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A personal trainer's check list

Tim Collins is a certified personal trainer based in Omaha. He blogs Thursdays for livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Tim here.

When it comes to my job as a personal trainer, I believe the quality of the first session with a client determines their long-term success and motivation.

As important as the initial workout is, it does no good to dive right in before figuring out what any given client's needs are. Most rookie trainers, including myself five years ago, have made this mistake at some point.

My excitement for training my first client was so high, I didn't waste any time getting out on the gym floor and showing him some cool exercises. Afterwards I asked how the session went, and he told me that he enjoyed learning the new tricks but expected more. And he never came back for another session.

Sure, this bummed me out, but this hard lesson made me realize why it's so important, as a trainer, not to cut corners by just giving “workouts” without any philosophy or structure behind them.

I created a checklist for myself that I still use with each new client. I also share it with other trainers so they don't make the same mistake.

Build rapport

I didn't make an effort to get to know my first client as a person. Create small talk by asking about how their day is going or what they like to do for fun. You and your client are a team, and building trust is an important component in attaining a successful relationship, and ultimately, meeting their fitness goals.


Just because someone has big muscles and wears Hulk Hogan tank tops, doesn't necessarily mean they want to increase the number bicep curls reps. Maybe they want to improve their vertical jump or run a mile under six minutes. Learning your client's goals will tell you exactly what they want out of a fitness program.


I always take note of my clients' body fat, circumference in eight different places (neck, bicep, forearm, chest, waist, hip, quadricep and calf) and weight. This allows me to track their changes.


I start my clients with a basic squat, pushup, cable row and cardio test. It helps me understand their physical capabilities. Once strengths and weaknesses are identified, I am able to plan their program appropriately. Those who are at risk for health issues should always get cleared by a physician first.

Personal workout plan

This is the most important component to getting your client on the right track with their fitness. Give them a calendar they can use to keep records of all of their workouts. It should tell them exactly what activities they are supposed to do every day of the week. This is a great tool to hold them accountable and measure progress.

For example:

Monday: strength training
Tuesday: 2 mile run
Wednesday: active rest (play with kids or go bowling with friends)
Thursday: strength training
Friday: 3 mile run
Saturday: active rest
Sunday: yoga

As trainers, our goal should be to service our clients the best way possible. And while excitement and a good attitude are important, don't let it cause you to lose focus on the service. If I do something everyday to make myself a better trainer, my clients will benefit from it as well.

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