How To Plan A Personal Training Session Your Clients Will Love

A properly structured personal training session distinguishes the difference between a top-quality fitness coach and a lazy trainer.

A client can really tell when a trainer takes the time to ensure that the hour they spend with their customers is as effective and time-efficient as possible.

In today’s article, I am going to explain to you how to plan a personal training session so that your clients not only get the results that they deserve but also have a great time during each session and keep coming back for more.

Sound good?

Let’s go….

Man in gym deadlifting

In order for you to be able to deliver top-quality personal training sessions, there are a number of different factors you need to consider before you start writing up your list of exercises.

Things to consider before creating your personal training sessions

  • Your clients’ goals
  • Your clients’ preferences
  • Your session duration
  • Time of day the session will take place

Taking your clients goals into consideration

Before you start writing up session programs for your clients, you really need to concentrate on their goals.

During the initial meet and greet you should have discussed in detail what your client wants to get out of their training and ensure that every single exercise in the program is leading to the outcome that they have requested.

What I am getting at here is that you may have a list of exercises that you really like and you think your client will really enjoy, but the reality is, if they aren’t going to reach their goals, or at least see some progress, they will leave you.

If the overall goal of your client is to lose weight, they might not benefit from strength training sessions.

I understand that increasing muscle mass through strength would help in losing weight generally, but you may need to work a little faster to be able to show your client progress in order to keep them training with you.

You must take your clients exercise likes and dislikes into account

When organizing sessions for a client, you need to have a mix of what they enjoy doing and what they need.

It should be about an 80/20 split of exercises that you know benefit the client and help them achieve their goal, with the other twenty percent should be exercises that you know they will really enjoy doing.

For example, postural correction exercises aren’t known for being particularly exciting, but as a trainer, if you saw your client needed postural correction and you ignored it, you’d not be doing your job correctly.

I would suggest that you have a good chat with your client when they first start training with you so that you can find out what their favorite types of exercise are and what they really don’t like.

You might be extremely excited about using functional exercise equipment, and you can probably sing its praises all day long, but if your client really prefers using free weights, you are going to struggle to keep them coming back for more.

The opposite is true if your client is dead against using weights because they are worried about getting “bulky”.

I had to get used to changing round programs for people when they said this to me, despite knowing that was they were saying was untrue.

You shouldn’t only give your clients exercises they enjoy, after all, you are the teacher and they are paying for your expertise, however, if they hate everything you are giving to them to do, you will lose them as a client really fast.

How long are your sessions going to be?

You would not believe how quickly an hour goes by!

It feels as if as soon as your session has begun, you and your client are already waving goodbye and confirming the next weeks’ session.

With this in mind, you need to understand just what can be achieved within the time you have in each session.

Generally, I found that you could get through six exercises with three to four sets of each in a one-hour session. This includes a warm-up and cool-down/stretching time.

In a half-hour session, you will need to change your style of training around, as there is so little time, you will need to be as efficient as possible.

I found that the best way to make use of very short training sessions was to use as many multi-joint exercises as possible, and preferably superset these together.

This meant that the client really got their money’s worth and would leave the session feeling like they have just got the same amount of exercise done in half an hour that would take them a week by themselves.

What time of day will your sessions take place?

It’s vitally important that you plan your client’s sessions to fit into the time that they will be training.

For example, if your client can only train at 12 pm, you should really know that the options available to you in terms of equipment will be very limited.

If you plan for this, you can make use of your superior knowledge of exercise to prescribe a workout that makes use of different bits of kit in creative ways.

This will allow your client to still get exactly what they are looking for out of the sessions, but without having to stand around chatting next to the bench press for twenty minutes.

Likewise, if you have a client that insists on using free weights, you can explain that they will need to train at a quieter time of the day when you can easily get on the kit.

What does a personal training session consist of?

Ok, so I think I have fully explained what you should take into consideration before you even start thinking about exercises, but now let’s dive into the actual sessions.

The structure of a personal training session:

  1. Session cards/exercise program ready
  2. Greeting and warmup
  3. Explanation of session
  4. Main bulk of workout
  5. Stretching
  6. Confirmation of next session and sign off

1. Have your session cards/workout plan ready and waiting

You should have all your client’s workouts ready and waiting to go way ahead of them arriving at the gym.

Waiting until your client arrives to start deciding what you will do that day is the worst way you can train anyone, please don’t be one of these personal trainers.

Take the time to write up your programs so you can show progress and you can explain to your client why they are doing the exercises you have prescribed.

2. Greeting and warmup

It’s very important that when your client arrives you are ready and waiting for them.

If you are just finishing up with your previous client, that’s ok, but make sure you say goodbye quickly and greet your next client.

Ensure that you always make sure your client knows that if they cannot see you, they should start warming up.

That way, if you are quickly finishing up or going to the toilet between sessions, you can meet your client on the machine they are using and start your session.

Ask them how they have been and how they felt after the previous workout, but also don’t forget to ask them about themselves.

Ask what they have been up to and try to use the warmup time to build as much rapport with your clients as possible.

3. Explanation of that days session

During the warmup conversation, you have a few minutes to explain what that day’s session will include.

If it is making use of the same exercises that were used in the previous session, explain how well you think they did last time, and ask them if they think they can beat last week’s weights and personal bests.

Let them know exactly what they are in for that day and ask if they have any questions or if there is anything you need to take into account (new injuries etc).

4. The main bulk of the session

This is it, the main bulk of the session!

This should include all the exercises that you have prescribed for your client weeks beforehand depending on the goals that they have outlined for you.

Generally, you will want to put all the bigger, multi-joint exercises towards the start of the session, and the smaller single-joint exercises towards the end.

This means the exercises that will make the greatest impact, will not have to be dropped because of a lack of time, etc, but the smaller single-joint exercises can be skipped at the end if you are short of time without your client losing out on too much.

make sure your client is tired at the end of each set, but not totally destroyed, remember that even if you like that style of training, many people don’t.

5. Stretching your client

Stretching your client is an often overlooked or even completely ignored section of a personal training session.

It’s important for not only your client’s comfort after their training sessions, but it’s also an excellent time to increase your rapport.

It gives you a chance to talk about their personal lives (if they want to) and lets you build trust and bond with your client in a way that not only makes the sessions more enjoyable for yourself and them but also helps a great deal with client retention.

6. Confirming the next session and signing off

During the stretching portion of the session, you can discuss the next weeks’ session to confirm that your client is able to attend and at the same time as usual.

I would also heavily suggest having your client sign for their session as they are leaving, as this mitigates any chances of disagreements about how many sessions have been completed.

What are the three parts of a training session?

As you’ve seen from the layout I’ve given above of a great personal training session, every session should be made up of three individual parts.

  1. The warmup
  2. The main bulk of the session
  3. Cooldown

The warmup

The warmup should consist of 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise to raise the heart rate to a level where your client can still converse with you but is beginning to get slightly out of breath. The warmup is a vital part of a workout routine, as it gets the blood pumping around the body, supplying plenty of oxygen to the muscles.

Increasing the temperature of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments makes them more flexible, and less likely to be torn or injured during the rest of the routine.

The main bulk of the session

The main bulk of a personal training session should consist of resistance training exercises that focus on a client’s specific goals. I have found that during a typical 1-hour session, 5-6 exercises with three sets can be achieved.

A mixture of free-weight, machine, and bodyweight exercises can be utilized depending on the goals and ability levels of your clients.

You should give adequate rest periods between each exercise and ensure the clients are working to their maximum potential on every set of each exercise to maximize results.

The cool down

Making sure your client has effectively cooled down after an intense workout helps the body to return to its resting state before they return to the rest of their day.

During exercise, your heart rate is increased and your blood vessels dilate to increase the amount of oxygen supplied to your muscles. If you suddenly stop after intense exercise, you could potentially feel pretty ill as it’s quite a shock to the system to go from intense exercise to rest. In the real extreme, it’s even possible to feel faint or even pass out due to stopping intense exercise too quickly.


Hopefully, this article has given you a good understanding of how to structure your personal training sessions, and what to take into account before you start writing them.

I hope you can understand that I cannot suggest any exercises in particular, because every client is different and has different needs and goals.

If you are new to training this should have given you a very good idea of where to start, but I heavily recommend reading as many articles on this site as possible to give you the best chance of prospering in your personal training career.

Good luck,

Go get ’em!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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