Are you a personal training bully?

By Jonathan FitPro
How you doing everybody? Jonathan here and in this article I’m going to address a topic that I think needs some attention and that is are you a trainer bully?

Now while I can say I’m not the biggest fan of all the Planet Fitness commercials you see how there, I think the yelling personal trainer is a great depiction of one of the aspects of the trainer bully that you want to avoid. If you want to watch the commercial click here.

But there’s more to being a trainer bully than just yelling too much. Sometimes you need to project your voice. Your client may be far away or you just may really be into the client’s workout and just not notice how loud you are. Those are exceptions to rule. When I talk about being a trainer bully, I’m talking about your intentions and the emotions that you’re trying to elicit out of your clients based on your action.
Often times big box gyms tend to promote trainer bullying in order to make sure that a trainer can get a sale. A trainer bully will usually try to elicit three emotions: Fear, shame and intimidation.


Now you have to understand, fear is one of the most useful tools in advertising so I’m not surprised that this is prevalent in personal training sales as well as every other industry out there. The difference is with cold advertising, the ad is trying to get the end user’s attention. This doesn’t have to be the case for personal training because people are coming to you. They’re telling you that they want to get in shape so you don’t always need to strike that nerve of fear.
Here’s an alternate route to take; instead of inducing fear, why not educate? Most people don’t understand the importance of body fat, resting heart rate and belly fat. The media tells them that their health rests solely upon what the scale says. Worse yet they are told to follow a chart that says that for a certain height, you must maintain a certain weight. While the BMI chart may be useful for a portion of the population, I have come across a number of clients who have been left depressed by the weight demands the BMI chart puts upon them. You have an opportunity to position yourself as an expert by eloquently and effectively explaining what the client needs to work on and why. So you don’t need to beat somebody up who’s asking for your help anyway.

I put my clients through a full fitness assessment using the FitProCalculator so they understand where they are and what they need to do. Clients often walk away more relieved that they have control over and carry less anxiety over the number on the scale. Why is carry less anxiety a good thing? Because this usually leads to unhealthy dieting tactics, which in turn leads to frustration. You can choose to deal with a roller coaster of emotions that comes along with a frantic client but helping them understand that there is a long road ahead with a few inevitable bumps will make for a better working relationship. Here’s a screen shot of a sample client. Very simply put, green is good, yellow means we need to do some work, and red means we have a lot of work today. You want to explain health in those terms without judgment. You never want to use the word obese, it’s like a terminal disease in their minds. Clients can accept being “in the red” if you just explain how a few modifications will get them in the green.


The next tactic is shame. This tactic is employed by giving clients exercise routines that you know they can’t handle, watching them fail and then letting them hear about it. This is another widely used tactic of big box gyms. Why not turn that tactic on its head? Turn shame into motivation. Motivation uses every exercise routine as test that can be built upon.
No matter what, when a client first starts or whenever a client does an exercise, my response is “okay, good job.” That’s a default. If it’s somebody that’s never worked out before, my next comment is “now we’re going to build on this so you can get to your goal.” If it’s an existing client that is doing worse than they have before, it gives me a chance to ask what they may be doing outside of our workouts and can help me help them by offering lifestyle advice. It also shows that I care. From there, my mind set is let’s see how we can improve the next time.
The key word is let’s. You’re showing the client that you’re in it together. You’re showing the client that you’re invested in their success and you’re showing the client that you’re taking an active role in their betterment.
Clients love visual aids, again I always default back to the FitProCalculator because clients love report cards, ESPECIALLY when they know they are improving. Here’s a screen shot of a progress report. All you really need to do is remind a client what they did before and they will be motivated to improve because you tracked their progress.

Eliciting Intimidation

And the final intimidation tactic is intimidation. Now to me, intimidation can come from two places; a bit of an inferiority complex or frustration. I’m talking about trainers that actively kind of get a kick out of beating up their clients verbally in public, or even physically. Motivation does not come from yelling at your client. Motivation will stem from your passion. Think about the difference between how you yell at your television when your football team throws an interception verses when you’re at the goal line and all you’re thinking is “come on, come on, you can do it, you can do it.” There’s a very different intention there and it’s received completely differently.
One of the best compliments that I get from my clients is when they tell me, you know Jonathan I wanted to have that piece of cake or I didn’t want to come to the workout this morning but I could hear your voice in my head. So you don’t need to yell at your clients in order for them to listen to you. You need to believe in your clients. You need to show them that you’re in the foxhole with them. You need to care. Understand that these clients spend their whole day not getting appreciated at work, at home, in their love life, with their friends, whatever the case may be and you might be the one thing that they cling on to in order to keep working toward their end goal. So don’t abuse your power.
A great way to show them you’re on their side is to give them constant feed back. In the last example, you’ll see that I always focus on the good that a client does when we do our fitness profile.


You’d be surprised how far an email, a text, or a kind word will go with your clients.
Don’t be a trainer bully. Lift your clients up, be passionate, let them know you’re in it together, inform them, inspire them, give them goals to shoot for and you’ll never have to yell another day in your life. If you’re looking to use a tool like the FitProCalculator to keep track of your clients, feel free to click here, otherwise, stay tuned for more useful information on being the best personal trainer you can be.

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I hope you found this post helpful there will be many others to follow but if you want to chime in with feedback feel free. Don’t forget to add me on the facebook, and as always, remember to eat healthily, hydrate, drive safe, stress levels low, get rest, don’t slap anybody, love your clients, they will love you back, I will see you all tomorrow, or the next day, and you have a GOOD ONE!