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To Spoil or Not to Spoil…That is the Question

Personal Trainers, do you SPOIL your clients?

Do you keep your clients reliant on YOU?

I used to think this was a good practice. I even thought of it as Full-Service Personal Training. But in hindsight, I wasn’t teaching my clients to be responsible for their health and fitness.

I enjoy serving my clients, bringing their dumbbells to them, taking their dumbbells, and re-stacking them. I let my clients get comfortable on the bench before giving them the bells or bar to press. I move Bosu balls and re-adjust TRX straps for my clients constantly. I have spent many hours wiping down equipment for my clients before and after use. I have adjusted weight machine bench heights, placed pins in plates, safety hooks on barbells, and the list goes on and on and on.

I thought this action was being kind and a good service provider. I am willing to bet many of you have also done this with your clients.

Flash forward 30 years in the industry. I am about to have hand surgery on my dominant hand. It is a minor surgery, but surgery non the less, and I will not be able to serve my clients in this same way while I am healing.

I have spent the last month teaching my clients how to load and de-load dumbbells safely from a bench press and how to set each weight machine for their height. Many of my clients didn’t even know how much weight they had been lifting; they just did what I said and trusted me to hand them the proper equipment.

I have spent time explaining the lengths of the TRX straps for different exercises and shown them how to adjust the straps by themselves.

This has been a big lesson for me. Doing everything for our clients only creates a client with a considerable amount of dependency on you, the trainer. This, in turn, produces less self-efficacy outside of your sessions, resulting in less progress towards their fitness and health goals.

As Professional Fitness Trainers, our ultimate goal is for our clients to be healthy. We may not always be there for them. What if you move or they move? What if you have surgery or an accident? Make sure your clients can care for their fitness with knowledge and safety.

Don’t get into the habit of full-service training. If you already have been doing it as I was, begin the de-programming process for your clients. That is the best long-term way to serve them and their health goals.

I know what some of you are thinking – if they can do it all independently, they won’t need us anymore. However, I’m afraid I must disagree. Your job is to program well and continually challenge your clients appropriately for their fitness level and health goals. If you continue to do that while educating them on the how and why of what you are doing, the sky is the limit for their success and yours! Happy Training!

Shannon Briggs is a multi-passionate fitness professional and educator. She brings 30-plus years of experience to a long, fulfilling career in the fitness industry. In the past 13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, Shannon has led continuing education workshops in multiple group fitness formats and topics specific to personal training; she also has written the curriculum and manuals for numerous workshops accredited by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Shannon is currently a monthly contributor to Campus Rec Magazine for Fitness and Wellness.

MFN Contributing Author

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