Just as we can become bored with our own workout programs, our clients can, too! It’s important to keep things fresh, fun, and innovative – not only to continue to promote progress but to avoid burnout and staleness. Here are five strategies every personal trainer can implement to improve workouts.

Five Ways to Improve Workouts

Add Variety

Variety means different things to different clients. Sometimes it means taking a workout outdoors, setting up an obstacle course, gamify or add a theme (this works great around the holidays or other special events), or introduce your client to a dance workout. Two approaches I use with clients are fitness bingo where each number on the bingo card is a type of movement and the deck of cards workout where the suit on the card and the number represents the exercise and the number of repetitions. These are fun ways to infuse a regular exercise session with some spontaneity and spice.

Slow Things Down

Accentuating the eccentric is a fantastic way to build strength and add challenge to everyday movements. For example, instead of a regular dumbbell squat, change it up and do a four-count on the way down and a one-count on the way up. Take it a step further and while the client is in the squat position (after the four count down), have them tap their toes to the side on the right and then back to center. Repeat on the left side on the second repetition. Continue this pattern for a set of 10.

Challenge the Balance

Balance pods or discs, a rolled-up yoga mat or towel, or BOSU ball are great ways to challenge a client’s balance, core strength, and concentration. Try an air squat using two balance discs – one under each foot. Or use just one for a unilateral challenge while holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand. For an exercise you would normally have a client perform standing, try having them balance in a knee raise on one side.

I also like to use resistance loops and have clients perform a banded tri-planar toe tap (this works best for well-trained clients). Place the loop around the ankles and have the client perform a quarter-squat on the right leg. With the core engaged, tap the left leg forward, laterally, and then behind. Perform anywhere from 10-15 reps and switch sides.

Change the Implement

It’s amazing what different pieces of equipment can do to change a common exercise. If your client is accustomed to using dumbbells, throw in some kettlebell work. Or place a core ball between the knees while performing a basic squat or “good morning” exercise. I like to use body bars, resistance loops, and simple weight plates in different exercises that would typically use dumbbells or resistance bands.

Try a New Approach to Cardio

Not all clients love cardio or need it in the volume often performed! One thing I love to do with clients is to get their heart rate up without them realizing it’s a cardio day. A common format I use (depending on the client) is to do a bodyweight exercise followed by a light weighted exercise. Check out the sample below (each movement is performed for 45 seconds to a minute).


  1. Reverse lunge (light weights)
  2. Charleston with a knee raise
  3. Kettlebell swing
  4. Side lunge (alternate right and left)
  5. Single dumbbell squat with a twist (hold the DB horizontally at the chest)
  6. Plank jacks
  7. Surrenders (with light weights)
  8. Inchworms to calf raise

With this type of routine, I generally have clients perform two rounds with a 1–2-minute rest in between the first and second round.

Don’t give clients a chance to get bored – keep them on their toes and on their progress forward with these strategies to improve workouts. Exercise should not feel arduous or mentally taxing; find the fun and infuse it into each session.

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com