The Psychic Trainer

What if you could look in a crystal ball and be able to predict how your client will perform today? Wouldn't that be helpful?

Despite my wife's insistence on the subject, I'm still on the fence about psychic powers, but I am a believer in science. Science can, in fact, give you a little window into the future of how your client’s session will go, if you know how to work its magic. Here are some advanced assessment tips that you can include in your warm up that will allow you to access your clients focus and mental state.

Resting Heart Rate

This can be a great gauge and is something you can do as your client is relaxing or stretching or foam rolling. Abnormally high resting heart rates (several beats higher than their average resting heart beat measures) can be a sign of neural fatigue, inadequate recovery, illness, stress or lack of sleep. I always have my clients wear heart rate monitors, even when lifting weights and even when I'm really not using it. It's just always on them. And as far as Cardiovascular training. If your not using a heart rate monitor during metabolic conditioning, that would be equivalent to having your clients lift weights without either one of you being aware of the actual poundage.

Agility Drills

I learned this technique from a college strength coach. After warming up a bit, he would have his athletes do some really light agility or plyometric drills. He had drawn on the floor what looked like hop scotch squares and would have his clients go through them. Now these were division 1 collegiate level basketball players who were very athletic and it was obviously not very difficult for them. Watching it, it seemed pointless to me. He was extending the warm up by a good 5-10 minutes doing these goofy little things. So I asked him about it. He explained: “This exercise is for me, not them,” he said quickly. I scratched my head. He found, after years of training athletes that having first perform some light, basic Plyometric drills was a great way to determine the athletes current readiness, and how he should adjust the workout accordingly. The human body, being the great variable that it is, goes through natural physical cycles and benefits greatly when that is taken into consideration.

Make it personal

Get to know your client. Let them gossip and analyze it all. Get to know their life and the things in their life. It's not being nosy. This is intel. Get to a point where you know those days when you should push them, or those days when it’s best to back off, just by reading their facial expression and nothing else. Remember, every stressful thing that's going on in a person's life (work, bills, school, new job, sick parent, kids, ) are the equivalent of a mini exercise reps for the psyche and they all take their toll. Keep this in mind.


James, one of my most loyal clients, came in yesterday. He's an attorney. After sitting on the bench press machine, (it was max effort upper body day) his shoulder sagged and he sighed and rubbed his face, then shook his head. "I just don't think I have it in me today." he said. I knew he had been going through a messy divorce. So what I do? We ditched weight training. I put on the mitts and had him beat up the punching bag and hit some pads for a solid hour. We finished with him drenched and he left exhausted but smiling.

After fifteen years as a fitness professional, I've discovered the best way to describe the personal training business to newbies interested in getting into the field. Personal training is 10% training and 90% personal. Remember that all exercise really is, at its core is a form of stress, a specified, carefully applied form of stress. The idea is that if only the right amount of stress is put on the tissue, with enough volume, it will grow stronger, it will adapt.

Was this workout, this random, amateur boxer-aerobic session I prescribed to James as effective as my pre-planned, maximal effort upper body session? No, but that's not the point. The point is that it was something he was willing to do. He left feeling good and happy and, most importantly, he will be back! Just like he has for the past eight years. Why? Because I put the person before the training.

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