The global COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for gyms, which were one of the first businesses to shut their doors amid lockdown regulations.

“But the pandemic has also driven positive trends around exercise as more people are now aware of the importance of health and fitness,” explains Paul Mills, Managing Director at the Health & Fitness Professionals Academy (HFPA).

As a consequence, more people are looking to start and maintain exercise programmes. This new paradigm has created an interesting situation for fitness professionals, especially as many gyms and training facilities have struggled to survive due to the lockdown’s economic impact on their business.

With less physical capacity to train clients in person, growing financial constraints among consumers, and a hesitance by many members to rush back to gym due to concerns regarding infection risks, personal trainers need to embrace an augmented model to maintain their relevance and sustain their business.

The COVID catalyst

The transition to online training and coaching was already on the rise before the pandemic altered the way we live and exercise. Adapting to the lockdown has merely accelerated the shift to the digital engagement model as the COVID-19-related lockdown forced gyms, studios and fit pros to pivot to an online service delivery model.

“The lockdown was really challenging for fitness professionals. With no physical space, everyone needed to become digitally savvy overnight and shift their offering online to sustain their business and generate an income,” continues Mills.

The COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report, compiled by Fitness Australia, showed that 81% of exercise professionals and industry players lost their job or main source of income due to gym closures and social distancing restrictions.

However, the survey findings, which are based on responses from 1,177 exercise professionals and sole traders, and 282 boutique and multi-service facility gyms, found that just under half of respondents were able to generate new sources of income by moving online or adopting one-on-one outdoor PT sessions.

The online pivot

This pivot to digital engagement took many forms, as personal trainers and fitness instructors found themselves at varying points on their digital transformation journeys.

“While some had embraced bespoke or white-label apps before the pandemic, the majority simply leveraged video conferencing platforms to keep booked sessions with clients through the lockdown.”

A survey of over 700 Mindbody app users affirmed that wellness routines during and post COVID-19 lockdowns changed in a positive way, with respondents reporting that they worked out more while at home, rather than less.

Specifically, a mere 7% of app users live streamed workouts in 2019, but that increased to over 80% during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, 85% of survey respondents reported live streaming a workout on a weekly basis, with yoga and HIIT-style workouts like Tabatas or bootcamps the most popular modalities.

A New Workout culture

But now that gyms have reopened, Mills expects members to make a gradual return to training in brick-and-mortar facilities.

“People will return to gym, there is no doubt about that. The gregarious nature of people means that the more we work online and remain isolated from others, the more we want human contact. As such, people will return to gyms when they feel ready. And gyms across the globe have also seen an increase in new members as people prioritise their health.”

However, fit pros should maintain their online focus with a mixed business model because it is unlikely that gyms will see an immediate return to the attendance figures experienced before the pandemic. For instance, 43% of respondents in the Mindbody app survey expect to blend their previous routines and virtual content or live streaming, even when the pandemic is over.

“It has become clear that contemporary fitness professionals will require an augmented model going forward, offering some in-person and some online instruction,” elaborates Mills. That means fitness professionals will need to adapt their offering to meet the demand for contactless or low-touch physical workout experiences, while delivering convenience and affordable online training options in response to the financial crunch clients are experiencing.

Potential benefits

But rather than posing a threat to their business, this shift represents a massive opportunity for fitness professionals moving forward. According to Mills, the move to digital proved that clients are willing to pay for virtual workouts, and the digital marketplace opens up significant opportunities for fitness pros to reach a global marketplace, which broadens their potential customer base, and allows them to bill in a foreign currency.

“Trainers can also use online sessions to reach clients at times when gyms are traditionally quiet, which effectively increases their billable hours,” he explains. However, trainers will need to create innovative programmes that leverage what clients have at their disposal at home. “But this also creates opportunities to start selling at-home workout equipment and up-sell programmes as clients advance,” adds Mills. In this context, the aftermath of the pandemic offers a significant opportunity for fitness business growth.

Making the switch

“To succeed in this market, personal trainers and instructors need to understand the need for auxiliary online services and support, and determine how to effectively use both models,” explains Mills.

In this regard, Mills suggests that fit pros reconsider their offering to include options that target individuals and groups, with structured packages for clients that augment physical and online sessions and offer variable pricing. “It is vital to develop a business plan that covers every facet of this model and clearly defines the services a trainer will offer online versus in the gym. Spotting a gap and finding a niche will also determine a fit pro’s success given that industry professionals are transitioning to this model en mass.”

Consider the threats

Fit pros should also remain cognisant of the potential threats posed by this switch to digital as it opens up the industry to greater competition. “The digital marketplace lowers the barrier to entry, while the abundance of standardised ‘cookie cutter’ programmes can dilute a fit pro’s offering. As such, trainers who engage via low-touch digital channels will need to market and sell the importance of individualised programming and constantly add value by tracking progress and adapting programmes based on regular testing to ensure their clients continue making progress,” asserts Mills.

Furthermore, anyone with some understanding of fitness and training can also commercialise their experience via digital channels, even if they don’t have a valid qualification. The lack of regulation for online service providers, coupled with access to international fitness celebs and personalities, makes education and qualifications more important than ever.

Qualifications matter

“In this context, qualifications will remain the foundation on which fitness professionals build successful businesses. Expertise, experience and client success will differentiate fit pros from the rest in the increasingly cluttered online marketplace,” states Mills. HFPA has catered to this need amid the pandemic by adapting their teaching approach to embrace a hybrid model.

“We’ve also updated our course material to effectively blend face-to-face and distance learning,” explains Mills. “We invested in expensive video equipment and white screens to deliver engaging and relevant content online, which students have enjoyed. This also means students who want to stay at home haven’t had to rush back, and that we can accommodate smaller classes.”

For returning contact students, HFPA continues to run its curriculum using the high-touch model to provide engagement with tutors. “This includes running live practicals with students nationally, adhering to COVID protocols.” Mills believes that students have learnt important lessons from this model because it demonstrates what is possible and helps them understand the value of offering options to clients.

The soft skills

Additional considerations when setting up a digital offering include selecting the best digital platform and engagement methods based on client preferences.

“There are so many platforms out there, which all come with different packages and cost structures. Functionality and content also differ, which means there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” says Mills. More importantly, fit pros must ensure that they can still fulfil one of their most important roles – offering clients support and motivation – when engaging online.

“Much of what a trainer does is about motivation. They must find ways to be there to encourage and maintain client accountability, even if they’re not physically present at a session during the week,” adds Mills.

In this regard, Mills says there are various ways to hold clients accountable, be it instant messaging, tracking uploaded workouts via an app, or encouraging clients during live virtual sessions. “No matter what platform the trainer uses, they must still come across in a professional manner and deliver an engaging and effective session.”

The bottom line

According to Mills, operating in this new normal is all about agility and adaptability. “Success will hinge on a fit pro’s ability to provide their product or service in the way clients want, across multiple environments.”

So, for those trainers who have patiently bided their time, waiting for gyms to reopen, Mills suggests that it’s time to craft a comprehensive offering and build an online profile.


Strength training is something that all individuals need to do, but as a personal trainer, do you know the science behind the training? This article will the fundamental principles of periodization training as it relates to strength training.

Foundation of Periodization Training

Why is it important to understand periodization training? Periodization training is the cornerstone of training any client, athlete or individual post therapy, assisting them in reaching their optimal health and desired goals. Understanding and then applying these core principles with program design will provide the personal trainer with the abilities to help a client reach their goals systematically. Any strength-training program should apply the five basic laws of training to ensure adaptation occurs and avoidance of injury.

The Five Basic Laws of Strength Training

Tudor Bump, PhD is a pioneer in the field of strength & conditioning, program design and periodization training. Through his research and experience, he has created the five basic laws of strength training. These laws have not only proved to be essential for athletes, but through extensive evidenced based research (randomized controlled trials (RCT) and various studies), have shown they are essential for proper development and to avoid injury. In this next section, the five basic laws are explained.

Law Number One: Develop Joint Flexibility

Most strength training exercises use the range of motion of major joints. Proper joint Flexibility prevents stress to the weight bearing joints, prevents injuries and pain.

Law Number Two: Develop Tendon Strength

Muscle strength improves faster then tendon and ligament strength. Tendons and Ligaments grow strong through anatomical adaptation. Without proper anatomical Adaptation, vigorous strength training can injure the ligaments and tendons. Training tendons and ligaments causes them to enlarge in diameter, increasing their ability to withstand tension and shearing.

Law Number Three: Develop Core Strength

The arms and legs are only as strong as the trunk. Strength training programs Should first strengthen the core muscles before focusing on the periphery: arms and legs. Weak core muscles fail in these essential roles, limiting an individual or athlete to perform optimally. According to the research, muscles of the spine are comprised of Type I slow-twitch (ST) fibers because of their supporting role to the arms and legs.

Law Number Four: Develop the Stabilizers

Prime movers work more efficiently with strong stabilizing muscles. Stabilizers contract, primarily isometric ally, to immobilize a limb so that another part of the body can act. A weak stabilizer inhibits the contracting capacity of the prime movers. Improperly developed stabilizers may hamper the activity of major muscles. At the shoulder, the supraspinatus and infraspinatus assist with lifting and rotating the arm.

The research has shown the difference among men and women indicating that women possess weaker gluteus medius and glute minimus muscles. Men typically those who play sport develop tight external rotators (piriformis) and glute maximus muscles. Therefore, stretching the tight postural muscles (piriformis) and strengthening the weaker phasic muscles such as glute medius will provide increased stability at the hip.

Law Number Five: Train movements, not Individual Muscles

Athletes should resist training muscles in isolation as in bodybuilding. Athletic skills involve the contraction of synergistic muscles that perform the movement. For example, a takeoff to catch a ball has the following kinematic chain motion: hip extension, the knee extension and finally ankle plantar flexion enabling the feet to apply a force against the ground to lift the body. Therefore, training the movement of the athlete instead of specific muscle only is essential for optimal performance by the athlete.

Periodization Training Phases

When it comes to Periodization Training there are three main phases that an individual or athlete goes through. This includes the Preparatory Phase, Competitive Phase and Transition Phase

1. Hypertrophy Phase (Preparatory Phase)

Occurs during the early stages of the Preparatory Phase and is usually the longest Phase within an annual plan

The major emphasis within this period is to develop a general framework/base level of conditioning in order to increase tolerance for more intense training. This phase begins with training at low intensity and high volume. The goals are to develop and promote hypertrophy, improve neuromuscular activity, increase connective tissue strength and increase lean muscle mass, which will be utilized later in the training cycles.

The specific objectives of training are as follows:

  • To acquire/improve general physical training
  • Improve the biomotor abilities of a given sport
  • To develop, improve or perfect technique/to teach the athlete the theory and methodology of training

2. Basic Strength Phase (Preparatory Phase Continued)

This phase emphasizes to continue to develop/ increase muscular strength of the muscles that is required for sport-specific activity. Utilization of multi-joint exercises to allow recovery time between exercises.

This period also serves to strengthen articular cartilage. This phase begins training at an increased intensity as well as moderate volume overall.

3. First Transition Phase

Is just like it sounds, a “transition” where the individual or athlete is beginning to change not only intensity, but also total volume and effort with each rep.

4. Power Phase (Late Preparatory Phase)

In essence, the goal is to develop muscular power with increased intensity and to continue sport-specific training with increased intensity and reduced training volume. Skill technique and game strategy are of primary importance as well as exercise prescription in plyometrics, speed drills, sprinting technique, etc.

Strength Training Effectiveness

In order for strength training to be effective, the body must experience a specific load. The overload principle is one of the seven big laws of fitness and training. Simply put, the overload principle states that you have to increase the intensity, duration, type, or time of a workout progressively in order to see adaptations within the body.

General guidelines of strength training during the Strength Phase of training:

  • The training cycle typically lasts 8-12 weeks
  • Intensity: 80-90% of 1 RM
  • Volume: moderate
  • Sets/reps: 3-6 sets at 6-8 reps
  • Rest period: 2-3 minutes
  • Training frequency: 2-3x week
  • Application: develop stabilizers through exercises such as lunges, multidirectional lunges, multi-joint exercises


Strength training is something that everyone can benefit from. Understanding the fundamental principles of periodization training can provide you the personal trainer to help your client achieve his/her goals.

Chris Gellert, PT, MMusc & Sportsphysio, MPT, CSCS, C-IASTM

Chris is the CEO of Pinnacle Training & Consulting Systems(PTCS). A continuing education company that provides educational material in the forms of evidenced based home study courses, ELearning courses, live seminars, DVDs, webinars, articles and teaching in-depth, the foundation science, functional assessments and practical application behind Human Movement. Chris is both a dynamic physical therapist with 19 years experience, and a personal trainer with 20 years experience, with advanced training, has created 16 home study courses, is an experienced international fitness presenter, writes for various websites and international publications, consults and teaches seminars on human movement. For more information, please visit


Baechle, Thomas., Earle, Roger, 2000. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. 2nd edition.
Human Kinetics. pp. 30-32, 309-310, 428-431, 482-484, 496, 502-504, 514-518.

Bompa, Tudor, 1999. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. 4th edition.
Human kinetics. pp. 15, 214-224.

Bompa, Tudor, 1999. Periodization: Training for Sports. Programs for peak strength in 35 sports.
Human Kinetics. pp. 10-13, 84-130, 171-173, 334-335, 370-371.

Bompa, T., and Claro, F. 2009. Periodization in Rugby. Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I started my coaching career in 2007 and during the last 14 years I’ve had the honour and privilege to own 3 gyms, be a strength and conditioning consultant for multiple sports teams, become an online coach for one of the top fitness blogs in the world, and present at the Mindset Performance Summit in New York. I now use a step-by-step process to help fit pros start and build a thriving fitness business from scratch.

How did you get inspired to train other personal trainers in helping them grow their businesses?

It took me years to figure things out and during that time I made a bunch of mistakes that cost me a fortune in time and money. Just like any other coach, I simply want to make a difference and knew that helping trainers and coaches navigate the tricky landscape of business would allow them to focus on their clients and me to have the biggest impact possible.

How can trainers shift their mindset to adapting during this pandemic and gain the motivation to do so?

Everything in life is about perspective. You get to choose how you see or what you believe about every situation or event in your life and this one is no different. Instead of fixating on the news or worrying about the future, use this time to develop new or improve specific skillsets.

You have an amazing opportunity to position yourself as a leader because during uncertain times people are often scared and stressed, and tend to look for someone to guide and inspire them. Be that person and you’ll build the foundation of a thriving fitness business.

How can one start an online business now? What skills are required?

There’s a massive difference between charging money for your time and building a business that’s sustainable long-term. A thriving business can give you the finances and future you want, but to do that will require you to think like an entrepreneur and not just a trainer or coach.

Starting an online fitness business is very similar to owning a gym. You still need the same mindset, skillsets, and fundamental structures but instead of training people in person, you do it online.

Some of the essential skills and fundamental structures of an online or offline fitness business are:

  • Identifying a problem and the pain associated with that problem that you can and want to solve for a specific person
  • Understanding the progressive path and key milestones your client will experience along the way
  • The ability to create content sequences that position you as the only person who can solve the problems of your perfect client
  • A conversion mechanism that makes it very simple for a prospect to become a client
  • A step-by-step system that delivers the same experience to every client online or offline
  • A tracking process that helps you keep an eye on the numbers to determine the profitability of the business
  • A big vision strategy for your personal and professional life

What should personal trainers be focusing on in terms of marketing now?

People are stuck at home, they’re frustrated, probably irritated, and most definitely stressing about the future. Even though they still want to lose weight and have a tight tummy, that’s not what they’re currently thinking about.

Instead of talking about the physical results, they’ll achieve like losing 20kg or getting 6-pack abs, you rather want to focus on the mental and emotional benefits of having a coach. Explain how uncertain times can cause an increase in frustration, irritation, and stress which often leads to anxiety, depression, and emotional eating.

Also share how you as a coach can help them overcome these with structured support, system and an objective perspective that a partner, relative, or friend can’t provide.

What would you say your best tip is to convert prospects now?

Offer a simple and fun challenge on the front-end, something that includes missions or tasks they can easily do at home without requiring them to go out and buy stuff that will just add more unnecessary stress. Be sure to deliver it inside a community like a Facebook group where you reward people publicly for engaging.

The most important thing is to keep it simple and make it fun. You can always sell them another programme or service once they complete the challenge.