Focus: To understand the considerations when it comes to designing training programs to a variety of clients.
What You'll Learn In this section, we will discuss various considerations you should take into account when designing a program for your client. These include training age, exercise history, injuries, psychology, stress and nutrition. We will also look at creating some systems, so you can take these considerations into account before you work on the program.
Why is This Important? Before writing your training program, there are typically three steps you will go through with your client. The first phase of effective program design begins with a thorough consultation and assessment. This ensures you can talk about things such as your client’s previous training experiences and any injuries whilst also making a visual assessment of their current condition. The next step is to discuss their goals and create a time frame to work with the client on those goals. Finally, once you have this information, you can then create comprehensive exercise program. In this part of the course, we will break down the considerations in more detail.
During the consultation, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. When I was personal training, I systemised my consultation process by creating a checklist of questions I would ask at each consultation. I would arrive to the consultation with my laptop and the checklist on the screen, but the laptop would stay closed throughout the consultation. I had memorised most of the questions, however if I forgot a question, I would open my laptop, refer back to my checklist and continue with the consultation. Once the consultation was done, I would take some notes with the information.
After the consultation was finished, I would then send an invite for the client to use My PT Distinction (check out our review here). When they received an invite, there was an automated set of consultative questions for the client to answer. Questions would include things about their goals, injuries, stress levels and so on. This was a safety measure in case anything was missed during the consultation. I then set the client up in an email autoresponder series and in the first email, I requested a 3 day food diary from them. This allowed me to look at their current nutrition protocol before designing a new plan for them.
We will now break down the various considerations in more detail.
Training Age and Exercise History
An important thing to consider is your clients training age and exercise history. Training age is important, so you know how advanced your client’s program should be. Someone with a high training age may be able to do more advanced movements and more challenging workouts, whereas someone with a low training age may require more time and attention with the basics. Exercise history is also important, so you know whether to include sessions designed for coaching specific movement patterns. You can find out the last time they exercised, so you know where your progression should start from.
Injuries are one of the most important things to understand in a client. Having a thorough understanding of injuries means you can better optimise your program, helping your client recover quicker. With information on injuries, you may be able to add specific bits of rehabilitative and/or mobility work to the session, and/or give them additional rehabilitative work to perform outside of the session. This information will also allow you to pay particular attention to injured areas. For example, if a client is squatting with knee pain, you can continually talk to them about their pain and adjust intensity based on said pain.
Whilst on the surface, your clients can seem absolutely fine, they may have internal issues you can not see.From experience, I once encouraged a client to partake in some boxing pad work at the end of the session. She was always very enthusiastic about lifting weights, so I figured she would love to “let it out” with some pad work. At the next session, I asked her if she wanted to do it again. To my surprise, she said after last time, she felt very anxious and it made her feel really bad. Whilst I thought my client was fine, there was clearly some underlying problem which I had no discovered prior to boxing. We didn’t continue pad work, and I became much more aware of how my tonalities when addressing her.
A great question to ask clients is whether they have had a personal trainer in the past - and what they did, and more importantly did not like about the trainer. That way, you can address their dislikes early on.
21st century life can lead to high levels of stress, as you’re probably already aware. Whilst you may not be stressed, it’s not something we recommend you overlook in your clients. The first step is to pre-assess their stress levels by talking to them. One idea is to incorporate this into your consultation by asking them to what degree they suffer from stress (low, medium, high) and what their main causes of strength are (e.g. worry, fear, environment, drugs and alcohol etc).
As their coach, it’s best to assess each client individually and tailor your workouts dependant on stress levels.
Low stress: Clients with low levels of stress typically have no restrictions and can work at a high intensity.
Medium stress: It’s important to understand what is causing the client’s stress and try to develop ways to overcome it. You may choose to coach them on bringing awareness to those stress levels through mindfulness. Alternatively, you may choose to incorporate regular relaxation, meditation and yoga into a program.
High stress: Clients suffering with high amounts of stress need to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid physical or psychological breakdown. You may need to look into their relationships, sleep levels, nutrition and work to help them overcome those issues. A high stress client should probably be doing activities such as Pilates and yoga as well as some low intensity cardio and weight training.
Another consideration to take into account is your client’s nutrition. Nutrition will dictate how quickly they progress, or digress, and there are a few things you can do to ensure their nutrition helps and not hinders them. The first thing you could do is get your client to complete a 3-day nutrition diary. You could then advise them on where they are potentially making mistakes in their food choices for their goals. You may come up with some guidelines and coach them on some basic principles. For example, if your client is going for fat loss, you may coach them on a calorie deficit, adequate protein intake, not drinking calories and/or ketogenic diets. On the other hand, if your client is going for hypertrophy, you may coach them on a calorie surplus, pre, intra and post-workout nutrition and meal preparation. You want to provide guidelines on nutrition so your client reaches their bigger goals.
Whilst there are many influencers and magazines that offer workouts and programs for free, or very inexpensively, there are many factors that need to be taken into account when writing a program. Programs should be personalized based on each client. We have discussed some of the main areas you should consider before beginning to write that program so you can better serve you clients.