Clients want to see a noticeable difference from training. That is the whole purpose, right? Sweat sessions and sore muscles must account for something significant. When should they expect to see results?

It is a reasonable question.

The answer varies based on many things. Someone who hasn’t exercised in years can’t expect overnight success. In fact, none of us gets a change that fast. It takes time to undo the damage of being sedentary or to modify existing behaviors.

Many experts agree that signs of improvement are usually visible at the three-month mark. Of course, lots of factors are to be considered. This includes the types of clients, their commitment, diet, and what signals a sign of improvement.

Types of Clients

The NFPT Functional Training Specialist course 1discusses types of clients and program design:

“As a trainer, you will meet many different people. Some are serious and very competitive, while others are just recreational athletes or average people who just want to exercise for health and stress relief. It is important to recognize some of the general qualities associated with different individuals because you need to address both the physical and mental needs of your clients in your program design.”

The type of client has a lot to do with the timeframe for results. Types of clients include:
• beginners new to fitness
• gym-goers who have worked out on their own unsuccessfully
• those who have worked with other fit pros looking for something more
• athletes aiming to improve performance and sport-related skills
• gym rats wanting to up their exercise game
• individuals with health or weight goals


Commitment is a huge factor in success. First, client commitment.
• Committed clients show up for sessions and give their all. These clients exercise on their own in between sessions and follow trainer guidelines and suggestions.
• Less committed clients whine about certain exercises and might not do them at all. These clients can be lax in between sessions expecting all results to be gained during training.
• The on-again/off-again client shows initial enthusiasm only to revert to old ways and doesn’t stay dedicated.

Just as commitment is crucial with clients, it is important with personal trainers too.
• Unlike “clipboard” trainers, committed personal trainers ensure the programs are customized and effective to suit the client’s individual needs.
• They strive for clients to make progress and reach their short and long-term goals.
• Committed trainers use safety protocols to reduce risk of injury.

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I love the saying, “You can’t outrun the fork.” Meaning, it is difficult to exercise enough to compensate for eating whatever you want all the tie. Some experts suggest that it is 80% diet and 20% exercise that assists with losing fat and gaining lean muscle to improve body composition.

I saw a poster recently that read, “Get fit in the gym and lean in the kitchen.” Diet and exercise are most effective synergistically operating. As personal trainers, our scope of practice prevents us from meal-planning for our clients, but doesn’t preclude discussion about nutrition. Still, most of what we do emphasizes the exercise part…the 20%. As fit pros, we can do a lot with that.

Signs of Improvement

Improvement is measurable in many ways. Some more obvious than others. It’s not like one day your client looks in the mirror to see flexed biceps and ripped abs. The progress is usually more gradual, but still noticeable. Signs of improvement include:

  • Better fitting clothes
  • Increased strength
  • Better endurance
  • Weight loss
  • Increased lean muscle
  • Confidence
  • More energy
  • Better restful sleep
  • Improved ability to handle stress
  • More mental focus
  • Muscle definition
  • Positive attitude

Look for results in their daily routine by listening to what clients tell you to detect subtleties. It could be that they climb stairs without getting winded. Carrying heavy groceries becomes easier. They have more energy conquering tasks they left undone before. Wearing a pair of jeans that used to be tight only to feel loose again. Having a significant other or spouse notice a difference.

An athlete or a serious gym rat might show improvement with increased speed, agility and/or strength, while learning new exercises and methods to stay fit.

Clients certainly want to see improvement, and we do too as their trainers. Cher is quoted as saying, “Fitness- if it came in a bottle everyone would have a great body.” Although we can’t “bottle” our training, we can do our part to achieve results in due time.


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Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.