Top programming mistakes robbing your clients of great results

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You’ve earned your cert and clients are rolling in. Now it’s your job to keep them happy, coming back for more, and seeing fantastic results.

Fantastic results don’t happen without great programming.

You probably know a little bit about programming… well, you know what’s worked for YOU based on your specific athletic background. You know the basic model you studied for your certificate. You know how to throw someone through a high-intensity circuit and make them feel like they got their money’s worth.

But does that translate to stellar long-term outcomes?

I’ve worked with enough new trainers to identify these incredibly common mistakes that are preventing your clients from reaching their maximum potential.

Choosing “fancy” movements over the most appropriate exercise.

Never sacrifice quality movement to try and make your workouts interesting. Choose exercises that your client is capable of performing and that actually suit their goals.

There’s no point in doing a complicated combination or advanced movement your client can barely grasp if their form and muscle activation go out the window. Always explain your reasons for choosing specific movements, even if they seem simple. When your client understands the “why”, they will be on board with your program because you’re demonstrating your professional expertise.       

Programming for novelty over optimal design. 

Yes, some clients get bored with repetition, and you should include some fresh variations to keep them interested- but, you need to make sure you’re still creating effective programming. That means proper frequency, intensity, and progressive overload. You need to hit every muscle group at least twice a week, with enough increase in intensity to stimulate optimal muscle growth.

It’s important to repeat key movements with enough regularity to document an increase in reps/weight. Explain this to your client, so both of you are on the same page about tracking their results. Be sure to celebrate PRs! It keeps people excited about coming back to the same movements.

Skipping the foundation.

If your client is new to working out, chances are they’ll need a stabilization phase, or some kind of introductory phase, where you will train their coordination, mind-muscle connection, and overall endurance rather than hammering their strength or power.

Don’t be afraid to include a realistic timeline for this phase if your client needs it. If they’re starting from scratch with no prior athletic experience, that means they aren’t going to jump straight to the barbell, even if their long-term goals include bodybuilding.

Again- communicate with your client. Share your vision and get them on board with the long game. Show them you have their best interests at heart, and you want them to get the best results possible while ensuring injury prevention.

Skipping cardio, conditioning, or mobility.

Yes, resistance training is important- but cardio is also key to long term health, and can improve overall endurance and even work capacity for lifting. It’s also an easy way for clients to get used to more consistency and encourage fat loss. You don’t need to spend a whole session on cardio- they can do it on their own time. Just make sure it’s included in their overall program.

Many clients are coming from a sedentary lifestyle and really need mobility work. It can seem annoying to take time out of your session to teach stretching techniques, but if you spend a little time on it up front, your client can start implementing stretches and mobility drills on their own. Mobility is the key to injury prevention and overall recovery in fitness.

Conditioning is key to improving work capacity and recovery for clients of any level. Your clients will feel more energized and athletic, and recover more quickly between challenging sets and after intense workouts.

Overdoing frequency.

Do you hammer your client with daily full-body workouts that don’t allow enough recovery for each muscle group?

Or maybe you split the muscle groups up so much that they’re really only targeting a given muscle once a week, even though they work out nearly every day. It’s difficult to stick to this frequency, and if they skip a day, you’re stuck with a two-week gap between working that specific muscle. You won’t see much progress.

Or, you launch a beginner into an advanced split like a 6-day PPL routine, where they hit everything twice a week, but aren’t conditioned to lift heavy every day. This will leave your client exhausted, especially if they’re already busy.

Forgetting to account for your client’s lifestyle.

New clients are going to struggle with the lifestyle change of a new fitness routine, and it’s unrealistic to ask them for 6 sessions a week in the gym. Most clients only need 3-4 resistance training sessions a week plus some cardio and mobility work. That’s enough for them to stick to it, stay consistent, recover, and have some time and energy to work on their nutrition and sleep. 

If you’re assigning a “homework” workout, make sure they can complete it in a reasonable time. Suggest activities that are enjoyable or even allow them to combine fitness with social time- hiking or outdoor sports, biking or walking on their commute, dancing… basically, make fitness motivating and flexible for where they’re at in life.

Always look at the big picture.

As a trainer, your job goes beyond a single workout- it’s about looking at the big picture and truly changing your client’s life. With a truly great program, you build the momentum of a client’s fitness journey to set them up for success for many years to come.

If you’re ready to level up your programming game and spark amazing results for your clients, check out my Mentorship Opportunities    After over 20 years of experience in the industry, I can improve your Programming and Coaching Skills  and Take your Business to the Next LevelTake your Business to the Next Level.