Building Successful Client Relationships

Designing effective corrective exercise programs requires you to apply your technical skills. However, an equally important aspect of program design involves forming productive working relationships with clients.

This requires you to evaluate a client’s motivations for seeking out your help and to adapt your communication, teaching, and coaching strategies for each person. Understanding the needs of clients is important to ensuring the success of your corrective exercise programs.

In order to design successful corrective exercise programs, you must understand basic human behavior and motivations in addition to having skills in assessment, anatomy, and exercise.

There are two main reasons why people musculoskeletal imbalances seek assistance from fitness professionals:

  1. They lack the knowledge needed to resolve problems on their own.
  2. They lack confidence in their own ability to alleviate their condition.

Since most clients don’t know how to help themselves overcome their musculoskeletal imbalances, teaching them about their bodies is an effective way to encourage their participation. Specifically, you can

  • explain how each part of the body works individually and with other parts,
  • show them what musculoskeletal imbalances they are experiencing,
  • discuss how these imbalances affect their muscles and other soft tissues,
  • talk about what they can do to overcome these limitations, and
  • examine what they might be doing that could affect the progress of their program.

You can encourage clients to take responsibility for the success of their programs by encouraging them to ask questions, contribute ideas, and offer information when you discuss their programs. This will help them feel that they are important to the process, and it will bolster their confidence and self-esteem. The more a client’s self-reliance grows, the more he will contribute to planning the exercise program and the better his adherence will be.

You can strengthen your role as a facilitator during consultations and assessments by asking open-ended questions and paying attention to clients’ verbal and nonverbal responses. Active listening (i.e., paying attention to clients’ body language, having empathy for their situations, and not just waiting for them to finish talking so you can say what you want to say) will also enable you to help clients to identify strategies or changes they need to make on their own to improve their condition.

Structuring Sessions and Programs

After you sign a client up for your services, you will begin the process of developing a comprehensive corrective exercise program to address his underlying musculoskeletal imbalances.

Client may still have concerns when she arrives for her first appointment about whether the program will be effective. To help your client overcome these lingering fears, begin the first session by:

  • reminding her of the step-by-step nature of the program,
  • emphasizing the importance of regular adherence to her homework, and
  • restating the realistic expectations you set up together during the consultation process.

You will probably spend a lot of time working with each client throughout the course of a corrective exercise program, so it is important to create working relationships that foster trust and mutual respect. You must also pay close attention to your client’s mental and physical needs, and facilitate their programs accordingly.

  • Creating productive corrective exercise programs requires you to approach each client differently and focus on individual needs. It also requires appropriate teaching strategies so they understand exactly what they must do to reach their goals.
  • You can alleviate clients’ initial anxieties by taking things slowly, keeping things simple, and implementing program variables they can achieve.
  • Provide a clear picture of what to expect in each exercise session, and structure your time accordingly. Follow progression protocol from self-myofascial release techniques to stretches and then to strengthening.
  • Always link your exercise recommendations to your clients’ goals. For example, if a client’s ultimate goal is to be able to play tennis again, explain how each exercise relates to movements he will need on the tennis court.
  • Progress a program when you feel a client is ready. Appropriate progressions keep clients motivated about moving forward.
  • If a client is having difficulty mastering an exercise, it is your job to notice this before she becomes frustrated or hurts herself. Whenever necessary, regress the exercise to help maintain the client’s confidence in herself and in the program.
  • All information about a client’s homework (whether exercise-related or not) should be recorded in a personalized workbook. Pictures (and videos if appropriate) should be taken of all homework exercises, and clear instructions should be provided so the client knows exactly what is expected.

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