How to communicate with your clients

Today I wanted to talk about communication and how the correct form of communication between trainer and trainee can massively enhance the experience or results for both parties. Following on from my last blog where I went into a lot of detail about how my training is structured and the theory behind it, it occurred to me that on paper and in practice initially, it all appeared like some sort of ‘black magic’ as to what, when and how we did something. It wasn’t until Aiden explained the ‘WHY’ of it that I really got it and all of a sudden being able to structure a workout became incredibly simple.

light_bulb (4)

When I first started working with Aiden, I had no idea about fitness really let’s be honest, sure I knew enough to go around a gym and do 3 or so sets on 4-5 exercises, then next time do 3 or so sets on 4-5 different exercises,  or bust my butt on a stepper. But I was looking for more structure and although I was looking up workouts on fitness sites, because I didn’t understand what these stock workouts were trying to achieve, I got horribly confused and overwhelmed, not knowing which one was the best to do, to start with or progress to and as a result didn’t do any of them!

This is why working with a personal trainer became such a revelation. Initially I was just relieved to have someone else do the thinking for me, I really needed that as that was the point when my life was in complete turmoil, but fairly soon I got over the overwhelm and my natural curiosity reasserted itself…


And with that came the ‘why?’


Why are we doing this workout?

Why are we doing this exercise instead of that one?

Why are we starting with this exercise this week when we started with that one last week?

Why are we doing this exercise immediately after that one?

Why are we supersetting these exercises?

Why are we going giantsets?

Whats a wave load?

Why did we do a dropset just then?

Why didn’t we do a dropset this time?

Why did we only do 8 reps instead of 12?

Why are we doing 15 reps instead of 12?

Why are we doing 6 reps?

Why are we going really slow?

Why are we going fast?

Why are we doing hack squats after squats when last week we did walking lunges after the squats?

I’d even watch Aiden training other people and ask why!

Last week on chest you started with incline press with dumbbells, this week you started with cable incline press why?

And so on!

Fortunately, Aiden patiently answered every question in great detail (deserves a medal!), explaining everything to the point where I now have a very good understanding of workout ‘philosophy’ and planning strategies.


Which brings me back to communication.

As a trainer, do you know how to talk to your client(s) in a way that they can hear you?

That might sound a bit strange to you, but have you ever had a conversation with someone where you know you have worded your instructions very simply and clearly, yet the other person just doesn’t seem to get it? Or stares at you blankly as if you’d just said something in Russian? Is the other person just stupid? Have you ever considered that how you are speaking to a person is not necessarily the way that they listen for and absorb information?


I’ll give you an example. Aiden first suggested I compete in a figure competition after about 8 weeks of working with him. Of course I could hear the actual words, but I couldn’t hear the meaning or the intention. At that point I’d never heard of a ‘figure competition’ and was only faintly aware of the concept of ‘bodybuilding’, both which were totally outside my perception of the world and not something I was interested in as I (like the vast majority of the population) subscribed to the stereotyped idea that muscly women were ugly or on drugs or both. I then went to see a competition which confirmed my stereotyped perspective of the world, and told Aiden that I wasn’t one of those people and never to suggest it again.


My, how things change!

So in order to get your point across, you need to work out what ‘mode’ triggers the other persons engagement receptors, in this scenario Aiden had not phrased the suggestion in a way that ‘triggered’ my hearing mode and so I wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in what he was saying, it went right over my head. There’s a very good reason for this.

Those of you who have studied NLP or any type of performance learning strategies will be familiar with the 4mat concept of communication, which is a model for teaching and communication that will take instruction and subsequent comprehension to a higher level (see here).

For communication it centres around 4 strategies: Why, What, How, What If? And there is a particular order in which you need to use each of these 4 elements to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Next time you listen to a good public speaker or are watching a late night infomercial bear this in mind, chances are the speaker/salesperson will firstly tell you ‘why’ they’re here speaking to you/you need this product, then they will go into detail about ‘what’ it is, followed by ‘how’ you can apply the principles/use it, then they’ll close with a ‘what if’ scenario to really cement your understanding/hook you in.


Now ‘why’ people tend to be very bright, quick thinking, intelligent (goldfish attention span!) people – if you’re talking to someone about something that you’re passionate about or want them to do and you see them squirming, fidgeting, looking out of the window, inspecting their nails closely, chances are they’re a ‘why’ person and you have started the conversation with ‘what’ you want them to do and ‘how’ you want them to do it.


You’ve already lost them.

Let me give you an example:

If Aiden was explaining a workout to me he could say ‘We’re going to superset db shoulder press with db front raise (what), followed by upright rows superset w machine rear delts (what), followed by cable front raise superset w lat raise (what). We’re going to 3x 12 of each (how) and we’re going to raise the intensity by doing an explosive dropset on the last set (how) and we’re going to finish up with 2 sets of heavy abs (what)’

I would probably have switched off by the end of this explanation, not because I wasn’t interested, but simply because it’s not phrased in a way that grabs my attention and keeps it.

However, if that same explanation was pre-framed with ‘We want to hit each of the delt heads equally to maximise volume, intensity and get some pre fatigue (why) so we’re going to do…’ I would be right there to the end.

Another example:

Aiden might say: ‘I want to pre fatigue your quads to make sure your glutes do the work (why) when we do the Bulgarian lunges (what) by doing a quick set of leg extensions (how)’

Ok, got it, let’s go.

If he’d framed it up as follows: ‘we’re going to do a set of leg extensions before the Bulgarian lunges’.

You know exactly what would be coming next!

Why (1)

Aiden worked this out very quickly, and often (sensibly) pre-empted the inevitable by first telling me why we were going to do something before he told me what we were going to do. Maybe it’s ‘why’ I train so hard and love doing it!

Have you got any clients like that? If so try starting with ‘why’ and see if that makes a difference.

Now if your client is a ‘what’ person ( they probably ask ‘what’ type questions…)  you will need to start your explanation with ‘what’ you want them to do before going on to the ‘how’, then the ‘what if’ and ‘why’. ‘What’ people like to see the thing in action, so demonstrate the action first then let them have a go.

‘How’ people can’t wait to get their hands dirty in something. Tell them what you want them to do and how you want them to do it and they will be itching to get stuck in and try it for themselves – and then they will probably pester you for other alternatives or will tweak it themselves or just push you out of the way so they can have a go at it more quickly!

If you train groups of people and you want to get all of them to (enthusiastically) do the same thing, you need to start with the ‘why’. Capture the ‘why’ people first and you will still have an attentive audience by the time you get to the ‘what’ (which is next), then the how.

This may be completely unfamiliar to many of you, but it’s entirely possible that you do this instinctively from years of working with diverse personalities. If it is completely new, have a go, experiment with it, see if it makes a difference to your communication with your clients…especially your difficult ones ( go on, admit it, not all of your clients are angels!) you never know they may all of a sudden transform into willing obedient enthusiastic victims  (ahem), trainees


Continuous Adaptation: Why you don’t need to change your program every 4 – 6 weeks

As you know, I’m a classic ‘bright shiny object’ person – I start many projects, being all enthusiasm and energy for a while, until the shine starts to wear off i.e its not challenging anymore and I find something else bright and shiny to jump into.


Every now and then though something sticks, and when it does, it sticks good and tight and I end up completing whatever project it is exceptionally well, often exceeding my own very high standards or expectations in the process.

Why am I reminding you of this?

Well, I got involved in a discussion with a well known industry person who was touting the theory that competitors only 4-6 weeks out from their competition should all be feeling miserable, cranky, deprived, hating their training, doing hours of cardio and by this point should be changing their training program from heavy weight low reps to light weight high reps.

After immediately thinking ‘why?’, I suggested that this might be an overly generalized, narrow perspective, as I was loving my training, was not miserable, cranky or deprived, was definitely not doing hours of cardio and had not made any changes to my program in ages.

And there in lies the can of worms.

The repsonse (rather smug in tone) came back suggesting that I might want to look at the fact that my program had not changed as I should be changing it every 4 weeks.



Well, lets just look at my training in detail and you decide. This is the bit that was unfortunately not included in my training vid by the muscle project guys – I explained it all before the cameras were rolling 😦

Firstly I did some googling to see if I could find out some research based scientific reason for changing training programs every 4 weeks. 6 and 8 weeks are also common mantras. But I came up with nothing. No studies proving that changing training program every 4 weeks is optimal. So where did this much mentioned ‘fact’ that you must change your program every 4-6 weeks to make progress come from? If anybody knows of any such study, please point me in that direction.

Now I know that the reason for changing programs regularly is to prevent your body adapting and becoming more efficient meaning less energy expended/growth/plateaus etc. But think about it, your body is a super adapting machine – how long does it take to switch into fat storage mode when you drastically cut calories?

2-3 days.

If you water load, think how quickly you get used to it and start feeling thirsty even when drinking 7+ litres?

2-3 days.

When you cut water the day before a show, how quickly does it take your body to realise that its not drowning and you stop peeing every 5 minutes?

less than 36 hours.

Given this do you think that it would take your body 4 whole weeks to adapt to a training program? May I suggest it could adapt within 2-3 days…?


Which brings me back to the whole bright shiny object discussion.

If my training program was exactly the same for 4 whole weeks, I would be bored out of my brains by now and would probably have quit.

But I haven’t. Bodybuilding has stuck and it has stuck good and tight.


Because although my program rarely changes, Aiden changes the elements within my program every single session which not only keeps me guessing (very important!), but it keeps my body guessing and challenged – it can never adapt to the infinite variety and stimulus provided and hence is constantly growing and growing symmetrically.

This is the principle of Continuous Adaptation.

It’s very smart.

Before I go any further, I think I should just clarify my definition of ‘program’ as I suspect it’s not the same as yours.

By Program I mean the overall goal/purpose of the training. The ‘Why’ and ‘What’.

Elements are the bits that make up the program and get me to my goal.  The ‘How’.

My overall purpose and outcome of my program is to grow as much muscle as possible in as symmetrical way as possible. Pure hypertophy. And its working exceptionally well as last years comps clearly illustrated.

With respect to this aim, my program has not changed for 2 years, and nor is it likely to, until I achieve my ultimate goal of competing at Natural Olympia.

The elements within my program include split, sessions/week, exercises within a session, tempo, emphasis, intensity, volume.

So the bits that I call elements, equates to what most people would call their program.

Now, let me show you why I do not need to worry about changing my ‘program’ every 4 weeks.

Some of the elements within my program change less than others, for example my split (Legs, Back/Tri, Shoulder/Ab, Chest/Bi) has been the same for well over a year.

Sessions/week have also remained much the same (4 or 5) for well over a year. There were 5 weeks during comp prep when I went up to 6 sessions, but that was just to give my prep a quick turbo boost, before going back to normal.

With my split I can keep it to straight 4 days on 3 off, I can break it up 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off or 3 on 1 off, 1 on 2 off or if I want to ramp up the intensity roll straight into 4 more days with no rest.

If I go up to 5 days/week I tend to roll the split and do 5 days straight with one body part getting hit twice in 5 days, then 2 days off, then the next set of 5 days starts with a different body part which gets hit twice – so I roll the split within the roll.

for example:

week 1: Chest/Bi, Legs, Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi

Week 2: Legs, Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi, Legs

Week 3: Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi, Legs, Shoulders/Abs


And then I could split the 5 sessions:  3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off or 4 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off or…

Even if I didn’t change any other elements (exercises, tempo, emphasis, intensity, volume) within a session, already you can see I have months of sessions before I get back to the same split/week combination.

Now lets really get down into the nitty gritty…the actual exercises, tempo, emphasis, intensity and volume within a session. To keep it simple I’m just going to illustrate how Aiden might stack 2 exercises from my shoulder workout:

The theory behind my shoulder workout (indeed all of my workouts) is to hit each of the delt heads at least twice in a session from different angles, I usually start with a shoulder press supersetted with a front raise.

so I often do DB Shoulder Press w BB front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Plate Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w DB Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Single Arm Cable Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Cable Bar Front Raise

We might dropset the last set of the DB Shoulder Press or dropset the last set of the Front raises or dropset both last sets or we might wave load/dropset the DB Shoulder press and not do a last set of front raises.

We might just do the DB Shoulder Press and go really heavy, low reps – to add strength as well as mass.

We might do 3 sets of 12 reps or 4 sets of 8 -10. We might do a 2 up 2 down tempo, or 1 up 4 down tempo, we might go explosive on the last set to make sure both fast twitch and slow twitch fibres are hit.

We might switch the DB Shoulder press to machine, cable, behind the neck BB shoulder press or smith machine shoulder press with all combinations of front raises…

And then if we giantset the press and front raise with rear delts or another medial delt exercise…

So just with these 2 exercises alone and the combinations that I’ve mentioned there is at least unique 85-90 training sessions even if every single other factor remained the same.

Multiply all of that by another 3 or 4 superset combos for rear/anterior and more medial delts over the course of the session…

The levels of combinations grow exponentially…

So just with my shoulder session alone, I have YEARS worth of completely unique training sessions before I get back to the exact same session that I started with.

And I haven’t even mentioned abs…

And then there’s the other 3 body part splits….

Another issue I see with the ‘4 weeks’ is, as  I mentioned before, boredom, which reminds me of another conversation I had relatively recently about being stuck in a training rut…I don’t think that’s something I’ll have to worry about as that would only happen if the same thing is done over and over again.  

As you can see, Continuous Adaptation provides endless variety, constant stimulation/challenge/growth for my body because we hit every muscle from every angle with a variety of tempo’s, intensities and volume. No equipment is overlooked, there are no favourite types of equipment and because of this my body also does not get used to moving and activating in the same way each time. The benefit of this is that muscle fibre recruitment is maximised, whilst dominance and imbalances are minimised, leading to improved symmetry.

Admittedly when I write it down it may does sound complex (and Aiden has it all logged away in his head!), but once you understand the purpose behind the the structure it becomes very easy. I don’t have to think about it anymore and can create any workout on the fly knowing that it will still achieve the aims of my program.

Which of course its perfect for someone with the attention span of a goldfish with A.D.D!

If 4 week programs work for you then do what works for you, but if you’re stuck in a rut, or don’t know how to change your program, or you just want to try something a little bit different – maybe you could borrow Aiden’s bright shiny object for a while


BAKER Personal Training & Fitness

Post Comp Part 2: Training

I have lost count of the number of people who have asked ‘Am I back in Training yet?’ or stating ‘You’ll be taking a break then won’t you?’


They then seem surprised when the answer to the former is ‘I haven’t stopped training’ and the answer to the latter is ‘No, Why would I?’

Why is this strange?

Why would I stop training?

Why would I be taking a break?

Ok, so I’ve finished competing for this year, am I supposed to just stop training as well? That’s it, we’re done and dusted, everything is great, and because I did so well this year I can just cruise along until comp season next year?

Not a chance.

Off season is when the real magic happens. In fact there are plenty of studies out there that show the (up to 12 weeks) immediately post comp are when you can make some significant ‘muscle rebound’ gains, so I am not about to waste such a window of opportunity.

Google the phrase ‘Champions are made in Training’, you’ll get approximately 150 million results. It’s something that I believe very strongly in…

Those that reach the top of their chosen sport or profession are different from those that don’t quite make the cut. Champions are made of different stuff, there is something indefinable that comes from inside. You can’t teach it, you can’t learn it – it is there or it is not.

I believe that I have it, which is why I find the concept of taking time off just because I’ve stopped competing for this year, quite odd.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never take time off – there is an excellent article here ( that talks about how much time off is too much time off, so I won’t go into that and I’m well aware that rest is just as critical a part of your whole process, as the training (and diet) itself. Timed, scheduled rest is crucial to growth and I do take my rest phases when they are due.  I very much enjoy them, but I’m always glad to get back to my training. It just so happens that I will be taking a break over Christmas and by an amazing coincidence it also happens to be 12 weeks after my last comp…perfect timing for a scheduled rest!


Roast Turkey and Stuffing

Another thing that appears to surprise people when they ask me about my training is how many times a week I train with Aiden. At the moment the answer is 3 a week and after Christmas I want to bump it up to 4. Now that might seem a little excessive, I mean, I know exactly how to structure my program myself, I know exactly how to manipulate my split, I know exactly how to rotate exercises in and out, when to superset, giantset, waveload or dropset to provide variety, change the intensity and keep my body growing…so why go to the trouble and expense of paying for a trainer so often?

Well firstly, lets go back to the champions argument – champions do whatever it takes to win/be the best. There is no greyness about their process – they do it or they don’t, end of story. I want to stand on the stage at Natural Olympia next year with the best physique and be in the best shape I can be in,

I want to win it and I will do whatever it takes to get there.

I am acutely aware that my muscle building window of opportunity is very short – my age, being female and the fact that I am so injury prone seriously counts against me. I am well aware that I am up against people sometimes 15-20 years younger than me and with many more years of training in their bodies than me. It means I have to wring the most out of every training session that I do.

Amongst the many reasons why I enjoy training with Aiden, and probably one of the more ‘forgotten’ reasons is that I can push, pull, lift or squat heavier for more reps because he spots me. I’ve done plenty of programs created by other trainers then been left to my own devices – quite often they consist of a lot of numbers and x’s – 10×0, 4×20, 2×20 –  I know thats all about timing, tempo and stuff, but I find this distracts me from what  exercise I’m trying to do – I spend all my time wondering what the ‘x’ means or the ‘0’, is the 2 the up or down bit? Yes I know there’s a lot to be said for this format and its purpose, its industry standard, proven etc, I just don’t like it, it de-motivates me. I overthink it.

The gym is my down time, I don’t like having to think when I’m there, I just want to lift stuff…and the first training session when Aiden spotted me was a revelation. I could lift more and heavier which meant I was getting more work done in a shorter space of time and I didn’t have to think! Who’d have thought!

So 4 sessions covers my whole split, meaning every body part gets hit as hard as it can at least once every week. Over the course of a year that adds up to a whole lot more work and hopefully will maximise my muscle building potential.

Think about it. When I train legs by myself, I can’t (won’t!) squat more than 70kg, because I just don’t feel safe. When I fail, I fail catastrophically and I really don’t like suddenly finding myself on my butt with 70kg of metal landing on me. Same thing with the bench press – I don’t like the idea of failing and having 60kg land on my chest.


Even DLB takes a spot!

When I train with Aiden, I squat 80+ for however many reps/sets and if I fail there is someone to catch the bar and stop it falling on me. In addition to that,  when I’m getting close to failure, and I’m struggling to break out of the hole, there is someone who can help me get the bar past the sticking point and get out those few extra reps.

Doing some very simple maths, let say I train legs once a week for 48 weeks, do 3 sets of squats with 70kg for 12 reps thats:

70 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 120960 kg moved (120.96 metric tons)

Training the same reps/sets with Aiden spotting me at 80kg

80 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 138240kg moved (138.2 metric tons)

18 extra tons of metal moved?

Lets take a look at my dumbbell Shoulder Press – by myself I can just about get 17.5kg into the starting position or down to the floor without something being pulled or jerked the wrong way. With Aiden, I start at 22.5kg. He can place the dumbbells into my hands when I’m already in the starting position and take them off me just before I fail.

5kg is a big dif on a dumbbell shoulder press.

Think how that adds up across all exercises, for all body parts, every week over the course of a year…

How much extra muscle would that translate to?

If this is what we can achieve in a year with 3 sessions from such a low starting base, we know there is room for improvement and I intend to make the most of it.

front change

back sym

Does your trainer spot you? Why not? Isn’t that why you hired a trainer in the first place – to get results that you wouldn’t be able to achieve on your own?

So what is the focus of my training? Well, having done my retro (you HAVE done your retro…?), scoured photographs and talked it over endlessly with Aiden, Biceps and Abs are the key, with Chest/Tris next, and of course it never hurts to make improvements in the good bits as well. Biceps have been a victim of ongoing elbow tendon issues – I didn’t train them directly for 8 months prior to comp prep and already after just 3 weeks of ramping up the intensity, they are falling apart…again, so I’m back doing the rounds of physio and doctors trying everything they can come up with to adjust my technique, fill them full of blood/cortisone – whatever it takes, I want them fixed ASAP. If that means I do have to stop direct arm training for a period of time prior to Christmas, then so be it…I’ll just work on those abs and making my shoulders, glutes and legs even better!

At this time immediately post comp, now is your opportunity to really make an honest assessment of yourself. If you’ve done your retro, you know where you’re at and where you want to be. The next question to ask yourself is how you’re going to get there.

I love my training. I have the right trainer, with the right knowledge, by putting training at the top of my list we’re making the progress we expect and getting the results we want to see. We have a shared vision and the commitment to see this through as far as we can take it.

back progression 1 year

How many of you are lucky enough to be able to say that?

If you’re not, I’m going to challenge you as to why not? Why are you training that way, with that program, or those methods that are not getting you to where you want to be…

If you want different results, you’re going to have to do something different, now is the time to do it, and one of the key areas to make some changes is your training, especially if you’re aiming for the comps at the end of next year, you have a really good 9 months to see if what you change is working.

It’s up to you – are you a champion? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? The ball really is in your court, you just have to decide what you want and how much you want it…

If so, its time to assess, maybe overhaul and prioritise your training!