What are the first steps in writing a Personal Training plan?
Before any kind of plan is written, the first thing that needs to be done is to establish where the client is and where the client wants to go. Once those pieces of information are known you can then look at how you would get the client there. Firstly, a personal trainer would assess where the client is. This involves doing a comprehensive consultation with the client to establish relevant facts about their current situation. It would involve speaking with the client to find out their history and background, and anything medical the trainer would need to be aware of. It would also involve actual health and physical fitness tests such as measuring body weight, body fat, blood pressure or strength etc. Once these are established, a personal trainer would then look at the goals of the client. Please note it’s important at this stage to remember that if there are any medical contraindications or issues then consent from the client’s GP would need to be sort.
What kind of goals should you set?
Once you understand where your client is coming from, what their background is, you have the measurements taken from their assessment and you’ve gone through the goals with them and you understand what they want to achieve, it’s then important to make sure the goals are robust and what we call SMART goals. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. This means that we cannot have a goal which is just ‘to get fitter’, it needs to be something along the lines of – ‘to improve cardio-respiratory fitness by 10% within the next six months’, for example. Our intentions are therefore to always say exactly what we want to achieve, by how much and when. It is also important to make sure that it is a realistic and achievable goal at the same time.
How do you put the goals in place within a training plan?
Once these SMART goals are agreed with the client, we now know where the client is and where the client wants to go. The next stage is to look at how we are going to get the client there, and for this it takes a lot of skill to design a proper, robust, fit-for-purpose personal training plan. The personal trainer would look to include exercises which are going to elicit change for the client towards their goals, whilst also meeting the preferences of the client. For example, if the client didn’t like running on the treadmill it would not be a good choice to put the client on the treadmill. It would be a better choice to find out what exercises they enjoy and to populate that into their programme.
What are the Principles of Training?
When we write a personal training programme we refer to what we call the principles of training. The principles of training are -
- Progression - the programme must progress and get tougher as the weeks go on.
- Reversibility - we must make sure that the client continues with it, because if the client stops the programme then they will obviously lose those gains.
- Overload - we must make sure that the client is subjected to an intensity that is going to challenge them, and that therefore is going to elicit change.
- Frequency - we must plan carefully to ensure that we detail how many times per week we are going to be doing this training programme.
- Intensity - how hard is it going to be – what is the intensity for this training programme each week, remembering that it needs to progress.
- Time - how long each session is going to be/how much time is each session taking.
- Specificity - what different types of exercise are going to be used. It is important that it is specific to the goals, for example if they wanted to increase muscular strength then there would be resistance exercises included.
Progressive programmes and periodisation
Once we have considered those principles of training, we can then start to plan a progressive training programme. Sometimes you may hear the term periodisation, which is looking at planning out a structured and evolving progressive plan that is long-term. However, although periodisation is something which is in the personal trainer’s toolkit, it is usually sufficient to begin by purely putting together a progressive training plan to get your client started. This will involve looking at those principles of training and deciding what exercises are needed to elicit the change that the client has identified within their goals. For example, if the client’s goal was to improve cardio-respiratory fitness by 10% within six months we would make sure to plan out a programme that is going to have cardio-respiratory exercises at an intensity which will challenge the client, and we will make sure that we increase the difficulty of that programme as the client gets fitter.
Summary - how to write a Personal Training plan
All of the above is covered within our personal training qualification, so all Study Active students and graduates will have these skills in their toolkit to be able to write long-term, progressive programmes for their client. The programme can be as complicated or as simple as one desires, but it is very important to get the basics right first. Hopefully this blog has been a useful article in helping you understand the basics of designing a personal trainer plan.
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