Client strategies

Body Fat Percentages: What do they mean and is it important?

What does my Body fat percentage tell me? Should I take it for my client?


When a client tells you’re his/her goal is to track progress I believe in having as many baseline tests as possible. Assessments, BF%, weight, etc. This allows you to stay positive when a certain number of tests do not show progression there will be a higher chance a few will which in turn keeps a positive attitude toward continuing health and wellness related tasks with their trainer…you.

When first starting to train with clients they may ask you to take their body fat measurement. There are a handful of ways to do this but for the sake of time and likelihood of your equipment I will assume you are using a bioelectrical impedance machine.

The more variables your machine uses the more accurate it can be. In addition, understanding that it’s not about the initial accuracy as much as it is the differences up or down upon the next measurements. Even if the machine is off, let us say at 1.5 %, you can still measure your client’s progress from their initial measurement as the machine will be consistently off that same 1/5%.

Understanding body fat percentages

If I were to take two adult twins (male, female) who looked very similar physique wise, the difference in body fat % would be in the region of 6% -10%. So, a male with a great physique and very noticeable abdominal musculature at 8%, could look similar to a female at %14-%18. 


5-9% - This is the range of an athlete, fitness freak, or teenage male. At this BF% you can see abdominal musculature definition and the person would typically be visually more vascular throughout the entire body. However, someone with 4-6% is visually much different than someone with 9%.

10-14% - When a male breaks 14% body fat, upper abdominal definition and some external obliques can still be seen, but the definition is minimal and the lower half of the abdominals are typically not defined.

15-19% There is still faint definition here in certain men, but typically a smoother more filled out look with noticeable fat accumulation. Your average runner will have this body fat percentage often.

20-24% - Definition has now ceased. You are not meeting any criteria for health concerns, but this body type would no longer be considered athletic.

25-29% After 26% BF in Men, you can be considered Obese (32% for Women). Typically you have a "gut", and fat pockets start to hang over your hips.

30-34% - This is full blown obesity. Typically no muscle definition anywhere, and well overweight.
35-39% - At this point, your gate is abnormal from holding the excessive weight and your health is of concern.  


5-9% - Ripped. This is female elite body building level. Extremely vascular and complete abdominal definition.

10-14% - Very good definition. Something along the lines you would see from a model on the cover of Shape magazine. 

15-19% - Athletic build, with great shape and very little body fat. Definition along the lower abs starts to fade, but still distinct ab definition in the obliques. 

 20-24% -  Athletic build, with great shape and very little body fat. Abdominal muscles showing, and somewhat defined but obliques and hips typically not.

25-29%-  Very little in the way of excess fat, but a softer look with minimal definition ranging on the upper part of the abs. 

30-34% - Still in good shape, typically with curves, and muscle definition starts to fade although the stomach will typically still be flat at these percentages. 

35-39% - No real definition and noticeable fat deposits around the stomach, however not noticeable when lying down.

40- 45% - Considered visually out of shape, and excess stomach fat even while lying down.

F.A.I.R. - Forms, Assessments, Insurance, Records

When Starting With New Clients think: F.A.I.R.

FAIR - Forms, Assessments, Insurance, Records

Always remember FAIR when starting with new clientele. When first meeting with a prospective client regardless of your health profession you will need some form of a PAR-Q (physical readiness questionnaire) and/or a health history form. You can find these online. Upon the client filling out the form it is important you review it on your own first before meeting with them. There may be physical issues or medications you are unaware of and need to do your proper due-diligence on prior to sitting down with the prospective client. If you feel uncomfortable working with someone who may have ailments above your current level of knowledge in order to make the proper exercise modifications you should not work with that individual. This is where your networking comes into play as you should have knowledge of someone else who would be better suited to work with them.

When I meet with my clients in our first consultation after reviewing their health history form I still allow them to talk as much as possible. Doctors sometimes calls this the, “What else?” session. If you continue to ask “what else” you’ll be surprised to find the issues or ailments the client has or has had that they decided not list on the sheet because he or she believed they were not relevant. For instance, if they had broken their ankle 30 years ago they are unlikely to write that down on a health history form. However, there could be compensations such as foot pronation, knee valgus, pelvic twist accompanied by false leg length discrepancy just from something as simple as a broken ankle at the age of 17. 

Although I am a corrective exercise specialist I do not always enjoy playing what I call, “anatomical sleuth”, so it is important to understand all of your clients past injuries before doing your first assessment on them.  It doesn’t matter what your client’s particular goals are there are always ways in which you can do an initial assessment and track progress. This helps your client from a motivational standpoint and it helps you understand what is actually working with your program. If weight loss is their goal an obvious initial weight, measurements of specific body parts, and body fat measurement are in order (for body fat percentage I prefer bioelectrical impedance machine which you can get for $60). If you are unfamiliar with general assessments I urge you to start reading up on all the various tests (shark skill, Rockport walking, etc). You can also simply make your own up. I like to have my clients hold a plank until failure, and find the weight they can get close to one 20 reps set for each of the following: low row, chest press, and leg press machines. This allows me to gauge their overall strength levels in core, pushing, pulling, and legs provided the client’s goals and current health status align with that type of assessment.

Your company may provide you with insurance, but it is very cheap to double up and protect yourself. I do not recommend any particular company at this time, but the pricing should be between $8 and $15 per month. If you’re training in home clients, or even at a park and an injury occurs you could be liable. In this age of overly litigious people it is best to always play it safe. You can do your own googling to find out which company gives you the best rates.

Record keeping is important for both insurance reasons and your clients overall goals. To cover the former, understand that if an injury happens and you are being litigated against from a safety issue, having records of what you did that day or week could save you. For the latter, you want to check progress from days, weeks, months, or years passed and having records allows you to do that. For a fitness industry teacher who pre-writes out the workout this is easy as you just keep a copy. I personally do not write out my workouts, so I have to make notes in my calendar (google calendar where I keep all my sessions) if there were any issues that day as far as slips, slight injuries or tweaks, etc. Cover yourself. Keep records.

5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts

5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts


HIIT exercise or High Intensity Interval Training is simply repetitions of high-intensity exercise for a specific number or duration broken up with low to medium intensity recovery periods. HIIT workouts are all the rage these days, and many gyms have started to do HIIT specific classes. Whether you are planning to start your first go at a HIIT class, or you’ve been doing them for a while on your own, below are some tips to make sure you are doing things in the correct manner.


1. Do not stop completely during your recovery period...that is not HIIT.


You must continue a low to medium intensity movement in order for optimal caloric burn expenditure. By stopping completely you decrease the caloric burn potential, and also allow too much oxygen re-uptake which in turn allows your body to stay aerobic. Obviously, for the sake of safety if you feel exhausted, light-headed, dehydrated, you should stop immediately. However, overtime you should begin to understand both your high and low zones and keep track of your heart rate in order to not have the issue of over exertion.


2. The term "high intensity" is person specific so find your zones

The general rule of thumb however for heart rate in high intensity is 220 - Age X .80, .85. or .90. However, this varies among different level of athletes and different ages. 

The rest intervals should be somewhere around 220 - Age X .65. Again, this varies on your cardiovascular and fitness level. Whatever your zones are, find them out prior to jumping into a HIIT class and use a HR monitor (apple watch, etc) to track this in order to stay as close as possible. If you do not own an electronic that can keep your heart rate, you can learn overtime to assess your breathing and respiration as you get a better sense of your body’s limitations.

You can also take your own pulse. Just place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.


3. Use compound movements as much as possible


Compound movement are simply exercises that use multiple muscle groups and/or sections of the body ( i.e. upper body, lower body, core) together in the same movement. This pushes your body to expend more energy, and subsequently gets your heart rate into the high intensity zones faster. Using isolated movements (i.e. a shoulder press) will not get you into a high heart rate zone as fast as using a compound movement (squat to shoulder press). 

Hopefully, your instructor is creative enough to give you these movements. If you are doing this on your own, think about combining any lower body movement with an upper body movement. For example:

(Using Dumbbells)

Lower Body: forward lunges, reverse lunges, narrow stance squats, sumo squats.

Upper Body: shoulder press, bicep curls, high pulls, lateral raises


Giving you 4 lower body and 4 upper body exercises gives you 16 unique compound movement exercises. That is just scratching the surface as there are endless combinations when integrating fitness tools and toys as a variable into that equation.


4. Change your movements or stations in your HIIT class routinely


Your body eventually adapts to the stress you put on it. You become efficient at the movements you do often, and although that is good for sports (i.e. swinging a golf club), efficiency has the less than desirable effect in fitness of using less energy to complete the movement. You have to challenge all muscles, and you have to continue to do so through muscle confusion in order to burn more. 


You will inevitably find movements you like more, or are better suited to do. However, you must challenge yourself by doing the movements that are more difficult for you. Also, if given option from your instructor choose the movements that are new over the movements that you’re comfortable with.


5. Don't compare how long your HIIT workout is to your other workouts


What people do not notice is the short intense workouts produce a high level of EPOC. EPOC is Excess Post-Exercise oxygen consumption - (Many refer to this as the "After Burn"). Typically, the more intense a workout is the higher the EPOC. This allows for people to work in short intermittent bursts yet feel the effects of caloric burn for hours after as the body recovers and tries to restore homeostasis. 

It is normal to assess the HIIT routine, and wonder how a potential 30 minute workout is better suited for caloric burn than 45-60 min on the elliptical. You have to trust the metabolic and physiologic science that backs this exercise medium as being effective. When it comes to caloric burn, it’s not all about the duration, it’s also about the intensity.

Becoming a Fitness Instructor: 5 Important Factors

Becoming a Fitness Instructor: 5 Important Factors

1.       Just Get Started – The process is going to take time, I am here to help expedite it, and skip some of the “mistake phase”. However, there is no use or advantage in putting off taking the first plunge. Well Steve, what is that first step? You’re already doing it!

Research. We will talk about timelines in the course, but doing your research in order to map out your timeline is vital.

Find out; what fitness medium drives you, similar businesses/people who are doing it, community activities/businesses that overlap, certifications/qualifications that are needed. From there, we can map out our timelines, and look forward to the next steps.

2.       Shadow/Network – Even if you do not have a specific qualification, you can always shadow. Fitness professionals are a very inviting community by nature, as we all joined this profession to help others.

Find local gyms, studios, coaches, etc, and tell them your story, and your interest in jumping into the industry. You will find that people are excited to take you under their wing and teach you. Even a few hours a week will really give great insight into developing your next steps.

3.       Find your niche – Now that you’ve done your research, and started networking/shadowing, you can begin to assess the good and the bad teaching styles and fitness approaches.

Start to develop a mental picture of how you would run your ideal business, and the styles in which you would use.

This will help guide you on your path to differentiating yourself. I enjoyed helping clients break through the psychological boundaries in order to meet their physical goals. So, teaching large classes was not for me as I needed 1 v. 1 training to build stronger connections. It took shadowing and observing business models to come to grips with that.

4.       Fundamentals – Always understand the base fundamentals in your fitness realm. You will continue to grow and learn as you come into contact with various clients and other fitness professionals, but you need to show a mastery of the basics in order to convey your professionalism.

Safety, physiological basics, and theories/concepts. If your goal is to be a Yoga instructor and you don’t know 8 key poses, and the muscles working/stretching in those poses you are still in-between step 1 and 2.

5.       Focus on clients – The money will come. You have to first focus on helping people. The positive and altruistic energy you put out will in turn get you clients, which will lead to the $.

Too many times, people turn down small group classes or training sessions that don’t pay what they expect, not knowing what they’ve really lost was the experiences and opportunity to procure client(s) for life.

We will discuss the 80/20 theory in the course, but most of your money will come from a small percentage of your overall clientele. You have to be of the mindset, that each person/class could be the one in the future that provides most of your earnings.