I first heard this phrase from Paul Chek about 10 years ago and it’s as true now as it was back then.

The art of coaching is something very much underrated in our field. Having the best programme writing skills is of zero importance, or use, if no one ever follows your programmes or follows it half-heartedly.

If you’ve been in this industry a while, you already know that getting people to follow your programmes is the real challenge.

Client Motivation

When it comes to client goals, 95% of what everyone wants to achieve can be put into one of these three categories;

  • Lose fat
  • Gain muscle
  • Get stronger

Getting ‘more toned’ is super common and can be placed into either the ‘lose fat’ or ‘gain muscle’ categories. A sports performance client slots nicely into the getting stronger category although I’m sure some will argue against this.

There are exceptions but, generally speaking, these are the big three.

However, if you were to talk to a client who ‘wants to be more toned’ about the best strategies for gaining muscle, they will immediately get images of a bodybuilder whizzing through their heads and start the all-too-common conversation of ‘I don’t want to be ‘too big’’ or ‘I don’t want to look manly’.

At that point you have to back-track and start explaining that gaining muscle doesn’t happen overnight and that they aren’t going to wake up tomorrow morning and have bulging biceps or a chest that looks like they’ve had a boob job during the night and that gaining muscle takes a lot of time and a lot of discipline, especially for women. No doubt, you’ve had this conversation many times before.

In this situation, it doesn’t matter how much you explain the science behind it all and it doesn’t matter what your intentions were when writing their programme, you’ve planted that element of doubt in their mind as to what will happen if they follow your programme.

Once that conversation starts, they’re on to you. They now think the programme you have them doing is going to give them big muscles. When they feel their legs fatiguing during their squats, they think their legs are growing an inch every rep.

With that mindset, your client isn’t going to work as hard. They’re not going to push themselves and this will show in their results when you remeasure them at the end of your programme. Instead of envisioning their goal as the result of their hard work in the gym, they start envisioning what they don’t want.

Your programme turned from a very good programme to an ineffective one, all from one comment about ‘gaining muscle’ to a client who wants to get ‘more toned’.

This is a perfect example where you should have told them what they wanted and given them what they needed.

Smart Communicating

It all comes down to your coaching skills.

From a coaching perspective, your job is to get your clients the result they signed up for. If the goal is fat loss for an upcoming holiday, your client isn’t going to be very interested if you talk about correcting their pronation and adducting knees when they squat.

You know that the pronation needs fixing to reduce the chance of an injury and that an injury means your client would be unable to train and, therefore, lead to them not being able to reach their goal.

The client doesn’t think this. All the client thinks is that they have a bikini to look good in and they don’t care what their knees do when they bend down.

In a situation like this, telling them what they wanted but giving them what they needed would be describing why something is being done in relation to their clients goal.

In the above scenario with a weak squat that needs fixing to prevent injury, this means describing the reasons for certain exercises in a way that relates to their goal.

As an example, banded glute bridges are in the programme to strengthen and grow the bum rather than to strengthen the weak glute med/min to correct a faulty squat pattern and prevent injury.

Tell them what they want, give them what they need.

Should I Lie?

Telling them what they want but giving them what they need does not mean lying to your client.

It also doesn’t mean selling them something you cannot offer. It is simply being smart about your communication and using it to effectively motivate your client to follow their programme.

If you want your client to be excited about Prone Cobras, don’t tell them it’s to prevent back pain 20 years from now, tell them it’s to make their chest look bigger.

Coaching is an art as well as a science and this one simple phrase can help you go a long way with the motivation and the results you get with your clients. Tell them what they want, give them what they need.