How To Do A Personal Training Session

How To Conduct A Personal Training Session | EMAC Certifications

Conducting Client Coaching Sessions 

Since the fitness profession is evolving, it’s helpful to know how to do a personal training session. There’s more than just providing a workout through a private personal training session. This is because clients can get exercises to do on the internet. Therefore, the best personal trainers provide a fitness coaching service across a variety of platforms. There is a general coaching format that includes getting a status update, collecting data, and doing a workout. Then, a client and trainer work together to develop a plan. It follows the same format as any other healthcare professional appointment. However, planning for it and how to execute the personal training session will look different depending on the platform. 

Here, we’ll explore the different personal training roles and session structures ranging from the traditional in gym training experience to online coaching. To coach online personal training is different from operating out of a gym. So, prepare and provide the best training experience possible to all fitness clients. 

General Coaching Session Format

Although there are different ways you can coach or conduct your personal training session, they should all follow a similar format. The format follows the acronym SOAP. SOAP notes are common with healthcare providers and are a good way to keep client records in addition to personal training client paperwork. SOAP notes for a personal trainer have a slight variation than the traditional version and it looks like this:

  • Subjective Information: This is the informal check in of “How’s it going” to get a general understanding of how the client is feeling. It can be helpful to do a quick rating such as, “Out of four stars, how has it been going since we last met?”.
  • Objective Information: This is the data that you measure against their subjective self-rating. It usually involves weighing the client in or reviewing their food log. For athletes, muscular development, or functional fitness clients use a consistent metric that ties to their goal.
  • Activity and Assessment: This is when you take the client through the workout for the day, if you’re training in person. If you’re a virtual personal trainer you either demo the upcoming exercises for a workout or move into the assessment segment. The word “assessment’ isn’t like the comprehensive fitness assessments personal trainers do. Instead, it is where your expertise comes in and is a snapshot of how you think the client is doing. For example, a weight loss client may come in saying they feel great and have been following your recommendations. But you weigh them in and they’re up two pounds from the previous week, there could be a disconnect. So, the assessment is your interpretation of what’s going on with the client. In this example, it could be “Off track by two pounds (7,000 calories) or water weight fluctuations. Need to revisit food measurement, portion control, and water intake.”
  • Plan: Once you have a good snapshot , it’s time to talk about what’s next. If you’re working with a client three times a week, it could be something as simple as reminding them how much water to drink daily, nutrition process goals, and cardio recommendations. If you meet with the client less frequently, this should be more robust and include specifics around the workout they’ll be doing each day until you meet again. It’s one of the ways to hold fitness clients accountable on their off days.

Traditional In Person Training And Fitness Coaching

Traditional personal training where members of a gym purchase the services of a fitness professional are still popular. Depending on whether you’re working in a larger gym chain or a smaller boutique gym, the roles and responsibilities are different. However, regardless of the type of fitness facility, most in-person trainers have the same type of general structure. They either:

  • Are one of the only times a client will workout (trainer reliant exercise)
  • Meet with a client for some workouts and provide individual programming for other training days (client autonomous exercise)
  • Offer small group training sessions clients and members can drop into (group training)

Trainer Reliant In-Person Training Sessions

In this type of role, meeting with a certified personal trainer is often the only time the client will do a strength training workout. Sometimes the trainer will provide cardio recommendations for the client’s off days, but the exercise success of the client is a joint effort of the trainer and client during training session days. For this reason, the client usually has a larger personal training package where they meet with the trainer at least two times per week and sometimes as much as four times or more each week. Each training session is 30 or 60 minutes with nearly all the time spent on a good resistance training workout. Because of the session frequency, little time is spent discussing other activities throughout the week. If there is additional coaching around the “off-days” it usually centers around nutrition compliance- depending on the client’s fitness goals. 

60 Minute Sessions

Depending on the training style, some coaches will have the client warm up and cool down independently. Some clients will be willing to do these activities autonomously, while others will want to complete it with the trainer. In other cases, where a client needs injury prevention or movement preparation work, it’s likely the trainer should oversee this part. However, client independence should come down to the mutually agreed upon program goals (process and outcome) and the corresponding accountability agreement. The following is a typical session structure.

  • :00 – :10 (10 minutes) Client check in, warmup, and discussion around food log and nutrition compliance
  • :10 – :55 (45 minutes) Resistance training workout tailored to client unique needs
  • :55 – :60 (5 minutes) Planning for upcoming barriers to nutrition compliance, scheduling, and check out

30 Minute Sessions

In these types of sessions, time is of the essence. Therefore the certified trainer should focus most of the time on the workout, minimizing time spent on coaching. This requires both the trainer and client to prepare and use time efficiently. Clients should come ready to talk about any challenges with their workout or meal plan. Likewise, the trainer should look at the client’s food log in advance to guide conversation in-session. The trainer should provide the client with specific protocols for the warm-up and cool down. And, the client should arrive early and plan to stay after to complete these transitional parts of the training session.

  • :00 – :03 Check in and review
  • :03 – :28 Resistance training workout designed for time efficiency
  • :28 – :30 Recap, schedule, and check out

Client Autonomous In- Person Training Sessions

Here “Client autonomous” means the client completes most of the workouts outside of the training session. In this role, the trainer needs to write out weekly workouts for the client in advance. The client won’t be seeing the trainer much, usually once per week and in some cases once every other week. 

Because of the infrequent training sessions, fitness professionals have to spend more time on client education, client motivation, and client accountability. When a client is spending more time on their fitness program without their trainer, they need more than a great workout. In fact, they need to be as effective without the trainer as they are with the trainer. This is where EMAC Certified Personal Trainers really come through. This type of training session works well for clients who are more experienced or for those who need a more cost efficient training experience. They can be 60 minute sessions or 30 minute sessions.

60 Minute Client Autonomous Sessions

There is much to cover if a client is completing 80% of their exercise program independently. Therefore the breakdown of the session places more emphasis on the coaching rather than the workout for the day.

  • :00 – :15 Check in and review nutrition compliance, physical activity compliance, independent workout performance, overview of upcoming session
  • :15 – :45 Workout for the day with a focus on teaching new movements, strong exercise technique feedback, and identification of exercises they’ll also experience independently in the upcoming week
  • :45 – :55 Upcoming workout design changes, explanation of upcoming workout goals and expectations, planning for upcoming barriers to exercise and nutrition compliance, check
  • :55 – :60 scheduling and checkout

30 Minute Autonomous Sessions

Conducting a 30 minute coaching session where a client completes 80% of their weekly activity goals independently requires maximum planning and time efficiency. It’s not ideal, but can work for the right type of personal training client and with the right trainer. Here, the session shouldn’t be considered a workout. Instead, it’s a workout follow up. After the check in and touchbase, the trainer should have a plan to show the client the exercises and movements they’ll see in their upcoming workouts. This is especially important when using at home exercises since a fitness professional won’t be around. Here, the trainer should focus on teaching more challenging movements so the client can get the technique right. For example, if the client has a leg day coming up the trainer should spend more time on showing the client different lunge techniques and variations, rather than having the client go through basic squat form. The more complex exercises are the highlight of the movement portion of these sessions. Additionally, the overview of what’s expected to come in the days to follow are done at the beginning rather than the end. This helps maximize time together and helps the client keep focus on exercise review. A session structure can follow this format.

  • :00 – :10 Check in and review nutrition compliance, physical activity compliance, independent workout performance, overview of upcoming weekly goals and expectations.
  • :10 – :25 Review upcoming complex exercises or different areas of focus (for example demonstrating how to do eccentric loading correctly)
  • :25 – :30 Check out, scheduling, and final questions

Group Training

Small group training is ideal for both the client and trainer. The client is able to have exercise program oversight with a lower price point. And, since the trainer is working with more than one person at a time, they’re able to increase their hourly rate. Most group training is “drop-in”. Meaning the client has the option to attend. This means the trainer is spending less time coaching the client on nutrition and behaviors. Therefore the majority of the experience is only about the workout for that specific day.

Hybrid Coaching- Live And Online

This form of coaching includes client and trainer interactions inside the gym and outside the gym. The time spent in the fitness facility is one part of the relationship (doing assessments and teaching new exercises and exercise technique). Then, the coaching interactions and program follow up are conducted separately, as part of online personal training

It’s similar to the Client Autonomous In-Person Training structure. The trainer develops workout programs that the client can do independently. These workouts include strength training and cardio. Then, the trainer follows up with the client across a digital platform (email, social media, video conference, phone) to track progress and provide modifications to the program. To maintain a coaching relationship, the trainer will talk to the client in a synchronous way, usually by video conference. Here, the trainer does the education, motivation, and accountability aspects of training that are normally seen in more traditional forms of training.

Following this format allows the trainer to be less reliant on a physical space to do the training. Usually, the trainer and client will only meet once or twice per month. These sessions are milestone sessions and serve as benchmarks for a fitness goal.  A scheduling structure throughout the month can follow this format:

Week 1

  • Monday: LIVE Assessment, goal setting, and weekly workout explanation
  • Tuesday: Independent cardio and strength workout (IW)
  • Wednesday:  IW
  • Thursday: Email follow up for progress and quick changes
  • Friday: IW
  • Saturday: IW  
  • Sunday: Off- client sends weekly report of progress (workouts and nutrition)

Week 2

  • Monday: Video conference coaching session and weekly workouts are provided
  • Tuesday: IW
  • Wednesday:  IW
  • Thursday: Email follow up for progress and quick changes
  • Friday: IW
  • Saturday: IW  
  • Sunday: Off- client sends weekly report of progress (workouts and nutrition)

Week 3

  • Monday: Video conference coaching session and weekly workouts are provided
  • Tuesday: IW
  • Wednesday:  IW
  • Thursday: Email follow up for progress and quick changes
  • Friday: IW
  • Saturday: IW  
  • Sunday: Off- client sends weekly report of progress (workouts and nutrition)

Week 4

  • Monday: LIVE Coaching session for re-assessment, new goal setting, program modification, and workout explanation
  • Tuesday: IW
  • Wednesday:  IW
  • Thursday: Email follow up for progress and quick changes
  • Friday: IW
  • Saturday: IW  
  • Sunday: Off- client sends weekly report of progress (workouts and nutrition)

Depending on the type of personal training package, there can be more or less digital interaction. For example, the client can also be part of a social media group that the trainer facilitates. Here the client can pose questions and the client can provide feedback and follow up. Or, the client might provide online fitness challenges to keep engagement high. 

The more touchpoints the trainer has with the client, the higher the package price will be. High touch points will be important for new clients and weight loss clients. However, as a client becomes more advanced, understands the process, or gets closer to their goal, the trainer can provide fewer touchpoints.

Online Only Coaching

Given that exercise is a physical experience, online coaching can be difficult for a trainer. However, it’s not only possible but also effective. In this scenario, the EMAC personal trainer will use their skills on education, motivation, and accountability. To do this, a trainer will also need to increase their client touch points. This will help keep the client engaged and feel invested in the coaching relationship. 

Communication Platforms For Online Coaching

Ideally, the trainer should find a way to engage with the client a minimum of once every other day, or four times per week. These are the different ways the trainer can communicate:

  • Text messaging. You can plan and schedule these out in advance using automated text software. Or you can just make it part of your daily practice sending quick check ins, motivational words, or reminders.
  • Social media. In a closed social media group you can give shout outs to clients, provide workout and nutrition tips, send motivational messaging and more. What’s even better, is clients can interact with one another. 
  • Email. Ideally, you’ll keep email for personal and structured communication with the client, newsletters, or promotional communications. But, it’s still a good way to touch base.
  • Personal trainer apps. A good personal trainer app will provide in-app messaging so you and the client can connect. It’s a great way to connect since it will also be where a client can access their workouts.
  • Activity tracker. Activity trackers help you as a trainer! If you have the same smart watch, you can get notified when your client finishes a workout or achieves a goal. It’s convenient and gives the client more of a real-time feel. 

Online personal training prices have three different structures. These vary depending on the client, the goal, and the business model. If you’re new to starting an online personal training business, make sure you follow these fitness marketing steps to help identify your target market first and get paying clients.

To become an expert at running effective personal training sessions, Check out the EMAC Certified Personal Trainer Course. It helps you develop the art of coaching clients to success, while building the best fitness programs available. And, if you’re already a great trainer, work from anywhere and transition your business to online fitness coaching with the EMAC Online Coaching Course.

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