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Small Details For Personal Trainers: Part Two!

In this article we will go over essential details concerning the training session itself. We will again establish guidelines concerning exercise intensity, repetitions, sets, as well as improvements and modifications to the program.

Part Two

[ Part One | Part Three ]

In "Small Details for Personal Trainers", we established key behavioral guidelines for the personal trainer/client relationship. We highlighted how the personal trainer must behave with his clients before, during and after a personal training session.

In this article we will go over essential details concerning the training session itself. We will again establish guidelines concerning exercise intensity, repetitions, sets, as well as improvements and modifications to the program.

Junk Sets

When your client first begins an exercise for a certain muscle group, it is necessary for him to do one or more warm up sets before he reaches his target weight and repetitions. When you take him for the next exercise for the same muscle group don't waste time with junk sets by doing more warm-up sets, because your client is already warm, so immediately let him lift his predicted weight.

For example: When training pectorals, start with the Bench Press with one or more warm-up sets then begin counting the efficient sets. If the second exercise is incline dumbbell press, let him immediately grab the desired weights and start pumping!

Ideal Number Of Sets

If your program includes 3 to 4 sets for a certain exercise, and you feel that performing 1-2 sets were enough for your client, you can either stop there or replace with other sets of a different exercise.


Always perform repetitions depending on your goal. If the goal is muscle hypertrophy, let him perform 8-10 repetitions at 80% of his One Repetition Maximum. If the objective is limit strength, let him perform 3-8 repetitions between 80 and 90% of 1RM. You can thus vary along your client's specific Training Zone for a particular exercise, depending on the desired results.

If you feel that he is not able to perform the required number of repetitions, it probably means that you have placed a wrong weight. Simply adjust accordingly, but don't count the wasted set.

It is beneficial to add a few exercises or sets containing repetitions-to-failure; this would increase training intensity and positively affect the program.

Rest Between Sets And Exercises

You must find the correct time of rest between sets and exercises for your client. The right balance between enough/too much rest has to be determined. Too much rest affects training intensity and makes you lose control of the session's time and may cause delay in your next appointments.

Little rest may impair performance since lactic acid will prevent the trainee from performing the desired number of repetitions.

When working at light to moderate intensity you may adjust resting time according to a certain minimum heart rate. Following each set, look at the heart rate monitor and wait till you reach your target then go to the next set. If working high intensity, lactic acid build-up may interfere and force you to take more rest.

Recovery Period

Eventually you may feel that a client needs a break, or a resting period between sessions.

Allow him to take this recovering/resting time, and, cancel one or two sessions in order for him to recover and pack some energy.

Then give him a shock session through which he will achieve lots of gains.

Program Modification

Never restrict your client to a single program, and always think about the adaptation syndrome, whereby your client's performance will reach a plateau and improvements will come to a slow stop, certainly short of your aims and expectations. Besides your client not achieving his goal, this will also have a bad impact on your reputation and career.

Your client's benefit and yours are one but the same, and they both stem from maximizing the efficiency of your coaching. Use the many available training systems for diversity and effect, as well as any programs that you may have developed on your own, once your experience allows you to proficiently do so.


Don't use the same intensity over many following sessions or the whole mesocycle. Working high intensity on every session leads to injuries and overtraining. On the other hand, low intensity training leads to little or no benefits. So zigzag the intensity in the following way: Session one low intensity, session two medium intensity, session three high intensity, session four medium intensity, session five medium intensity, session six high intensity, session seven low intensity.

Proficient personal training is not a natural ability. Besides the knowledge you may acquire through your learning, you will also need to put your experience to work. If you are new to this business, and realize this fact, don't be frustrated.

Be patient, and restrict yourself to applying the basics you have learned and the training systems you know, as well as the training methods you know are beneficial, both to yourself and to your training partners before applying them on your clients. If you already are a successful bodybuilder, or a strong powerlifter, or a professional trainee, everything becomes easier to you since you have tried various systems in order to reach your own level of proficiency.

When you start working with a new client start by assessing him thoroughly, and then use what you have accumulated and learned from your training as well as from your experience with your prior clients. Build the program or select the training systems that you think will serve both his long term and short-term goals.

Keeping and updating a portfolio of your clients that would include all relevant details would certainly serve you well for that purpose, besides being a handy reference for your business.

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