Client Retention Strategies for Personal Trainers

Client Retention Strategies For The Personal Trainer and Fitness Professional – How To Keep Your Clients Happy

“Its easier to retain, than to gain!”

*These strategies were originally posted on the Personal Training Business LAB facebook group @ Come join us chat PT business!

Getting new clients is great, but are you taking care of the clients you already have? Like the headline above says, its easier to keep them then to find new ones. So how are keeping your clients happy? Here are a few strategies and stories that will work. The idea is to not be blindsided one day having a client tell you that they are leaving and you have no idea why. Do a little work upfront and everyone is happy!


1. Ask for Feedback

Have you ever been faced with a reactive situation with one or more of your clients? You could sense frustration bubbling up during the sessions. They still keep coming in so you think nothing of it, or even worse, “better leave it alone”. One day you receive an email, “I have to put my training on hold…”.

It’s something that has happened to all of us. There’s an easy way to turn this reactive scenario into a proactive one.

Ask for feedback. And ask for feedback on a regular basis.

Asking for feedback gives the opportunity to check in and let the client express if they are enjoying and engaged in the training program. This is also the time to make sure that both of your expectations are aligned.

This week’s challenge: Ask a client for feedback!

2. Show your work

11 years ago I started as a personal trainer at a gym in Queens, New York. At the time I was the only trainer to write down my programs and track my client’s data.

Do you think that the members in the gym noticed that I was keeping track? Yes! Do you know how many times I heard, “I started training with you because you are the only trainer who seems to have a plan for your clients and keep track.”. Too many.
After working at and managing trainers at Equinox, keeping programs was a part of everyday life. Fast forward 9 years and I thought it was now common practice to keep programs for clients.

The other day we interviewed someone that works at a gym where they are still making up every workout on the fly. No plan. No tracking. The trainer mentioned how stressed they were about this. If the trainer is stressed, the clients notice.

Keep track and SHOW YOUR WORK.

Be sure that the clients see your program out and that the proper dates and notes are on there. Every once and while I will show them the program.

Know that they will also try and take a peek at it while you are over at the other side of the gym grabbing weights. Always keep it up to date as if they are inspecting it every day.

3. Prove it to them.

Your clients are on a solid strength & conditioning program. They’re progressing every week, month, or quarter. You’re doing a great job making sure that their programming is up to par and taking notes and recording data.

You know that they are progressing…

Do they know that they are progressing?

Seems like an odd question to ask and you might say, “Of course they know, they are there every session!”. Correct, but in my experience, our clients do not keep track like we do and often question to themselves if they are getting better.

If they are benching 115 pounds now for 10 repetitions and 2 months later they are benching 135 pounds for 10 repetitions they may not notice the small increase of the thickness or diameter of the plates. 135 pounds this month feels as hard as 115 pounds did 2 months ago as one example.

Show them proof of their progress, and prove it to them often.

Don’t let them second guess if they are getting better. Prove it to them. Prove it to them before they even ask. Repetitions, Intensity, Density, Range of Motion, Volume, Tonnage, etc… are a few that you can control.

Help them report and track what they control too; sleep, energy, nutrition, rest, etc… the list goes on of progress you can prove to them.

4. Roll with them!

I was a first or second-year personal trainer when I inherited a client from another trainer who was leaving the gym. The first thing she told me was that she had a sensitive back and did not want to deadlift because it caused her pain.
What would you do in that case?

Here’s what I did…

First I asked a lot of questions about how she was deadlifting, where she felt the pain, which phase of the deadlift caused her pain. Then I suggested that we try some light deadlifts to check her form, and we did running through various motions and ‘correctives’.

What I was saying with my words and actions is this; “You are wrong, here’s why, and I’m going to make you do something that you don’t want to do.”

I was arguing with her!

As you can see this is not the best strategy for building rapport, trust, or initiating the change we need to reach goals. I lost that client within a few weeks.

Fast forward about 10 years and just a few days ago I inherit a client to start working with. Right out of the gate I hear, “I am never doing deadlifts again, they destroyed my back!” I nodded and said, “I understand, it sounds like that particular exercise does not agree with your back. We don’t have to do deadlifts and we can make adjustments to your program. Can you tell me what exercises do feel good on your back and that you’ve seen progress from?”

What I did the second time around is similar to the technique ‘rolling with resistance’, and is a part of Motivational Interviewing.

It’s an effective strategy for avoiding arguments and confrontations that is especially useful for health and fitness where you are going to run into so many strong opinions, whether they are right or not.

It has also been described as, ‘walking with your clients and not dragging them with you.’

Turns out you’ll retain more clients if you don’t argue with them.

5. Get them involved with their programming.

A large part of client retention is client engagement. This means involving them in the process and asking for their input. Think about a time when you were engaged in something that you were interested in. Did you start to ‘look forward’ to it? Did you also start to put a bit more effort into researching it?

Our clients do the same thing. As they progress in their training there’s it’s a good bet that they are starting to read up a little more on health and fitness. They start to pay a little more attention to this topic on social media. They may start to form ideas on their own of what they would like to try.

Realize too that you as a coach may have sparked some interest from your programming. For example, after programming in kettlebell swings, they may have really liked and felt comfortable with kettlebells and want to explore them in greater depth.

How do we know if they are really enjoying something or even not feeling so hot about one of our methods?


Don’t expect them to bring it up. Some will and many will not. It’s our job to check in and get a feel for their level of engagement. Before you begin to pen your next program, simply ask them if they had any thoughts about what they would like to try or get better at next time.

Another strategy is to give them some choice or autonomy in the process. You can ask, “Next program I am going to add in deadlifts. Would you prefer we try barbell, trap bar, or kettlebell deadlifts?”

Ok, this is more of a forced choice, but they get to make the decision nonetheless and feel like they are part of the process.

You probably already know that some autonomy drives up engagement. Try it out and the client will appreciate that you are taking their input into consideration!

*These strategies were originally posted on the Personal Training Business LAB facebook group @ Come join us chat PT business!

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