Questions don’t cease after interviewing for a personal training position. They continue on as you meet new clients and work with regulars.

By popular demand, I am continuing to offer up more inquiries often received by personal trainers. Just when we thought we had “heard it all”, or read about it all in Part 1, be prepared for a few more of these rarely asked but oh-so-important client questions!

As you no doubt have learned from Part 1, we need to be prepared for just about any curveball is thrown our way. Here is a collection of additional interesting questions that new clients may ask. Read below and think about what your answers might be, should you ever find yourself in just such a situation. Eventually, nothing will shock you anymore!

If I lift weights, will I get bigger muscles?

It is the rare client who shies away from building significant muscle tissue, but it does happen! These are usually clients who fail to understand what they are truly asking when they tell us their goal is “to get leaner”.

Hypertrophy is a function of 3 basic factors: genetics, gender, and training intensity. Individuals who genetically possess predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibers will build larger muscles more easily than those with a genetic predisposition toward slow-twitch muscle fibers. Greater amounts of testosterone enable males can more easily acquire larger muscles than female. Therefore, it seems that training intensity is the only factor in one’s control.

If the client’s aim is in fact hypertrophy, a training goal of lifting at least 80 percent of his one-repetition maximum (1 RM) is a general guideline. Those clients who are more invested in overall health may do well lifting a load less than 80 percent of 1 RM.

How do I get a flat stomach?

Genetics also plays a role in whether or not your clients can achieve that highly coveted “six-pack”. However, strength training and cardiovascular exercise can tag-team to help achieve a slimmer midsection. The abdominals are just like any other muscle group; definition will appear as the muscle tissue increases while the fat covering the abdominal region decreases.

The challenge with abdominals is that they are situated in an area of the body that contains the highest percentage of fat. Most clients do not perform nearly enough cardiovascular exercise to decrease their body fat percentage to a point where their abdominal muscles become striated and chiseled visibly. This is where we must stress that the role of diet cannot be underestimated.

What is the difference between weight machines and free weights?

This is actually a question I have occasionally received from new clients. Put simply, free weights maintain a constant level of resistance on the muscle throughout the joint’s entire range of motion, whereas weight machines use variable resistance that changes throughout the range of motion.

A machine will place more stress on the muscles exactly where they produce the greatest force. Free weights serve only as a strong enough training stimulus to challenge the weakest joint position. When utilizing machines, the load changes to provide optimal resistance throughout the entire range of motion.


What are the best exercises for getting rid of muffin tops/bat wings/inner thigh bulge?

Similarly to the above answer, no exercise will target fat cells in a single part of the body. Clients must target the entire body through exercise and proper nutrition.

What if I only have 30 minutes to work out?

Dedicated clients can certainly be taught how to make the most out of a brief exercise window of opportunity. A prudent suggestion may be to engage in a circuit: begin with five minutes of cardio. Immediately move to performing 10 pushups, 10 body-weight squats, and 10 crunches. Return to the cardio training for five more minutes, and repeat the circuit exercises. Continue in this fashion until time runs out.

What do you think I’m missing in my routine?

Experienced trainers can find the holes in a seasoned client’s workout and diet plan and point out where he might be falling short. The answer will depend on your assessment of the client’s current level of fitness knowledge and his daily habits, in large part based on what he tells you, so encourage him to be honest and assure him he is in a judgment-free zone.

What group classes do you recommend for me?

Many professional trainers will not be comfortable with this question, fair though it may be. Trainers may feel it implies that the client is unwilling to pay for personal training and would rather opt for free group exercise classes. This may, in fact, be true, and we all need to respect that.

However, a consummate professional must be able to deliver an honest answer, suggesting which classes match the client’s current level of fitness, and which to avoid due to current injuries or conditioning levels. By being positive, you leave the door open for future training sessions should the client’s financial position ever change.

How many calories does it take to burn one pound of fat?

It takes 3,500 calories, added or burned/subtracted, to gain or lose one pound. For a loss of one pound per week, the goal for your client is to create a 500-calorie deficit every day. Most trainers encourage a client to try cutting 250 calories out of his diet while burning an additional 250 calories through increased activity.


I have been working out for a while now and stopped losing weight. What is happening?

More than likely, the client has hit a plateau. Our bodies are smart machines and become very efficient over time when the same activity is performed regularly.

To challenge the body, a successful training program will include a variety of exercises or modifications on pre-existing ones. For example, if your client enjoys running or walking, he can increase his speed every 2 minutes to keep elevating his heart rate.

What is the best diet for weight loss?

Any diet the client can stick with will be the winning answer here; adherence is the only thing that predicts success. Caution new clients to beware of any diet that promises rapid weight loss, especially those that advocate consuming fewer than 1000 calories per day. When it comes to weight loss, slow, steady and sustainable are the key factors.

How did your answers compare this time around? Have you encountered any quirky questions clients that were not mentioned here?

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Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!