You are here: Home Unused Content From Training Delivery Folder Session Delivery Frameworks Matching Sessions to Your Clients Training Stage

Matching Sessions to Your Clients Training Stage

The trouble is; most gym members are 'beginners' yet we train them like they're advanced in order to impress them into becoming clients. On this page you'll learn why this doesn't work!

We classify members and clients in fitness clubs into three stages based on their immediate or most important needs.  We do this to help with programme design and to help all fitness professionals to understand what the focus of the exercise plan for the clients following month of training should be.

The three stages are;



What they don’t have


(estimated as 70% of club membership)

Beginners are defined as ‘not having exercised at least 3 x every week for the previous six months’. 

Consistent exercise behaviour


(estimated as 15% of club membership)

An intermediate is a person who ‘has exercised regularly for the last six months but isn’t getting the results they want (or haven’t actually defined exactly what it is they want)’



(15% of club membership)

An advanced person is someone who ‘is training regularly, getting results and happy about it’.

New challenges

Quite simply, trying to dazzle your new clients by teaching them an array of complex exercises or training them as hard as possible so they really ‘feel’ your value, as sadly many trainer do, is unlikely to work for many (if any) clients – especially those beginner or intermediate clients…who make up 85% of a typical club.

So long story short – get rid of any attempts to razzle, dazzle or smash your clients unless they explicitly tell you that’s exactly what they want.  What will work for you and your clients is a training approach that considers and matches each and every client’s current training stage.


What should you focus on with beginners?

With beginners, because they don’t have an established exercise behaviour yet, the underlying aim of their plan, programme and the session you deliver is to ‘addict’ them to exercise.  We use the word ‘addict’ because it is how good the experience may need to be to get the beginner over the ‘attendance’ hump.

You’ll find beginners are either new members at the club, are at home, or have recently come back into the club to attempt to use their membership regularly again. 

What this tells you is that in recent times they haven’t found an exercise experience that, in conjunction with their personal motivation and need to change, is addictive enough to keep them coming back.  They haven’t found an exercise addiction that can overcome the TV set, work, the pub (only on Fridays of course), the movies etc.  As yet, nothing they have done has consistently given them enough of the feelings they want and as such they keep returning to other experiences that do.

Although beginners need effective exercise (which is not usually difficult given they are often unfit), they mostly need emotionally pleasing and experientially rewarding exercise.  For this reason the sessions should be designed with the beginner client’s experiential sweet spot at the top of your mind.  Sessions should be delivered with the beginner client’s personality and emotional needs as a priority.  This is the only way to addict them.

Now that you understand this, you’ll probably understand why group fitness has better attendance and adherence than individual fitness training (without a PT involved).  Simply put, group fitness is more addictive because of its social nature, experiential power (music, enthusiasm, interaction, motivation, care, connection, self-moderated intensity, aesthetic cues) and consistent experience.  Going to the ‘gym’ to ‘workout’ by yourself is not as experientially addictive as meeting someone to engage in something you like in a setting that tickles your senses pleasingly.

To be successful as a personal trainer with ‘beginners’ (an estimated 70% of the market) you must understand beginners need experiences that addict them first and foremost.


What should a PT focus on with an intermediate stage client?

An intermediate stage client isn’t getting results.  Remember, they have a consistent exercise behaviour (defined as more than 3 x a week for six months) but haven’t gotten their results entirely or are coasting along without a clearly defined goal.

Intermediate stage clients are going to be suffering frustration and will need a ‘tune-up’ with their training.  Given they are coming along enough to get results the central question is ‘why aren’t they achieving the results they desire’? 

To solve this challenge you usually review their training, modify volumes and types of training, adapt their nutrition and then monitor progress.  The type or intensity of exercise might not have changed for a long time, or they may be ‘short changing’ themselves with their training and missing opportunities to progress, or avoiding exercises they don’t particularly like.  This doesn’t mean flogging and brow beating the client – remember; emotionally pleasing, experientially rewarding – but it does mean adapting their training and cleaning up any unproductive time.

Because of the principles of individuality and trainability it’s easy to see why one training approach doesn’t work for all clients.  We are all genetically different and therefore respond slightly differently to the same stimulus.  Sometimes with the intermediate client it’s just finding the right mix of training and nutrition to suit them. 

Some intermediate stage clients simply need to ‘get serious to get results’. They may have achieved some results but now need to push on, clarify their goals and commit again. 

Often intermediate stage clients will be experiencing plateaus, frustration, doubt, boredom – essentially a myriad of ‘middle ground’ emotions.  We estimate that around 15% of the club population fit in this category.  You’ll find them at the club and/or slowly disengaging from the club (look at attendance patterns where visit frequency is dropping over the month).  They need support so that their training gives them the results they seek and who better to do that than you as their personal trainer.


What should a PT focus on with an advanced stage client?

An advanced stage client isn’t feeling challenged.  Remember, they have a consistent exercise behaviour, results and now they need more.

You will see these clients in the club often, training well, with the gear they need and the focus too.  That said, they usually want to know more about what they are doing, try new things and they look for really skilled trainers. 

We call them the ‘x-factor seekers’.  They want to squeeze what they can from their efforts and typically will want to extend themselves and seek out variety.  We think about 15% of the club population fit into this category and you’ll find them at the club because they spend a bit of time there!

They usually want specialised sessions that challenge them.  Again, sessions must make them happy, engage them on their terms, and be effective.  Even though they are ‘advanced’ they will all have unique sweet spots that you’ll need to aim for.  Once they are convinced you have robust skills and knowledge they’ll be happy to let you ‘take over’ their training.