Since your training session is the actual product you're selling as a personal trainer, paying attention to how it's designed is one of your most important tasks. The goal of any trainer that wants to retain a consistent client base is to understand and learn how to design extraordinary sessions. Once you've done this, you can refine the process and eventually have your sessions be some of the best on the market. When you can spit out high-quality sessions effortlessly, you'll see your earnings unleashed, and your practice will start to grow rapidly.

Just like any job, this one can become repetitive, but in personal training, that's a good thing. It is at this point that you can gain mastery, which should be the goal of any professional. When you understand every nuance of how to do your job, you can begin to improve its quality and eventually move up to a leadership role.

Training follows a different learning curve than other fields — the job gets remarkably easier as time goes on. But as the job gets easier, your salary will also increase. Unlike most other professions where an increase in pay is usually accompanied by more work and responsibility, it's the opposite with personal training: An increase in salary will actually occur when the job is at its easiest.
The Illusion of Change
If you use common sense, you may think that results are what's most important to the client and that's what they're paying for — after all, it's the reason they called you in the first place, isn't it? But believe it or not, this is actually a far secondary concern; the higher priority is the feeling that they're achieving results. This idea was explained well by consulting guru Jeffrey Lant: "Advisors provide the illusion of change without the reality."
What Does That Mean?
The session must feel good — the actual experience of the session itself must be worth the money, irrespective of any end result the client is going for. If they don't like it while they're doing it, they're unlikely to wait it out for any particular result. This also means we can implement some techniques to increase this illusion of change:

  •        Pre-planning sessions

  •        Taking notes during the session

  •        Changing locations during the session

  •        Providing outstanding service

While these techniques will make a positive impact on how much progress is achieved, they have a more immediate effect. They create the appearance of a higher value session. It's this image that must be maintained at all times in order to charge premium rates.
The Pre-planned Session
The key to delivering best-in-field quality workouts to your clients every time comes down to one simple secret: Plan your workouts beforehand. All you need to do is play the workout out in your head before the session, taking into account your clients' previous workouts and the bigger picture of their goals and future progress. If I had to point to one thing that has led to the quality of my training sessions more than any other, it's the fact that I plan my sessions in advance. The training session is too valuable and too costly to have to worry about what you're doing while you're with the client; you need all of this figured out beforehand so that when you meet your client, your mind is clear to focus on other things.
I know what some of you are thinking, "I don't want to spend any extra time on my clients than I already do." Do you think it takes too long to plan a session in advance? Well then, find me a better use of your time toward getting and keeping clients. Finding new clients? Now that takes a long time; even with the best marketing practices, acquiring new high-level clients that you actually like to train is time-consuming. Once you have one such client, you have to bind them to you with "hoops of steel." You have to make personal training an indispensable part of their lives — something they can't live without. They could lose their job, have a child on the way or just have experienced $30,000 in water damage to their house, but the last thing they should ever want to give up is their training sessions. Delivering a top-notch session every time will ensure that. When you can do this consistently, you'll never have to go looking for clients — they'll find you.
When you have a client locked in to a 60-session package, or you're making $15-20 per training session, pre-planning a session may seem unnecessary. But when you've positioned yourself as a premier expert in the field and you're charging top-dollar, it becomes essential.
When you're actually in your training session with your client, you've got a lot of things to think about. You're in charge of the client's entire training experience, and that's where the value of the session comes from. Minute by minute, you need to be tuned in to what they're doing and feeling; that doesn't leave you any time to wing the session.
Most booked trainers have at least 10 clients; this creates the potential for losing the personal edge from your sessions. Remembering what your client did last time and what body parts they're hitting today and creating an interesting, challenging workout are not things you can figure out after they arrive. If you do, the quality of your sessions will naturally drop, and what you can charge for the session will drop too. If you want to get to the level of $100+ training sessions, this is a base you need to cover.
After you've pre-planned your session, the next step is to take follow-up notes during the actual session. This will go on the same standardized sheet you used to plan the workout. Some of the information that will go on this sheet is:
1.     The weights and reps the client was performing
2.     Any important new milestones that were achieved
3.     Exercises that weren't performed that need to be covered next time
4.     Notes on exercises that work well for the client or they seem to respond well to
5.     Plans for the next session
6.     Any problems the client is having when performing a particular exercise
7.     Any other sudden notes or realizations you have that can help your client
If you've been a trainer for a while, you know that taking notes during sessions is nothing new. It's one of the modern practices in personal training that has become almost universal. The key word here is almost. There are still some trainers (you know who you are) that don't take notes during their clients' sessions. They either have a photographic memory or don't really care what was performed that session. Whatever the case, they're really undermining their ability to add value to their sessions.
I remember when I first started as a personal trainer at a Bally Total Fitness; my training manager at the time didn't think it was necessary for me to keep notes. He questioned why I did it and why I couldn't just keep all the pre-planning and progress tracking in my head. Despite his advice, I kept doing it, and in a few short years, I was earning a six-figure income. Last I heard about him, he was still bouncing around the chain gyms and still earning inadequate pay with a huge workload and tons of stress.
The difference I realized at that time was the importance of adding value to my training sessions. Because of this added value, I was slowly able to train a higher level of client, charge more and work fewer hours.
>>Click here to read Part 2 — Bouncing to different locales and paying attention to clients!
Kaiser Serajuddin is the owner and head trainer of GoHard Fitness Inc. in New York City. He holds a degree in biology fromLong Island University and is certified by the AFAA, IFPA and Spinning. Kaiser also writes and maintains Super-Trainer, a blog delivering some of the most insightful news, training tactics and profiles of other top trainers in the country. For more information, visit or; you can reach him at