5 Critical Fitness Coaching Skills

5 Critical Fitness Coaching Skills


The fitness coaching industry is massive and very competitive. Very few are able to be able to work full time as a professional coach, even fewer can make a decent living doing it. Those that are able to earn a living working their passion can be universally identified by five unique qualities that guarantee their long term success.

So what are the qualities that define successful coaching and how do you build or create them?

Well, you are in luck. We’ve sourced and asked questions of our professionally successful coaching staff to learn about what makes them different and unique from the rest of their competitors. Through training tens of thousands of clients and athletes, we’ve discovered the following five key principles to successful coaching. It’s these principles that separate professional coaches from novices.

(Resource: Improve your coaching competency with this free course.)

5 Critical Fitness Coaching Skills

1. Successful Coaches are Guides

Too often, coaches end up becoming wholly responsible for their client’s progression and fitness. This happens when the coach becomes too ‘invested’ in the clients progress almost the point of obsession. It’s easy to understand why. After all, a coach’s reputation is based on the results the clients get from being coached by them. To ensure the clients get the results they want, the coach inserts themselves into the clients’ lives and figuratively ‘spoon-feeds’ them everything they need to reach their goals.

However, as a coach, it’s not your role to take your client’s journey. You must allow your clients and athletes to take charge and direct their own fitness journeys. Not only does this enable your clients to take responsibility for their own progress toward their goals, it allows for powerful moments of self-discovery, growth, and personal fulfillment in their fitness journeys.

You’re a client’s resource in the pursuit of their goals and values. As their coach, you shouldn’t force your client in a specific direction or toward a specific goal. Allow them the space to decide their fitness objectives and guide their journey.

What You Can Do

Provide enough direction and coaching for the client to succeed and grow. Do not become the client’s cheerleader or their parent. It may seem counterintuitive, but this type of coaching will yield far better results in the long term once the client learns to take account of their own failures and setbacks.

2. Successful Coaches Know There are No Short Term Solutions

In the age of 60-day full physical transformation advertisements, it’s easy to run into clients who are unaware of just how long it really takes to make a complete physical transformation and reach their goals.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same can be said of improving an athlete’s capabilities or a client’s health. It doesn’t happen overnight. As a coach, it’s your responsibility to ensure your clients and athletes achieve successful results. However, it’s also your responsibility to ensure your clients recognize the significance and time required to accomplish their objectives.

When you’re transparent with your clients about where they sit, you can be optimistic about their future and still build a great foundation of trust with them. It’s that trust that helps your clients succeed with you for years. No athlete or client can avoid the basics of fitness and the foundational building process. Without a strong foundation, they will either get injured or stop progressing.

Learn how you can conduct an assessment that will help you understand your client’s abilities and limitation here.

What You Can Do

Be completely honest and transparent with your clients about how long it will take them to reach their goals. Doing so in the first consultation or encounter may cost you clients upfront but you will make up for it by acquiring clients truly dedicated to reaching their goals.

3. Successful Coaches are Excellent Listeners

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of coaching is listening. Not just listening, but active listening. To some, “active” is merely an additional word, but to the best coaches, that word is night and day. Active listening requires you to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what’s said during a conversation. Not only does this help you build strong relationships, but it also leads to you asking great questions. Those questions lead you to the right answers for your clients.

Professional coaches exhibit excellent interpersonal skills. They recognize the needs and desires of each of their individual clients. At the end of the day, every human being wants to feel respected, loved, acknowledged and listened to. Demonstrate your commitment to those client’s relationships and progress by listening intently.

What You Can Do

The best way to communicate is always to listen first. Try to figure out what exactly the client is asking for or wants first before you speak. Doing so will allow you to better communicate to affect change in the client. Learn how to communicate better in your consultation with this free course.

4. Successful Coaches are Organized

Organization is vital for all coaches. Not only does a coach need to organize their life and business, but they also need to organize their client’s entire coaching experience. A professional coach breaks down their client’s goals into small measurable steps. These steps become a plan of attack through the training plan and testing phases. Your work up front will pay dividends to you and your clients in the short and long-run.

What You Can Do

Try using a free resource like Google calendar to organize the flow of your entire workday. This includes including your training time, consultation hours and fitness programming into the overall layout of each day. This will allow you to more focused on the task of the hour, rather than worrying about what you will do next.

5. SuccessFul Coaches Build Trust

Much of your client’s success hinges on your ability to build real trust. When your clients trust you, they will follow your coaching program. But, how do you establish trust? Trust is a combination of all of the previous points. To create trust, you must establish clear expectations in the beginning. Not only should you recognize their goals, you need to dive into their motivations for pursuing those goals. This helps your clients recognize that you’re invested in their progress. It also helps you recognize when their goals don’t align with their stated motivations.

As a coach, you must also provide transparency to your clients to establish that you’re looking out for their best interests. Through this process, you’ll begin to lay the foundation for honest personal conversations down the road. Don’t underestimate the effects that relationships and family issues have on your clients, both positively and negatively.

What You Can Do

Demonstrating that you are competent, caring, and consistent is critical to the trust building process. These three points form what we call the ‘triangle of trust’. It’s critical to develop all three at the same time in order to build a successful relationship with the client.

(Coach’s Resource: Get our free guide for how to build trust with your clients here.)

What separates amateur coaches from professionals is interpersonal skills, trust building, and organizational skills. Fitness is a business that requires mastery of basic human interaction and an understanding of individual motivations. You can’t shy away from this if you want to make a career as a professional coach.

While knowledge about the intricacies of program design and energy system training is incredibly useful, we find that it is mastery of the intangibles and the basics of good communication that are the differentiating factors between good and excellent coaches. Get an introduction to these basics with The Free Professional Coaching Blueprint.


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