Learning how to plan a personal training session is an absolutely essential part of the qualification process. Simply put, without this knowledge you won't be able to find work as a PT.
With this in mind, this article will break down this process by covering topics such as:
If you'd like to plan and deliver your own sessions the first step in this process is to complete a Personal Training Diploma. In doing so, you will gain vital experience tailoring workout programmes to meet a client's specific needs and goals.
You can also download our FREE course prospectus here, for further information!
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Steps to Plan a Personal Training Session
There are a number of initial steps you should take when thinking about how to plan a personal training session; so below are 5 ways that you should carry out in consecutive order that will ensure you deliver a service that is second to none.
Conduct a Consltation and Par Q
Prior to your first session with a client, you want to ensure that all relevant safety measures have been put in place; this can be done in the form of a consultation and a PAR Q form.
So what is a consultation form? This is a documentation that helps a personal trainer establish what kind of lifestyle a client lives and their current habits. It typically includes questions such as: Do you smoke?, What is your job? What is your favourite kind of exercise? How often do you do exercise?
All of these questions are designed to give a personal trainer a further insight to a client on a personal level, building a level of trust and understanding. It's during this meeting that you find out their goals and reasons for joining your team.
The consultation process is the most vital stage of any personal training session plan, as after this, you’re able to plan their sessions according to their preferences and target areas. Personal training is not a one size fits all, so this first meeting breaks the ice and ensures that your sessions are tailor made to each individual.
Typically in the same meeting, you must conduct a PAR-Q form (pre-activity readiness questionnaire form), where you learn about the client’s medical history and any limitations they may have. It’s here where you find out if the client has any problems that could hinder their performance, or any medical conditions that exempt them from particular exercises.
This meeting is informal and provides a great opportunity to get to know your client and for them to decipher whether your service can cater to their needs and goals. Not only is this beneficial for social purposes, but the PAR-Q is a requirement to understand if the client needs a GP sign off before beginning exercise and training.
So, don’t forget to start your journey to the perfect personal training session by sitting down and having a meeting with your potential new client. If you need some more in depth guidance on consultation processes, head over to our article personal training consultation: guide, examples & scripts.
Find Out Your Clients Main Goal
It’s vital to give particular elements of personal training special attention when learning how to plan a PT session, most importantly, the goals of your clients. A personal training session must be centred around your clients achievable objectives, therefore it is important to plan in advance.
Arranging your sessions days or weeks in advance shows your commitment to their desired goal, whether that be muscle gain or weight loss, and ensures that you aren’t acting instinctively or generically. This kind of strategy might look like creating workout routines that are simply filling the time and are one size fits all, rather than helping your client reach their potential.
So if you’re wondering where to start, the best place is by collecting as much information that you can from your client, you’re then able to align this information with particular workouts. For example, a client comes to you with a desire to grow stronger legs, they’re going to be disappointed if the main focus of their routines each week is on their back and chest. Similarly, if a client has the objective to build on their upper body strength, conducting sessions that consist predominantly of HIIT workouts is not going to be the best approach.
Though this may seem self explanatory, it is important to strike the right balance between a target area and working the body overall. A useful approach is to plan the week or month with split muscle days, with emphasis on the target muscle group. This is so the body is receiving an equal amount of attention and particular muscle groups aren’t benign overly worked and becoming exhausted.
However, you must explain to your clients the reasoning behind the sessions that don’t focus on the area they have expressed a desire to work on to you. For some who aren’t aware of the importance of rest days - which you can read about here - it may seem contradictory to go to a personal training session and not focus on your desired target area.
It is for this reason that you should plan for your client and pre-determine their routines for as long as they are with you. The best approach is to plan for months in advance so you can give the client some indication as to when their results may start to show, and generally letting them in on what to expect from each session. As well as this, explain why the energy must be equally distributed through the body for optimal performance and results.
Plan Nutritional Guidance
In addition to educating clients on fitness and physical activity, another key element to establishing how to plan a personal training session is how to encourage your clients to make nutritional changes to their lifestyle.
Though a personal trainer cannot prescribe a meal plan that a client must follow and abide by, they can however give guidance and advice to make healthier choices.
It is typically during the consultation that you find out whether your client has any dietary requirements, such as allergies, dislikes or particularly lifestyle commitments - such as veganism or vegetarianism. This allows you to best establish a strategy to best approach your client’s nutritional needs so they enjoy their food and are likely to form healthy habits.
The way to create the best personal training session plan is to avoid neglecting nutritional guidance, and if you feel underqualified, you can take on a level 4 nutrition course to ensure you’re providing the utmost effective advice.
You can also find out more about how your client currently eats, and the simple swaps that would help them smash their goals during your personal training sessions. Though it may seem like another segment of personal training, nutritional consideration is vital to ensure the energy is high and the client is seeing results.
Talk Your Client Through The Plan
So, before you go ahead and start conducting personal training sessions, finalise your plan with the client. You need the client to be aware that you know exactly how to plan a personal training session properly. Therefore by taking them through a monthly outlook helps to gain that reliability and also allows for the client to know what to expect over the duration of their time training with you.
At this stage, your client is ready to begin training, so you must ensure that your plan is secure, thought through entirely and metaphorically bulletproof. A good way to find out whether your client is happy with the plan is simply to read their reaction and body language.
Reading a client's reaction allows for you to understand if they feel like they won't enjoy the plan, whether it's off track, or any general concerns. For this reason, ensure you justify your choices to the client and ensure that they feel comfortable enough to challenge your decisions if necessary.
Moreover, read if a client is seemingly uncomfortable with the plan but it's maybe too nervous to say. Try to kindly prompt them to let you know if there is anything they're unhappy with, after all, every client wants to be retained.
To delve in a little deeper into client retention, head over to our article; PT client retention: How to keep your clients.
Personal Training Session Plan Sample
Now that you have the all important stages leading up to your practical session in the bag, you can now go ahead and conduct your perfect session, tailor made to your clients goals. But if you’re wondering where to begin, below we have created a personal training session plan sample for a client.
Here, you can see a short sample of an approach you could take, and maybe even use it as a personal training session plan template that you can expand on for future clients and adapt to each individual's needs.
First, let's take a look at who the session is for.
This client enjoys weight training with an intermediate background of gym activity. They want to work on their legs and glutes, trying to get them stronger and more defined but struggle with seeing a difference after their own workouts.
They enjoy being pushed, with a history in training they can lift more than the average new client stating that on average, their squat is around 70kg max. With the main goal being legs, these sessions are hoped by the client to be the most enjoyable and arguably the most intense.
Personal Training Session Plan Sample for Legs
Warming up is vital. For this session, a 10 minute cycle is a good start to get the heart rate up and the legs feeling more limber. Following this, a 5 minute stretching session of static and dynamic stretches focusing on the whole body, but more particularly, the legs.
A great place to start is to conduct a compound movement before isolating the muscles individually. Of course with a leg workout, the perfect place to begin is with a squat.
Your client is trusting you in knowing how to plan a PT session for them that has regarded their level of fitness. So, prior to this session your client made you aware that their maximum lift for a squat is 70kg. So a great place to start is with an ascending pyramid set, this may look like something like this;
This compound exercise warms up the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, abdominals and your calves. It is perfect for beginning a leg session and prepares the muscles and builds overall strength for isolation.
Following this, your client should be raring to go and trust that you know how to plan a personal training session perfect for them. Now it is time to begin isolating muscles throughout the legs, first the hamstrings.
Just like your previous technique of an ascending pyramid, you might want to switch it up and go for a descending pyramid with lower weight volume but higher reps; the weight depends upon your clients limitations so your plan for a hamstring curl may look like this:
Isolation exercises can be different for everyone depending on experience, however generally the most safe way to perform is by not working to failure, but to conduct more reps with less weight. This is due to the fact that the isolation exercise is performed with the pressure typically on one joint, increasing risk of injury.
Remember when learning how to plan a personal training session, rest times are vital! You must incorporate sufficient rest inbetween sets to not exhaust your client.
Next, you want to jump back into a compound movement, an all round favourite is a barbell deadlift.
A deadlift works the hamstrings, back, hips, glutes and the trapezius and is a hugely beneficial exercise. Deadlifts are the perfect set up to include in your personal training session plan and when executed correctly, can really push your client to feel the burn! Your plan for this exercise could look something like this;
This demanding exercise requires plenty of energy, so the technique you see here is a full pyramid, so just when things may feel a little too tough, you come back down the pyramid to keep the energy high. Notice how the sets have increased, as you’re now in the substance of your work out, strength and motivation have increased.
One final example of how to plan a personal training session is the leg extended hip thrust to target the glutes. This exercise feels intense, particularly due to it being an isolation exercise so it's a good idea to avoid any risk of injury and lower the intensity and distinguish your clients limitations. Your plan may look something similar to this;
Due to this being a body weight exercise the reps and sets can increase slightly in comparison to a weighted isolation exercise. However it's still important to take precaution and ensure you’re not over exhausting the client.
Now you have seen our loose outline of how to plan a personal training session, you should be able to expand on this and apply it to your own clients needs and goals. From the consultation process down to the session itself, knowing how to plan a PT session should no longer be something to be scared of!
In fact, you can get excited about it.
For more personal training resources, check out our articles below;
- Can Personal Trainers Give Nutritional Advice?
- Types of Professional Development for Personal Trainers (2020)
Should I Practice My Session Before Taking on a Client?
Though not everybody may have the ability and facilities to practice how to plan a personal training session, if you can, it's a great way to start. The nature of consultations and managing your own business is a huge step, so maybe sitting down with a family member or a friend and doing a mock consultation and PAR Q process would be the perfect way to get comfortable.
Not only this, but having the confidence in the gym to conduct your personal training session plan is a new kind of confidence you must acquire. Taking a companion with you and allowing for a judgement free zone to practice your motivational skills can be a great way to become a master at your craft.
Like they say, practice makes perfect.
How Do I Price My Sessions?
You should price your sessions according to your experience and expertise. Though it may seem tempting to price yourself higher than average, you must take into account what you can provide, and if your service is worth the price you’re charging. It will only damage you and your business by setting your services at a higher price point than it should be.
If you describe and sell a service that you simply cannot provide yet,you’re likely not only to lose clients, but also build up a negative reputation. So, start from the bottom and work your way up.
If you need additional help in setting your pricing structure and want to see the industry standard, head to our article how much is a personal trainer?
How Long Should My Session Last?
When doing research into how to plan a personal training session, it's important to keep time management in mind. If you tell your clients your session lasts 1 hour, then you should make a conscious effort to ensure that is exactly how long your sessions proceed more - no more or less.
Clients have lives and commitments outside of their training, they don't want to be late to their appointment or work as a result of your poor time management.
So, ensure your personal training session plan is consistent with the industry standard of 45 minutes - 1 hour sessions. Some personal trainers even operate on 30 minute sessions, however it's useful to decide time lengths after goals have been considered.
Bad time management can diminish your reputation, so to be up there with the best in the business, ensure you have all the best attributes. To find out what these are, read our article: What makes a good personal trainer? 12 top traits.
I'm Capable of All of This! How Do I Become a Personal Trainer?
If you think you know how to plan a personal training session and you’ve got what it takes to be in the business, you can become a personal trainer with OriGym!
Here you can be qualified in as little as 4 weeks, so get planning following our tips because you could be on the gym floor sooner than you think. For a more extensive and in depth guide on how to get started, head over to our article: How to become a personal trainer.
Before You Go!
Now that you know how to plan a personal training session, you will be able to create beneficial programmes for your clients and find success within the industry.
Start a Successful Online PT Business From Home in 9 Weeks
Download our video guide to get started