7 Things My Own Clients Have Taught Me – Ross Stewart

My own clients have taught me a lot. I’ve been coaching for 10 years; first off as a football coach for my football team’s youth teams and now as what most would refer to as a ‘Personal Trainer’.

I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK learning from some of the most influential figures in fitness education, but reckon that the lessons I’ve learned over the years from my own clients have been more valuable.

Rather than boasting about who I’ve spent time with and what they’ve taught me, here’s a list of 7 things I’ve learned from my own clients.

1. Clients have taught me: Not everyone can squat and/or deadlift

You know squats and deadlifts are the best exercises for building muscle and strength. You know that adding muscle to a human’s frame increases their metabolism. You want everyone to squat and deadlift.


Except, it’s not cool.

Some people have got very little chance of ever deadlifting from the floor with a straight bar or back squatting with a straight bar.

I learned early on that you have to be able to progress and regress exercises based on people’s strength and fitness levels and their joint mobility.

Sure, everyone can do a squat variation.

But one person may be doing a heels elevated kettlebell goblet squat to a box, whilst the next may be back squatting 1.5x bodyweight.

Those are two very different programs, for essentially the same movement.

2. Sometimes listening is more important than coaching

Training athletes is generally as simple as:

“This is what you’re doing today…


Particularly once you’ve laid the foundations of their strength levels and coached them effective technique. I find myself to be merely a time-keeper/rep-counter.

With the ‘general population’, training has to be a little more personal.

I’d say that stress relief is one of the primary objectives, if not thee primary objective, that the majority of people desire to obtain through exercise/training.

Oftentimes this means ranting about their day, how much they hate their boss or how they just can’t wait for the school holidays to finish so that they can ‘get rid of the kids’ and get back into their routine.

Being a good listening is probably the most important part of any trainer’s arsenal.

Be careful when you interrupt someone mid-rant to tell them to get a set done. They may not be coming to see you to do sets, they may simply want an outlet for their stress.

3. Everyone wants to feel as if they’re ‘good at it’

Most people are terrified of gyms.

They get the fear even thinking about going to one. So when they do eventually show up and stand next to their trainer (who may exacerbate their ‘fear’ by being devilishly handsome and athletic…sorry ‘bout that) the last thing they want to do is feel even worse.

I learned not to start my clients off with the hardest progression of an exercise and, instead, attempted to ‘build them up’ by slowly progressing the difficulty.

For example, if I’ve programmed a trap bar deadlift as the first movement in a workout, I’ll include hip hinge movements in the warm up; i.e. glute bridges and good mornings.

Once my client is warm and mobile, I’ll have them complete a few sets of rack pulls to further drill the movement pattern into them before they start their first working set.

From there I’ll have them trap bar deadlift a weight I know they’re going to be more than comfortable with and slowly creep the weight up, whilst celebrating how easy they’re making it look.

Once we get to their ‘working weight’, their form should be good, their confidence should be high and they should perform well.

Taking someone from a treadmill into their first working set is a disaster that’ll most likely demotivate your client as moving backwards along the continuum of ‘hard’ to ‘easy’ is a lot more demoralising than moving forward from ‘easy’ to ‘hard’.

4. Diet plans are, largely, a waste of time

Structure is great, and an example food day can be an excellent tool.

But for the majority of people I’ve coached over the years all a diet plan does is further the ‘on it/off it’ mindset.

If they’re ‘on’ the plan, things are good. They’re feeling positive and they’re working towards their goals. As soon as they have something that’s not on the plan, they feel like they’ve failed. They’re off the wagon and they’ll more-often-than-not binge.

Educating people clients about nutrition, giving them a little bit of structure and empowering them to clean up their habits is a lot more powerful than simply placing a spreadsheet with: Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner on it.

5. Keep program periodisation simple

I started out as an intern with the Scottish Institute of Sport.

I’d follow the coaches around like a bad smell, hang around the athletes and essentially just help out wherever and whenever I could.

I learned a lot about effective technique and programming back then and I thought that’s what’d set me apart when I ventured into the world of Personal Training.

How wrong I was.

I’d program deloads, try to work out their program based on percentages of their perceived max lifts and generally just got too damn technical for my own good.

Once I started training the general public, I realised that a far looser approach to programming is superior.

Have a plan, but make it flexible.

What if your 3x per week client cancels a session and can’t re-schedule it?

What happens when someone ends up sitting in a meeting all day and comes in with screaming tight hip-flexors/lower back and you’ve got a 1RM back squat in store for them.

It’s just not going to happen.

There’s many geeky ways to periodise a program, but with the general population KISS is the most effective method…keep it simple, stupid.

6. No one wants to feel like they’ve failed

“I want you to hit 10 reps.”

*Client fails at 8 and is in a bad mood for the rest of the session*

This happens wayyyyyyy more than you’d expect. Clients want to achieve their goals, whether that’s weight loss, strength gain or simply completing the number of reps you prescribed for them within a set.

I’ve found that using rep-ranges are far more effective than giving an exact number of reps.

“I want you to get between 8 and 10 reps. Eight’s your minimum and anything after that is a bonus.”

This leads to far happier clients who feel like they’ve achieved the ‘full set’ once they get to 8 reps. If they get 10 reps, they feel like they’ve done extra.

Far more effective for the moral of the client and for the general mood during the session.

7. Being human is a far more admirable character trait than being a superhero

When I first started, I thought I had to be shredded. I thought I was only allowed to eat out of tupperware and was doomed to a life of teetotalism.

I’d panic when I was at a bar drinking beer “in case anyone saw me”. I’d sneak cookies into my shopping trolly “in case I bumped into a client” and I generally just tried to life the life of a squeaky clean superhero trainer.

However, I actually found I developed stronger bonds with my clients when the chinks in my armour finally began to become apparent and I started opening up about how normal I actually am.

Nowadays I’m very open about how I eat cake most days, enjoy a few beers at the weekend and train 2-4 times per week.

Strangely, I get a ridiculously higher number of enquiries about my services nowadays than I did when I was the super-ripped athlete who only ate chicken and broccoli.

Keep up to date with Ross Stewart over on his SFN: Improve FREE Facebook Group!

Key Lessons Learnt When Opening My First Personal Training Facility – Ross Stewart (RSF: Improve, Glasgow)

There’s a massive difference between a Personal Trainer (PT) and a personal training facility owner.

To give you a very brief overview of my career, long before opening my first personal training facility, I started off as a ‘self-employed PT’ five years ago. I spent the first 18 months of my PT career working in Glasgow, then moved to Sydney, Australia and coached over there for just shy of a year.

I hired my first trainer to work for my ‘company’ one year after returning from Sydney, hired another 6 months after that and moved into my first personal training facility 6 months after that.

I suppose I learned a lot of lessons in the year leading up to our personal training facility opening as the first year of being an employer was probably always going to be the most challenging, for me, but here’s a quick-fire run through of the major lessons I’ve learned over the past 5-6 months since opening RSF: Improve.

You cannot do everything yourself.

I would absolutely love to coach every session in my gym, answer every email/text/message and greet everyone at the front door, but it’s just not humanly possible.

Hiring people who are good coaches and that you trust is vital for the growth of any facility, but something that’s massively over looked is how passionate those people are, whether or not their values and philosophies match up with your own/your business’s and whether they actually care about the people they’re coaching.

The goal when opening a personal training facility shouldn’t be to open it at 6am and close it at 9pm. It should be to build a team of people who work towards the same end goal. If you choose to be there all the time, that’s cool.

Choosing to be somewhere and having to be somewhere are two entirely different things; the former ensuring enjoyment and the latter leading to fatigue, resentment and poor performance.

You have to go above and beyond for your gym’s community.

Let’s face facts, this is an absolutely insane time to open your own fitness facility.

There’s £5.99, £10.99 and £15.99 per month gyms opening up in every city in the UK. They’re breeding like rabbits on viagra. Each and every one have 10-15 PTs in them, they’re massive, they’re new and they’re in city centre locations.

Depending on your business model, you’re going to be AT LEAST double the price of the most expensive ‘budget’ gym. And, in order to justify the higher price point, you’re going to have to deliver for your clients/members.

The fitness industry is moving very much towards massive, impersonal, hospital-like facilities, but I see this very much as an opportunity to go against the grain and offer people something different.

Offer nutritional support, drop your members messages out of the blue to see how they’re getting on, have regular conversations with them and ask if there’s anything else you can do for them, review their progress, put on events for them; i.e. seminars, workshops, charity events and social events.

As simple as it sounds, you have to show that you care or else you’ll be just another face in the crowd…and a far more expensive one, at that.

The community you build is far more important than the size of your personal training facility, how much equipment you have or how fancy it is.

Without any shadow of a doubt, the most impressive aspect of our personal training facility is our community.

We have people show up an hour before their sessions just to hang out with us and those they train with. They keep in touch with each other out with their training with us, congratulate each other in our private Facebook group and genuinely look forward to their next session.

During their sessions they’ll support, encourage and cheer each other on, and whenever we welcome anyone new to the facility our current members go out of their way to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

In an industry where it’s ‘cool’ to be super technical on the training and nutrition side of things, something that is so much more important and cannot be under-looked is the strength of your community in your personal training facility.

No one cares how technical your sessions or how great your understanding of macros are if they’re showing up to train with a bunch of people they don’t like, who ignore them and make them feel unwanted and like an outsider.

To get more daily tips from Ross Stewart, join his FREE Facebook group, SFN: IMPROVE.

Top 5 Copywriting Tips for Personal Trainers and Gym Owners – Mike Samuels

Gone are the days when personal trainers could put up a flyer saying –

“Lose weight now!” or “Drop a dress size” and get fully booked in an instant.

Unfortunately, the PT and gym markets are flooded, as everyone seems to be on a health kick, worried about their weight, and looking for an expert to show them the way.

And that means, as a fitness professional, you have to stand out.

Doing a good job is by far the best way to pick up clients and win business.

But what help is being great at what you do if no one knows about it?

The solution is to get good at copywriting.

What is “Copy”?

Copy is anything designed to sell a service or product, and while the word “marketing” is often frowned upon, that’s what you have to do if you want to get busier and attract clients.

We’re not talking about making any false claims, targeting vulnerable markets with get-rich-quick schemes, or selling your soul to Herbalife. Rather, make yourself sound interesting, personable, and use words to enable potential clients to see how much you can benefit them.

Doing a great job is secret #1.

Getting better at telling people that is #2.

Tell Your Story

People love stories.

Think about it – look how well fiction books sell, and how, every weekend, millions of us flock to the cinema or watch films on TV to see the latest action-packed, out of this world, enthralling blockbusters.

The general public don’t really care about sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy.

They don’t care about clean eating versus flexible dieting.

And they definitely don’t care about bench presses and burpees!

What they care about is knowing that you’re a person, just like them, who’s been on a journey, experienced struggles, and come out the other side as a stronger, fitter, healthier person.

Never be afraid to get personal, and talk about your own story, whatever it may be.

Show your weaknesses, your human side and your flaws.

Write What You Read

A top copywriting tip I was given was to copy, by hand, adverts and sales pages that I found compelling.

That meant scanning magazines to find ads of products I wanted to buy, and then rewriting the text.

When you physically write something with a pen and paper, it goes into your brain far easier, and you start to pick out what makes the copy so intriguing and triggers that response to buy.

On this note, as much as you might loathe and detest them … watch TV infomercials.

P90X and Slim in 6 may make your stomach turn, but they sell, and we can all learn from their approach.

Don’t Talk About Fitness

This relates back to tip 1, but again, the average Joe or Jane on the street doesn’t have an interest in fitness.

They want to know how you can take them from where they are now (i.e. miserable, out of shape and unhappy) to where they want to be.

Where they want to be is not necessarily 12 pounds lighter, or physically fitter either.

They want to be happier.

They want to be more confident.

They want to feel sexy and desirable.

The weight loss, the strength and the fitness might be what brings about those emotional changes, but you need to appeal more to the mind-set transformation that the physical one.

Hire a Copywriting Coach

Your clients hire you as a trainer, so why don’t you hire a copywriting coach?

It’s an expense, but in my opinion, it’s well worth the investment.

Personally, I’ve had four copywriting coaches, and each one has brought something different to the table. 

Not only does it give you an experienced, objective third eye to show your ideas to, oftentimes, we’re not the best at talking about ourselves.

We either try to say we’re the bee’s knees, and come across as looking arrogant, or we downplay how good we are, and don’t sell enough.

A coach can help you get over this.

If you can’t afford a coach, then just ask a friend to read your copy out loud.

Do YOU want to buy what you’re offering?

If so, chances are others will too.

If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Give Freebies

I don’t mean giving away free sessions or free memberships here, but you do need to give potential clients something.

And that comes by way of free tips and advice within your copy.

Rather than thinking of a piece of marketing as an advert, think of it as a mini article, where you tell a bit of a story, give the reader something useful and actionable that they can use right there and then, before finishing with a soft pitch.

If people see you’re willing to help out for free, they’re far more likely to want to pay to see what else you can offer.

A top tip for both trainers and gym owners is to hand out leaflets to members on topics such as –

“The benefits of eating more protein.”

“Weekly meal plan on a budget.”

“Tasty ways to get more veggies into your diet”

And so on.

Even if you don’t win any business from these, you’re helping people, and that’s what we all got into this industry for in the first place. 

To connect with Mike and read more of his articles, head over to http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/blog/

5 Ways You Can Immediately Become a Better Coach – Chris Burgess

1) Seek Criticism.

Praise and positive reinforcement is a massive part of career satisfaction, and it always feels great when our clients give us praise, but the problem with praise is that it confirms you are doing a good job. So if you want to get better, send a survey that your clients can fill in anonymously – ask them “What do I need to improve upon to become a better coach for you?” or “What would you change about my service?” – The results will give you the best indication possible of your shortcomings, because the answers will come from the only people who are allowed to judge you – those who pay you.

Do This: Setup an anonymous survey in Survey monkey and send it you your clients and ask:
‘What do I need to do in order to become a better coach for you?’

2) Down tools to upskill

All of the technical expertise we gain in training and nutrition are all tools. Nothing more. Nothing less. The art of what we do as coaches will always come from understanding what tool to use at the right time for the right outcome for the right person – and in order to do that, all tools have to stay in the box until you have spent the necessary time getting to understand your client, what makes them tick, what they value, and why the journey matters to them.

Do this: Book a coffee date with each of your clients to just ask them how life is. Bonus points for turning your phone off and genuinely listening to your client. 2 ears, 1 mouth…

3) Role Reversal

Want to know if your coaching is working? Invite a client in to put YOU through THEIR session. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about where your technical coaching is missing the mark. It’ll also give you a stronger bond with the client!

Do this: Make it a part of your programme design that once every 12 weeks the client needs to train you.

4) Lead from the front

Nothing makes you an authority quite like standing up and presenting, and nothing will make you really delve into the consistency of your teaching than having to present to your client base, especially if many of them haven’t met before.

Do this: Run a seminar or webinar for your group on the subject you struggle with most

5) Show you care.

Alwyn Cosgrove once told me ‘People won’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care’ and as far as advice goes, it really doesn’t get better for coaches than that.

Going out of your way to show that you appreciate your clients and value their journey will set you apart from 99.9% of Personal Trainers who generally tend to see their clients as transactions, not people to share a journey with.

Do This: Send each of your clients a hand written card in the post, telling them how much you appreciate the work they put in, and how much you support their journey.

Free Weights Vs. Machines – What You NEED To Know – Phil Graham

I’m sure you’ve all heard the best way to train is with free weights over machines.

The typical arguments for use of free weight training will usually go something like this:

“ They activate more muscle fibers including the stabilizers “

“ They are a better representation of raw strength “

“ They burn more calories “

While these comments may be inherently true, machine weights do serve a valid purpose in specific training programs.

First, it’s essential to consider context first…

Q. Starting Strength (Free Weights vs Machines)

No matter what your goal with training is, getting strong first is incredibly important. The stronger you are the quicker things happen from both a body composition and performance standpoint.

For anyone starting out, if you haven’t developed foundational strength and quality of movement in the 5 basic movement patterns (using free or body weight) its time to re write your training program.

The 5 basic movements include:

  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Weighted Carry
  • Push
  • Pull

Generally speaking, provided there are no underling injuries or biomechanical disadvantages from birth these movements are best developed by repetitive practice using free weight.

Not only will you get stronger but you will also develop the much-needed motor skills (co ordination) needed to master quality range of movement and the mind to muscle connection you keep hearing about!

Perfect these movements, engrain them and everything else will fall into place for future strength and hypertrophy gains.

On the other hand if machines are used as a starting point in strength training the quality of movement will be solely governed by the quality of the machine. Also, there is not the same degree of mental effort or coordination involved in comparison to that of using free weights. Meaning your ability to develop that much needed mind to muscle activation is compromised.

As a result of relying on machine work people can develop shitty movement patterns and ultimately lay strength on top of dysfunction.

This is not something you want if you treasure one of your most important assets – mobility!

Q. Working Around Injury (Free Weights vs Machines)

Injury can be a curse when it comes to training.

An injury can hinder your training in two ways. Firstly, the injured muscle group will be out of the question depending on recovery status. Secondly, other muscle groups that require the accessory support of the injured muscle may prove problematic to train.

Lets put this into context.

There tends to be greater involvement of the entire musculature with free weight training. For example say you break your arm, this would make all pressing and pulling movements difficult.

However, your lower body would still be ok to train. Exercises like squats, lunges or anything involving free weight would be out of the question. This is one scenario where machines can come in handy and allow you to work around injuries.

Always remember – Pain inhibits muscle activation.

If you lack adequate mobility and range of motion because of injury don’t be afraid to compensate with machine work until you fully recover!

Q. What are your training goals? (Free Weights vs Machines)

If you’re a Power lifter, Olympic lifter, Crossfitter or Kettle bell enthusiast then yes free weights will be your primary go to as they are specific to your end goal. Machine work can serve as accessory work here and there as needed but in this case free weights rule.

On the other hand if you’re interested in bodybuilding or body composition related goals both machines and free weights can serve a purpose.

Free weight training can come in very useful for building underlying strength, which can prove incredibly helpful when one crosses over into machine work.

Machine work can be useful from an aesthetic standpoint especially when it comes to targeting weak muscle groups and generating a lot of work output safely.

Q. Quality of equipment? (Free Weights vs Machines)

This is something that is often over looked.

Some of the free weight training equipment I’ve used over the years has been ehhhh sketchy to say the least.

Bent barbells, loose dumbbells, shity squat racks you name it – I’ve used it!

I’ve also trained on some machines that would be better of salvaged as scrap.

Over the years I’ve seen a growing problem of fabricators who have very little or no understanding of proper biomechanics manufacture machines that encourage problematic movement patterns that ultimately result in wear and tear if used progressively over time!

I know of one IFBB pro bodybuilder who swears blind his “double’ quad tear was part in parcel a result of training with on a poorly designed hack squat. Yes, you could argue about underlying issues, but for someone who clearly is very much in tune with his musculoskeletal system he most definitely sensed something was off!

If the quality of the equipment you’re using is off, don’t chance it, change it! You’re not going to benefit from it only increase your risk of injury!

Take Home Message (Free Weights vs Machines)

Both machines and free weights have their purpose. Always consider the context of their use. For anyone starting out with strength training It is imperative you master the basic movement patterns using free weight exercises and then work from there depending on your goals!

For more info visit www.phil-graham.com

Muscle Building Tips – Layne Norton’s Top 5

Muscle building tips can commonly come from someone trained rather than an expert who you can rely on. If you wanted the best sure fire muscle building tips, you couldn’t go to anyone better than Pro natural bodybuilder, pro powerlifting champion and Dr in Nutritional Sciences, Dr Layne Norton!

Muscle Building Tips #1 – Consistency.

It’s not sexy. They won’t put it on the cover of a magazine. It won’t sell supplements. But the number one factor for building a great physique is time investment. You have to put in the time. You aren’t going to get results with the time you didn’t put in. The best people in ANY sport, business, or skill didn’t get there overnight. It took them years and years and years to get there. Don’t expect building muscle to happen fast. You can do a lot of things wrong but if you work really hard for a really long period of time you will get results even if small things aren’t optimal.

Muscle Building Tips #2 – Train hard.

Again, not sexy. But I have seen over and over and over and over again people who say the know about training hard who really train hard sporadically. Very few people train really hard for a very long period of time. We don’t like to train hard. Our bodies do not like to change. So it will make us uncomfortable to prevent change. You must get comfortable with being uncomfortable for building serious muscle.

Muscle Building Tips #3 – Monitor your nutrient intake.

If you don’t know what you are taking in each day for your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake then you are really not even close to optimizing your results. If you know what you are taking in you can track how your body responds to various adjustments. You can make your body & nutrition your own science experiment and figure out what works better for you for building muscle fast or cutting body fat.

Muscle Building Tips #4 – Don’t train haphazardly.

Your training should be programmed and planned for building muscle. If you are just walking into the gym and saying “ok it’s back day… I think I’ll do T-bar rows and do high reps.” What are you doing? Seriously? Do you think olympic athletes just show up at the track and say “eh, I think I’m just going to wing it today.” Of course not. So why would you not hold yourself to the same standard if you wanted to build muscle. Make sure you are following a program that is properly periodized and appropriate for your level and training status.

Muscle Building Tips #5 – Focus on one goal at a time.

Obviously everyone wants to be muscular and very lean, but I see so many people spin their wheels by restricting calories to try to cut down only to abandon that a few weeks in because they feel bad and weaker. Then a few weeks into building they start feeling a bit fluffier and begin dieting once again, only to repeat this process over and over. Focus on one thing at a time. You’re there to build muscle or to cut body fat – which is it?

Premier Training International: 3 Steps to Becoming a Personal Trainer

As a society we are constantly looking for help, advice and support and this is evident for the health and fitness industry. The health and fitness industry is an attractive industry for employment opportunities. The UK active leisure, learning and well‐being sector currently represents just over 2% of the UK workforce. Premier is the number one training provider in building quality foundations for aspiring fitness professional to launch successful industry careers.


Below are steps you need to help kick start your personal training career.


Step One – How to Become a Personal Trainer

Be honest with yourself; is now the right time to make sure becoming a personal trainer is the correct move for you? You have to make sure that you have what it takes to make a successful career and becoming a personal trainer. You have to be self-motivated, be a good role model for your clients and love working with a variety of different people. If you think you have what it takes then follow the rest of these steps.


Step Two – How to Become a Personal Trainer

In order to start on a career path as a personal trainer, students can take up Premier’s flagship Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training. In just six weeks you can be fully accredited, fully qualified and ready to take your first steps in the world of health and fitness.


The Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training involves:

  • Gold standard in the health and fitness industry
  • Qualify in just 6 weeks (part time options available)
  • 0% interest-free credit options and funding available*
  • Includes Kettlebells, ViPR, circuit training, first aid and your REP’s membership
  • Over 40 UK training venues to choose from
  • 12 months’ career support
  • Guaranteed interviews


Step Three – How to Become a Personal Trainer

Premier offers a special service, Premier Futures, dedicated to forging links between learners and major industry employers such as Pure Gym and David Lloyd. Once you have completed the Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training you can either seek employment within these organisations (and others) or alternatively you can become a self-employed personal trainer.


If you go on to be a self-employed PT, Premier offers Continued Professional Development (CPD) courses, which are fantastic ways for self-employed PTs to keep on top of their game. They’re the perfect opportunity for PTs to increase the revenue potential of their business. For example, Suspended Movement Training can increase the versatility of your commercial offering as well as providing another level of expertise and keeping the client active and engaged in their PT programme.


Hopefully these steps have helped point you in the right direction when it comes to changing your career and becoming a personal trainer.


For more information about Premier Training International please visit: www.premierglobal.co.uk/legacy.