Stronger Sundays

Dominate your fitness business with this weekly collection of strategies, tips, and tricks.
By trainers, for trainers.


Quote of the week:

"I'm generally in favor of free speech, but if unironically uttering the phrase ‘I'm an influencer’ became a punishable offense, I wouldn't necessarily be upset about it."
                                                                                          - Greg Nuckols on Facebook
Watch for this newsletter from the Personal Trainer Development Center each Sunday.

In this issue:

  1. Perfect exercise form doesn't exist   
  2. Don't tell your clients to listen to their bodies
  3. Gym ownership rarely works out
  4. Pithy social media posts are not the goal
1. Perfect exercise form doesn't exist

Clifton Harski wants personal trainers to stop talking about exercise in absolute terms.

Yes, Harski concedes, it sometimes makes sense to teach exercise in simple ways, especially to beginners. "Clients have been conditioned to expect specific rules on how they must perform exercises," he says. Giving them too much room for interpretation often leads to "confusion, lack of confidence, and perhaps even fear they’re ‘doing it all wrong.’"

But at the same time, presenting form as "right" or "wrong" does a disservice. Harski cites three examples:

1. Knee valgus

It’s bad if the client can’t keep one or both knees from collapsing inward on squats. But in other contexts, like when someone changes direction to move laterally, knee valgus is perfectly natural.

2. Knees over toes

We’ve been hearing this one since our first day in the fitness industry: the knee should never move past the toes on squats or lunges. And it’s wrong. "Knees can totally move forward, and should," Harski says. (Seriously, who’s going to tell this lifter she's doing it wrong?) Where it’s potentially problematic is when the load is "so great that it overwhelms the structure" of the joints.

3. Spinal flexion

"Quick changes in spinal flexion under load" are obviously a bad idea. We can all agree on that. Same with someone who has a preexisting lumbar injury. But normal, everyday movements typically require up to 40 degrees of spinal flexion. That’s a far greater range of motion than the low back allows in extension, rotation, or lateral flexion.

The takeaway: "It’s a fine line to walk" between instructing exercises in a way that allows them to feel safe and successful, Harski says, and "telling them they’re doing it wrong and perhaps dangerously"—which they probably aren’t. Look for ways to build confidence, rather than tearing it down.
2. Don't tell your clients to listen to their bodies

While we’re on the subject of confusing advice we give the public, Jeb Stuart Johnston has a few thoughts about nutrition. Specifically, the idea that if our readers and clients just "listen to their bodies," they’ll be able to lose fat and control their weight. It only works if their bodies are telling them the truth.

Case in point: A client told Johnston she was still hungry after meals. She thought her body was telling her she needed more food.

"An absence of fullness is not hunger," Johnston says. "We’ve become so accustomed to feeding our hedonic desires, if we aren’t in a constant state of satiety, we feel something is wrong."

The takeaway: Honest coaching means telling clients something they don’t want to hear: "Change doesn’t come from comfort." Losing fat requires reversing years, if not a lifetime, of listening to a body that’s telling the client to eat more than it needs, and to move less.
3. Gym ownership rarely works out

"For many, if not most" fitness pros, gym ownership is "a horrible idea," says Chad Landers in this Facebook post.

Landers, owner of Push Private Fitness in Los Angeles and a regular PTDC contributor, knows what he’s talking about. Even though he owns a thriving studio with high-profile clients in one of the world’s most competitive markets, he understands how rare it is to beat the odds.

"Some of the best trainers I know actually closed their gyms because it’s freaking hard," he says. "Do not open a gym as some type of ego stroke. It’s the quickest way to financial ruin."

Go deeper: Pete Dupuis, cofounder of Cressey Sports Performance, explains exactly why gym ownership is so potentially ruinous in this PTDC article.

"Roughly 80 percent of all small businesses fail inside of their first three years of operation," Dupuis says. Most gyms end up in that unfortunate position "because the decision to open was an emotional one, as opposed to an informed one."

And speaking of emotional vs. informed decisions, what are your plans for the next recession? As Dupuis notes, personal trainers will be among the first casualties when the economy comes off its sugar high and the long-delayed downturn is upon us—unless they prepare for it in three specific ways.

Go even deeper: The annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar is Sunday, September 22, in Hudson, Massachusetts. For the first and possibly only time, you can meet and learn from the cofounders of CSP and the founder of the PTDC and Online Trainer Academy. Eric Cressey and Pete Dupuis will host and give presentations, while Jonathan Goodman delivers the keynote address.  
4. Pithy social media posts are not the goal - Jonathan Goodman

A lot of fitness pros will wake up five years from now and realize they’ve been working hard and accomplishing nothing. That’s because they’ve been wasting their time creating pithy social media posts that are as ephemeral as a dream you have before waking up in the morning. You might spend hours composing a post, but readers spend seconds consuming it, and forget it as soon as they move on to the next momentary distraction.

The biggest problem with these "here today, gone tomorrow" tactics is simple supply and demand. There’s too much noise on social media, and too little space. Organic reach is dead on just about every platform, while advertising costs are rising at an unprecedented rate.

To take control of your future, two things matter more than anything else:

1. Having a reputation that precedes you

2. Understanding marketing psychology

There’s no simple or fast way to achieve either one. Both require time and focus, as they should. Those who do the work and play the long game will have a huge advantage over peers who’re addicted to immediacy.

Go deeper: The best marketing methods are timely, yet timeless. If you want to become immune to changes in forces outside your control, learn the Marketing Breakthroughs of Highly Wealthy Online Trainers, the second book of our box set.

**Thanks for reading. What to do next**

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