Client Consultation

by NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition
Kinetic Select May 2017


During the initial interview, the personal trainer and client assess compatibility, develop goals, and establish a client-trainer agreement.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Even though no recognized uniform process of administration appears to exist, there is agreement about the value of an initial interview as the first step in the client consultation to obtain and share essential information associated with the program delivery process (16, 28). The initial interview is a scheduled appointment intended as a mutual sharing of information with the expected outcomes of assessing client-trainer compatibility, discussing goals, and developing a client-trainer agreement.

During the initial interview, the personal trainer and client assess compatibility, develop goals, and establish a client–trainer agreement.

Assessing Client-Trainer Compatibility

As the first step in determining trainer-client compatibility, the personal trainer provides a detailed description of the services available. Important information to convey to the potential client includes an explanation of the personal trainer’s formal education, professional experience, certifications, and expertise or specializations, as well as the mission statement, success rate, and unique features of the program delivery system. Other important components that may affect suitability include logistical aspects regarding where and when services are available.

The personal trainer may also need to evaluate the level of exercise readiness by assessing the motivation and commitment of the individual. An attempt to predict compliance may begin with a discussion of past experiences, appreciation for exercise, availability of support, time management and organizational skills, and potential obstacles that may affect exercise adherence. Paper tests are available that are sensitive to predicting levels of exercise readiness and compliance. An attitudinal assessment form is shown on page 166 [of NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition].

The last step in determining compatibility is to assess suitability and appropriateness. It is important that the personal trainer and potential client agree to boundaries, roles, resources, and expectations and address concerns related to any of the issues or information discussed in the initial interview.

If facts are discovered during the initial interview that would establish incompatibility, it is important for the personal trainer to provide the person with an option to receive services through a referral process.

Discussion of Goals

If compatibility and suitability are established, the next step may be a discussion of goals. The main function of identifying objectives is to provide and define direction as it relates to purpose and motivation. Developing goals that are specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time sensitive is a science and art and a vital element of the training process. Goal setting is discussed in chapter 8.

Establishing the Client-Trainer Agreement

After the personal trainer and client have identified and clarified goals, the next step may be to finalize the trainer-client agreement. Entering into an agreement under the elements of contract law requires a formal process that in most cases is legally driven. Components of a contract include written documentation describing the services, parties involved, expectations of those parties, time line of delivery, cost structure, and a payment process. Language of the contract should also cover the cancellation policy, termination of contract, and circumstances that would render the document void.

An opportunity for discussion regarding the content of the contract should be provided during the consultation. The personal trainer should document and clarify questions and issues concerning the agreement before receipt of acknowledgment of acceptance. The contract becomes valid when signed by both parties, assuming appropriate legal age and competency (23). An example of a personal training contract/agreement is provided on page 169 [of NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition]. Personal training professionals should consult with an attorney to make sure that their contract/agreement is in accordance with their local city and state laws.

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