A list of the top 102 “must knows” for personal trainers and people who want to hire personal trainers
Do you know all of them?
1. Being sore isn’t indicative of a good workout.
Smashing clients is not the answer.
2. Squats aren’t bad for your client’s knees.
3. A detox doesn’t “cleanse” your client’s body.
Their liver will do that for them.4.
4. There is a limit to how much protein your clients need.
More protein doesn’t equal more muscle growth.
5. Punishing clients with harder workouts for
poor dietary decisions is poor personal training.
6. Mobility is important, but making your clients spend
30 minutes on a foam roller is not an effective warm-up.
7. Calories count and macros matter, but your clients
don’t necessarily need to track calories to gain/lose weight.
8. Remember joints, actions, muscles, or also known as JAM.
All exercises are movements about a joint,
where muscles perform an action.
9. VFI are the three key variables in program design.
10. Energy balance: Your clients can get fat
eating broccoli, kale, and organic produce.
They can lose weight eating donuts.
11. Empathy: If you don’t care for your
clients, you’re in the wrong industry.
12. Coach your clients,
don’t “train” them.
13. Exercise principles are
14. Adopt a long-term focus with
your clients for long-term results.
15. The answer to most
questions is, “It depends.”
16. Focus on the clients you do have,
not the ones you don’t have.
17. Your work with your client doesn’t
end when the session finishes.
18. A cert 3 and 4 in personal training
isn’t the end of your learning.
19. Specificity: Your training sessions will cause
specific adaptations to the demands imposed on your clients.
Make sure your programming is specific
to your client’s goals, not yours.
20. Reversibility: If your clients don’t use it, they’ll lose it.
21. MRV: There is only so much volume your
clients can recover from in a given session.
You don’t need to hit 15 chest exercises to build size.
22. Progressive Overload: If there is no
form of overload, there is no adaptation.
23. Individualization: Nobody is a special snowflake,
but all snowflakes have slight variations.
24. Levers, fulcrum, moment arms, torque are
essential for understanding resistance training.
25. Don’t try and fit a square peg in a round hole.
Your clients are all unique, to a degree.
26. There is no such thing as an
“anabolic window.” It’s more like a barn door.
27. Protein powder does not build muscle
without sufficient volume overload or a calorie surplus.
28. If you’re on time, you’re late.
If you’re late, you’re fired.
29. Don’t downplay the role of the central
nervous system, regardless of goal.
30. Exercises are simply plug-ins. There is no
one movement to build fitness, muscle, or strength.
31. Resistance training is the application of
external load to movement. Make sure your
clients can perform the movement safely
before applying load.
32. Stimulate don’t annihilate. Smashing
muscles into oblivion will not yield better
33. You can’t “stoke the metabolic fire.”
Meal frequency plays a small part in body
34. Screening your clients is essential for
injury prevention, longevity, and
35. Adherence is king. If your clients
can’t follow the plan consistently,
it won’t work.
36. A well-designed program incorporates
multiple planes of movement.
37. Artificial sweeteners are not fattening
nor bad for your health. Too much of
anything is unhealthy.
38. Personal training is a profession,
so act like a professional.
39. Communication is key. If a 10 year old
doesn’t understand, your client won’t either.
40. You aren’t there to make decisions for
your clients. Instead guide their decisions
so they can make informed choices to
suit their lifestyle and preferences.
41. To ensure that your clients
do not stagnate, there must be
variation within their training to
There is, however, a trade-off
with specificity, so beware!
42. Nothing in the body is
either on or off; it’s a continuum.
43. If in doubt, refer out. There
is nothing wrong with not knowing
44. Know your scope of practice
and respect that.
45. Meal plans are effective tools for
weight management, but often
do more harm than good.
46. Personal trainers are problem solvers.
Use your tool box of knowledge to solve
your clients problems one at a time.
47. If you give your clients a fish,
they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish
and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Holding
secrets is counterintuitive to the role of a coach.
48. You can’t change your clients until
they are willing to change.
49. If you’re not measuring, you’re just
guessing. What gets measured, gets managed.
50. Clients lie, so get used to it
and learn how to read between the lines.
51. Misreporting: On average, people
under report food intake by 50 percent
and overestimate energy expenditure by 50 percent.
52. Carbohydrates after dark can be beneficial
to improve sleep, recovery, and adherence.
53. Textbook knowledge is one thing, but
experiencing first hand what you are about
to put your clients through goes a long way!
54. Breakfast doesn’t have to be at a
specific time of day. Just break the
fast and make it fit your client’s lifestyle.
55. Methods are many, but principles are
but a few. Learn the principles and devise
your own methods tailored to your clients.
56. Personal trainer jargon doesn’t help
your clients understand or perform the task
at hand. It’s not what you know, it’s
what you communicate.
57. Yelling “chest up, knees out” when
your clients squat is not always effective
cueing – remember external versus internal cues.
58. Everybody learns differently, so tailor
the teaching to your clients’ preferred
method of learning–be it visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic.
59. Science is the shortest way to the
truth, and finding the best way to apply it to
your clients training is key for a successful
60. Many roads lead to Rome,
but one will get your client there quicker–find it.
61. Glutes are keystone–train
them heavy, light in all planes.
62. Deadlifts aren’t bad for your client’s
back. Poor execution, load selection and
programming will make your client’s back sore.
63. Personal training is the intricate
blend of the application of science
and the art of coaching–find your style.
64. Personal training is more than rep
counting or yelling and screaming. It’s about
taking your client from point A to B on the
most effective, safe, and enjoyable route.
65. You don’t need to be friends with your
clients to be a good coach, but you must
give a sh**!
66. The fitness fatigue model underpins
all athletic performance. It’s important
to know this!
67. Buy-in, habit formation, and
incremental lifestyle changes are how
to get long-term body compositional
results, not detoxes and fad diets.
68. Listen, observe, assess, identify,
devise, communicate, re-assess and amend.
Together, these are all coaching…
69. Make mistakes, but make sure
you reflect, learn, and grow.
70. Integrity goes a long way toward
your tenure as a personal trainer.
71. There are many ways to skin a cat.
Similarly, there are many ways to
program for any goal.
72. Mobility may be cool, but stability
is an important factor in all movements.
Note Boyles’ joint-by-joint theory.
73. Dunning Kruger: The more you learn,
the less you know.
74. Overtraining is near impossible,
under-recovering is easy.
75. Training a muscle group once a
week may be what pro bodybuilders
advocate, but it doesn’t mean it’s the
most effective or optimal training frequency
for strength and size.
76. There’s a difference between
exercising and training. Know that difference.
77. Social media may have trends,
but sport science hasn’t changed all
that much in the last five decades.
78. SRA: Stimulate, recover, adapt.
79. Success is found at the intersection
between what your client wants and what
your client needs.
80. Moderation is key.
81. Some things can’t be said enough.
82. Moderation is key.
83. Anyone who claims to be an
expert most likely can’t be trusted.
84. Your clients don’t pay you to hear
about you, watch you send text messages,
or talk to other people in the gym. While
they may just be one of many sessions
that day for you, but to them that’s their
85. The number of followers someone
has is not an indication of what they know.
86. Cookie-cutters are good for cutting
cookies, but not for making training or
87. Core workouts are good for your
core, but should not be the core of
88. Functional, adjective, is defined as
“of having a specific activity, purpose or task.”
89. Celebrate the little things.
90. Focus on processes, not outcomes.
91. Nobody ever shocked a muscle
into growing, unless they used progressive
overload as their method of surprise.
92. Bang for buck is key with gen pop clients.
93. Pareto principle: 80 percent of results
are achieved with the first 20 percent effort.
It’s the remaining 20 percent of results
that require exponentially more effort.
94. You cannot isolate a muscle.
95. There are different recovery
curves for different systems.
96. Wide-grip pull-ups and pull-downs
don’t equate to a wide back; strict form
and progressive overload do!
97. Determining the appropriate range
of motion will depend upon your client’s
individual structure and function.
98. You can’t target the inner/outer
portion of a muscle with a specific exercise.
99. If your clients goals are related
to fat loss, plyometrics isn’t the answer.
100. Don’t do an exercise
“just because.” Do an exercise ‘because: ________.
101. Knowledge isn’t power, applied knowledge is power.
102. Time under tension (Link about this below)
If you are a personal trainer, make sure you’re
familiar with everything on this list. Otherwise,
hopefully you have a plan to learn and rectify
that. And if you are someone who has hired
a personal trainer and they don’t know far too
many things on this list, well, maybe it’s time
to reconsider your investment!