Thoughts On Personal Training

High Intensity Training - Personal TrainingIf you’re thinking of becoming a personal trainer the most important thing to ask is whether it is something you really want to do, something you are  passionate about. If not, find what that thing is and do it instead. You only live once and you shouldn’t waste years of your life in a job you don’t enjoy.

Personal training is teaching. Spend at least as much time learning how to teach as you do learning about exercise and nutrition. All the training and diet knowledge in the world won’t do your clients any good if you don’t know how to effectively communicate it.

How you say something is just as important as what you say. Choose your words and phrasing carefully, especially when instructing someone during an exercise. Be specific, be concise, and whenever possible phrase things positively. Don’t tell them what they’re doing wrong – tell them how to do it right.

Keep records of your clients’s workouts and goal-specific measurements. If you aren’t tracking these things you’re not serious about helping them improve them.

Learn to market and sell. You can be the best personal trainer in the world and it won’t make a difference if people don’t know about you.

Be an instructor, not a rep counter. Anybody can load plates on a bar or put a pin in a weight stack and stand there counting reps and shouting encouragement. A good trainer also carefully observes and analyzes the client’s performance and instructs them on how to improve it to maximize the benefit and minimize the risk of the exercise.

Lead by example. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, model, or elite athlete to be a good trainer (and being one doesn’t make you a qualified trainer either) but you should “walk the talk”. Being fit and healthy inspires confidence in your ability to teach others to do the same.

Focus on principles, not programs. Individuals vary in their response to exercise and diet and their goals. No one specific program or diet will work best for everyone, but the general principles of exercise and nutrition are universal. Learn to adapt them to the individual.

First, do no harm. The safety of your clients should be your highest priority. Whatever their stated training and nutrition goals the end goal is always to improve their well being and enjoyment of life, and injuring them or undermining their long term health is counterproductive to that.

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.” – Bruce Lee, paraphrasing Jiddu Krishnamurti. Every trainer is different, every client is different, and you will find some ways of doing things (teaching, instructing, recording workouts, marketing, accounting, etc.) work well for you, others don’t, and some may work well with certain clients and not others. Read, listen, observe and talk with other trainers and don’t be afraid to experiment to find ways to do things better or improve yourself as a trainer.

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29 Responses to Thoughts On Personal Training

  1. Adam Budnik January 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    It is so true Drew. You can see it all over fitness industry. Majority of trainers are really qualified to only count reps and shout at client or be great instructors who don’t really look like an example to follow. What really strucked me the most about your article is marketing and starting a business. What would be your advice for setting up small one to one business with minimum financial input? Owning sone of the top equipment out there is not cheap and this is then first obstinate I am founding in starting by my self. Any suggestions?? I would really appropriate your advice. Adam

    • Drew Baye January 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm #


      One of my biggest regrets is not having spent more time earlier on learning about the business and marketing side of training. I made a lot of costly but educational mistakes over the years.

      I’ll be writing a separate post addressing your question about equipment since it is something I’m asked about often.

  2. Chris January 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    It’s sad that people default to becoming a personal trainer simply because they like working out. Hell, I just saw a personal trainer certificate program on Groupon. I know a fair amount on this subject considering I’ve been reading your blog since 2000, along with the old cyberpump archives, and I STILL wouldn’t be a trainer. And because I don’t have supreme genetics, people rarely listen to what I have to say but follow every word of some meathead. I remember when my buddy and I were looking for a gym the head instructor was talking to us about working out being “all physics”. My friend said to me, “I doubt this guy could even tell us Newton’s laws of motion.” I can’t think of another field of SCIENCE where the so called leaders (or spokesman) are as uneducated and dogmatic as fitness trainers are.

    • Drew Baye January 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm #


      Unfortunately the majority of personal trainers out there have no idea what they’re doing and much of what they’re being taught and tested on by the certifying agencies is unscientific nonsense.

  3. Blain January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I am a high school teacher and this article really hits home. Well done once again. Keep the great articles coming and I wish you a great 2013.

    • Drew Baye January 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks Blain,

      The same to you, and I’ve got a few more posts on personal training planned for this week.

  4. Thomas January 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Thanks Drew, I enjoy these kinds of articles as well.

  5. Martin January 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    I have been inspired to become a personal trainer after reading and “educating” myself with proper strength training as described by Drew and the book Body By Science. I feel like reading the various articles in here, seeing clips on youtube from Body By Science and testing HIT out on my own body and some friends has given me a good foundation for becoming a personal trainer. I know that i can actually teach them the proper use of weights, how to eat and how to get the best results they can get, but is that enough? There is nowhere i can get a certificate saying i am a HIT trainer and that i know what i am talking about. I live in Denmark and it is hard to even find ANYONE who knows about HIT and the different educations for personal training there is are about a lot of nonsense – but they can give me a “certificate” saying i am an educated trainer. Should i just jump into training people or is it maybe worth traveling to the US to get a certificate?

    • Drew Baye January 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm #


      The only high intensity training certification program I can recommend is RenEx, but you’d have to travel to Cleveland or Orlando in the US for it. The others either teach poorly or are inconsistent with HIT principles and mix in non-HIT nonsense or have very low standards. The internet HIT certifications I’m aware of are total crap.

      I teach high intensity training instructor workshops but do not certify instructors.

      In my opinion the best approach is apprenticeship. Work for someone who is knowledgeable and learn from them. I was fortunate to work for Mike Moran in college who is an excellent trainer and moving to Florida to work for Ken Hutchins was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I learned more of value about exercise from working with Ken and conversations with Mike Mentzer than I did studying exercise physiology.

      Certification doesn’t mean you’re a good trainer, or even that you know much about training. I’ve met and spoke with a lot of certified trainers and the majority of them are clueless about proper exercise. If you have to get certified for insurance or employment take the least expensive exam you can find (including maintenance costs like membership, CEUs, etc.). Don’t rely on them for worthwhile education and experience, though.

  6. Richard January 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    A timely article for you to write Drew, seeing as I am half way through completion of my Personal Training Certificate. My motivation is right on the money – to teach and to help people. I’ve always enjoyed teaching HIT/exercise principles more so then actually practicing them myself – probably because it hurts so damn much! I’m looking forward to further articles on this topic specifically on how to start-up without any equipment.
    Could you please point me towards more information on a Renex certification? I couldn’t find anything on their website. I dream of bringing the HIT/Baye/Renex brand and philosophy to Sydney, Australia. It’s been confined to just the US public for long enough.

    • Drew Baye January 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Hey Richard,

      The RenEx web page has a contact section you can request information through. I also recommend getting in touch with Steve with HIT Australia who comments here frequently.

      • Richard January 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

        Thanks Drew. Steve, do you or HIT Australia have a website?

  7. Karl January 11, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Man when i do your 4/4 seconds lifting im so weak its emberassing. Say incline bench i was doing 6-7x reps with 70 kg with good form no jerking but ofc much faster. Now when i do 4/4 im doing 50kg and i fatigue at 5x reps. Its like i fatigue so f**** fast when i do the 4/4. Suddenly its just boom there is nothing left in the tank. But the first reps are easy then suddenly boom it stops.

    • Drew Baye January 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm #


      You’re not weaker. You’re using a harder style of performance.

  8. Steven Turner January 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    I teach Certificated fitness courses here in Australia with a government organisations and as noted much that I have to teach is just crap. Fortunately I am also able to deliver modified HIT principles I find many students appreciate this and now train their clients exclusively HIT.

    Richard this seems extremely coincidental but just the other day I met with one of my HIT devotees we have been discussing for a number of years to conduct a HIT training workshop in Sydney. Could you log onto his website Race Fit leave your contact details or if Drew doesn’t mind I will email him my contact details so you can contact me directly.

    Richard there are a number of people in Australia who follow HIT maybe it is time that we get together and if some way possible it would be ultimate aim to get Drew to come to Australia to present at a HIT workshop.

  9. Pete Collins January 12, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    Hi Drew
    I post on BBS & RenEx, am new to you, so G’Day mate.
    Excellent article, I work in the corporate world (USA Company in Australia), much training in psychology,NLP & social sciences over the years reinforced with 20 years experience managing people (i’m 44) later, I completely aligned with this topic and your thoughts. There are too many Personal Trainers in the game for glory, significance, money or “girls” It starts with your intent, one must love what they do, are prepared to deal with the boredom of learning and improving, must think of the subjects needs, not just ones own, must keep the eye on perfecting the process not just the end game. I am going down the path of becoming a trainer myself, have the RenEx book but now seek the practical lessons but before I decided upon this path I spent time deciding what is right, before what to do, it is one thing to experience the HIT workouts oneself however replicating that into being a trainer may not be for all.

    “Most people can’t handle boredom, That means they can’t stay on one thing until they are good at it, and they wonder why they are unhappy” Quote by CURTIS JACKSON AKA 50 CENT

    Cheers, Pete

  10. Pete Collins January 12, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    @ Richard
    I am in Melbourne Australia and share your passion. Perhaps a few of us boys here can talk to RenEx -Overload Fitness and acquire some practical training with them, I have the RenEx manual, fantastic tool for both the trainee and trainer.

    Cheers, Pete

  11. Richard January 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Thanks Steve, a local HIT workshop is something i’d definately be interested in attending. Great idea to have Drew host it too! I’ve left my email address at Peter Schafer’s website.

  12. Richard January 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    @Pete Collins
    Agreed. Learning about HIT via books, blogs and videos will only get you so far. Practical performance, supervision and critique from expert Trainers is definately needed for complete understanding and proper execution. Pity they’re on the other side of the planet!

  13. Pete Collins January 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    So, what are WE going to do about it??
    Steven Turner may want to chime in also


  14. Steven Turner January 12, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Richard and Pete

    Approximately 10 years ago I came across HIT by accident, I remembered reading Arthur Jones some 20 years before but didn’t realise what Arthur was saying. What was this HIT one set to MMF? Like you guys most of my HIT training consisted of trial and error. I came across Drew’s website, than BBS book was released,and now RenX. Drew, Doug, Josh, have been great freely providing so much HIT information. I do agree that only so much can be learnt this way.

    “To work towards over the next 12 months”.

    If Drew doesn’t mind if I could ask anyone else in Australia who are interested in HIT that if you could go to the Race Fit website and leave your contact details. If we can get enough interest than I would be happy to coordinate a HIT seminar/workshop in Australia with Drew as guest speaker.

    • Drew Baye January 13, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Hey Steve,

      That’s fine with me. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.

  15. Pete Collins January 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Hey Steve @ Richard
    I purchased the Mike Mentzer training video back in 1989, watched it but I was not mature enough intellectually and my ego lead me down the more is better training path, hindsight is annoyed with me for that, but I am where I am and that’s it, I discovered the BBS book about 18 mths ago while training at Kieser MST here in Melbourne, this lead me to Drew, RenEx etc and as an injury free 44 year old I am thankful for the experience and knowledge these guys bring to me as an average responder that can train safely but very intensely with the right motivation in mind.
    I will register my details on Race Fit, lets get talking, I am sure we can motivate Drew or perhaps Doug to come to out great country, obviously time & costs will be a major factor for these guys.


  16. Bill Pruitt July 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Very good words of advice Drew. I appreciate your site and your passion for utilizing the HIT principles.

  17. Bryan October 5, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Great site Drew! I’d like to start by thanking you for being a man of integrity. I didnt think men like you still existed. You may have answered this already, so I’ll be brief.

    “What should an aspiring trainer do to become a trainer with high standards?”

    To elaborate, I’m studying ACE books, it seemed like a logical enough place to start. Its not HIT, but it couldn’t be completely wrong, right? WRONG! I’m getting really angry at the book for being a mess of contradictions and openly admitting the futility of their methods (MHR, Ratings of Perceived Exertion, Borg Scale etc) and then proceeding to explain in detail the method they just said isn’t worth a damn.

    I’m beginning to feel I’ve wasted my money.

    It seems I’ll have to self educate. I’m pretty good at that. What are some resources I could use to teach myself? Even better would be audio resources or a video series. I can rip the audio file and listen to it in the truck. (Im a truck driver. A fit, rational trucker… irony.)

    Should I even bother finishing my ACE exam? It might open a door somewhere and I can shadow a reputable HIT trainer.

    Thank you again for your site Drew.

    • Drew Baye October 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm #


      Unfortunately, there are currently no certification programs I would recommend. ACE’s certification is accredited and widely recognized, and you will need a certification to work at some gyms and training studios and to purchase liability insurance, but much of what they teach about exercise and personal training is wrong.

      The two books I am working on how, Advanced HIT Methods which will be out any day now and Elements of Form which will be out early next year, are more geared towards advanced trainees and trainers, and will be useful.

      • Bryan October 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

        Cool. I’m a long time lurker and proud owner of Project Kratos (taught me to do squats properly), so I’m excited to see what you put out next. Really looking forward to Elements of Form. And in case anyone else is looking for study material, I have found that UC Berkeley puts out their previous courses on video or as a podcast. I am currently studying anatomy and physiology on the road with this series:,d,Biology,9A701D54E8896D0E

        Its not geared towards fitness. Its an A&P class such as you might take in college minus lab work. For the science dork in all of us. 🙂

        • Drew Baye October 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

          Thanks Brian,

          There are a few schools that do this, and I highly recommend that people watch this if they did not take these classes in college.

          • Bryan October 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

            In response to the outrageous costs of student loans I quote Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting, “Don’t get pissed at me because I can get the same education that you have for $1.50 in late fees from my local library.”

            And this nugget from Mark Twain, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

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