9 Ways to Improve Your Personal Training Programs

You know how we do things here at Performance U – We give you practical personal training concepts and techniques in a simple and straight forward fashion.

Well, today’s guest post by Colin McAuslan, owner of  Owner of McAuslan Performance, is about as practical and straight-forward as you can get.

9 Ways to Improve Your Personal Training Programs

When dealing with a multitude of clients with a variety of unique goals and abilities every day we train, it can be easy to fall into routines where we favour particular program design strategies, set performances and exercises. Personally, every few months I find it beneficial to introspectively look at my programming in order to see what I can tweak and improve, for the sake of optimal program design and peak motivation for my clients. So with that in mind, here at 10 concepts that will improve your training and add quality to your programming.

1. Eccentric Training

Eccentric muscle contractions occur during the lengthening of muscle tissue under tension. Tension during this period will cause myofibrullar disruption resulting in hypertrophy and strength improvements. Eccentrically we can control between approximately 100 to 140% of the loads that we can lift concentrically. Whether loading greater than 100% of concentric strength or adding forced repetitions to the end of a set, incorporating eccentric training into your programming can decrease your risk of injury and even improve your activities of daily living, as well as improve other performance variables.

2. Specificity

When I teach personal training seminars, I commonly run into trainers that believe as long as the client is sweating, panting and calling them names, then they must be seeing results. Too many trainers adapt the philosophy of “good at everything, great at nothing”. Training adaptations happen due to specific set, rep and rest guidelines, not sweat. So review the definitions of strength, power, endurance, speed, agility and hypertrophy and revisit your repetition continuums to understand how to properly induce your desired training adaptations.

Not every client needs to be pinched with calipers or have their VO2 max measured, but at the same time, how many clients do you have that are exercising just because? Adding specific tests can give these clients additional motivation to remain diligent with their nutrition and workouts as well as compare them to population norms, in order to see where they could improve. Look at easy tests to administer like a 12 minute run, t-test, RAST or YMCA bench press.

3. Heart Rate Monitor

This is a cheap and effective way to monitor your client’s intensity. The lactate threshold is the point at which your aerobic system can no longer produce enough energy so the anaerobic system aids in energy production, resulting in increases in blood lactate concentrations. The more you client trains with a HR monitor, they will begin to recognize the corresponding intensity of where the exercise becomes too difficult to continue at a steady state pace. This is hypothetically the lactate threshold. Train below it for aerobic adaptations and training above it for anaerobic and some aerobic adaptations.

4. Periodization

Now planning out every workout for years upon years is highly unlikely and a huge waist of your time for an average client, but understanding how to properly organize programs to achieve the best results based on their goals can be of huge benefit. One practical way to train for multiple adaptations properly that your clients stay interested might be undulating periodization or daily undulating periodization. I suggest you research them more!

5. Teach Lifts with Progression

Every exercise you do stems from a bench press, deadlift and squat. I’m not saying that a deadlift will automatically improve your chin-ups but a properly taught deadlift will encourage lat tension as well as challenge your grip strength, which can prove beneficial to other movements. As a personal trainer, I see it as a necessity to properly teach these three movements and progressions and regressions of each, depending on the abilities of your client.

6. Nutritional Knowledge

As personal trainers and strength coaches, we may have other professionals on our speed dial who deal with nutrition but understanding nutrient timing, macronutrient intake and weight loss vs. weight gain nutritional differences can add a whole new credibility to what you do.

7. Go to the Source

Investigate, don’t regurgitate.  Be a statistical outlier. Don’t follow the heard of people that read a post online or an article in a magazine and treat it as gospel. Go to the source when possible. Use PubMed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) and Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.ca/) to read the short summary (known as an abstract) of the scientific research that has been done on your topic of interest.

You can also invest in a research review service like the monthly Strength & Conditioning Research.


 8. Everything Has Its Place

Don’t be critical of systems, programs, equipment or other trainers based on something you heard about them, saw in a 1 minute clip online or read about. Everything popular in the fitness industry has something appealing about it, hence why it’s popular. You may not be a CrossFit person, but you should strive to develop the client passion that is shown throughout the CrossFit community. You may not see eye-to-eye with veganism, but you have to agree with the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables and the dominating role they should serve in our diets. Apply the good and disregard the bad.

9. Strongman/Caveman Training

Exercise should be fun and anytime I incorporate these types of exercises, I only get positive feedback. There is something animalistic about flipping tires, shaking ropes, dragging sleds, running hills and tossing medicine balls that have people asking for more. If exercise isn’t enjoyable, people will look for a way out.


Don’t be afraid to revisit your programming and critically look at how you could alter it for improved results and increased enjoyment for your clients. Think for yourself and investigate any questions that you may have.


Author Info:

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 2.31.32 PMColin McAuslan MHK(c), CSCS is the owner of McAuslan Performance in Windsor, ON.

Contact him at his Website, Facebook and Youtube channel.


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