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Feedback can be tough to give, but it's important for your personal training clients. It helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they can improve. So how do you frame feedback so that it doesn't make the other person feel like they're being attacked?

But before we delve deeper into that, here are some useful pointers for you on how to start building a positive relationship with your clients.

How Do You Build Rapport With Personal Training Clients?

How Do You Build Rapport With Personal Training Clients?

Building rapport with your client is the first step to gaining their trust and respect. 

Rapport allows you to have a two-way conversation with them, in which they will feel comfortable enough not just to share their thoughts and feelings but also be open to receiving feedback.

There are many different ways to go about building rapport, but here are some quick tips for you:

  • Participate in small talk before you start the training session, show interest when they share their background with you, and ask relevant questions that will help you to understand them better.
  • Be on time for your sessions with them.
  • Check-in with them between training sessions to see how they're doing and ask if they have any questions or concerns about their program.
  • Always respond in kindness.

Now that that's off the table, let's talk about how you can positively frame feedback.


Tips on Framing Feedback for Your Personal Training Clients


1. Make sure the person feels like they can trust you before giving any type of constructive criticism.

To begin, this means gaining their respect over time by demonstrating you care about them as a person and not just a client. People tend to take feedback better from someone they trust and feel comfortable with. Offering feedback can be challenging, especially if it's offered too early, as it may make the person feel uncomfortable and shut down.

Moreover, making sure that the client understands how valuable their opinion is and what they're sharing with you will help them put things into perspective and become more open to receiving feedback.

2. Tell them what they are doing well

This will put your client in a positive mental state, which is ideal. It's hard to absorb criticism when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. But if you can give people something to work on while also knowing their strengths, it helps make the feedback more palatable and easier to process.

For example, "I think you should be able to lift this much weight because of how strong I sense that you are" not only gives someone an opportunity for improvement but also lets them know that there's potential within themselves that needs coaxing out. 

3. Be specific about what needs improvement

As a personal trainer, you are often in the position of delivering feedback to your clients. This can be not easy because feedback is often not well-received by those who receive it. Nonetheless, effective feedback is critical in helping people to improve and learn new skills.

When you do provide client feedback, make sure you are very specific about what needs improvement. Let them know exactly what needs to be improved by giving specific examples.

For example, saying "your squat form isn't good at all" is more likely to elicit a defensive response than if instead, you say something like, "I think your feet position could be better for this type of exercise."

4. Focus on a single issue at a time, dont overwhelm with too many items simultaneously

4. Focus on a single issue at a time, don't overwhelm with too many items simultaneously

When you have multiple areas of improvement, it's best to focus on one thing at a time. This gives the person receiving feedback an opportunity to digest each item before moving on to another point.

For example, if someone is struggling with building lean muscle mass and lacking motivation during their workouts, don't bring up both issues at once. Instead, first, address the lack of motivation. When they are ready to build lean muscle mass, it's the best time to offer feedback.

If you bring up both issues at once, your client may feel overwhelmed, and they might respond poorly to you providing feedback. When this happens, it's best not to jump in with criticism unless you know for sure they are open to it.

5. Help them see the big picture

When you deliver feedback, help your client understand that it's not about what they want to hear. It's a process of learning and improving their skill set for future sessions. That way, even if someone takes issue with some of the feedback, they know it isn't personal or meant to make them feel bad.

For example, "I know this is tough news, but I think if we address these things now while there's still time before our program starts, then you can be fully prepared when clients start coming in." This reassures people who might otherwise become defensive that they are doing nothing wrong by wanting better results quickly -- instead, knowing where improvements need to happen will ensure that they are working towards the right direction.

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6. Keep criticism constructive and away from insults or demeaning comments

Even though you can't always predict how someone will take the information you are giving them, it is important to keep criticism constructive. Negative feedback that insults or demeans anyone will never be able to encourage them to work harder.

In fact, it often has the opposite effect and makes people feel as though they aren't good enough, which can crush their confidence and motivation to keep going. So avoid saying things like "you should be embarrassed by how weak you are" or "this is a waste of my time".

Moreover, saying something like, "you don't seem very motivated at all" isn't helpful because it doesn't provide any specifics on what needs improvement and might just come across as an unhelpful dig against a client's character rather than addressing a specific area that can be improved.

7. Help them become more self-aware by asking questions

7. Help them become more self-aware by asking questions

Instead of making assumptions about what you think your client might be feeling, ask them. For example, you can say something like "how do you feel about this?" or "what are your top priorities right now?"

This method feels less accusatory and more open-ended. Your client will have the opportunity to express what they mean so there is no risk of miscommunication, which could seriously harm their performance and progress in future sessions.

If someone seems defensive, it might be best to take a step back from giving feedback until another time when they're feeling better prepared for receiving advice.

8. Offer solutions to fix the issue

During client feedback, don't just offer a list of issues. Offer solutions. Always be ready to explain a particular point--why it is essential, its importance, and how it can affect their health. It's crucial to communicate these points and support them with additional details to help your clients understand the full picture.

9. Be honest with your client about their progress as well as your skills and limitations

9. Be honest with your client about their progress as well as your skills and limitations

As a personal trainer or wellness coach, you need to be upfront with your clients, whether it is about their performance or your skills and limitations.

First off, honest performance feedback will genuinely help them change their behavior, shift their perspective, or practice their form.

Secondly, as a trainer, you might be good at assessing issues but not the best person to fix them. It's okay to tell your clients or refer them to other trainers. And in fact, it's wise to be upfront about your limits. After all, every personal trainer in the fitness industry has specific strengths.

Finally, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being less than truthful with your clients because you don't want them to feel offended by you giving feedback. But the whole point of feedback is to help clients recognize their weaknesses so that they can work on them.

10. Develop a growth mindset

As a trainer, you need to encourage your clients to develop a growth mindset--that is, the idea that by learning more about themselves and working hard on their goals. Personal trainers can encourage this by helping their clients find areas for improvement, setting achievable goals, and celebrating small wins.

To achieve a growth mindset, you may want to use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement utilizes the process of rewarding and encouraging desired actions to reinforce a new behavior. In other words, by giving out words of compliments and encouragement, you can motivate your clients to repeat a particular training routine, stick to a particular diet or weight loss plan.

How Do Personal Trainers Motivate Their Clients?

How Do Personal Trainers Motivate Their Clients?

Once you have mastered how to give constructive feedback, the next step is to learn how to motivate your clients.

Directly following the feedback session, you need to discuss what they can do better or how they could improve their performance.

Personal trainers may also want to talk about goals and motivation--how exactly are these clients motivated? Is it by setting small weekly goals that won't be too difficult for them to achieve? What about if they need help staying motivated? How can you offer encouragement and support to keep them going?

Bonus Tip: Allow your client the freedom of choice.

Without giving up all responsibility, allow your client some autonomy over their personal training sessions.

This will help them feel more invested in the process and gain a better sense of ownership over their health.

Wrap up

Personal trainers and wellness coaches in the fitness industry have a lot of responsibility for motivating their clients. To successfully motivate your client, you'll need to give constructive feedback so they can work on areas for improvement.

Lastly, remember that good feedback is specific, honest, and spoken from a place of genuine concern.

By following these tips on framing feedback for personal training clients, you can make this process more positive and constructive for both you and your clients.

What are some tips that you think would be helpful when framing feedback? Share them with us.

Michael Glick

Written by Michael Glick