One of the most frustrating experiences for personal trainers is to motivate clients and have them do what they should to get the desired results.
As a coach, it can be disheartening to pour time and effort into a workout plan, provide recommendations, and answer clients’ questions thoroughly, only for them to take the information and do nothing.
Plus, you understand how important it is for your clients to put in the work because that also reflects on you. If you coach someone and they don’t make any progress in three, six, or even nine months, others might think you’re not that good.
It makes you feel like a failure and gets you thinking, “Maybe it’s my fault.”
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to motivate your personal training clients, make them more consistent, and help them achieve their fitness goals.
8 Tips to Boost Client Motivation and Engagement
1. Provide the Right Amount of Challenge
Most people thrive on the right amount of challenge and feel motivated to continue. So having someone go just outside their comfort size is a great way to keep them engaged.
For example, if you play chess against someone of equal or slightly superior skill, you would feel engaged because there would be an excellent chance to win if you tried hard enough.
However, sitting across from a grandmaster like Magnus Carlsen, you’d quickly lose motivation because you couldn’t beat him in 1,000 years. Similarly, playing chess with a four-year-old would cause you to lose motivation quickly because the matches would be too easy for you.
Here’s the thing:
Working out is similar in many ways. The best way to motivate clients is by providing training programs that push them just beyond their abilities. That way, they would know that working hard enough would allow them to complete the workouts and steadily progress toward their goals.
2. Be Compassionate and Patient
Part of being a successful personal trainer is being compassionate and patient with training clients and giving them enough time to learn and progress.
Trainers often forget how challenging, lengthy, frustrating, and confusing the fitness journey can be and that not everyone progresses at the same rate.
If you spend enough time in the field, you will get to work with naturally gifted people who pick up on new concepts quickly and make progress every week, but that’s not always the case (1).
3. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Clients
We believe that setting the right goals can increase client motivation. However, clients must know that goals are a means to an end, not something worth obsessing over.
Good goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. acronym:
- S – specific
- M – measurable
- A – attainable
- R – relevant
- T – time-bound
An example of an anti-S.M.A.R.T. goal would be:
It’s in no way specific, measurable, or time-bound. It can be attainable (depending on the client’s expectations) and relevant.
Now, here’s how it might look if we follow the above rules:
“Lose 15 pounds of fat in the next 12 weeks.”
The new goal is more specific, as well as measurable, attainable, and time-bound.
As a personal trainer, one way to keep clients motivated is to understand what they want to get out of fitness and translate that into reasonable long-term goals, which you can break down into weekly and monthly objectives.
4. Keep the Client Involved
Some clients are happy to just show up to the gym and do everything exactly as outlined.
For example, someone busy with work and raising a family won’t have much time or energy to think about exercise selection, the best workout split, or how to progress their bench press, so they hire a personal trainer.
However, that isn’t always the case, as many clients enjoy being involved in the one-on-one training process. But what does that mean?
Simply put, clients want to feel like you’re their friend who also happens to be helping them get fit. To foster that feeling, you must:
- Ask clients what their training preferences are
- Help clients determine what exercises they like best
- Explain the purpose of the workouts
- Help them understand why their workout plan is structured the way it is
Personal trainers often can’t be bothered to do these things and instead just tell the client what to do without further explanation. As a result, clients struggle to become invested and lose motivation.
5. Leverage an App
Fitness management software is somewhat new for personal trainers, and many old-school coaches still do things as they have for decades.
However, using the right app or training platform can streamline the entire process, keep you more connected to your client, and make it easier to track what they are doing.
Further, you can make the necessary adjustments to iron out issues and get your clients to their goals.
For instance, encouraging your clients to use an app like Hevy makes it easier for them to track their workouts and see how they are doing. Plus, the app keeps them engaged through workout streaks (e.g., You’ve been training for 5 weeks in a row!) and neat comparisons (e.g., You lifted the equivalent of a truck today!).
As a coach, you can gain access to all of that information through the Hevy Coach platform, organize all of your clients, and stay up-to-date with essential details.
6. Make Workouts More Engaging
Contrary to what some people believe, working out should be fun. After all, how long do you expect clients to stay consistent if they dread each upcoming workout?
As a coach, motivating your personal training clients will depend on your ability to provide fun, varied, and challenging training programs (2).
One way to do that is to consider how each client feels on a given day. For example, if one of your clients has had a tough day at work, give them a break with a slightly easier workout.
Another way to make workouts more engaging is by rotating exercises at regular intervals to avoid stagnation. You shouldn’t change the entire workout every week, but exercise swaps can be a neat way to keep clients more engaged.
Another way to increase client motivation is to simply spend more time with your client during their workout, talk to them, and provide constructive feedback.
It’s one thing to prescribe a workout and check in every 15 to 20 minutes and another to be present and show that you care. Such dedication is an excellent way to build lasting relationships with clients and make the training experience much more fun for them.
7. Understand Your Client’s Preferences
As a personal trainer, you probably love fitness and enjoy pushing yourself to your limits. Working out is part of your life, and you can’t imagine skipping a session because you don’t feel like training or are tired.
When people ask you why you train as hard as you do, they are always surprised by the answer, “Because it’s fun, and I genuinely enjoy it.”
While having a love for fitness is excellent, personal trainers often struggle to realize that their clients, especially new ones, don’t feel the same way. Working out isn’t as fun for them, and sticking to a workout routine takes more effort for them than it does for you.
So, in addition to making each workout as engaging as possible, strive to understand your client’s needs. Ask questions like:
- How often would you like to work out?
- How much time can you spare for a workout?
- What type of training do you think you will enjoy?
- What activities have you done in the past?
- Are there any gym exercises you hate doing?
On the one hand, you must be somewhat firm with your clients and establish clear rules they need to follow because overindulgence won’t do anyone favors.
However, keeping your clients’ preferences in mind lets you put together more engaging workouts they are happy to complete.
8. Prioritize the Process Over Progress
Making progress is a great way to develop a positive attitude toward fitness and prove to yourself what you’re doing is effective. However, obsessing over progress can do more harm than good, especially as trainees move from the beginner to the intermediate category.
Trainees often become too focused on the outcome and allow it to dictate how they feel about fitness. If a trainee has a productive workout and makes progress, they feel motivated and eager to continue training. However, if they have a bad session, all the enthusiasm disappears, and trainees feel like they are wasting their time.
Many personal trainers struggle to motivate their clients precisely because they overstate the importance of progress over process early on.
You can shift the focus from performance to process goals to increase client motivation. For example, instead of setting a goal for your client to bench press 135 lbs, focus on a process objective:
“Never miss a workout.”
“Complete at least 90 percent of all workouts within a month.”
That way, you teach your client to focus on the day-to-day tasks they need to complete instead of obsessing over a distant finish line.
4 Mistakes that Affect Client Satisfaction and Motivation
1. Not Being Attentive
You’re new to working out and have only been to the gym a handful of times. So, like many newbies, you hire a specialist to help you get started and learn the fundamentals of working out, navigating the gym, using equipment, etc.
Your trainer shows up, asks questions, provides a routine, and leaves. “He will come back right away. I’m sure he just went to get some water.” You think. Twenty minutes pass by, and the coach shows up to ask, “How’s it going? How many sets did you do?”
Before you can answer and ask questions, your trainer goes to another gym member to chat and spot them on the bench press.
You wait a bit longer, now slightly agitated but open to giving the trainer another chance. But then, he goes away for another 20 minutes and returns just as you finish your workout to ask how it went.
It doesn’t sound good, does it?
One of the best ways to leave a good impression on a new client is to be attentive and help them from start to finish. Doing so shows that you care and makes you infinitely more likable.
2. Not Tracking Your Client’s Progress
Another common mistake trainers make is not taking the time to evaluate their clients and ensure they are making progress toward their long-term goals.
Not tracking how your client is doing leaves you blind and unable to tell if the plan you’ve provided works. As a result, you can’t make the necessary changes along the way.
A good trainer understands the value of progress and pays close attention to each client, keeping track of the following:
- Body weight
- Circumference measures
- Gym performance
- Body fat percentage
- Movement proficiency and mobility
One way to track your clients is through personal trainer assessments, which you can learn more about here. Perform these every few weeks to motivate your personal training clients.
3. Offering Cookie-Cutter Workout ‘Solutions’
Back in the day, one of my colleagues at a gym I worked at was a fellow personal trainer. He had a good reputation, and people were eager to hire him because he was outgoing and had achieved modest bodybuilding success.
However, one thing I noticed about that person was that, regardless of the circumstances, he would provide the same training program to all his clients––men and women, young and old, those with an injury history, etc. Nine times out of ten, it would be some form of the bro split.
People didn’t notice at first, but it eventually got to the point where some of his former clients began making fun of the fact by ironically comparing the programs he had created for them.
I asked him about his approach to writing programs once and why he made identical routines for all his clients. His reply was along the lines of, “Eh, why build a program from scratch? These work well enough.”
There are two problems with this kind of thinking:
First, you’re not doing all the work required to provide the best service to your clients, which is bound to backfire at some point.
Second, you wrongly assume that, since a workout program has worked for a few people, it will be at least somewhat effective for all of your clients. You don’t consider your client’s situation, which means your program isn’t nearly as beneficial as it could be if you put more thought into it.
Taking the time to build a personalized plan that considers your client’s injury history, training preferences, goals, available equipment, fitness experience, and other relevant factors is crucial for showing that you care.
Moreover, that approach shows that you know what you’re doing.
4. Pushing Your Clients to Their Limits
Some fitness professionals feel the need to push their clients to their limits during every workout to make the training programs seem more effective. After all, does a session bring any benefits if the client doesn’t feel tired once they are done?
On the one hand, you must push your clients beyond a certain threshold for them to make progress: muscle gain, strength development, etc.
However, there should be a limit because pushing your clients hard will eventually lead to burnout, overtraining, and injuries, none of which is conducive to client motivation.
The mistake ties into the first tip we shared: provide the right amount of challenge where your client ventures just beyond the borders of their comfort zone. You can and should increase the difficulty but do so gradually and collect feedback from your clients.
Related article: Workout Wisdom: 89 Funny and Thoughtful PT Motivational Quotes
Signing new clients and knowing how to guide them is necessary for growing your business and making a name for yourself.
However, client motivation plays a huge role in your ability to retain more of the clients you sign and help them reach their goals. Doing so is crucial for landing testimonials and getting new clients through word-of-mouth advertising.
As you can see, getting clients to stay motivated is more nuanced than sharing a few motivational messages like, “Keep going! You’re doing great.” A positive attitude can get you far, but you must leverage other tactics to build relationships with clients, make them feel valued, and keep their workouts fun.
Check out Hevy Coach if you’re looking for an all-in-one tool to assign programs to clients, keep track of their progress, communicate, and much more!