Exactly What to Say and When to Say it During a Training Session

Updated: Jun 22

Silence isn’t always golden, especially when our job is to keep our clients engaged. This isn’t to say that we should be blabbing the entire session either, but like all things, there is a balance.


Most art has a cadence to it, and a well constructed workout is no different. Keeping our instruction (and socializing) at specific, strategic points in the session can be the difference between a satisfied client and one who is not.


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We all strive to conduct that (figurative) “perfect session” where we deliver exactly what our client wants, but what specifically does that look like? Since everyone’s goals are different, the answer doesn’t lie in a series of “magical exercises." Instead, it lies in the synergy between all of the components of our session and how they compliment each other. Another component of our sessions are what we say, and how we say it. If our session was a song, then the pace and exercises are the beat, and what we say are the lyrics.


Here are some useful tips which can help us figure out exactly what to say and when to say it when encountering different personality types:


People who don’t like working out - At times we all can develop a little contempt for exercising. For those of us who might not enjoy the "journey," we can always use distractions. This can come in the form explaining the exercise in more detail during or between sets. This can also come in the form of talking about something completely unrelated to what they’re currently doing, if that helps. Just be careful to not get too deep in conversation or they may lose form.


People who are less social, or harder to relate to - Awkward silences can make a session feel twice as long. If a client seems to be more quiet, reserved, or we just don’t have much in common to talk about, we can still create engagement by talking about the exercises, what they’re working and how they fit into our client's goals. That's a universal topic. Being clear and articulate with our instruction, giving them corrections, reminders and feedback will keep both of you focused on what’s important. Past that, if the opportunity seems appropriate, you can always mention the weather, good food you just ate, or even ask about what they did/are doing over the weekend.


People who won’t let you get a word in - Endorphins and a good conversation can knock a well paced workout right off track. A “quick” 1-2 minute conversation can be a long time in certain cases, especially when the goal is to elevate the heart rate. Don’t be afraid to kindly interrupt them with (for example): "Excuse me, I'm sorry. Let's do xyz first and then I want to hear the rest of what you're saying."


People who move too quickly - While they may feel like they are getting it done quicker, or perhaps overachieving, moving too quick through an exercise (unless speed is the goal) typically leads to overtrained larger/stronger muscles and neglected smaller, supportive muscles. Over time, this leads to injury. One strategy to keep this under control is to make sure your client is maintaining proper form along each point in their kinetic chain, through every stage of the motion. Another strategy is to have them follow a slower cadence at every stage of the motion. A useful one is the hypertrophy 4-2-2 cadence, the 4 seconds being contraction time (shortening of the muscle), 2 seconds being the isometric (or squeeze) and the final 2 seconds being the eccentric (lengthening). Start the client off by counting during each stage to keep them "honest." Make sure you don't speed your counting to meet their body speed. Instead, kindly ask them to slow down and follow your count.


As health professionals, we are all so much more than the exercises we present and the time we keep. Frankly, people can get those two things from an online video. What online workouts, or even going to an open gym can't compete with is having an objective set of experienced eyes on you. Receiving a totally personalized experience, along with real-time feedback and modifications is the quickest and safest way for your client to achieve their goals. If our clients can understand this then perhaps private training can be seen as less of a luxury and more of a necessity.