Do you struggle to get your clients to perform exercise on their own or complete their movement “homework”? Reframing the way we have our clients think about performing exercises on their own can improve adherence to our recommendations.

Our bodies require constant maintenance and upkeep.  

In addition to food and water, they also require a lot of cleaning. Every day, as a matter of fact. We wash our hands, we scrub our bodies in the shower, we moisturize (ideally), and we brush and floss our teeth (ideally). One of the main reasons we perform these cleaning rituals is to maintain the health and integrity of those tissues.

Movement should be added to the list of daily hygiene rituals.

Joints and muscles require movement in order to maintain the integrity of those tissues. Performing daily movements that engage the body in all three planes of motion is integral to maintain a baseline of health for our musculoskeletal system.

Our clients come to us for a variety of reasons. In addition to constructing programs aimed at their goals, it’s important that we program exercises so they can meet all of their movement needs. This is especially important if their typical day only allows for a limited range of movements.  

They should be educated on how to perform these movements outside of the gym so they can maximize their progress. Over the long term, having your clients engage in movement beyond the one or two hours a week they are with you will have a larger impact on their health and performance goals.

Have clients think of it like this:

  • What would happen if you only took a shower once or twice a week?
  • If you brushed your teeth only once or twice a week?
  • You may be able to get away with it, but eventually, the health of your skin and teeth would suffer (and presumably your social life, too).

Keep It Simple

It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise that we ask our clients to engage in by themselves. Simply asking them to walk more will provide tremendous benefit. If their job requires them to sit for long periods of time, recommend exercises for them that counteract that position. (For example, wall angels and glute bridges.)

Get clients used to the idea that exercise doesn’t have to mean slogging through miles on the treadmill. It can simply mean engaging your body in movement, and movement is the key to healthy muscles and joints.

Use This Analogy:

toiletries on bathroom counter

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Imagine if you hadn’t brushed your teeth in years, and then decided to go to the dentist. The dentist would be simultaneously daunted by the amount of work to be done but also relieved that you chose to come in now instead of waiting any further. The dentist will tell you that he can clean up some things, and teach you how to brush and take care of your teeth so that future problems can be avoided or mitigated.

When our clients come to us after years of inactivity or only sporadic activity, we can help them by cleaning up the way they move as well as teaching them what to do on their own to avoid or mitigate future problems. The exercises we recommend for them to do on their own are akin to the dentist teaching you how to care for your teeth.

Honor the Process

These “homework” exercises shouldn’t take very long to perform; 5-10 minutes maximum total time. By using this idea of movement as hygiene, we empower our clients to take ownership of their bodies.  

Homework builds self-efficacy, which will help them better adhere to, and achieve, their goals. It also begins to build a mindset that there is no defined end point. Our bodies require cleaning and maintenance from the day we are born until our last day, and understanding and accepting the process of consistent maintenance as a preventative intervention can help you and your clients live a long and healthy life.

What homework do you give clients that they adhere to? How do you know they follow through?

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David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez is a graduate of the Personal Trainer Certificate Program at San Diego Mesa College, an NFPT and ACE Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. David was inspired to become a personal trainer after losing more than 100 pounds. Having kept the weight off for over a decade, he uses his story to motivate his clients and demonstrate to them that big changes are possible and sustainable. His training focuses on pain-free movement, helping clients find an individualized nutrition plan, and creating a positive mindset. His favorite pastimes are soccer, weightlifting, hiking, cooking, and his dogs. David lives in San Diego.