By Priscilla Flynn

Just because you like barbells, deadlifts and bench press, doesn’t mean your clients do! Likewise playing with a balloon for a heart rate interval might not be everyone’s favourite way to train either. A client’s lack of enjoyment during training has nothing to do with being lazy or not wanting to train, and everything to do with whether you can deliver the right moves for their unique movement style.

This seems like obvious advice, but unfortunately it escapes many of us trainers as we inflict our preferred style of training on our clients. Well intentioned and passionate, we often prescribe clients with our own favourite movements and exercises, and assume they will enjoy it just as much!

My husband and I made a huge error in doing exactly this when we opened our business in2great fitness. Our studio didn’t look like a traditional gym. It was open spaced, grass surfaced, and filled with bright equipment that many had never seen before. As people walked past, they often stopped to look because it was so different to a traditional gym. We encouraged all members to train the way we preferred, in a very progressive manner. We were so into integrated movement training - playing with ViPR, TRX, balloons and ball games - that we thought it was the best way to train for everyone.

In our first year of operation, we attended a PTAG mentorship, and learned about the three movement styles: progressive, hybrid and traditional, and how to better meet the client where they are at. Movement styles seemed so obvious to us afterwards, and it was a powerful learning curve realising how much we had failed to cater for our traditional, or hybrid members.

It made so much sense why certain members only came to specific classes, or why other 1:1 sessions didn’t go down so well, when it wasn’t planned to suit their movement style.  It made even more sense why some members would pump out a few chin ups or push ups in the middle of a class, because we were failing to satisfy their traditional needs!

What Are the Movement Styles?

Traditional is the style that most of the industry is familiar with, progressive tends to be whole body, movement based training, and a hybrid style is a mixture of the two.

How Do We Know a Client’s Movement Style?

They tell us! The Program Design Questionnaire (PDQ) has 6 questions that easily tell us about the client’s movement preferences so that we can ascertain their movement style. It can even be shortened to just 3 questions as below. If they select all the green words, they are traditional style, all blue words would be progressive, and a mixture is hybrid.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Mainstream fitness is dominated by traditional trainers and clients. Perhaps this is because most of fitness industry has no idea about movement styles, and neither do clients! While the growth of a more client-centric approach is spreading, many trainers refuse to stray away from the dumbbells and barbells. Additionally, in my experience, many clients doubt the validity that can be achieved with progressive movement styles and drills like playing fitness based games, ViPR or vibration training.

Have you ever planned a session, that in hindsight, just wasn’t right for your client? I once gave what I now know to be a traditional client, a progressive ViPR drill which resulted in the ViPR being thrown down in aggression. This stuff matters!

Why Does It Matter?

Delivering a program that your client enjoys benefits both trainer and client, and builds a supportive, purposeful, and quality relationship. For the client, this means increased enjoyment, which leads to increased adherence, and therefore better results. Long term happy clients that enjoy your services, and refers out, is what every personal trainer wants!

It’s all about finding the why, and the emotional connection. A progressive style, mother of 2, who used to play netball and tennis might struggle with dumbbells, but come alive when you plan a session for her that involves tennis or netball drills. There is no one best way to train. The best way is the one that the client enjoys, and sticks to.

The fitness industry has a high turnover of trainers, and if we want to truly help our clients enjoy exercise for life, catering for their style is a must! As trainers, our role is to serve and meet our client’s needs, and thus we all need to step away from our personal bias or niche, and give the client what they need, not what we prefer! If you want to see you clients come alive and thrive, find out their #mostyle.

Flynn HeadshotI am a 35 years old Melbourne girl and have been in the fitness industry for 15 years. After working at a desk for 7 years as an Industrial Designer, I took the leap to full time fitness in 2009. I started my career as a group fitness instructor teaching Les Mills Classes and have worked as both Group Fitness Manager and Personal Training Manager for Fitness First. In 2011 I won Fitness First Australian Group Fitness Manager of the year, out of 93 clubs nation wide.

My personal journey hasn’t been a smooth one, and in the last decade I have suffered from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression. I have had 19 operations on my vocal cords for aggressive vocal papillomas that left me unable to talk for 2 years.

After over a decade of living with illness and pain, I have developed a passion for wellness and am constantly exploring new modalities to gain greater health and wellbeing. My passion is working with clients who are living with chronic pain, poor health, or mental illnesses like depression anxiety. I am about to undertake study to be a functional medicine coach so that I can help more people with integrative health care.

In 2013 I opened a small fitness studio with my husband Nathan Flynn called in2great fitness. Our studio focuses on an integrated approach to fitness and training the human being, not just the human body. We focus on wellness as a precursor to fitness and our focus is to educate, entertain and empower clients.

My greatest strengths are my thirst for knowledge, and passion to share what I have learned to help others in seminars, blogs, social media and client sessions. Working in the fitness industry has been the constant that has enabled my to feel better, stay positive and enjoy life, and I love empowering others to experience it too.