Guest Post: Building A Home Workout for your Clients (1)
Whether you train your clients in a gym or in their living room, clients need to train outside of their PT sessions in order to see results. Simple…right? Turns out not so much. It’s ok to admit it: getting clients to train by themselves is – and always will be – one of the biggest challenges facing personal trainers.
The skill, we’ve come to realise, is not just designing awesome home workouts – it’s facilitating them in a way that maximises client adherence. With over 15 years of home personal training experience, we’ve decided to share our advice around how to ensure your client programme gets put up on the fridge door and followed meticulously – instead of winding up under a pile of soon to be recycled utility bills.
What’s in it for you? Clients see better results, stay with you longer, and recommend all their friends! Sounds good? Then let’s begin…
Offer a home workout
In a nutshell – exercising at home is comfortable, convenient, cost-effective, and changes the way clients (and their family) think about their health. Want to know more? Check out the At Home Fitness blog on Why You Should Exercise at Home for a fascinating insight…
Check available kit
Clients might have a couple of Jane Fonda dumbbells stashed away, but chances are they have nothing but themselves to work with. Whilst this is absolutely fine, we usually recommend that clients invest in a set of resistance bands. If a client uses them more than once it’ll justify the spend – and they’ll open up a whole load of exercise options. Either way, find out beforehand what gear a client has (plus what they can acquire), and plan their programme accordingly.
Doing a hundred consecutive burpees might be fun for you (!) but beginner exercisers will either get irreconcilably depressed at their perceived lack of fitness – or develop unhealthy thoughts towards you. At Home Fitness PTs make a strong point of starting with a comprehensive set of fitness and strength assessments (as well as a full appraisal to gauge client readiness) and then assess this every couple of months. That way you can always pitch your home programmes at the right level.
Pick reps or time
There are two broad ways you can design a workout – perform for reps or perform for time. Both have benefits – but it is very client dependent. Beginner exercisers are usually more motivated by timed workouts because they keep moving and aren’t tempted to take long breaks. More experienced and motivated exercisers (including us PTs) may prefer to push each exercise for reps so they can beat their previous attempt, without being tempted to spend 5 minutes between sets. Alternatively, you can try an approach of mixing both by going for maximum reps within a certain amount of time.
Mix muscle groups
Traditional personal training thought suggests we should do big muscle groups first. This is true of course – fatiguing a synergistic or core muscle before performing a heavy whole-body exercise could lead to poor technique, performance or even injury. However, within circuit training (and home workouts) alternating muscle groups is a really good way of balancing out a programme and hitting all muscle groups. It keeps your clients moving, and they can work one group of muscles while another is recovering. Plus they’ll get little ‘breaks’ on the easier exercises. It can also be a clever way of priming muscles before compound moves to improve activation.
Choose your duration
One of the main goals of setting your client a home workout is to give them a time-effective solution that they’ll commit to – and not send them running (sorry). We recommend between 20-45 minutes per workout – and certainly no more than an hour. The workouts you will be able to design at the end of this will be less than 20 minutes in length but still hit the whole body and include strength, aerobic, and anaerobic components.
Simple house props can open up creative ways of doing exercises. Tricep dips on a chair, press-ups from (or onto) the edge of a sofa, or even running up and down the stairs can be effective tools in your home workout toolkit. With legs and ‘pushing’ muscles covered, the biggest challenge is often working the ‘pulling’ muscle groups like lats and rhomboids. A simple reverse flye will hit these areas, using tin cans, water bottles – or clients can use their new resistance bands you recommended earlier…
Without being there to push clients for that extra rep, it becomes more difficult to see if they are making progress. As with any programme, though, if the challenge to improve isn’t there many people will happily plod along with the familiar, knowing they’ve ticked their ‘exercise’ box for the day. In any case, it pays to clarify expectations from the start, by setting some targets and explaining that the current programme is ‘stage 1’. We recommend running through their programme in a session every 6-8 weeks to make sure it’s still a challenge and to offer progressions.
Teach, teach, teach
Writing a client workout, showing them the exercises and then leaving them to it is never, ever enough! We recommend taking the client through the workout at least once and then review it regularly. The goal is to equip them to do it without your help, so (with the exception of dodgy or unsafe technique) try to see how much they can do by themselves, and repeat the workout until you’re both happy they can do it without you watching.
Hyde Phillips has been an At Home Fitness personal trainer for over 10 years and co-directs At Home Fitness Ltd with his business partner Adam Coley.
At Home Fitness equips PTs to build successful and sustainable home personal training businesses in their local area.
QUICK FIRE SUMMARY
- Offer a home workoutExercising at home is comfortable, convenient, cost-effective.
- Check available kitFind out beforehand what gear a client has (plus what they can acquire), and plan their programme accordingly.
- Gauge fitnessStart with a comprehensive set of fitness and strength assessments.
- Pick reps or timeThere are two broad ways you can design a workout – perform for reps or perform for time. Both have benefits – but it is very client dependent.
- Mix muscle groupsAlternating muscle groups is a really good way of balancing out a programme and hitting all muscle groups.
- Choose your durationWe recommend between 20-45 minutes per workout – and certainly no more than an hour.
- Get creativeSimple house props can open up creative ways of doing exercises.
- Encourage progressionIt pays to clarify expectations from the start, by setting some targets and explaining that the current programme is ‘stage 1’.
- Teach, teach, teachWe recommend taking the client through the workout at least once and then review it regularly.