Recent statistics show that 41.3 million Americans belong to health clubs (IHRSA 2005). If you are a personal fitness trainer (PFT) who works at a fitness facility, you don’t need to go outside the facility’s doors to sell your services. A large potential market is already in the gym, so you just have to figure out how to approach the people right in front of you. The key is to integrate biomechanics into your sales process. Whether soliciting potential clients or attempting to retain current ones, you simply need to take three steps:
1. Watch people on the floor, referred prospects and current clients as they exercise.
2. Look for individual biomechanics characteristics and common mechanics errors.
3. Approach, explain and sell.
Words That Sell
A biomechanics sales approach is effective because it is built on the three most powerful words in sales: you, safety and results (Mills 2000).
You. Biomechanics is a science of individualism. Each person’s body is unique, combining skeletal structure, age, gender, activity history, injury and disease. When you suggest changes to a person’s workout based on biomechanics, the person can be sure that you are focusing on his or her individual body and unique movement patterns.
Safety. Using a biomechanics approach indicates that you are knowledgeable about fitness science and exercise safety.
Results. The biomechanics sales process requires that you state a clear starting point, rationale and goal. A goal-oriented approach appeals to potential clients.
Using the Free Body Diagram to Analyze Movement
Using biomechanics to increase PFT sales is as simple as understanding a few basic biomechanics concepts and how to apply them. The first step is to know how to use a free body diagram (see Figure 1). A free body diagram is a stick figure that gives a simplified rendition of the spine, joints and bones and shows the forces that act on the body during exercise. The ability to look past body mass and visualize the skeleton at work is particularly relevant now, when 66.3% of Americans and more than 1 billion adults worldwide are overweight (CDC 2004; Sullivan 2006). To use a free body diagram, follow these steps:
1. Look at the line of the bone from joint to joint. Lines should appear straight.
2. Since movement is characterized by lever systems, look for how the bone rotates around the joint (see Figure 2).
3. Look at the position of the bones relative to each other. Does anything look abnormal? The free body diagram can often help you quickly spot hyperextension or other postural abnormalities.
4. Identify the forces that act on the body during exercise. A mechanically incorrect exercise produces unsafe forces.
To find the sales pitch, break your thoughts into two categories: (1) biomechanical deviations and (2) errors in exercise mechanics.
Any biomechanical deviation at one place in the body will cause the movement mechanics of the entire body to change, leading to muscle imbalances, pain and dysfunction. The site of these imbalances tells you where to focus your efforts to sell your services. Making recommendations that address specific deviations will convince potential clients of your value. Use the following questions to evaluate biomechanical deficiencies and to tailor your sales approach:
Is the Exerciser Overweight? How Are Weight and Mass Distributed? Weight distribution indicates where (at which joints and bones) forces act during exercise.
Your Sales Approach: Base your sales pitch on weight distribution and/or stress on the skeletal system, not on body weight. A good approach is to talk to an overweight client about mastering the mechanics of basic exercises, explaining that correct exercise mechanics increases results and safety. Suggest a few mechanics changes based on what she is presently doing; later you can suggest another session to build a custom program.
Is the Exerciser’s Spine in Neutral? The answer to this question provides critical information about postural abnormalities, preparatory posture (the start position of the body for an exercise) and trajectory (the path the exercise will follow from start to end). The spine must be in neutral at the start of the movement to ensure correct mechanics and safety. An exerciser whose spine is not in neutral could have a condition commonly called “swayback,” or he may simply be locking the knees during movement.
Your Sales Approach: If the exerciser exhibits signs of swayback, suggest specific exercises to improve posture. If the problem seems to be locked knees, direct him to soften the knees before continuing exercise.
Do Both Sides of the Exerciser’s Body Look Equal? The midsagittal plane divides the body into two sides. In a perfect world, the two sides of the body are equal in strength, size and function. However, this is not the case for most people. One side is usually bigger and stronger, which leads to chronic muscle imbalance. For most people, the dominant side is stronger because it is used more, both in activities of daily living and during exercise. For example, many people allow the dominant arm to do more work during a barbell curl or lat pull-down.
Your Sales Approach: Suggest unilateral exercises to strengthen weak areas.
Does the Exerciser Exhibit Muscle Imbalances? Look for the following indications of imbalance, and consider ways to counteract them:
- Overdevelopment—for example, the trapezius muscle is often overdeveloped during shoulder exercises. A lot of men, particularly, allow the traps to do the work for the medial deltoid during lateral shoulder raises so that it’s easier to lift a heavier weight.
Your Sales Approach: If the traps are overdeveloped, suggest exercises to work the medial deltoid. The key here is that the deltoid needs to be retrained to do the work.
- Underdevelopment—for example, “stooped” shoulders can be caused by posterior deltoid weakness and pectoralis tightness.
Your Sales Approach: Suggest correcting stooped shoulders with upper-back strength exercises and chest flexibility exercises.
- Lack of range of motion (ROM) in a muscle—this condition indicates that the functionally opposite muscles are not at optimal physiological length at rest.
Your Sales Approach: Suggest a 30-minute stretching-only session. Clients who want to strength train can use light weights while performing exercises that take the muscles through the entire ROM.
Does the Client Have Any Edema (Swelling and/or Fluid Retention) at the Joint(s)? Edema provides clues about illness, injury or a sedentary lifestyle. People with edema usually have poor motor skills, lack strength and endurance, and have low cardiovascular fitness.
Your Sales Approach: Suggest basic fitness work, including light cardiovascular exercise and basic strength and flexibility training.
Errors in Exercise Mechanics
The human body is built to conserve energy and cheat during exercise. This fact creates many potential problems for exercisers—and lucrative business opportunities for PFTs! Simply watch people working out on the floor, and look for common exercise mechanics errors, including the following:
Use of Momentum. When clients use momentum during exercise, their movements look like swinging or bouncing. The use of momentum is particularly common with lateral deltoid raises, bi-ceps curls and crunches on abdominal benches, but it can be a problem with any exercise. Using momentum is counterproductive because momentum does the work for the muscle (Ashmore 2004).
Improper Multijoint Movement. For certain exercises, single-joint movement is what is required to work the muscle. For example, during triceps exercises, rotating the shoulder reduces the triceps work.
Inappropriate and Counterproductive Use of Leverage. Using leverage incorrectly can defeat the purpose of an exercise or limit its value. For example, using the entire body to propel a biceps curl reduces the work of the biceps.
Poor Posture During Cardiovascular Exercise. Sixty-eight percent of people who join a fitness center do so for the cardiovascular exercise (Miller 2006), so simply showing them how to maximize their time on cardiovascular equipment could make them potential clients. Observe people as they use the equipment, and look for problems. One common problem is that exercisers lean forward on elliptical trainers and other machines. Approach a client who is exhibiting this improper posture, and build your sale on “how to stand for better results” (e.g., upright with the weight in the heels to work the gluteals).
Make Your Move
Using biomechanics to tailor your sales technique can help you grow your business. Every person in the gym is a potential client. Take the time to watch people, identify individual biomechanics, formulate a sales pitch, and approach!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2004. NHANES data on the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults—United States, 2003–2004. www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm; retrieved Oct. 28, 2006.
IHRSA. 2005. Industry research & statistics. http://
cms.ihrsa.org/IHRSA/viewPage.cfm?pageId=153; retrieved Jan. 8, 2007.
Miller, T.A. 2006. Why people don’t (and do) join. Club Business International, (Sept.), 49–51.
Mills, H. 2000. How to Command Attention, Change Minds and Influence People. New York: AMA Publications.
Sullivan, R. 2006. Health experts warn of obesity pandemic. Associated Press. www.abcnews.go.com/
Health/wireStory?id=2391046; retrieved Sept. 28, 2006.