You are a fully qualified Personal Trainer, you’re clued up on your anatomy & physiology, you can name every major muscle of the human body, have a head full of exercises and know exactly which exercise targets which muscles. However! Your clients most likely do not! They don’t know what the fuck you are talking about when you asked them to squeeze their glutes or get down in the prone position. Don’t get me wrong, it is your job to educate your client in small bite size chunks as and when is suitable, but you MUST get on the same level as your client. Call it what it is and dumb it down, it doesn’t make you look dumb, it makes you a good communicator.
Your clients want to know what they are working but they don’t know what the muscle is called, they also don’t know the process of contraction and the connection between agonist and antagonist muscles. Tell them what you want them to do in their language. Note, their language does not always mean you need to dumb it down, it might mean you need to get more technical! E.g if your client is Doctor they will totally understand when you mean when you say ‘contract your biceps fully to reach full range’ However if they are completely new to exercise and don’t have a background in exercise and physiology. It would be more appropriate to say ‘bend fully at the elbows’
Keep It Simple Stupid
Instructing an Exercise
When I did my Level 2 Gym Instructors qualification (some years ago) we were taught to use the NAMSET acronym to show and explain exercises to clients. NAMSET if you’ve not come across it before stands for;
- Name Exercise
- Area Worked
- Muscles Used
- Silent Demonstration
- Explain Exercise
- Teaching Points
In context, this sounds like;
This is Plank Exercise, it works the core recruiting the Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae and stabilizing muscles. I’ll show you what it looks like (SILENT DEMO). Get into a prone position and hold a straight line between your ankles through your glutes and shoulders while keeping your core active.
This sounds pretty good, but it’s a bit of a mouthful and lots that the client will ultimately forget. Although it works well from a teaching standpoint, it is in most cases, overkill and still a little technical, I like to go with, AND;
- Area Worked
- Name Exercise
- Demonstration with Explanation
This sounds like:
We’re going to work your stomach, this is called a Plank, watch my demonstration; get down on all fours and hold this static position.
I’m a big believer in there is more than one way to skin a cat! My way is not the way it’s just something I’ve found to be simple that works. Find a method which is simple and effective and works for you.
The key is to give the client enough information to enable them to get in position and are able to perform the exercise safely. Additional teaching points can be fed in while the client is performing the exercise and as and when they need correcting. Obviously there are some exercises that need more instruction such as the Kettlebell Swing.
Teach the client
I’ve mentioned how we need change our language to match the client, your role should also be to teach the client the name of the exercise so they know what you want them to do next time you ask them.
I quite often simply demo an exercise and then ask the client what the exercise is? Help them learn, share your knowledge and also save yourself re-teaching the same exercises.
Your teaching points do not need to be technical, call it as it is. You probably had to demonstrate a sound knowledge of exercise and muscles in your Personal Trainer exam but your client isn’t testing you. As long as they are doing what you want them to, activating the correct muscles for the exercise, it’s all good.
Asking the client where they can feel it? and then explaining why they can feel it there is a good way to teach the client what is going on.
Example! Instructing a client to perform a Supine Bridge
Technical speak: Contract your Glutes to extend your Iliopsoas into full extension
Simple speak: Lift your hips!
Next time you instruct your client on a new exercise, refrain from going technical and just call it what it is. If you want them to contract their bum muscles, say that! It’s fine. You want them to understand you, that’s how they will understand you! Funny analogies also work, imagine your cracking nuts between your cheeks. Ok, not PC but if your client has a sense of humour, no harm. Plus, they will definitely understand you.