The benefits of online coaching.

I received an email the other day from a prospective online client asking me what characteristics I look for in a client for online coaching, which caused me to reflect on that question but also to reflect on some of the different clients that I have trained over the years.

When you train people online like I have been doing for around ten years, you get all kinds of people who inquire about online coaching. You get those who contact you once with all kinds of goals and ideas and then you never hear from them again. You get those who have you write a program and then they change it and wonder why they aren’t making gains. You get those who follow what you write to the “T” and make the progress that they wanted to make.

And there are some interesting online coaching clients that I have trained too. I had a client from another country who sent me a video clip from “Dirty Dancing” where Patrick Swayze lifts up his dance partner (Jennifer Grey) and carries her over his head. He wanted to know if I could train him to do that with his girlfriend. Yes, of course I can. Get super strong (he was just a little bitty man) and your chances of not dropping her or you not falling over increases by a bunch.

I get a lot of people who contact me for online coaching because they are confused. Confused by all the programs out there on the internet and they get so perplexed on what they need to do that they end up not doing a damn thing. They wonder why it’s so complicated. They just want to reach some simple goals: Get stronger or bigger or get ripped or whatever, they just don’t have any idea where to begin. Should they train three days or four days or five days? Should they go keto, use carb cycling, do the Vertical Diet or intermittent fast? Should they use exercise machines or free weights. It’s funny how some people think that the term “free weights” only applies to dumbbells. I have heard that a lot over the years. Should they train in a fasted state? Should they run or do cardio and when should they do it?

I have had online coaching clients who were big and strong in the past, they had a bunch of exercises that absolutely worked for them in the old days and then they get on the Web, and then they tell me that they don't know how to train. Have some confidence in yourself! What made you big and strong before? The basics? It hasn’t changed. They will always get results from squats, benches, presses, deadlifts, etc. Of course you add other stuff in, but there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Hard, consistent, intense training will always work. Then you sprinkle in some good nutrition and rest and the results will follow.

The best is when you have an online coaching client whose head has been spinning around with confusion and then they settle in to a program that you have written for them and they start to make progress and they get hooked on training and you just know that this is an activity that will be part of their lives forever. Or, added onto that, they transform their bodies and achieve a look that they didn’t think possible. Other than plastic surgery, weights and diet are the only ways to change your appearance.

I have had one client for years now who used to be a marathon runner and started out doing the running because he thought that would help him transform his body. All that happened is that he got a bunch of injuries and he remained heavier than he would have liked to have been. I mean, he was heavy. When he showed me pictures of himself back in the marathon days, I was shocked that he could run a step without falling over, he had so much fat on his body. Then he came across the internet and he started training more with weights and ate more protein and he got a little stronger, and he dropped weight but still was confused on how to train. So, he contacted me for online coaching, and I cut everything way back for him; three days a week training and nothing but the basics; squat, deadlift, press, barbell and dumbbell bench and bent over rows. Lots of sets of five and lots of protein. His numbers soared, especially in the deadlift- he started off pulling around 185 and just the other day pulled 315 x 5. Do you know what that does to a man’s psyche, his confidence, his body composition? It changed his life, and he got hooked on the whole lifestyle. He joined a gym, but he also built a kick ass home gym complete with power rack and Olympic weights. He’s a doctor so when he cannot get to the gym either early in the morning or late in the evening because of his work schedule at the hospital, he has the home gym so that he doesn’t miss a session. All he needed was some guidance and then he took it from there. I’m not doing the workouts, he is the one putting in the work, I just cleared up some confusion and pointed the way, and that’s what most people need.

Once the clients get addicted to lifting weights, they would not think of ever missing a session, mostly because of how it helps them mentally. Getting in an early morning squat session before work may just clear their head and get them prepared for the long work day that lies ahead. I have thought for years that the gym for me is my own form of meditation where all the bullshit that was in my head when I walked into the gym, all these seemingly huge problems, don’t seem so big at all once I finish.

I have to admit that the over 30 year old online coaching clients are fun to train. They usually have limited time because of family, work and other obligations. They don't fool around, they follow the program to the letter, and they are honest to a fault. And their questions are right to the point, no fluff. Like this, “ If I didn’t get the 5 x 5 as planned, should I look at it as just getting the total reps?” And they send me videos of their deadlift with questions like, “ Coach, do you think that I am taking the slack out enough when I start the pull?” And it's never, “I overslept and missed my session.” or “I'm going on vacation and won't be able to train this week.” Instead, it’s, “ Coach, I’m going to check also, but off the top of your head, do you know any decent gyms in Raleigh?” Usually they find one before I can get back to them.

And it seems like once someone gets older, they don’t have time to waste spinning their wheels with a training program. At this point in their lives, they don’t usually feel the need to tell you how much they know, they are more like, give me the program and let me go. They don’t have time to do research on what is the best program out there, they just trust me and get going.

Soldiers are another group that I train who don't want fluff, just results. Again, there are time constraints and they have zero time for fooling around. They want to get strong, look good and still be able to sprint. Basics work here; some plyos, heavy compound movements and bodybuilding stuff to finish. Throw in some prowler and sprints and they are good to go. They want to be powerlifter strong, jacked up and be able to jump and sprint 100% on demand.

It's so rewarding when I train people and they tell me that they are stronger than ever before or how good they feel or how good they look in the mirror, or a comment that their spouse made about them looking so much better. That's why I do it, for that type of feedback.

It's all about just pointing the way for someone who maybe has gotten off track a little. It is giving them a glimmer of hope and then having them see the light and having them change things around and become a much better version of themselves.

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About The Author
Jim Steel has been immersed in athletics and the Iron Game for most of his life. He has been a college football player and coach, powerlifter, Muay Thai fighter and is currently a competitive bodybuilder. In 1999, Steel was named Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania, and moved up to Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator in 2004. He is the owner of the blog basbarbell.com, and is a motivational speaker, frequent podcast guest and the author of two books,  Basbarbell Book of Programs and Steel Reflections.  Steel is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.