May 28th, 2010

Robertson Training Systems Newsletter 6.09

5 Keys to Becoming a Fitness Authority

So, you want to become an authority figure in strength and conditioning, personal training, or both, eh?

One of the questions I get from interns and seminar attendees alike is, “How do I get to the next level?”

It’s interesting, because I see both sides of the coin.  I see young coaches who are helping people, improving their craft, and doing their best to take the industry to the next level.

I also see that 1% of the field that hates everyone and everything, and can’t figure out why more people don’t listen to them.

So this newsletter is simple: How I feel you can get an edge on the competition, and (hopefully) build an authority status within our field.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fixes or magic bullets here.  A lot of this stuff takes time, which is absolutely fine by me.  If you’re not willing to work your arse off, I don’t really want you in my field anyway!

1 – Take care of your appearance and physique.

A little vain, don’t you think?  Putting physique and appearance #1?

Sure it is – and so is every person you come in contact with, to a degree.

Listen, if you’re a trainer or a strength coach, you owe it to yourself, your clients, and your athletes to hold yourself to some sort of physical standard.

If you’re overweight, out of shape, or can’t demonstrate exercises, how can you expect your clients to respect you?

If the only thing you’ve lifted of substance in the past two years was chicken parm sandwiches, do you really expect your athletes to listen to what you have to say?

This doesn’t mean you need to be world-class, though.  You don’t have to be a 1000-pound squatter, or constantly be under 10% body fat.  Ideally, your physique should be on par with what your clients/athletes desire.

In other words, if you are working with fat loss clients, its helps to be relatively lean.

If you work with powerlifters or Olympic lifters, it helps to have spent some serious time under the bar yourself.

Where people often get into trouble is if they’re a 300-pound powerlifter, and they’re training fat loss clients.  Even if they know exactly what to do to get results, it can be confusing from a clients’ perspective.

It may sound vain, but I guarantee your appearance is one of (if not the first!) things your clients and athletes notice about you. This is your first impression, so don’t blow it!

2 – Own or work in a top-notch facility.

You know why people make fun of big box gyms all the time?  Mostly because the suck.

And if you work there, you could be the greatest trainer on earth, but you’re working from behind the eight-ball – people will have a natural stigma about you right off the bat because of where you work.

On the other side of that coin, simply working at a first-class facility such as Cressey Performance, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, Results Fitness, Athletes Performance or Peak Performance is going to give you an immediate level of street credibility.

It’s not fair, but it’s true.

Look, if you want to become an authority figure in this field, you should chose one of the following options:

1 – Own and operate your own facility, or

2 – Work in a great facility.

Sure, you can make it by doing things your own way, but this is the surest way to not only get a certain level of credibility, but really take your knowledge-base to the next level as well.

3 – Never stop learning!

I can’t tell you how often this comes up in discussion.  I think too often people assume, “I’ve been in this field X number of years, I know more than that guy!”

They wear the X on their body like a badge of honor, assuming that just because they’ve been around for X number of years, they automatically know what they’re doing.

I’m not here to tell you that experience isn’t important.  But I read a great quote from Bob Alejo on the Strength Coach website this past week, and I wanted to share it with you:

Experience is different than expertise.

In other words, it’s not just hanging on for years on end, it’s actually being good at what you do that’s important!

You could be in a field for 40 years, but if you haven’t taken the time to further your education and improve yourself, it just means you’ve been able to survive and hang-around.

When looking at knowledge and wisdom, there are a couple of ways you can fast track yourself:

  • Get around great people. If you spend 20 years in a horrible facility, do you really think that’s going to make you better?  Find a great facility with other great trainers, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you can become.
  • Find great people to work with. Energy vampires that have no desire to succeed with their training will rob you of your time, energy and passion for your work.  Fire these people and don’t look back.
  • Learn from the best. My philosophy here is simple:  If I want to learn about something, I’m going to learn from the best.  When it comes to low backs, I’m going to learn from Stuart McGill.  When I want to learn about shoulders, maybe it’s Kevin Wilk or Mike Reinold.  If it’s knees, Dr. Shelbourne is the man.Quite simply, seek out and learn from the best.  If they are getting results with real clients and athletes, I want to learn from them, not some clown spewing hate from behind a keyboard.
  • Continuing Education is critical.  Beyond seeking out the best, we have access to such much information now it’s ridiculous.  Go to seminars, download webinars, review DVD’s, read books and journals.  Quite simply it doesn’t matter where you live, you have access to more information than any time before.  Don’t let that opportunity pas you by.

4 – Become solutions-based vs. problems-based

One of the key themes I find in successful people is that they are solutions-focused versus problems-focused.

People who are problems-focused are not only the annoying Negative Nancy, but they never offer anything of value in return.  They can’t tell you what solutions they have, because they aren’t really training people or getting results! All they do is criticize and judge, often without even knowing the entire story.

On the other hand, solutions-based coaches and trainers are willing to make educated guesses to improve results.  Does it work 100% of the time?  Probably not.

But they’re willing to take chances, to make minor errors, knowing that over time they’re going to continue refining their philosophy to get better and better results.

Who do you want to hang out with – the guy who’s in the trenches, working hard, and getting results?  Or the guy who has nothing better to do than philosophize and pontificate?

The choice is yours.

5 – Improve your communication skills

So much of what we do is about educating our clients, our athletes, and our peers.  If our communication skills are poor, we’re really going to struggle to get our point across, or our name out there.

Writing is a great starting point.  You can start a blog from the safety of your own home, and no one has to see it!  This will help you start to organize your thoughts, develop your philosophy, and hone in your focus as to how you do things.

Speaking is the next step, and it’s absolutely crucial when you’re coaching and training.  You must be able to articulate your thoughts, your philosophies, and your coaching cues in a way that your clients and athletes understand.

It’s not showing how much you know, it’s teaching them what they need to know.

Taking it a step further, if you’re really serious about becoming a major-player, it may pay dividends to take a public speaking course.  This will give you a better idea of how to layout speeches and presentations for maximum effect.

Finally, non-verbal/visual communication is important in our field as well.  Obviously people pick up on body language, but let’s take it a step further – if we’re going to coach our clients, it often helps them to see how to perform an exercise first and foremost.  Essentially, we should be able to demonstrate the exercises we are coaching with a certain level of proficiency.

Again, you may not be a 800-pound bench presser yourself, but it definitely helps to have a certain degree of proficiency yourself if that’s the client-base you’re working with. Basically, have a certain degree of athleticism and understanding of how to perform an exercise before programming it for a client or athlete.


Here’s the bottom line:  If you want to become an authority figure in this or any) field, it’s going to take a lifetime.  At my own 10-year mark, I’d like to think I know a thing or two.  But more importantly, I know that I still have a long way to go, and a whole heck of a lot to learn.

If you aren’t spending a ton of time coaching clients and athletes, working with a ton of people, gaining experience and GETTING RESULTS, it doesn’t matter.

I sincerely hope this has motivated some of you to step your game up and take it to the next level.  Good luck!

All the best



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