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Personal training, General Health

What Should Personal Trainers do When Clients Don't See Results?

By Joe Talarico on Nov 24, 2021 10:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


This is actually more common than people might think. A lot of times clients come in with big aspirations, and whether it is the fault of the trainer, or the client, a myriad of reasons lead to the client not getting the results they wanted. Today, I’d like to go over some reasons that might happen and what a trainer should do.

Don’t Get Frustrated!

For starters, let’s give ourselves as trainers some compassion. You aren’t a failure as a trainer, or horrible at your job just because a client didn’t achieve their goals. As I said before, there's a whole host of reasons the client hasn’t met their goals. Even though you are their trainer, you are a guide to help them get to their goals. Actually following through on those goals at the end of the day comes down to the client and their adherence.

Behavior vs Outcome Based Goals

What kind of goals did you set for your client? It’s a lot harder to come up with a plan and have a client stick with it week to week when the goal is “lose 100lbs” vs “eat a fistful of veggies with every meal this week”. What I’ve found throughout my years as a trainer is the goals are actually too broad and too focused on the end result. It's amazing that your client wants to lose 100lbs, but that’s also a very blanket goal. What’s the action plan to get there? If they were eating fast food every day, then switching them to chicken and broccoli may be an impossible task. Good habits, followed consistently are what get our clients to stick to the plan long term.

Try breaking down the changes you need them to make into actionable steps that they can easily follow 9/10 times. If they don’t think they can do it 90% of the time, then break it down to an easier step.

Tracking and Measuring

What gets measured gets improved. Are you taking down any measurements from the beginning of their first session, and throughout their timeline? I find 90% of the time, if a client isn’t hitting their goals, it’s because neither the client nor the trainer are truly holding themselves accountable. How do we know your client is on track to lose weight by their wedding if you aren’t doing weekly body fat measurements, and making sure they are eating appropriately and progressing in the gym?

Have a weekly check-in in place where you are taking measurements that allow you to make weekly or bi-weekly changes accordingly to keep them on track.

Outside Factors Negatively Affecting Their Goals

You are only with them maybe 1 hour of the day, a couple times a week. They have 23 other hours of the day where they are left to fend for themselves and life can easily get in the way. Be sure to check in with them on their life outside of here.

  • How is their support system? Do they have family and friends who support their goals, and create an environment that sets them up for success or failure?
  • Are they traveling or eating out a lot, making it hard to eat the right foods to hit their goals? Is their schedule constantly in flux, causing them to reschedule with you and lose consistency?
  • Are they always going out drinking, or succumbing to those outside pressures? It’s not always easy for them to build the new habit of having a few less drinks on Friday night, or opting for veggies instead of fries when they go out to eat with their family. Help them build these habits so it becomes easier to handle.

Have tips and tricks ready for any issues they may be having outside of the gym. These are the little moments that can mean the difference between them binge eating because they think they ruined their day vs staying on course and realizing a slip up doesn’t hurt your progress in the grand scheme of things.

Getting Lost in The Details

Try not to overwhelm your clients with the details. It’s awesome that you know the science and rationale behind their diet, and workout programs, and how each mesocycle works. Your client however, most likely doesn’t care. If you spend too much time focusing on the details, you risk overwhelming them which may make them feel like they don’t know where to start.

Eating Habits

I know trainers aren’t required to have a nutrition certification, or extensive knowledge base. Having said that, if your goal is to be a great trainer, you should have a good grasp on nutrition and how it affects a clients goals. Any time I’ve had a client struggle with both weight loss, and weight gain, it’s usually because they weren’t sticking to their nutrition plan. If they are trying to add size, this usually means not eating enough calories, and protein. If they are trying to lose weight, this usually means they are overeating (probably on the weekends) and not properly accounting for the actual amount of calories they’ve consumed. One weekend binge, can undo a week’s worth of eating at a deficit. These things need to be followed up on and adhered to if the client wants to achieve their goals.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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