the process and not feel frustrated when they know what to expect by hiring you. That would make retaining clients easier, allow you to expand your client base, and enjoy more recurring revenue.

If nothing else, setting clear expectations can dissuade those seeking instant results from working with you and potentially speaking out against you when they don’t achieve a remarkable transformation in a month. 

But what does it all mean? It could be as simple as telling clients how long it would take to reach their goals and why rushing the process rarely brings good results. 

For example, while conducting your initial consultation, a prospective client might tell you they want to lose 50 lbs as quickly as possible. Your job would be to:

a) Give them a realistic timeframe for losing 50 lbs

b) Explaining why crash dieting and losing weight as quickly as possible is not ideal

Every scenario is different, but the core objective doesn’t change: guide the prospect to realistic expectations and set achievable goals to keep them accountable and motivated.

4. Create the Best Training Programs for Every Client

Training clients is an art. Any coach can have a quick conversation with their client and put together a seemingly good training program. However, it takes a great personal trainer to truly understand the client’s needs and develop an engaging, sustainable, and effective workout plan.

Let’s go over an example of two prospective clients to illustrate what I mean: 

John is a 45-year-old man with a full-time job, a wife, and three kids. He spends many of his waking hours working, commuting to and from work, running errands, taking care of his home, and being with his family.

On the other hand, Steve is a 21-year-old full-time college student. His job is to attend lectures and study. 

Can you spot the subtle differences? While John and Steve could benefit from the same workout program, these two people have unique needs and abilities, which affects their training outcomes.

Because of his busy life, John barely has enough time or energy to work out. In contrast, Steve is much younger and has far fewer obligations, which means he’s bubbling with energy and has much more time for working out.

As a personal trainer, your job is to understand what each client needs, prefers, and can handle.

One sound approach is to prescribe less training to clients, see how they respond, and adjust accordingly. According to research, a good volume goal for hypertrophy is at least ten weekly sets per muscle group, with more work generally leading to quicker results. 

You can use these guidelines to put together workout programs, starting your clients on the lower end, and gradually bumping the volume, so long as they see steady improvements, feel good, and are eager to do more. 

Some clients might be able to tolerate more training and make better progress. However, that’s not always the case, so it’s best to be conservative and only add volume when necessary.

Managing clients and coaching them effectively will come down to producing an initial program and tweaking it as time passes. Tracking progress with Hevy Coach is an efficient way to stay on top of things and ensure that your client is doing the right amount of work for optimal results.

5. Use the Right Tools to Manage Your Clients Better

Like other professions that have been around for decades, personal training has evolved, and it’s your job to stay up-to-date or risk falling behind and being forgotten.

One huge way personal training has changed over the last few years relates to the tools coaches now use. Gone are the days when personal trainers used a logbook and stopwatch to coach clients.

Having the right tools can streamline your entire approach, making it easier to manage clients, coach them better, and keep them accountable.

One tool you should look into is Hevy Coach. The all-in-one coaching platform makes it easy to create programs for clients, make adjustments when necessary, provide feedback, answer client questions, and track clients’ progress. 

Hevy Coach works in tandem with the Hevy app. Your clients download the app, gain access to their training program through it, and log their workouts inside Hevy. As a coach or personal trainer, you can access all that data and easily track each client without flipping through dozens of pages in your logbook.

The Hevy app also comes with neat graphics that display progress across exercises. A single glance can be enough to tell if your clients are making good progress.

Here are a few other examples of personal training software:

MyFitnessPal

While not strictly designed for personal training, MyFitnessPal is an invaluable app for fitness professionals looking to elevate their practice. 

Your clients can log their nutrition and track their calorie intake using the app. Having access to that data can help you determine if their diet aligns with their goals.

EatThisMuch

If you’ve ever had to create meal plans for clients, you probably understand how frustrating and time-consuming it can be. Calculating their calorie needs and creating healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals can be a huge chore, especially for picky eaters. Plus, you would have to make adjustments because each client’s calorie needs will change as they gain or lose weight.

EatThisMuch is a fantastic tool to generate meal plans, even for folks on a diet like keto or paleo. Pick their preferred eating style (if any), input a calorie goal (you can calculate that in the tool), select a meal frequency, and hit ‘Generate.’

Quickbooks

The last tool we recommend today is excellent for those running a personal training business.

Quickbooks is an accounting platform for keeping a close eye on your finances. It includes all the tools you need to track your revenue, understand your expenses, send invoices, and much more.

6. Set Some Boundaries

You’re a great personal trainer, eager to provide the best coaching service in the industry. After all, what’s more important than client satisfaction? 

To do that, you’re always prepared to go above and beyond for each client by changing their training program whenever they want, answering their countless questions, providing nutritional guidance for free, and being available 24/7. 

At first glance, that sounds like a solid strategy to boost client retention and grow a successful practice through word of mouth. However, the eager-to-please approach to personal training comes with a couple of significant drawbacks:

First, the approach is exhausting and stressful because of the high demand and considerable workload. Being available all the time means you’re never truly ‘off’ work because a client might contact you anytime. 

Are you just about to sit down and watch a movie with your significant other? Too bad, Jason needs to know if he can substitute machine flyes for push-ups. Or perhaps you’re ready to go on a trip over the weekend? Well, those eight Instagram messages from your clients need well-thought-out and simple-to-understand responses. (You can also be sure there will be follow-up questions.)

The same is true if you want to become an online personal trainer. Your clients will always have questions, and most will contact you whenever they want, even if their issue isn’t that big of a deal and they can resolve it on their own.

Second, being available all the time limits your client’s development and makes them dependent on you. As a trainer, you should teach clients how to become self-sufficient. That way, they can get value from your services even years down the road, well after they’ve stopped working with you.

(Some people will prefer to keep you on retainer for years, but most would be better off becoming independent.)

You might be able to withstand this pull-my-hair-out stress level for a while, but can you honestly say this is sustainable in the long run? Exactly.


Because of that, you must set boundaries with your personal training clients by establishing clear communication rules from the start. Clients must know when and how to contact you if they want your help. 

For example, you can set a limit of two weekly emails from your clients. Each email should be:

  • Clear
  • Formatted
  • As specific as possible

Such rules might seem harsh, but they improve communication and force your clients to think for themselves to determine what to ask and what they can figure out on their own.

Aside from setting boundaries for coaching and communication, it’s good to define what your services include to avoid confusion or frustration later.

Finally, set up a solid cancellation policy for your clients to know what’s expected of them and what they must do if they want to stop working with you and want a refund.

7. Look Beyond Their Training Program

Personal trainers are expected to provide the best possible guidance in the gym through careful evaluation, intelligent programming, and good decision-making based on feedback. However, as mentioned above, the profession has evolved, and trainers are now expected to help clients with multiple aspects of fitness, which makes sense.

After all, you could offer excellent personal training sessions, but what results can your clients hope to get if they don’t get their nutrition in check? 

You could encourage your clients to seek nutrition coaching elsewhere, but that would be too much hassle for most people. It would be pretty expensive for your clients and more difficult for you because you would have to communicate and coordinate with their nutritionist. 

A better approach is to offer package deals, where you coach clients at the gym and provide other services: calorie tracking, diet tips, etc. Aside from making your services more valuable and different from what other trainers offer, you can offer extras at a discount and retain your clients for longer. 

You can use tools like MyFitnessPal to track your clients’ nutrition closely and EatThisMuch to generate meal plans.

8. Provide Ongoing Motivation, Support, and Encouragement

Keeping clients motivated can be a considerable roadblock. You could be an experienced trainer with specialized knowledge, but you will struggle to grow your roster if you fail to motivate your clients. 

One of the most disheartening things you can experience is to pour hours of time and effort into teaching a client the fundamentals and creating a fitness plan, only for them to give up a week or two down the road.

Online training makes it even more difficult to keep clients engaged due to the lack of in-person interaction.

Fortunately, none of that is to say that you’re doomed to fade into obscurity. If anything, there is an opportunity for a unique value proposition. You might not be the best trainer out there, but engaging your clients through support and encouragement can lead to great success. 

One practical way to boost client engagement is to create an online community where your clients can interact, share ideas, provide and receive encouragement, and have some of their questions answered. For instance, you can have a private group on Facebook.

Speaking of group activities, you can host group fitness sessions occasionally, especially if you’ve rented a studio. You can offer these classes for free to bring your clients together and encourage healthy competition among them. 

For instance, if you traditionally coach clients in a gym, a group class could feature challenges that test everyone’s strength, endurance, and agility. Some degree of competition can motivate your clients to push themselves harder and be more consistent during their regular sessions to do better in a future group class.

One distinct but underrated aspect of Hevy is that it connects users and fosters relationships. You can interact with thousands of other like-minded individuals, see what workouts they are doing, and comment on their accomplishments. 

Another effective way to motivate more clients is to be compassionate and understanding, especially to new clients with little to no training experience. Too many coaches carry the false belief that pushing their clients to the limit like they are recruits in the army is good for morale. 

The truth is that people are far more receptive to positive reinforcement and far more likely to continue working with you if they associate the coaching experience with positive emotions: happiness, fulfillment, gratitude, satisfaction, hope, etc. 

Be a source of inspiration for your clients and make them believe they can reach their goals, no matter their limiting beliefs.

Read next: 8 Personal Training Motivation Tips (+4 Mistakes to Avoid)

Final Words

Taking good care of your existing clients is one of the best ways to earn more money, grow your roster, and develop a good reputation. 

Too many coaches make the fatal error of only focusing on client acquisition without properly caring for the people who have already trusted them with their time and money.

Proper client management starts with something simple: seek first to understand your clients by listening to them before telling them what to do. Try to see things from their point of view and feel what they feel. Doing so will always give you a competitive edge and make you a far more desirable personal trainer. 

Additionally, understand your client’s needs and physical abilities, keep potential limitations in mind (e.g., previous injuries), set clear expectations, have some boundaries, use the right tools to streamline your services, and provide the best possible training plan.

Check out Hevy Coach––the all-in-one platform for personal trainers and coaches to keep track of each client, provide training plans, offer guidance, and much more. In addition, you can test the platform for free with one client to explore all the great features that make client management a breeze.

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