training too hard

Are you training too hard?

Are you a personal trainer who pushes your clients like professional athletes? Are you training them to achieve their best body? Or are you pushing them to feel like they’ve work hard? Is there a difference? For the client, yes. Pushing all clients the same won’t bring about the best results. And it’s important trainers remember that.

We’re caught up in a trend for athletic bodies, which is seeing trainers use techniques not suited to the individual. So what can trainers do? There are three simple ways to manage expectations and bring about real results.

Readjust the expectation

Look at the client, not their expectation. Are they being realistic? After all, most personal training clients aren’t athletes. An important thing for personal trainers to remember. A lot of people starting a fitness programme want the low body fat, muscular hypertrophy and muscle definition associated with an athletic body. But can that realistically be achieved?

Rather than saying no to clients, a lot of trainers have started to use advanced methods. This approach means that clients get that ‘train like an athlete’ feel after a session. You know, high sweat, high pain and high intensity. The problem is that this training approach can involve a very high workload being placed on the client. Or extremely technical lifts and exercises being performed too soon. Likewise, plyometrics used inappropriately, Olympic lifts being expected from novice lifters, and loading up lifts too soon are examples of what’s wrong with this approach.

The ironic thing is that when the general public experience this ‘train like an athlete’ approach they’re generally delighted. They feel like the training was tough and tough training equals good training. At this point it’s important for the trainer to readjust the client’s expectation. 

Educate the client

The simple fact is that while yes, the client is getting a beasting, it may not be optimal training for their body. The responsibility of educating the client lies with the trainer and it should be stressed that effective training does not depend on the size of the sweat patches after the session.

Ideally the only person who should be trained like an athlete is an athlete. They have earned that right through years of training experience. They have the ability to tolerate advanced training methods and larger training loads.

The general population should be trained at a level suited to them. This is so they can optimally recover and adapt. Training a client above their level is dangerous and unprofessional. The increased risk of injury and extended recovery time needed after inappropriately loaded training sessions is not the best way to achieve a goal. Leaving a training session unable to walk or feeling sick is not a good thing. Of course, there are aspects of high level athletic training that can be introduced. Some lifts and exercises do transfer across all levels. However, it’s important to monitor the volume, intensity and density of the training to ensure it’s suited to the client’s ability. 

To this end, it’s important the client understand their programme and why it’s best suited to them.

Change the mindset

Instead of training clients like athletes, trainers should encourage clients to think like athletes. 

After all, it’s often what happens outside of the gym that determines a client’s success. Lifestyle has a huge impact on the possibility of achieving a goal and changing a client’s mindset will impact that. A trainer sees a client for one hour a few times a week. What happens outside that hour is what will make or break a goal.

Determination, motivation and self-control are all traits of successful high-level athletes and are traits we can all adopt. If a trainer can change the mindset of their client the end goal becomes much more achievable. 



Ben Mahony is the academic content creator at Setanta College. He has lectured in sports science and human performance while working with teams and athletes in a variety of sports such as rugby, hurling and netball. Ben is a UKSCA qualified strength and conditioning coach as well as a NSCA certified personal trainer. For more information visit setantacollege.com