The Coach Code


If you’re a strength coach, physical preparation coach or trainer in the “fitness” industry then you will want to make sure that you are coming across as being a professional in everything you do. This post was spurred by a comment from a new client of mine who mentioned how his previous coach at a big name chain gym “would routinely text and browse social media during a session”. After being around so many good coaches and with ten years under my belt I have seen a lot in the weight room ranging from a commercial gym setting to collegiate and team training facilities as well as a more private training experience. I do not claim to know all the do’s and don’ts but I do follow a few simple and effective rules that help keep the professional barometer in the right area.

I have always been at odds with the term “Trainer”. In personal training especially, there are a lot of……..cowboys, shall we say. Their general demeanor, exercise selection and everything in between leaves a lot to be desired. At a Perform Better seminar during the summer, Alwyn Cosgrove described the philosophy of all the top companies in the US. Nordstrom’s went like this………


Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

I like that approach. It’s quick, easy to remember and covers all the bases. In order to follow this philosophy its important to stay away from some bad practices.

The Coach Code 5

1. Personal Hygiene

This should really go without saying. Shower, use deodorant and dental cleanliness are all imperative.

2. The Client-Trainer Relationship

Do not unload about your “tough day”. This is NOT about you, it is about the client. Ask questions, get to know them better and listen to understand……….not to reply.

You are there to help deliver the client closer to their health and nutrition goals. It is not a gossip session.

It’s even worse if you are gossiping about other trainers your work with. That just looks bad on everyone involved and reflects really poorly on you.

You main goal should not to be BFF’s with a client. Your goals is to help them achieve theirs.

Of course, long term clients can turn into lifelong friends. Thats totally understandable. The key phrase is “Long Term”.

3. General Weight Room Conduct

The devil is in the details.

Spatial Awareness

This can help you make things move along smoothly during each day at your facility. Always being in the way is a sure fire way of clogging up the flow of training. Simply observing where other trainers are located with their clients can help avoid any unnessecary bottle necks. Know ahead of time what your workout will require and position yourself accordingly.

Jerry Seinfeld dislikes spatially unaware people

Sitting next to your client for prolonged periods as they work is a no go.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, standing over them barking out orders as they perform push ups or a plank doesn’t reflect well either.

Who are you? Major Payne?!!

Create a System & Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

The FMS screen will give you insight as to what you can and can’t do. A lot of trainers feel like they have to entertain their clients with constantly changing workouts. I strongly disagree here. Master the basics and base your progression/regressions from there.

For example, take Push Ups as your baseline. What are your lateralization?

Push Up Plank<—Push Up—>Band Push Up—>Feet Elevated Push Up—>Loaded Push Up—>Incline Ring Push Up—>Feet Elevated Ring Push Ups

5. General Conduct

Electronics are part of our everyday life whether we like it or not. That said, we now have an over reliance on them and are trending towards chronic over use which has negative health effects and lost productivity. iPads have made their way into the weight room as practical ways of writing programs have emerged from new technology. Using a device for program reference is great. Being on any device for prolonged periods during a client workout is unacceptable and devalues what you are doing. Keep your profession professional by maintaining focus on your client or athlete.

Last but not least. Don’t be that guy who makes everyone in the weight room uncomfortable by being inappropriate with a client. Sometimes its necessary to be “hands on” while coaching. Know the difference.


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