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12 awful fitness coaching techniques that could be hurting your clients. Plus ways to turn awful coaching into awesome coaching.

The concept of personal training is simple: a personal trainer trains another human being to become a better version of themselves. It’s a beautiful idea, but the reality is a bit more complicated. Personal trainers are in a unique position to have a real impact on your clients’ lives. They have the knowledge, belief, and motivation to make a big difference.

It’s no secret that fitness is on the rise, and many people want to get in shape, but for some reason they don’t know where to start. The good news is that there are thousands of different types of workouts. The bad news is that many of them are terrible. Here are 12 techniques that are bad for your clients (and you) and how to turn them into awesome coaching tips.

The fitness industry is growing rapidly, with more commercial gyms opening every day, and more fitness coaches working with clients. In light of this, it is important to know how to coach effectively and build the confidence of your clients, without hurting their progress. Here are some common fitness coaching techniques, and how to turn them into awesome coaching.

Is your coaching style assisting or hindering your clients? It’s worth looking into. Because if your go-to fitness coaching approaches aren’t working, it’s time to try something new.


Hey, slacker!

What exactly do you have in your hand? Is that a donut?


You miserable, unmotivated glob of mush, get off your arse and let’s see some pushups!

Does this ring a bell?

It’s possible if you’ve been following fitness-related social media lately. (Cue Biggest Loser’s “fitspiration” cough.)

The premise is that pointing out how bad people are motivates them to do better.

That if we can persuade people of the inadequacy of their existing lifestyle—that what they eat, how they move (or don’t), and how they appear are all wrong—they will finally wake up and change.

There’s just one issue (apart from the fact that it’s a pain for everyone involved):

That strategy does not work.

This strategy is referred to as “awfulness-based coaching” by us.

This type of fitness coaching concentrates on “correcting” the “weaknesses” and “flaws” of a client. It’s depressing and demotivating for the majority of individuals.

Unfortunately, many coaches have already been trained in this manner since it is so engrained. Even if you are an excellent trainer, you are likely to have used at least one or two of these strategies without even realizing it.

But that’s fine. All it takes is a few easy changes to transform your fitness coaching approach from “awfulness-based” to “awesomeness-based.”

Continue reading to find out how.

Coaching based on awfulness: What NOT to Do

Try some of these classic awfulness-based strategies to sabotage client growth.

  1. Clients should not be involved in their own advancement. Make it from the top down. You are the one in charge, not they. They follow your instructions. Be tyrannical and oppressive. Machiavelli resembles Barney the dinosaur when he stands next to you.

  2. Make their growth (or lack thereof) a source of pride for you. Any lack of advancement should be regarded as a personal affront. How could they do such a thing to you? You’re no longer going to be named coach of the month! They’re also making your company seem awful. Perhaps you should dismiss them.

  3. Employ a one-size-fits-all strategy. It’s good enough for the ancient Greeks to pursue a universal mathematical standard of perfection, and it’s good enough for you. It doesn’t matter if the client is an 82-year-old grandfather or an 18-year-old gridiron god. What was their name again, by the way?

  4. Concentrate on the end result. All means are justified in the end. You’re looking for results, darn it! Allow them to figure out how to get there on their own. Start by dangling prizes in front of them. Instead of learning the abilities or understanding the procedure required to get there, they should focus on achieving that reward.

  5. Concentrate on consequences that they have no control over. If their figures don’t add up, chastise them. Better yet, make their skinfolds public. After all, peer pressure worked in high school.

  6. If they don’t deliver, make sure they are in pain. A fundamental animal urge is to avoid discomfort. Burpee marathons, verbal abuse, or humiliation in front of the popular youngsters… the options for suffering are boundless, as the Spanish Inquisitors knew.

  7. Reward people for doing things they should be doing anyway. They deserve praise for arriving on time. Give them a reward for not whining. If they eat a green vegetable, give them a discount. To keep them leaping through the hoops, link their conduct to rewards. Give them specific incentives that they truly, really want. If they don’t get them, they’ll be even more disappointed.

  8. Increase the volume. Make yelling a part of your repertory, just like you should speak louder and slower to someone who doesn’t speak English. Perhaps the message was not received by the client. It’s time to belt it out. They’ll know you’re serious about your job, sergeant!

  9. Increase the pressure. Make it clear that you have high expectations for them. Extremely high. Force them to leave their comfort zone. And make it clear to them what’s at stake: everything. People learn and perform best when they have a fire under their feet, especially if the fire is a blazing napalm inferno surrounded by angry flaming killer bees.

  10. Rush. There is no time to spend! Set deadlines for yourself! The time is ticking! Go!!!!

  11. Make a competition out of it. “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” declared famed football coach Vince Lombardi. In your own version of the Hunger Games, pit your clients against one another. The loser is required to walk through the gym in his or her underpants.

  12. Make use of your approval as a negotiating tool. Make a frowny look and tell clients you’re taking away your love and approval if they don’t perform properly. During weigh-ins, sigh deeply and painfully. If they binge again, threaten to dump them. If a client pleases you, show your gratitude, but make it apparent that you could be dissatisfied again at any time.

It should be self-evident why these are things to avoid by now.

(Imagine someone employing these techniques on your five-year-old child’s Little League team if you’re still not convinced.)

If you use these awfulness-based tactics, you’ll almost certainly wind up with clients who are more nervous, stressed, and overwhelmed than they were before.

Any “results” obtained through such a method will most likely be transient. Your client is unlikely to desire to visit another gym, let alone contact you again.

But what if you’ve only been taught those strategies? What more can you do if this doesn’t work?

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Coaching that is based on awesomeness is the way to go.

Instead, try some of the following methods:

  1. Involve the client in his or her own development. Recognize that each customer is on his or her own path. You are the ship’s navigator, not the captain.

  2. Recognize your customer. What are they looking for? What exactly do they require? What is most important to them? As individuals, who are they? What exactly is their backstory? Why is fitness and nutrition such a significant undertaking for them?

  3. Share the highs, but keep an emotional distance from the lows. You aren’t a lousy coach because they aren’t making improvement. Without taking it personally, make any necessary improvements to your method and plan.

  4. Concentrate on the process. Look for proof that clients are improving their skills and performing the everyday tasks that are actually important to them. Concentrate on outcomes (particularly everyday actions) that they can influence.

  5. Maintain a straightforward approach. At a time, one item at a time. Don’t overburden them.

  6. Set specific goals for yourself. Consider allowing the client to decide the speed, even if it appears to be painfully sluggish. When they need to be pushed, push them a little, but not too far.

  7. Unless the competition is amicable and without consequence, avoid it. And you’re confident your client will love it. Instead, concentrate on assisting your customer in reaching their full potential and becoming their “best self.”

  8. Respect and embrace them without reservation. Demonstrate to them that you’re in it for the long term. Give them dignity by meeting them where they are.

  9. Recognize and capitalize on your assets. What skills does your client already possess? What do they already excel at? What do they already take pleasure in? How can you just keep doing it? Declare victories, successes, and advances whenever and everywhere you see them, no matter how minor they are.

This is the kind of material that will make you feel like a supercoach! You’ll obtain such fantastic results that you’ll have difficulties fitting in all of your clients.

Seriously. This product is effective. It is effective.

However, because we’ve been conditioned to believe that exercises must be terrifying, life-or-death situations, this approach might feel almost too simple. It has a magical quality to it because it is kind and welcoming, and most importantly because it encourages a gradual, step-by-step approach to skill improvement.

Your customers will think you’re a magician.

And it’s possible that you’ll agree with them.

What should I do next?

Recall a time when you had a similar experience.

Have you ever received the “awfulness-based” treatment from a teacher or coach? How did you find that method of instruction? How did it make you feel? What if you had a teacher or coach who believed in you, encouraged you, and urged you to take charge of your own development? How did that make you feel?

Review the section on “what not to do.” Consider your coaching strategy.

Do you use any of these methods on a regular basis? Don’t worry, no one is looking at you. Just take a moment to think about it and see if there are any similarities in your own approach. (Hint: Trying to “convince” others and spending a lot of time “correcting defects” are two of the most common deceptive ones.)

Pay attention to your own discomfort.

Some of these awesomeness-based tactics may seem woo-woo or “too touchy-feely” to you. You may believe that concentrating “too much” on what is currently working, such as customer strengths, is “ignoring problems.” Regardless, give it a shot. Wait and see what happens.

Examine your own achievements.

If you’re a fan of awfulness-based coaching, consider how effective it is for you to always feel the need to “motivate” lethargic clients. Or as if you’re constantly “solving things.” Or persuading your clientele to make a change. Or it’s as though everyone is an idiot but you.

Review the part on “the better method.”

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Wait and see what happens. In comparison to the “awfulness-based” strategy, how does your client react to the “amazing” technique?

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

You may be a CrossFit coach, personal trainer, or even a regular gym goer. You may be constantly hearing about how great CrossFit is and how it can get results. You may even be seeing results in the gym or with clients. But how do you know that you aren’t hurting your clients by being a bad coach? How do you know you are not giving them bad advice? This blog post is designed to help you understand what makes a good coach and how to turn that “bad” person into an awesome coach.. Read more about kickoff online fitness coach salary and let us know what you think.

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