Wendy Williamson, Ph.D., is a nationally sought-after speaker in the areas of general personal training education, medical exercise service and post rehabilitation. She was recognized by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2005 and 2006 as one of the top three personal trainers in the nation. A contributing author of the 2008 Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist – ACE Training Textbook, Williamson routinely writes and reviews national certification testing criteria for personal trainers. She has an extensive track record in teaching and curriculum development and is the owner of Williamson Fitness Consulting (www.williamsonfitness.com). Williamson continues to provide hands on post rehabilitation training at Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita, KS.

Offering assessments can help your staff get new clients without ever truly selling sessions. How can this happen? Well, let’s listen in on what a trainer might typically tell a client after a movement screen assessment.

Trainer: “Your shoulder flexion demonstrated limitation, and you shifted right when you performed a squat. When I asked you about it, you told me that you had broken your left leg years ago. Otherwise, you appear pretty healthy. We need to try and get your left leg as strong as your right leg. We can accomplish this by working the quadricep, hamstring and gluteal muscles via single leg exercises and working on single leg balance exercises. Stretching your pectoral muscles would be good, too. We might want to use the foam roller to help with your posture and relax your ‘pec’ muscles. I really believe if we can accomplish this, you most likely won’t limp, and your posture will be more erect, which will help your appearance and gait. I actually think this will help you a lot. What do you think about the plan?”

The key here is that each and every person wants to look better, but if they can also correct their posture and improve their walking through sessions with a trainer, most people will ask when and where to sign up, so they can begin that day. The assessment piece is key to not only identify risk factors and release liability but also to pinpoint issues that need to be addressed for quality of living and health. We certainly don’t want to implement an exercise program that will encourage the imbalances, right? To prevent the imbalances, individualized programming must take place. This drives selling without selling.

Creating a personalized plan that will apply the right corrective exercises for an individual reflects your trainers’ knowledge, professionalism and integrity. We have all seen fitness professionals who conduct the same exercise program for each and every fitness assessment they perform. I guess that is why they are still performing fitness assessments and have difficulty selling packages of training sessions. The cookie cutter program is long gone.

To be able to individualize plans, your trainers may need to study more or seek advice from a medical professional or an advanced fitness professional. Your fitness professionals must know how to problem solve, be extremely familiar with anatomy, know the level of exercise difficulty that best serves each client and address the overall body. In the end, the program must give clients an appropriate workout while addressing the issues demonstrated during the assessment.

For clients with medical concerns, such as orthopedic injuries, diseases, etc., the need to problem solve during the session is especially crucial. Although we would not expect clients to know what to do, it is always wonderful when clients with phenomenal proprioception know exactly what they are feeling during the execution of the exercise so we can provide adaptations to assist them.

Recently, a woman with back pain told me she had not done anything all weekend that would have caused her to have her excruciating pain. Several days later, she finally recalled that she had planted flowers prior to the back pain starting, but she was quick to tell me that she hadn’t spent long doing the planting. As we all know, 80 percent of back pain is created in forward flexion, which is the position she was in to do the planting. It doesn’t take long for an already compromised back to feel pain in forward flexion. Her workout had to be adapted for the pain. Her stabilization had to take a few steps back in order for her to decrease the pain. Problem solving and the ability to adapt programming are key components to client retention.

Once your staff begins delivering the program, they need to emphasize their professionalism and justify the direction they are taking the client by continuing to educate the client about which muscle groups are working and why it is important to do this for the correction to their condition. By doing this, your staff can make sure clients understand the body positioning so they can try and reinvent the position themselves.

The following are tips for fitness professionals to ensure that they can sell sessions through assessments:

  1. Be genuinely interested in the client and their conditions.
  2. Know the anatomy.
  3. Be able to provide a movement screen appropriate for their condition.
  4. Know progressive exercises and the appropriate level of work for various conditions.
  5. Be able to communicate the condition to the client clearly and simply.
  6. Be able to explain what the plan/programming should be to accomplish their goals.
  7. Problem solve independently or have medical professionals/advanced fitness professionals assist you.

Once your staff learns how to explain identified problems to clients, indicate exercises that will get clients closer to their goals and genuinely express how they can help the clients, the selling will be a piece of cake—I promise.