The Power of a Trainee's Words

DeShawn Fairbairn

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Brooklyn, New York, United States

Personal Training, Fencing, Karate


I am a relative strength coach. I state this with the same boldness as my clients when they drop F-bombs during a workout session. My role as a relative strength coach allows me to focus on body recomposition, strength training, and corrective exercise.


I firmly believe this is the most effective way to bring the best out of clients despite varying body types and needs. The purpose of this article is to give you an insight into key points in my training modalities and share the experiences of a few of my clients.



Bench Press


The Role of the Fitness Assessment

A fitness assessment allows me to assess imbalances, overall fitness, and take body composition measurements. I also take additional time to go over nutritional goals and instruct the client how to progress and use time management skills in order to make their time spent in the gym efficient and effective.


My individual assessment as a coach will focus on creating a plan to develop better strength and physique proportion between lower and upper body while detailing out nutritional adjustments based on SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) and what I like to call my “litmus” test of personality.


People often take for granted the importance of how well certain psyches work with another. This, too, is important in ascertaining the likelihood of a person to “follow-through” with nutritional instruction and following training programs.


The Role of Client Interviews

After about 3-6 months with my client, I conduct interviews with them in order to get a sense of where they are and how we can work together to be the most productive moving forward.



After six months of training the client fall-off ratio tends to be high, therefore I highly recommend interviewing clients in order to keep them engaged and far more accountable than they would be otherwise. It’s no longer about “hand holding” but instead watching the fruits of your individual training style ripen. This is the perfect time for introspection as a coach to formulate a new game plan.


The Interview Questions

The interview questions used will vary from coach to coach. I use the following questions to give me a quick way to see where we started from, what happened along the way and help us decide where we want to go.


  1. When you first met the coach what went through your mind?
    The reasoning behind this question speaks about the “first impression” you give as a coach. This is the time period where most clients are vulnerable. They will begin to go through a “pre-contemplation” phase in which, if you show moments of uncertainty in your ability, it will snowball into a consistent series of questions researched from YouTube and Instagram about certain planning methods.
  2. What obstacles did you have at work or school that improved through strength training?
    This question refers to an idea of activities of daily living; ADLs for short. Most people do not want to come to the gym, however, if your training method makes their work and or recreation far more enjoyable this hits two issues at once. It helps to keep them engaged and their livelihood is positively impacted by your efforts.
  3. What will be the most gratifying thing for you to accomplish?
    This is a reminder question. It helps to reaffirm the reason why the client has bought your package. Asking this question creates a stronger “bond” with your client and motivates the client to continue moving forward.
  4. What do you feel is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
    This question allows for a more objective moment of introspection. It asks about the idea of effectiveness; what do people tend to take away from my sessions? Do not expect a page explanation of the biomechanics of a squat or rep ranges for muscular endurance. Instead, let it remain an open question to allow the client to have freedom of expression. You may ask follow up questions to zero in on concepts that are crucial to moving forward.
  5. How did you feel about this style of training?
    This question allows the coach to time macro and micro cycles more effectively. In addition, it allows a coach to gauge where a client is having difficulty and how to be more engaging. This is a great opportunity for the client to let the coach know if they are changing goals (running a marathon versus entering a powerlifting meet).
  6. What is your advice to others for getting a coach? What are some qualities to look for?
    This is the perhaps the most important question in this interview. This secures three things: referrals, buy-in, and engagement. As a coach, referrals are an absolute necessity—whether it’s a combination of word of mouth, social media, advertisements, and the like.
    However, word of mouth and social media are so integral to cash flow. The buy-in question asks what will make me, the client, continue with you? The question of engagement piggybacks the question regarding personality. What is it about you as a person and coach that people enjoy? What makes you approachable? For example, I do weekly check-ins with my clients. Approachability and availability are things people look for in a coach.




Pull Up


Testimonials - Results Matter

At the end of the day, all that matters is the results that you get for a client. And results vary from individual to individual. If you are a trainee, you want to be able to feel the way the people below feel - I chose a variety of responses from different people to give you a sense of what everyone gets out of their coach.


If you are a coach, you want to get these responses because the variety of reactions is what determines how effective you are; you're not ever going to get the same two clients, exactly alike in every way.



“Even though I had some experience with working out, there’s still the initial intimidation to meet someone who does it professionally but all that went away when I met you. So friendly, knowledgeable, and I really got that sense right away that it was going to be a nice, long-term relationship where I could work towards my goals."


“Your training plan is completely different from others and I’ve made so much progress in such a short amount of time just by having someone who is objective. Someone who could see where I need to go but doesn’t like feel all the little day to day things that I feel. However, you know what’s happening because you’ve done it before, but you also know that that stuff really matters."


“It’s like we do similar workouts every time and I get comfortable with it and then you progressively make it a little bit more challenging and yeah, I’ve learned to have patience with myself through you. And then also with the nutrition as well, not just the lifting. It’s like you can’t go crazy one week and eat nothing so that you lose some weight. You just need to be patient. You cut out the things that you don’t really need and over time you make the progress that you wanted.”


“As you know, I teach martial arts also and my teacher always says people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So, you need someone that’s caring—that actually cares about your progress. All the accomplishments and stuff like that are great, but unless they care about you, you’re not going to make progress. When you have a relationship that’s meaningful, that can help you progress.”


“I really didn’t know how to do any strength training around a hurt shoulder and my injured knee. This kind of feels like physical therapy in a way, but in a more extreme way. And not just to get better, but to get better and better instead of just to going back to normal.”


“The most important thing that I learned is that you have to have variety. You have to really push past this point that you didn’t think you could push past. I realize that there’s a wall with almost every exercise, and it’s discovering that wall and then trying to break through. It seems to be the most important thing. I really didn’t do any weight training like that before, you know. I would get close to the wall and call it quits. I didn’t realize that you had to hit the wall and then go over it.”


“Get a coach that’s going to listen to any of your ailments. I can’t imagine anybody over the age of 21 not having some kind of injury or something that they neglected that is now a problem area. So, definitely find a coach that knows what they’re doing and that knows the muscles—that knows how to work around the muscles and that knows a variety of different workout routines that could address those issues.”


A special thanks to the following people for agreeing to be interviewed and giving their opinion of a successful testimonial: Brandon Siedman, Jiu-Jitsu instructor - GeneDun Brooklyn Shotokan Karate, Jovanni Ramirez, Walter Martiniano, Alex Keath, Dr. Lana M, NYM Hospital, Samuel Searles, Broadway and Myrtle Bike Shop.

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