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Part 1

The tips here will assist you in providing clients added value beyond education, and will help you to deliver to the client a rewarding experience. They will assist you, as a trainer, to be proactive regarding client needs, and they will help set you apar

By: Clayton South

In the competitive world of personal training, setting yourself apart from the competition means offering added value to the client. This is not easy to achieve in a profession that is constantly changing.

Unlike days past, today's trainer must be equipped with a solid education that is frequently updated. But being educated is no longer an option: it's the expected standard. Even if a trainer is educated, an education does not offer the leverage it used to. So, aside from more educational courses, what can a trainer do to stand apart from the rest of the pack?

More than ever before, consumers are informed. Gone are the days where consumers trusted and relied upon authority blindly. Personal trainers today are forced by market conditions to be both educated, and to be educators. Trainers are now, more than ever, assuming the role of the teacher.

For some professionals, these expectations are a welcome change from times past. Not only do these expectations challenge the personal trainer to be constantly learning, but they also serve to weed out those less professional trainers who are out to make money on the ignorance of the consumer.

Today, a trainer of quality will not desire his client to be dependant upon him for continued progress. Instead, the trainer will offer the client added value by not only being a guide or coach, but also by functioning as an educator when regarding healthy lifestyle habits.

In Canterbury Tales, Chauser summarized the attitude of the teacher
by remarking:
    "And gladly would he learn,
     and gladly teach."

The job of today's trainer is one of being a lifelong learner and teacher. It means being a learner of, and an ambassador for, the active lifestyle. These roles can be fulfilled only through the application of sound theory and example.

Accordingly, then, tips are provided here on how to be more effective as a personal trainer who is teaching others about the lifestyle.

The tips here will assist you in providing clients added value beyond education, and will help you to deliver to the client a rewarding experience. They will assist you, as a trainer, to be proactive regarding client needs, and they will help set you apart from the rest of the profession.


1. You Are There For Them, They Are Not There For You

It is an unfortunate fact, but some personal trainers approach their jobs with arrogance and often look down upon their clients, believing them to be uneducated empty vessels lacking knowledge. But personal training is not a profession one should enter simply to improve ones self-esteem by putting others down.

It Is A Profession That One Should Enter To:

  1. Make a wage doing productive and beneficial work
  2. To provide a service and to serve the needs of the client

The points above find their meaning in the words "beneficial" and "serve." For the work of the personal trainer to be beneficial, that work must be geared to meet the needs of the client. For all effective personal trainers, serving the clients needs will be the primary focus. But being a servant does not mean being a slave.

As a personal trainer, one is expected to serve the client by providing both guidance and the social supports needed by clients looking to make activity a part of their lives. For some clients, providing guidance on technical matters will suffice.

For others technical guidance is not enough; guidance on exercise-related social matters will also be necessary, to initiate the client into the sub-culture of the active lifestyle. So servitude is an essential step to master if one wishes to deliver the best value to the client.

Effective servitude can come only when the trainer understands his or her roles.

These roles are:

  1. The expert
  2. The formal authority
  3. A mechanism of socialization
  4. A facilitator
  5. An ego ideal
  6. A person

The Expert

    As a trainer, your knowledge base sets you apart from other members of the fitness community. You not only exercise for health and recreation, but you have formal education and certifications that show your commitment to making wellness, through exercise, a profession.

    In the role of an expert, the focus is to communicate technical knowledge and to answer the questions of the client. Naturally, maintaining a level of expertise that is current in ones profession is necessary in this role. Failing to do so will make one irrelevant and ineffective.

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A Formal Authority

    Within the fitness community, truly professional personal trainers are known not only as experts, but also as formal authorities. Personal trainers in this capacity function as agents of instruction, control and evaluation.

    A trainer must constantly be evaluating the progress and practice of ones clients and methods against currently accepted scientific opinion.

    As a formal authority, one has a responsibility to play a protective role. Frequently, exercise or nutrition fads emerge in the industry, and less knowledgeable persons may fall victim to them. As an authority with good standing in your profession, you can protect your clients from harm, and save them months or years of progress.

A Mechanism Of Socialization

    The bodybuilding and fitness industries are a sub-culture of society. These sub-cultures have their own language and accepted behavioural practices. New initiates can find it intimidating to make their way through rows of exercise equipment, and may find the technical jargon of the lifestyle complicated and difficult to master.

    As a mechanism of socialization, the trainer can assist the client by ensuring that the client is versed in the sub-cultures terminology, as well as on the proper application of exercise technique.

    Thus, the trainer, through his or her expertise, will function as a mechanism or mediating force of socialization. Enculturation will be successful only to the degree to which the trainer is cognisant of their function as a professional, is responsive to client needs, and the degree to which their responses are cogent in the mind of the client.

A Facilitator

    As a facilitator, the trainers function is to ensure that the client has an efficacious experience. Put another way, the trainers function in this role is to ensure that the client gets the results that are both within the clients immediate grasp, and that these immediate results are within the context of the goals that the client has set at the beginning of their tutelage under the trainer.

    This necessitates that the trainer is aware of the clients health and conditioning at all times. To be aware of both the clients current state and his or her future potential, drawing analogies from the field of child development psychology may prove beneficial.

    Lev Vygotsky, a prominent Russian psychologist, introduced the world to sociocultural theory.

    This theory states that children acquire the ways of thinking and behaving that make up the culture of a community through cooperative dialogues with more knowledgeable members of society. Vygotsky taught that a child's development is continuous - meaning that it is a cumulative process that proceeded by the addition of adaptive skills to existing skill sets.

    Another psychologist, Jean Piaget, taught that a childs development is discontinuous - that development proceeds in stages. He taught that new ways of understanding the world emerged at specific times.

    The four stages of Piagets theory are:

    1. Sensorimotor
    2. Preoperational
    3. Concrete operational
    4. Formal operational

    When a client with little or no knowledge procures the services of a professional trainer, the first thing that must occur is the acquisition of the motor movements necessary for the correct execution of exercise. This process is analogous to the sensorimotor stage of Piagets development theory that states that basic motor patterns must be acquired before any further progressions or actions are possible.

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    In the preoperational stage of this theory, the child will use rough verbal descriptions to represent their previously acquired motor skills. After acquiring the basic motor skills for exercise to be successful, clients often refer to exercise in ways that are inexact and crude, indicating their inability to fully understand the processes at work.

    Thus, the time immediately after a clients acquisition of motor skills, but preceding their acquisition of technical knowledge, can be seen as analogous to the preoperational stage in this theory.

    During the concrete operational stage of Piagets theory, children begin to reason on the basis of simple cause-and-effect relationships, and thoughts go from amorphous to hierarchical.

    An observant trainer will begin to see the same process occurring in his or her clients. In fact, the same process and transition can be observed in clients who have been training under the guidance of a trainer for a period of five months or more. Mental associations between exercise performed and results observed begin to emerge, though they are far from technical.

    The final stage of Piagets theory is the formal operational stage. In this stage adolescents develop the capacity for abstract thought, thereby transcending the simple cause-and-effect thought processes of the concrete operational stage. It is also possible for them to conceive of all possible outcomes of a situation, not just the most obvious ones. This, naturally, involves a complicated thought process in which one must consider interactions among variables.

    This kind of thinking - abstraction - is the ideal objective that any trainer should have for his or her client. In this final stage, the client will no longer be dependant upon the trainer for total guidance and will occasionally consult the trainer on theoretical or technical matters relating to exercise technique or nutrition.

    As a trainer, one must have co-operative dialogue with clients, so that they will acquire the ways of thinking and behaving that will make them a part of the fitness communities culture. The trainer must also realize that while a clients progress will be continuous, it will also occur in stages.

    To successfully act as a facilitator, the trainer must take into account both social-learning theory and the analogies made between Piagets development theory and the progress of clients in the gym.

    Understanding the discontinuously continuous nature of a clients progression will allow the trainer functioning as a facilitator to know what goals are immediately available to the client and also whether those immediately available successes are within the context of the goals established when the client was presented to the trainer.

An Ego Ideal

    It is common for clients to look up to the trainer. This is understandable when one considers ones total appearance and function as a professional in the gym or club environment.

    Clients or perspective clients often view the trainer as a person who has knowledge, education and prestige. These perceptions may be correct or incorrect, but often they are nothing more than projections from members of the public. Regardless, the power of perception influences behaviour, and the trainer must deal with the perceptions of the public.

    Often, so powerful can perceptions be, that many think the personal trainer posseses "secrets" unavailable to members of the general public about how to achieve health and wellness. The public is willing to pay handsomely for these secrets, and they expect a return on their investment.

    Naturally, the trainer can satisfy or disappoint these perceptions. If the trainer fails to play a charismatic role in the course of his or her duties, he or she may find a disillusioned and client. Successfully exploiting clients perceptions comes through the use of charisma. The goal of using charisma to play on client admiration should always be to deliver the exercise experience to the client in a meaningful way.

    Using charisma in this way to obtain the desired result can be achieved by focusing on one's expertise, on one's high status in one's profession, or on one's commitment or enthusiasm.

    If it is clear to the client that the trainer enjoys his or her profession, is knowledgeable, enjoys client interaction, and is client centered instead of ego centered, the trainer will be able to lead by example.

    This kind of leadership will help convince the client that their admiration is well-placed. This kind of admiration will make the job of the trainer much easier as clients will be more apt to comply with trainer-provided direction.

A Person

    All things considered, the trainer is also a person, alike in many ways to the client.

    As a person, the trainer has the need to have his or her work succeed - i.e. to deliver a successful outcome to the client. Most trainers enjoy their profession and work in their field because their path is one of self-actualization.

    The desire to see one's work deemed efficacious speaks to a need for validation and acceptance.

    But people seek the fulfillment of these needs through other mechanisms aside from productive work - chiefly through social relationships. So it is obvious that the client-trainer relationship is a social microcosm of human needs, and therefore that the full range of human needs exist within the client-trainer relationship.

    However, within the context of the client-trainer relationship, boundaries exist that place limits upon the extent to which personal needs can be satisfied, without destroying the relationship entirely.

    This discussion of a trainer's roles returns us to be subject of point one: the trainer is there for the client, the client is not there for the trainer.

    The final role - the role of the trainer as a person - can cause a breakdown in the trainer-client relationship if the either party loses sight of the other roles required of him or her, and instead allows training sessions and mutual admiration to turn into an ego-feed.

    These roles and ethical boundaries necessitate professional distance, and this is best achieved by the trainer being cognizant of the roles discussed above.

[ Check Back Soon For Part Two ]

Disclaimer

The information provided in this publication is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Readers and consumers should review the information in this publication carefully with their professional health care provider. The information in this or other publications authored by the writer is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Reliance on any information provided by the author is solely at your own risk. The author does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, medication, procedures, opinions, or other information that June be presented in the publication. The author does not control information, advertisements, content, and articles provided by discussed third-party information suppliers. Further, the author does not warrant or guarantee that the information contained in written publications, from him or any source is accurate or error-free. The author accepts no responsibility for materials contained in the publication that you June find offensive. You are solely responsible for viewing and/or using the material contained in the authored publications in compliance with the laws of your country of residence, and your personal conscience. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the use of information contained in this or other publications.

Copyright © Clayton South, 2003 All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication June be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.

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brad0812

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brad0812

Great advice, learned some in my PT course, others i will definitely put into action when conducting client sessions.
Very detailed thanks =]

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This was an awesome article. very informative i learned a lot. Thanks!!!

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