When someone goes skydiving, horseback riding, or even surfing for the first time they need to be able to trust that their instructor will keep them safe while in the process of learning this new skill. As a personal trainer, you must also place the safety of your clients first on your list of responsibilities. Remember, if your client gets injured, he/she may have to miss sessions, which takes money out of your pocket. Even worse, if they feel that their injury was due to your negligence, you may lose the client entirely and find that your entire reputation takes a hit. Also, keep in mind that in the litigious world we live in, you could even find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit!
In my 30+ years in this industry I have thankfully never had an issue with the hundreds of clients I have worked with. From the beginning, I made sure to set some very specific parameters for myself in how I treat, care for and progress every person who places their trust in me. And as I mentioned earlier, it all begins with SAFETY first.
5 Simple Strategies for Client Safety
1. Know your Client – Make sure you are well aware of any prior/current injuries he or she may have. Understand their weaknesses and limitations. Also, try to get a feel for their personality. Some people want/need to be pushed, while others must be in a sense, “babied.” Make sure to ask questions throughout the session, making sure you know how they are feeling physically and mentally. Continue to learn more and more about every client you work with.
2. Warmup First – Never throw your client, even if experienced, right into the fire without properly preparing them first. A proper warmup should include 5-10 minutes of light cardio, some easy stretches and several calisthenic movements to get the joints, muscles and attachments ready for what is ahead. Also make sure to do 2-3 progressive warm-ups sets of each specific weight training movement before going full steam ahead.
3. Teach and Enforce Proper Technique – Nothing causes more injuries in the gym than poor exercise technique. Beginners MUST be taught right from day one how to properly perform every exercise, and this must be constantly reinforced. Very often people will quickly lose form when a movement gets difficult, so you must be diligent. Even advanced lifters will occasionally go off course, and it is your job to make sure this does not happen.
4. Stay Focused – When training a client, you should be focused on nothing else but your client. Turn your cell phone off and put it in your pocket. Don’t even text in between sets. When you see a friend, say a quick hello and leave it at that. Taking your eye off a client can easily lead to an injury by allowing them to engage in poor form (see #3), pushing too far, or even getting caught under a weight during movements like squats or bench presses. Pay attention.
5. Progress Slowly – As a trainer you should know that small steps taken one at a time will eventually add up into BIG LEAPS. Training for health, fitness, strength, power, performance and/or more muscle is a marathon and not a sprint. The goal is always to be progressive, but to do so carefully, especially with newbies. Yes, some people are naturally able to push harder more quickly due to their genetic physical and mental makeup, but it is your job to set the proper pace.