Programming and Coaching

What Makes a Successful Coach in 2021?

The standards are changing: are you up to scratch?


In today’s increasingly competitive fitness industry, the definition of what makes an ‘outstanding coach’ is changing. 

Ten years ago, a sound technical foundation and good communication skills would get you 90% of the way. Today, those things are the bare minimum.

As online fitness reaches new levels and clients become increasingly discerning, it’s now harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. Anyone can qualify as a personal trainer, and more and more people are, as the benefits of this career become widely recognised.

For those of us determined to excel as advanced coaches, the bar is set high.

And although this comes with an extra level of challenge, this demanding standard is good news for the ambitious coaches among us: there’s a real opportunity to hold the torch for excellence.

Here are some of the qualities of the advanced coach, as laid out in our Advanced Coaching Course:

A strong technical foundation

You don’t need to be the best programme designer or sports scientist in the world, but a solid base of knowledge about the science of coaching is a must.

A leader of people

Coaches are more than just physical fitness instructors. They’re leaders of people, role models, people who can comfortably pull a community together around them. This requires an inner confidence, integrity, excellent communication skills, and more.

“You’re a role model for everyone you come into contact with: you need to live up to that.”

A business head

Advanced coaches think beyond the gym floor. A successful fitness business requires joined up thinking from their senior staff – an understanding of the commercial side of the business and a dedication to maximising the productivity of the coaching team.

Client focus

When it comes to a coaching-based business model like the Modern Training Gym, excellent customer service and an outstanding member journey are what reallys packs a punch. The advanced coach is aware of the client’s needs at every stage, and makes it their mission to make a member’s time in the gym the best part of their week.

The full package

Professionalism is the name of the game for the advanced coach. Even if you aren’t leading a team, you’re a role model for both other members of staff and gym members. Being well turned out, punctual, actively listening, giving eye contact when people speak to you – all of these are prerequisites for this role.

The Advanced Coach is a lynchpin of the business they work within, big or small. The responsibility of this role comes with some additional complexities and commitments. Here are some of them.

You are your product

Whether you’re fully employed or clearing a path as a one-man-band, as an advanced coach, you are your product.

Your mission is to help people reach their health and fitness goals. Whether it be fat loss, muscle gain, increased longevity, increased athleticism…your clients, both current and prospect, will be looking to you to set an example.

This is true in a visual sense – you need to be in decent shape (after all, you’re a walking advertisement for the efficacy of your approach to fitness training). But it’s also true in terms of your behaviour. As the living embodiment of your business and your brand, you need to act in a way that role models the behaviour you want to see in your clients.

You are a valuable resource

As well as this responsibility to others, you also need to see yourself as a resource.

As a senior member of staff, you are one of the most precious resources for the business you work within. And like any other crucial element of a business, you need to care for and safeguard this resource (yourself) if you want to be an asset rather than a liability.

You’ll only be able to do your bit to bring the business success if you can keep the effort up in the long term – there’s no sense in going for the sprint and falling at the first hurdle. Think of it as a marathon instead.

“Respect your roots but remember that your job is to serve the client.”

So what does this look like in practice?

It means living consciously and proactively. It means finding balance – expending the effort necessary to hit your goals, but also putting fuel in the tank in the form of rest, time spent with friends and family, and investing in personal and professional development.

  • Audit your lifestyle

A good way to find balance and look after yourself is to think about how much time and energy you put into each area of your life – and then use this understanding to even things out if they’ve become unbalanced. 

  • You are a coach first

Many of us had an interest in becoming professional athletes ourselves, but life got in the way and one way or another it didn’t happen. Maybe health and fitness helped you turn your own life around, and inspired you to do the same for others.

You need to respect your roots – in fact, those are at the heart of your coaching values and the soul of what makes you an effective coach. But you need to remember that your job is to serve the client as well as you can – and to make a healthy living at the same time – not to live out your own dreams through other people. Coach first, athlete second.

Want a simple and powerful system for creating awesome programmes?

Download our free ebook, A Guide to SGPT Programme Design.

Ready to test yourself and stake your claim as a master practitioner?

Launch straight into the IFBA Advanced Coaching Course to:

  • Establish your coaching values, professional practice, and personal brand
  • Create a comprehensive and personalised Coaching System for your professional practice. 
  • Dig into the details of programme design, the client review process, coaching special populations – and much more.

Find out more about the Advanced Coaching Course here. 

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