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“But I only train general population…”

“But I only train general population…”


This is a sentence commonly spoken within today’s health and fitness industry. Many newly qualified Personal Trainers may find themselves thrown into the rat race of a large commercial gym soon after completing their certificate. The reasons for seeking their services may differ from client to client, but the initial perspective of the trainer usually remains the same – ‘most of my clients are general population’.

This isn’t to say that this is a negative outlook to have, however when you begin the process of labelling your clients as ‘general population’ then it is easy to make false assumptions about their abilities or their potential. In some cases, the client themselves are unaware of the realms of possibilities that await them and so it is our job as their trainer to assist them to unlock their potential.

If we as trainers allow ourselves to settle into the mindset whereby we assume that our clients are going to perform at a certain level within certain parameters dependant on what ‘type of client’ we perceive them to be, then why should we expect our clients to think any differently?

This was something that Arcadium HQ trainer Amy Webster had been conscious of when she began her practical hours as part of her recently completed Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) Level 1 course. Amy teamed up with Nick Cowan of Biomechanical, based out of The Bar Brisbane Strength and Conditioning facility. Prior to meeting Nick’s clients, Amy initially raised her concerns with Nick around programming for general population and discussed how the majority of the ASCA content seemed to have a strong ‘athlete’ focus.

Nicks response – “Well then it’s simple, train your ‘general pop’ clients as you would train your athletes”.

Now by saying this Nick didn’t mean that we should run our clients into the ground as if we are preparing them for the Athletics grand final in the Olympic Games! More so that we should treat each client as an individual and prepare them accordingly for their own specific goals in order to push them past their perceived limits and make progress that they may have deemed unachievable when they first sat down with you. Just like that, Amy realised how the initial assumptions around the term ‘general population’ could negatively impact on the way that trainers program their sessions.

During her time shadowing Nick, she endeavoured to draw on his knowledge and expertise to ensure that, going forward, she was able to best prepare her clients to not only achieve their goals, but to ensure that they developed the skills and knowledge to make their health and fitness routine sustainable.

During the sessions with Nick, Amy met clients of varying ages, all with different levels of fitness and all at different stages in their fitness journey. However, one thing remained consistent – Nicks planning, preparation and purpose.

Regardless of who they are, what their background is, or how fit they are, Nick’s approach to their training remains the same – train everyone as an individual and get to know what makes them tick and the rest will follow. Nick begins by asking his clients to complete a series of questionnaires to assess their current physical, emotional and mental condition. He follows this with a comprehensive movement-based assessment to give him an idea of his clients’ physical state.

This information is then carefully analysed to allow Nick to design an exercise program that is personal to the individual and their goals. These exercise programs generally consist of corrective stretches along with resistance-based exercises & cardio training, depending on the outcome of the assessments. All clients receive an easy-to-follow detailed description of their exercise program, including acute variables such as Rest, Tempo, Intensity, Duration, Repetitions and Sets.

Not only do the initial assessments allow Nick to find out more about the clients’ expectations, they also ensure that the client is aware of Nick’s expectations. Coming into Nicks sessions it was refreshing for Amy to see a different style of training. Not only did this allow Amy to learn new cues to pass onto her clients but it also provided her with extra tools and strategies to ensure that her clients would get the most out of their sessions with her. For example, prior to beginning a session with Nick, his clients are expected to arrive 10 minutes early and begin warming up as per the instructions in the programme. This may include:

  • Warm up exercises such as leg swings, bodyweight squats
  • Cardio warm up such as prowler push
  • Mobility activities such as foam rolling or banded stretches.


Just as every client will have different goals and expectations, every trainer will also have their own way of doing things to ensure that they get the best from their athletes. If Amy was to focus on one thing following her time with Nick it would be to remind herself and others that there is nothing ‘general’ about ‘general population’ clients. Each client has their own reasons for accessing our specific knowledge and expertise, and it is our job to ensure that we justify their investment in us with in each and every session.


You can find Nick at https://www.facebook.com/BiomechanicalCoaching/