Personal Training

When a Client is Stronger Than You Are

It's difficult to become something you can't see. That's the reason I wrote the post about the value of body size diversity within the personal trainer community. This week I want to address a specific concern I hear a lot from aspiring trainers--what to do if you have a client who is stronger than you in some way, or is ready for exercises that you aren't able to demonstrate?

My philosophy on this is pretty simple. I don't need to be able to do every exercise at its most advanced level. What I do need to be able to do is to communicate how to do an exercise properly. Sometimes that's me demonstrating exactly what I want them to do, and other times it's explaining it in words. And both of those things work just fine.

The other thing is that people don't hire me to exercise with them. They hire me because I have expertise that's of value to them, because I create workouts that are fun and effective for them, and because I keep them safe while they exercise. So, a workout isn't ever about what I can do. It's about what the client can do and what I can teach them to do. Does that make sense? I don't always demonstrate my full range of motion on an exercise with a client who maybe isn't as strong as I am. Conversely, I don't need to be able to demonstrate what a client who is stronger than me can do, in order to be effective as a trainer.

An assumption that a lot of trainers make is that the only reason a client is looking to hire a trainer is to lose weight. There are myriad reasons why someone decides to exercise that have nothing to do with getting thinner. Which brings me to the last point I want to make: focus on your strengths as a trainer and the right clients will find you.

Think about a university and the diversity of expertise it contains. You wouldn't expect a math professor to teach you all about history, or a biology professor to help you become a great writer. They each have their little corner of academia and that's where they live. You will have that too as a fitness professional. You won't be the right trainer for everyone. But you will be the right trainer for someone--many someones, hopefully :-)

If you have specific questions about becoming a trainer, wherever you're starting from, please leave them below and I'll do my best to answer. You can also email me directly at if you'd rather your comment remain private.

Why We Need You

This post is for you. It is. All of you aspiring personal trainers. And it's for those of you who aren't quite ready to call yourself "aspiring," but feel the dream of it tugging at your heart every now and then. It's for those of you who wonder whether you have the right to dream that dream if you don't have six-pack abs, or if you've never seen anyone who looks remotely like you represented in media depictions of the fitness world. 

I'm here to tell you that you do. And I would argue that the fitness industry actually needs you to achieve that dream. That the two-thirds of the U.S. population who are clinically overweight or obese, especially need you.

I wasn't always a regular exerciser. I wasn't always a trainer. I wasn't a lifelong athlete. I was an indoor kid with poor coordination and a tendency to use food for comfort. My body responded  by putting on weight. 

My experience with being overweight was that it was physically and emotionally uncomfortable. It may not be that for every overweight person, but I can only speak from my own experience of it. For me, exercise was difficult and sometimes painful. Gyms intimidated me because I didn't know what I was doing and I feared that the other people there were judging me. Worse, the modes of exercise that appealed to me at the time seemed to naturally draw graceful people. Thin people. Not-me people. To put it simply, exercise was a place I felt I didn't belong. For a long time.

We are all products of our experiences. Well, maybe more specifically, products of the stories we tell ourselves about those experiences. My experience as an overweight person eventually shaped my decision to pursue personal training as a career, and shapes how I do what I do now, as a trainer.

Your struggles with your own body, whatever they may be, will shape you as a fitness professional too. Maybe for you it isn't being overweight. Maybe it's that you have an injury or condition that limits your mobility in some way. Maybe you've dealt with an eating disorder in the past. I don't know. 

But I do know this: if you are willing to be vulnerable, if you are willing to share what's real and true about you, it will be the very thing that makes your clients choose you. People opt for genuine over perfect and empathetic over clinical, almost every time. This is especially true when they are navigating intimidating situations, such as working out or, even, choosing a doctor. They want someone who "gets" them, whether they articulate that to you or not. . 

If you are interested in becoming a trainer but are insecure about your body for any reason, what I'm telling you to do may go against every instinct you have. I'm basically telling you to highlight it. To draw attention to it. To admit you aren't perfect. To tell your story so that prospective clients can see themselves in it.

Nikki was the first personal trainer I hired. When I looked at her website I spent my time on one page, primarily: her bio page. She wrote about her eating disorder, history of poor body image, and the damage she'd done to herself with unhealthy choices. Her journey wasn't exactly like mine, but it didn't matter. The fact that she struggled in some way made me feel like she understood how it felt to be where I was. When we met in-person that sense was reinforced, and it was that personal connection--her ability to empathize with me--that made me choose her. 

What about you? If you've hired a trainer before, what was most important to you in making your selection? Did you need to know their body fat percentage, or were other things bigger factors in your decision? How can you apply that knowledge to how you present yourself to prospective clients? 

Always feel free to reach out to myself or Nikki if you are an aspiring trainer with questions! You can leave a Comment below or contact us here