How to Become a Successful Online Fitness Coach

How to Become a Successful Online Fitness Coach

In a matter of days the entire fitness industry has gone remote.

The problem? The majority of fitness coaches and trainers aren’t equipped with the principles, tools, and systems to effectively coach clients online.

The opportunity? Clients around the world are more open than ever to not only accept, but to demand, a remote coach.

OPEX Fitness pioneered the development of individual program design and remote coaching. In fact, if you were to look to almost all of the industry-leading coaches in the remote world, you could trace their origins back to OPEX education and mentorship from our founder, James FitzGerald.

Remote coaching is no longer a niche service offering for serious fitness enthusiasts and athletes. Today, and for an undefined period of time into the future, it’s become the only way for coaches to deliver fitness.

If you want to survive and then thrive online, you need to provide more than just any training program. With the entertainment factor of in-person coaching removed, you now need to create stronger personal relationships, connect them to lifestyle and nutritional habits, and deliver personalized programs that are clearly connected to your clients’ unique goals and environments.

To help you navigate this new landscape we’ve put together this article to give you the foundational knowledge to start a successful online coaching business and deliver your clients a valuable service: individual program design.


Table of Contents:

  1. How to Be a Remote Coach
  2. Exercise Education
  3. Nutrition Education
  4. How to Deliver Remote Coaching
  5. How to Start Your Business

How to Be An Effective Remote Coach

Remote or in-person, it’s essential to understand the basic principles of behavior, exercise, and nutrition. On top of that, you also need to have your own principles as a coach. 

Your Principles

It is very easy to see remote coaching as an opportunity for easy cash or a lower cost way to deliver your service to clients, but that will not be good enough to sustain you in the long-run. 

Why do you really want to coach clients online and what is your vision for your remote coaching business? To have this vision you will need to develop principles or fundamental truths that keep you grounded and moving forward.

-> Spend 5 minutes and write down why you want to coach clients remotely and what your principles are as a coach.

Behavior Principles

One of the most important parts of remote coaching is being able to develop strong relationships online. For your clients to perceive value from your coaching, you must connect them to the “why” behind their program design.

If you don’t understand the basic principles of human communication and relationship building, it will be very challenging to connect your clients to their training and nutrition programs, especially in an online setting.

Behavior science principles

Understanding how humans operate and how to connect to them is the baseline of how you build relationships. Key principles include defining priority questions that will help reveal your clients true priorities, as well as learning to recognize the behavior spectrum and different motivation types.

Goal setting

You need to understand how to tactically link your client’s goals to what you can offer them as their coach and how you can get them there. We break this into four steps: Ground, Resources, Recipe, and Aim.

  1. Ground: Figure out where people are starting with assessment and consultation
  2. Resources: Figure out what they have and need to move towards the goal
  3. Recipe: Write a detailed instructions and plan to complete the goal
  4. Aim: Measure how far to the goal or the real aim beneath it

Exercise Principles

To deliver exercise prescriptions to your clients, you have to understand the basics of exercise principles.

Foundational Science of Exercise

It is very beneficial to understand how basic exercise physiology connects to what your clients are doing in the gym. 

Assessment Principles

You have to understand where your clients are today to give them what they need. A thorough assessment includes three areas: OPEX Body, Move, and Work.

Read our guide, Assess Like an OPEX Coach, for an in-depth explanation of the comprehensive OPEX assessment.

Program Design Principles

To design effective individual programs to progress your clients towards specific goals, it is important that you are guided by principles of Energy System Training and program design strategy.

Energy System Training is broken into three key areas: 

  1. OPEX Gain: Resistance training principles
  2. OPEX Pain: Anaerobic training principles
  3. OPEX Sustain: Aerobic training principles

Read our guide, Program and Progress Energy System Training, to learn the principles and see sample programs for each energy system.

Program design strategy is how you take assessment results and turn them into a thoughtful prescription. We explain this with the 3 Ps:

  1. Prioritizing
  2. Planning
  3. Periodization


Nutrition Principles

Understanding nutrition principles is an outstanding competitive advantage as an online coach. It is a powerful tool to understand how to prescribe a nutrition program that aligns with what your clients need and what they are able to be compliant with.

Nutritional assessment

You need to understand where your clients are today to understand what the best nutrition prescription is. OPEX Coaches gather this information in the initial consultation and with a detailed food log.

Basic Lifestyle Guidelines Principles

99% of clients will achieve the health and fitness they are after if they honor the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs), and these are the most powerful prescriptions you can provide as a coach. Click here to learn the BLGs.

Fueling Principles

Some clients will need specific prescriptions on the types of food they should eat. Understanding how to manipulate food quality and quantity in various ways will allow you to deliver this service.

Advanced Nutrition Prescriptions

Understanding how to prescribe advanced protocols for clients such as fasting and elimination diets will allow you to serve clients with more specific needs.

Love nutrition? Learn how to become a successful nutrition coach today in our free coaching course.

How to Deliver Remote Coaching

Now that you understand basic behavior, exercise, and nutrition principles, you have to understand how to implement these things is a must. In this section we will explain how to put principles into practice and coach your clients online.

Exercise Prescriptions

The Platform

Use CoachRx to deliver daily training programs and for daily communication. Here is a detailed free course on how to use CoachRx!


The Program

Every program design needs to start with an assessment. You can implement the OPEX Body, Move, and Work assessments detailed above online but you will need to give very specific instructions and make sure your clients submit videos and notes on their results.

When getting into programming, It is best practice to design 7 days at a time and on the same day per week for each client, for your productivity and for consistency. Take the time to write a training split for each client at the beginning of every new cycle, so that you have a skeleton guiding you and you aren’t guessing when it comes to writing their weekly program design.

It is essential to be clear and detailed in your workout descriptions so that your client understands the intent and exactly how to execute every exercise.

For example, if your client is starting with back squats, write the exercise as follows.

Back Squat (with example video linked)


6-8 reps x 4 sets

Rest 2 minutes

    • Focus on sitting hips back and big toes pressed into ground
  • Please film last set from side


Regular communication around your clients training is essential to develop the relationship and provide them with value. When you onboard each client be sure to set an expectation of how much they should expect to hear from you and how they need to communicate with you. For example, let them know upfront that you will respond to their messages within 3 hours during working hours and that the best place to ask you questions is in CoachRx messages. 

Leaving a comment on each training session, answering any questions or concerns raised in the client results, and commenting on your client’s workout videos will help create consistent communication. Consider using a service like Loom to provide video feedback on your client’s training sessions.

Client Check-Ins

A great program design is not enough, especially in the remote model. You also need to consult with your clients consistently.  We recommend a 30-minute video consultation once per month through a platform such as Zoom.

In this consultation, your aim is to hit on the client’s behavior, exercise and nutrition to see how prescriptions are going and where you can upgrade. Sometimes the client will steer this conversation and priorities are naturally identified during the consultation, so do not be afraid to spend 30 minutes where the client needs it.

Outside of the monthly consultation, we also recommend weekly client check-ins with personalized questions on the client’s nutrition, exercise, behavior.

Behavior and Nutrition Prescriptions 

When designing behavior and nutrition prescriptions, prioritize what your client needs and what will bring them closer to their goals.

As coaches, it can be tempting to overcomplicate this, so ensure you are not giving them a prescription outside of what they are capable of or ready for.

Be sure to share your plan with your clients so they understand what is in front of them. If you discuss the plan in a consultation, then send them a message with the key actions after the call.

If prescribing nutrition protocols, use appropriate systems to do so. Cronometer or MyFitness Pal are good platforms to track macros and Google Sheets is best if tracking portion prescriptions.

As mentioned above, weekly check-ins on nutrition and behavior compliance are a great way to ensure connection with your clients. For example, ask them the question, “Did you only have alcohol 1 night this week?”, if this was a behavior you are working on.

How to Start a Remote Coaching Business

Once you understand what you want to do, why you want to do it, the principles of delivering that service effectively, and the method you’re going to deliver, it’s time to develop the brand, client retention and acquisition strategies, and systems to deliver your service effectively and consistently.

That is what Professional coaches do for their coaching businesses.

Your remote coaching business relies on S-->E-->M-->R:

  1. Strategy
  2. Execution
  3. Measurement
  4. Refinement

Answer the key questions for each below to evaluate your remote coaching business. 


What is the message you’re going to send out to your clients and audience everyday?

-> This message will determine your brand.

What strategy will you incorporate to retain your members remotely?

-> This includes the systems of coaching explained above.

What strategy do you have to acquire new clients?

-> We believe in marketing in to out. This means starting with people you know and slowly moving outside of that group.

What strategy do you have to grow your business?

-> Do you want to grow to multiple coaches or any additional staff?

A well laid out strategy builds on itself quarter by quarter and year by year. The goal is for you to think about kaizen: constant improvement. You pick the biggest priorities and continue to build on them.


Based on your brand strategy, how often will you communicate, with whom will you communicate, what language will you use, what type of images and video will you use, and what is the style with which you’ll conduct your daily business?

What technology will you use to work with your clients?

-> Fitness programming, client comments, daily habits, and billing: CoachRx

-> Scheduling of appointments: Calendly or Acuity

-> Video calls: Zoom

What does your calendar look like so that you can efficiently work with your clients?

-> You need to schedule program design time and availability for client consultations.

What marketing platforms will you use and why? When will you post? How will you set up your content calendar to properly get that message across?

-> You need to know where to communicate with your target market and the type of content they will respond to.

What standard operating procedures will you teach yourself, your coaches, your staff, and your clients in order to deliver your service, onboard, and off-board your clients consistently well

What contracts and waivers will you use for your clients, coaches, staff?

Proper execution means that you take your strategy and put it into play with absolute consistency. With each successive execution of a part of your process, it should become easier, more consistent, and take less of your brain power to accomplish.


How will you measure and what will you learn about your monthly retention percentage?

How will you measure and what will you learn about your monthly new client acquisition?

How will you measure and what will you learn about your monthly new sales leads?

How will you measure and what will you learn about your monthly revenue, expenses, and profit?

Strong measurement brings truth to your business. You must see where you are, just like you would with clients through assessment. With the truth, you can understand or make educated guesses on why certain things are working or not. 


Based on all of the data that comes from your measurement, why is your business growing or not?

Based on why your business is growing or not, where do you need to make improvements?

This is where the loop begins again. Now that you know how well your strategy ultimately worked, how well you executed on the plan, what the results were and why the results were what they were, you can start from a “higher” strategy next time.

The more times you complete this S-->E-->M-->R loop, the stronger your business will become


In this article, we introduced you to the principles, tools, and systems that a successful remote coach needs to know. If you are starting a remote coaching business then take inventory of how your service does or does not meet the essentials listed above.

The reality is that it takes experience and education to be an efficient and effective remote coach. To continue learning about how to program and implement exercise, behavior, nutrition, as well as the best business systems to deliver this, your next step is our free course, the Professional Coaching Blueprint.

The Professional Coaching Blueprint is an introduction to the OPEX Method of Coaching, which we teach to coaches like you in our flagship course, the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program.

Start your free course today!

Professional Coaching Blueprint

Fitness Assessments for New Clients