For many people, having the ability to train people for a living is a dream come true. Helping people achieve their goals is definitely a form of satisfaction. From the time I was first introduced to weight training, I knew I wanted to create a life within the fitness industry.

The trainers at my local gym seemed so positive and intelligent. I knew that was the life I wanted. I began to read online articles, books, and magazines and mentor under people who were doing well in the personal training business. During this time, I was training some people in their homes, which helped me learn how to get the most out of minimal equipment. Through one of my internships, I was offered a job at Total Athletic Development, a sports performance facility in central Ohio. In my time there, I've made mistakes and seen trainers from other gyms make mistakes. Some of these mistakes could be seen as a learning experience that someone can grow from, but others could end your career as a trainer. The biggest advice I got was when Mark Watts, director of strength and conditioning at Denison University, shared with me words of wisdom from John Maxwell: “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Show interest: Clients pay good money to hire a trainer. Most trainers are charging $40 and up for an hour of their time. This isn't a small fee when you figure most people train two to three times every week. That adds up to almost $500 a month. If you can’t show your client that you care, they’ll quit helping put food on your table. Clients are making the investment into improving their health and they believe that you are the best way to help them get where they want. If you're in a training session, put your phone away. I've seen trainers texting and making calls while they’re training a new client. This is disrespectful and shows that you couldn’t care less about them or their results. Show that you care about your clients and you will be able to establish more long-term clients.

I've also noticed that the people who know the most about training don't make the best trainers. Some of the smartest people I’ve met have been the worst trainers I’ve ever seen. Clint Cox of TAD Sports told me something I never thought I would hear during an interview. We talked for about an hour about training, coaching, and different goals that we each had. Then he said the thing that would take me months to figure out: “I don’t need the smartest trainer. I need someone who can get along great with people." This floated around in my head for a very long time because I just couldn't figure out why you wouldn’t want the smartest person possible. The more I interacted with people involved in different aspects of fitness, it all started to become more clear. I interacted with doctors, professional bodybuilders, powerlifters, and strength coaches, and I noticed I always took more away from those who were able to make a connection with me. Some of the more intelligent people were shy or just socially awkward. Neither of these are good traits of a personal trainer. The good news is these skills can be worked on and acquired with time. The more you are out in the open practicing, the better you will become. The next few points might start to make some people feel uneasy…

Select the right exercises: This is a very broad topic that I could go on for days about. I feel that every trainer, including me, has fallen victim to at least one of these faults before. The first problem is when starting out, many trainers only know one way of training, whether it be bodybuilding or Crossfit. Don’t train your clients how you train. Train them the best way to help achieve their goals. This goes back to being interested in your client. If your client wishes to lose some extra weight for the summer, they probably don’t want to be doing max effort good mornings. As a trainer, you're expected to find ways to get results even if it means you have to go out of your comfort zone. This may require going home and doing research and contacting others in the profession. I see it all too often where someone will train a football player like a bodybuilder only because that is what they know. I do agree that something can be gained from any style of training, but it is the trainer’s job to produce the quickest results for real life, not just the weight room.

The second comes with external load. I’m definitely not opposed to letting a client push himself through a heavy squat or deadlift but not to the point where he can't perform simple movements with his body. I like to take my clients through a progression with their training. It takes a bit more time, but with time, results are produced, muscular imbalances are fixed, and risk of injury is significantly lower.

I like to start with each of my clients performing simple body weight squat holds. This isn't only a beneficial exercise, but it also lets me know any certain areas that need to be addressed. From there, I will use a broomstick for front squats, but keep their hands in a neutral position with arms fully extended. If they go into the wrong position, the stick falls to the ground, so it's very easy for the client to know when he is in the correct position. Then we will perform overhead squats with the broomstick. This will tell me a lot about my client’s strengths and weaknesses. After that, the client will progress to a box squat with a lighter training bar. This helps with getting depth, forcing the knees out, and maintaining proper positioning. Once the client has all of these, we will begin to back squat. Using this progression, I had a female client go from squatting under 200 pounds when we started to 285 pounds in about six months. Don’t overload the bar and let clients get away with quarter squats. This opens up a high risk of injury and isn’t helping your client at all. In my experience, it also helps the client appreciate the training more once he is able to use the heavier weights with proper form.

The last part of exercise selection I will talk about is machines. Machines have their place in strength training, but don’t be the person who runs their clients through the machine circuit at your gym three times and calls it a workout. This has become the easy way out for trainers who are only concerned about how many people they can schedule each day. If a client is able to do 200 pounds on the lat pull-down machine but can’t do a pull-up, there is a problem. This is where items like blast straps and bands come in use. A client will remember the first pull-up they did a whole lot more than any lat pull-down they ever did.

We aren't dieticians: This is a huge problem with the personal training industry. Any gym that you walk into will have someone who has had some success in bodybuilding and feels he is now obligated to write customized diet plans. Some trainers can become very successful using customized diet plans as an additional source of revenue. There is one problem—in most cases, it is against the law.

Personal training certifications don't entitle people to be nutritional experts. While they may have some basic knowledge on nutrition, they still don't have the complete background that a nutritionist does. Registered dietitians carry a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which is usually complimented with an extensive internship. About half of registered dieticians have an advanced degree beyond a bachelor's and do continuing education requirements for recertification. Trainers who bend these rules run the risk of being caught by the ADA. Personal trainers prescribing diet plans aren't only risking their reputation and business, but they're also potentially dangerous to the client. There is a reason why personal trainers can receive certification in six months or less and registered dieticians go through very tough programs that can last six years. If a business is caught prescribing these custom diet plans, penalties can result in hefty fines from the ADA along with misdemeanor charges. Don’t risk your entire career for a few bucks. Keep a good reputation and keep the clients safe and healthy.

We aren't doctors: This is something that should concern anyone in the fitness industry. Obviously, with strength training and aerobic exercise, muscle soreness will occur. We can use the tools that we have at hand to help alleviate some of this such as using foam rollers, bands, and even body weight static stretching. This doesn't mean you need to find the root cause of the problem and act as a chiropractor.

One of the worst cases I saw of this was when I was walking through a gym one day. I was going to grab a drink of water when I saw one of the trainers there with a high school girl. She was lying on a table, and I witnessed him jerk her head to one side to crack her neck. I couldn't believe what I had just seen. Again, the certifications that trainers carry doesn't come close to the certifications a chiropractor or physical therapist has. These people spend a very long period of time fully understanding how the body works and how to correct certain problems. How valuable is it to your business to be able to crack a client’s back? If this is something that people know you for, you should stop immediately before you run the risk of losing your job. Picture this—you crack the back of a client who has been with you for two years consistently. However, this time you pinch a nerve in his back and now he doesn't have feeling in his leg. Not only did you harm a client, but you also lost a consistent portion of your income. Now you also have a bad reputation.

Act professional: Some of the stories I've heard from some gyms are unbelievable. If you want to be viewed and treated as a top notch professional in your field, act like it. Keep the relationship between you and your client as professional as possible. Saying inappropriate sexual comments to clients is so incredibly disrespectful and shows a low level of class. Trainers who help people get ready for bodybuilding and figure shows should be extra careful with this. I’ve heard male trainers taking pictures of female clients either at home or in a spare room at a gym. That's walking on very thin ice. I understand the importance of taking pictures as a tool to track progress, but if you insist on doing this, be sure to keep it very professional and ensure that the photos will be cleared from your computer as soon as the show is over. I’ve heard of trainers breaking up marriages between a client and their spouse or ruining a partnership that they may have had with someone. Never engage in a physical relationship with anyone associated with you and your training business. Most relationships go south at some point, and when it happens, so will your business.

The second part of this is dressing the part. “Dress for success” is a phrase I remind myself of constantly. Some people I’ve noticed take advantage of the leisure of not having a certain dress code. I've seen trainers wear stringers, shirts with inappropriate sayings, and shoes that have holes and are covered in dirt. This is unacceptable and reflects poorly on the profession as a whole. This doesn’t only apply to when you’re going to the gym. If you’re going out to a bar on Friday night, remember that people still connect your face and actions directly to your business.

Educate: This seems very basic to understand and has been said thousands of times. Oftentimes, the best trainers are those who are always constantly learning. I've learned so much from the classes I’ve taken, the people I associate with, and the books I’ve read. Some trainers only read books about training but forget books on business, sales and how to properly communicate with others. Training clients is only half the battle of being a successful trainer. If a trainer can’t make a connection with his clients, he will have a high turnover rate. The book that has helped me more than any in my training career was without a doubt How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just reading a chapter each night can make a huge impact on you and your business.

These mistakes may seem like things that everyone knows but some may not. Because most trainers are competing against each other for business, don’t plan on having them tell you when something is wrong. One thing that can help anyone with their personal training business is to write down goals. Have day to day goals, monthly goals, and long-term goals. Refer to your goal list frequently to make sure that you stay on track. Personal training is a career that is truly life changing. The people you meet and the challenges you help them overcome can be more rewarding than any amount of money. Trainers who are uneducated in training and have low values are helping to destroy this industry. Take a genuine interest in your clients. Help them achieve their goals and be a professional, and you will have an exciting and prosperous career.