The Online Training Bullshit Detector™

September 2, 2016

About the Author: Daniel Freedman

By Eric Bach, CSCS is a personal trainer, author, and fitness business coach in Denver, Colorado. Eric’s passion is on simplifying the process of building an online fitness business and helping trainers overcome information overload to a build a successful fitness brand. 

P.S. Did you grab your Six Figure Fitness Business Guide If not, you’re missing out the formula to escape the rat-race of chasing dollars for hours online. 
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If you believe the hype, online training is the wave of the future. It: 

  • Is more cost-effective than in-person training
  •  Offers scheduling flexibility for both trainers and clients 
  •  Is a financial windfall to trainers. It gets them out of rat-race of trading time for money during horrible split shifts.

    What’s not to like?

    Hell, everyone should be an online trainer, right?


    While every trainer should strive to build a long-term, sustainable business, online training is not for everyone.

Wannabe online coaches must first build a solid foundation. It’s like building a foundation in major movements to build muscle and lose fat.

In other words, the strength of your online training business is predicated on your ability to first be a great in-person coach.

Online coaches first need to work in-person with clients from a variety of backgrounds, with unique goals, and training histories. It’s necessary to hone the coaching craft, refine your skills, and learn to transfer your knowledge to a location independent environment. 

This post will cover:

  • The biggest mistakes personal trainers make
  • How to correct them
  • How to properly apply better coaching tactics online

    1. Over-Cueing

In the book Switch, authors Dan and Chip Heath state:

“Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over decades.”

Don’t change too much too quickly with your clients.

On a deadlift you might focus first on the set-up. Then, on leg-drive. Then, on finishing with the hips. But if you throw it at them all at once, your clients will l be overwhelmed, confused, and unable to focus.

Keep it simple. Make small changes, like one movement cue at a time until your clients are ready for the next chunk. Then, continue to build more complexity into training as your clients are able. 

2. Training For Soreness

Just because a client “feels” something, doesn’t mean you’re creating an adaptive response. Exercise is not about difficulty. Sure, can and should occasionally be difficult, but don’t drive your clients through the ground.

Soreness isn’t indicative of a great workout It just means you’ve stressed your body beyond your recoverability. Ask your clients for feedback to find recoverability during training, then progress accordingly. Look to basic overload principles like shorter rest periods, more volume, and more weight — rather than crippling soreness the next day.  

3. Recognizing That Experience Matters

Age matters. So does experience. Coaches shouldn’t use the workouts with 50-year-olds as they do with 20-year-olds.

Injury and training histories matter.  It’s okay to have a preferred way to train, but keep in mind you’re after your clients’ goals, not your own.

4. Thinking That  Workouts Are About The Tool

Don’t fall in love with the newest gadget or the oldest tool. Just because a piece of equipment has fantastic marketing and everyone is using it does NOT mean it’s the best tool.

Conversely, just because a barbell and dumbbells have been around for eons, it doesn’t mean they’re the only exercise equipment you can use.

Use dumbbells. Use barbells. Use your bodyweight. Use kettlebells, cables, and machines. Every piece of equipment has its place. No piece of equipment is the be-all and end-all of training.

Focus on getting stronger with lower body movements, upper body pushes (like bench), and upper body pulls (like rows) with a variety of tools. 

5. Not Questioning Everything

A front squat is a great lift. Except when it isn’t. Such as in the case for  someone who can’t hold the bar in the rack position.

A deadlift is a great lift. Except when it isn’t. Such as in the case of someone who lacks the mobility to pull safely from the floor.

So be wary of absolutes. Adapt an “It depends,” mindset and customize for your clients abilities. 

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6. Not Investing in Yourself Enough

Every year brings new lessons in humility. I realize anew how much I don’t know.

About training. About fantasy football. About nutrition. About business.

There is always more to learn. There is always someone wiser and more knowledgeable guide you. Seek mentors and coaches who’ve walked the walk.

7. Not Meeting Clients Where They Are

Your clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Speak language they understand. If a client says: “I want to lose belly fat,” don’t talk to him  about maximizing fatty acid mobilization. Talk to them about the actual steps that will help them “lose belly fat.”

Don’t say: “ The side plank works your quadratus lumborum and oblique, that’s why we’re doing them.”

Say: “The side plank works muscles that strengthen your core and protect your spine, so you’re less likely to injure your back shoveling snow this winter.

Explain why, educate your client gradually, and help them take control of their fitness.

8. Not Making Clients Self-Sufficient

Clients come to you because they are sick and tired of not feeling comfortable in their own skin.

As the coach, it’s your job to reinforce basic, sound principles.  Your goal as the coach isn’t to drain your client’s bank account. It’s to make him or her self-sufficient and able to take control of their own training.

Think of it this way: if you handed your client (or were being watched) by whomever you deem the top coach in the world, would they be proud?

Teach your clients everything they need to train safely first, including:
* Proper breathing patterns
* Movement mechanics for to push-ups, rows, planks, squats, and hinge pattern.
* What  muscles are being worked within different movement patterns
* The difference between good pain and bad pain
* The importance of progressive overload: why they need to get stronger, decrease rest or increase volume to make progress.

The Takeaway

The coaches who can help their clients get great results without a previous history of coaching in-person are few and far between. Still, there are a few.

But for the vast majority of coaches, focus on mastering the eight points above. Once you’re changing lives, then it’s time to consider adding online training.

And We Can Help.

You know that you can’t trade hours for dollars at the gym indefinitely. Take a step towards building your dream business and
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  • How many clients and hours it really takes to make 6-figures as a personal trainer (hint – it’s a lot)
  • How the hybrid fitness business model helps you make more money, while working fewer hours
  • A step-by-step plan to escape the “dollars for hours” rat race so that you have more time to spend doing the things you love
  • Our unique system for creating coaching packages that transition clients from in-person to online training so you can spend less time in the gym
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Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. p. 44. Print.



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  4. CHRIS BAIATA September 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Absolutely loved this article man. So many good points you made and being I read “Switch” I definitely got the reference. Being someone who seldom trains people in the gym , I try to keep up to date with the cues, and when to actually use them with the client. I also like the part about investing in yourself. This is crucial!
    The older I get the more I realize this!

    Keep up the great work!

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