Dear Client – Your Input Matters!

Michael Campanella

As a personal trainer, I’ve often had clients push back when I ask the question, “How does the weight feel?” or “Do you want to go heavier?” during our training sessions. Typically, the responses range from “I don’t know,” to “fine,” to “you’re the coach, you tell me.” Some clients have even admitted that they feel a bit unsure or confused when I prompt them if they want to add more weight or perform more reps on the next set. This article aims to address these responses and explain why your feedback is a pivotal part of your fitness journey.

1. “I Don’t Know”

First and foremost, personal training is a partnership; a collaborative relationship where both parties must communicate openly for the optimal outcome. Kind of like our government! Just kidding. It’s true that as a trainer, I lead the sessions, design workout plans, and motivate you to reach your fitness goals. However, I don’t know how your body feels during a particular exercise, or how heavy a weight feels to you in a particular moment.

This is where your input comes in. If you “don’t know” how the weight feels, ask yourself these questions:

1) Is this challenging (enough)?
2) Do I feel the right muscles working?
3) Am I worried I am going to get hurt?

These answers will help you figure out what a more constructive response would look like.

2. “Fine”

In fitness training, we constantly strive for progressive overload, meaning we aim to gradually increase the stress placed on your body during exercise. This is the key to enhancing performance and slowing down the aging process, and it’s an integral part of your fitness journey.

If we are not making constant, incremental progress, we are just wasting time.

Simply put, if you’re always using a weight that feels “fine”, you’re never going to reach the intensity needed to cause the stress necessary for long-term body composition changes. 

3. “You’re the Coach, You Tell Me.”

This is typically my favorite client response, because it makes me feel like I have psychic/telepathic powers. It makes me believe that I can feel what they’re feeling and read their thoughts. The truth is, apart from reading body language and listening to grunts, I actually have no idea. Even if a specific weight was easy last week, it might be difficult this time due to various factors like sleep quality, stress, nutrition, and overall recovery. Or maybe you have a workout where you feel jacked up on Mountain Dew and you want to kick a$$ and take names.

In either scenario, I will most likely be able to tell by your body language, facial expressions, or awful dad jokes, but it’s always easier to know through communication. Remember, my primary objective during a training program is to make sure the client is making progress (increasing weight, reps, intensity) and make sure that we prevent injury. It is so much easier with direct feedback from you. In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you!”

Finally, I want to emphasize that your voice is a vital tool in our training toolkit. As a trainer, I can provide guidance, expertise, and motivation, but the ultimate control of your workout experience lies with you. It’s not possible for me to intrinsically know how the weight feels to you or precisely what your body is experiencing. That’s why our ongoing dialogue about “how the weight feels” is so crucial.

In essence, personal training is as much about communication as it is about physical effort. So, the next time you’re asked, “How does the weight feel?”, or “Do you want to go heavier” remember that your response is not only welcomed but essential. Your honest feedback allows me to design a better training experience for you, to help you push when appropriate, and to pull back when necessary. Together, we can (prevent forest fires) and make every workout count towards your fitness goals.

The End.

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