PT on the Net Research

Success Series - Part 4

In the previous articles of this series, we have focused on:

  1. Developing your Unique Identity
  2. Doing your homework and knowing your customer
  3. Being in a Peak State by utilizing holistic health principles to your own life.

In this, the fourth article of the series, I will discuss the importance of identifying your client’s goals and how to teach them to know when they have achieved them!


Have you ever gone car shopping with a specific type of car in mind, only to have the salesman try to convince you that you need something else? Or have you ever gone to a massage therapist with a specific pain you wanted worked on and asked them to specifically massage that area only to have them work on everything but what you asked for? I am sure that when in these situations you walked away, as many people have, thinking to yourself, “They didn’t even listen to me!” Needless to say, you probably wouldn’t ever go back to them again, nor would you recommend their services to someone else.

The “Two Ears – One Mouth” concept is very important for exercise and healthcare professionals to grasp, particularly in today’s market of unhealthy people flooding gyms and clinics. Basically this concept states that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is so that we can listen twice as much as we talk. Unfortunately in the fitness industry, this rarely happens. In my travels, I routinely visit gyms, schools, clinics and clubs where service is supposedly being rendered to the client, yet what I commonly see is service being done to the client!

Let me explain… When a client comes to you with a specific goal in mind, whether it be getting over their back pain or simply losing some weight, that particular goal is exactly what they want! But is that always what they get? Do you help them get what you think their goal should be? I suggest you think about all your current clients and look through your files to see what you have written down for their goal(s). If you don’t have any goals written down for them, this is a major oversight and I recommend you call them right away to find out what they are!

For those clients that have clearly defined their goals for you, take a look at their program and decide if the architecture of that program will facilitate their goal attainment, and be honest! As you look at these programs, see if their program actually looks more like it suits your goals rather than theirs! For example, perhaps you are a bodybuilder, and all your clients – whether they are age 9 or 91 – have programs that looks a lot like your bodybuilding program. Or maybe you are hot about functional training and use all the latest bands, boards and balls in your clients’ programs, but you’re actually inflicting programs more suitable for Jackie Chan than for your clients who simply want to look better. Take a look at your programs . . . a good look . . . and decide if you are taking your clients closer to their goals, away from their goals or something else completely different. Again, I encourage you to be honest!

If you have been honest with yourself and your programs clearly state your clients’ goals using a structured, planned approach to achieving those goals, I commend you! If your programs are falling a bit short, don’t worry because now is a GREAT time to improve the service you render to your clients! This change will not only benefit your clients, it will also benefit you!

Each person that presents him or herself to you can be seen as a Universal Opportunity – a gift from the Universe to aid you in your personal and professional development. If you are so busy trying to make square pegs fit into round holes, chances are you will stifle your development. The Universe is very patient, and is even more patient than your clients. This is where the challenge lies for many trainers and therapists. An inability to improvise and adapt to the changing needs of their clients results in a stagnation and eventual elimination of their clientele! This is the opposite of growth.


Depending on the mountain, if you ask ten climbing guides how to get to the top, you may get ten different routes or paths. Broken down to the lowest common denominator, the goals of most people can be split into one of four separate but interrelated groups:

I realize that many of you have clients seeking your services for purely aesthetic objectives. However, as I have pointed out in the previous three articles, health must serve as the foundation from which all other improvements are made if the improvements are to be long lasting! This is why assessment is such a critical component of realistic goal setting, for both you and your client!

Many of you have likely experienced a client asking you to assist him or her in achieving a goal that you knew was utterly impossible. A classic example is someone wanting to lose 50 pounds in three weeks to get ready for a wedding. Another is the touring tennis player who stops in and requests that you improve his speed, agility, stamina and service speed – all for the next tournament, which is just 10 days away!

In situations like this you must clearly outline the results from their assessment and show them where they stand on their particular mountain. Then you must discuss with them the possible routes to the top of the mountain – in other words, how to achieve their goals (Figure 1). This is also the point at which you have to make some critical decisions regarding which path you will take to the top of their mountain. If you are like most trainers, you are in a different boat than most physical therapists, athletic trainers, acupuncturists, or allied health care practitioners who tend to treat people with distinct conditions. As personal trainers, many of you have clients that want you to make them more beautiful.


It’s likely that our attraction to beauty is linked to our inherent desire to survive and develop as human beings. In fact, currently published research suggests that beauty my not simply be in the eye of the beholder. Rather, it may be an ancient hardwired, universal, and potent behavior-driver, similar to hunger or pain, wrought through eons of evolutionary adaptation (1. Discovery Mag. 2/2000)! Inherently, beauty to the opposite sex meant vitality, health, and fertility at a very deep level – a genetic level possibly.

In fact, in the book How The Mind Works (2) by Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Cognitive Neurosciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses a study that suggests that the desire to mate is genetically driven. For this study, attractive male and female students were instructed to try and get the opposite sex to commit to have sexual intercourse with them. A big part of the experiment was to see how long, on average, it would take an attractive male to get a female, and an attractive female to get a male to have sex. The results were scored in the number of days it would take, but the research found their score sheets did not go low enough for males. With males it was a matter of hours! Pinker made the point that it is not the mind, but the genome that drives sexual/mating behaviors.

Many of you have likely experienced the multitude of mental and physiological reactions that are accompanied with seeing an attractive member of the opposite sex. Some of you will even feel immediate hormonal changes in your body including glandular reactions such as sweating, salivating and increased heart rate. This “vanity attraction” is by no means an adult-only event. Researcher Judith Langlois from the University of Texas at Austin, showed that the “beauty reaction” is likely to be genetic. In one of her experiments, she had adults rate photos of human faces on a spectrum from attractive to unattractive. Then she showed pictures of pairs of high- and low-rated faces in front of 6-month-old infants. “The result was straightforward and unambiguous,” she declared. “The babies looked longer at the attractive faces, regardless of gender, race or age of the face.” Studies with babies as young as 2 months old yielded similar results. Langlois stated, “At 2-months, these babies hadn’t been reading Vogue Magazine” (1) indicating that attraction wasn’t learned, that there are strong indications of genetic attraction to beauty that may be linked to survival.


The truth is that many of your clients will come to you hoping to look better than they do now. They will come to you with preconceived notions about how it is that you should make them look good; they will try to tell you how to do your job if you deviate from the current trend or fad. A true professional will immediately realize that such preconceived notions about how one should train to look good will have originated in tabloids and through purchased media hype. You are going to have to re-educate the client. The following points may be useful:

· There were many beautiful bodybuilders long before the introduction of machines. In fact, Arnold, Bill Pearl, Franco Columbo, Lou Ferrigno and Frank Zane are just a few of many names your clients may be familiar with. These men only began using machines for small portions of their training program when stipends from manufactures, supplement companies and appearance fees at gyms made it lucrative for them.

· When you exercise on a machine that isolates a muscle, you get just that, isolation. A huge part of looking good, particularly in today’s climate of insulin resistance and obesity, is burning calories and elevating metabolism. When doing a knee extension, you are primarily working your quads – four muscles. When performing a squat, a lunge or any other functional exercise, even a standing biceps curl with dumbbells, you are working virtually every muscle in your body, and there are hundreds of them!

· Most of the clients seeking your assistance in the gym or rehab centers today have poor posture and significant muscle imbalances. Think of them as bicycle wheels that is no longer round. If you take that bicycle wheel to the gym and tighten all the spokes, you’ll have a tight wheel that is still not round. If you take that same wheel to any general stretching or Yoga class, you will get a loose wheel that is still not round! Neither provides the structural support for the sort of real functional exercises that burn huge calories in the gym. Therefore, your first step toward assisting anyone in achieving their vanity goals is to build a foundation of balanced length/tension relationships – a functional stabilizer system. Only then, will any exercise program work to improve their vanity for the long run!

Quite simply, it is our professional and ethical duty to sell our clients on the concept of healthy vanity! We must educate our clients and get them away from conditioned responses to advertisers and marketers! As I made very clear in the last article, you must be their best influence!


It should be clear at this point that vanity is here to stay. Trying to shun it will not work because vanity drive runs deep . . . very deep! This is good because any time you have a powerful emotional stimulus, you have a powerful motivating tool! All that needs to be done is educating the client to their best path to life long beauty. almost anyone with at least two brain cells will opt for the program promising long-term beauty over the modern quick fix. However, those that don’t want to do it the healthy way pose a grave risk to your reputation.

As clearly stated by Anthony Robbins in his many books and seminars, “We do everything in life to either gain pleasure or avoid pain.” If that is not an authoritative enough resource for you, consider this, in the book “Conversations With God” the author Donald Neale Walshe said that according to God, our actions are driven by either love or fear. This relates to you because you must find out what your client’s main goal is and then sell it to them using terminology they want to hear, and with the objective that they want to obtain. Now, it is your job as their therapist, trainer or coach (mountain guide) to choose the path to that goal, and therein lays our greatest professional opportunity to induce health along the way!

If your client’s main objective is to improve function, this shouldn’t be too difficult if you have the proper training. If not, follow the suggestions presented in the first article of this series and get some training from a mentor that can guide you toward a successful resolution of achieving your clients’ goals while you learn – that’s why doctors call their place of business a practice. If the client presents challenges beyond your ability, build some reciprocity by referring them to someone who’s unique identity and skill profile matches the client’s objectives. When you are talking to them about the referral you are giving them, tell them what you are good at so they know how to reciprocate!

When the client’s goal is to improve performance, the same formula as above applies. Now, the most exciting thing is that using the principles of sound whole-food eating and following the “Flexibility/Stability – Strength – Power” formula, all of your clients will become more beautiful, inside and out!


As I have said over and over, evaluation is critical for success. It is the benchmark from which all decisions of exercise progression and regression are made. It is the foundation from which decisions are made about how your client should eat, and as I have said before, if you are not assessing, you are guessing! During your initial consultation, it is imperative that you clearly define your client’s objective(s) and goals. If they wanting to change the shape of their body, the objective can be easily defined by taking circumferential measurements or body fat percentage. Either way, you need clear objectives and a defined starting point.

By starting with an initial evaluation, you gather data indicating where they are relative to where they are trying to go. If they are the kind of person that needs reinforcement, schedule frequent reevaluations with them. If they do well on a coaching model, coach them to a full understanding of their new joint mobilizations, stretches, exercises, eating instructions and send them on their way with their new homework. I recommend setting a specific reevaluation time or at least narrowing it down to a certain week during which the reevaluation must take place. This way they are cognizant of the fact that they will be getting a report card and so will you!

Upon reevaluation, you will learn a lot about your client’s compliance, the rate at which they can achieve objectives and how to proceed next. They may need a shorter program, an easier program, a more intense program, dietary changes – whatever the case, it will generally become clear after a reevaluation. Just as a business executive would modify a business plan on a weekly or monthly basis to meet current objectives, so must you adjust your program to your clients’ progress.

A quick recommendation I’d like to make is to reward clients at each step of the process. How you reward each client should be specific to their personality traits and what you feel will motivate them the most. For many, it is simply hearing that they are doing well. For others, it may be something tangible like a free massage or what ever fits your budget for such reward structures. Some may appreciate a free training session as their reward.

Once your client has achieved their objective, it is important to quickly establish a new one, even if the new objective is to take a break. I have seen many healthcare and exercise professionals drop the ball at this point in the journey because they felt their work was done. This is the point at which many clients will quickly revert back to their old ways. They no longer have any direction and end up going the wrong way. From almost any perspective of business acumen or personal compassion, it is important to keep them going in the right direction and assist them in determining their next adventure. This is also the point where you will decide what role you will take in assisting them toward their new objective.


In the next and final article of the series, I will share several tips for client retention and some program design strategies not commonly taught to health and exercise professionals today.


  1. Lemley, Brad. “Isn’t She Lovely?” Discovery Magazine. Vol. 21 No. 2; Feb. 2000.
  2. Pinker, S. How the Mind Works, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.