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You are here: Home / Media Resources / Articles / Cut to the Chase. The ‘Dominant’ Personal Training client in action. DISC [article] 2

Cut to the Chase. The ‘Dominant’ Personal Training client in action. DISC [article] 2

Don't have time for detail, just want the facts, the helicopter view and then onward and upward. Chances are you have some 'D' style knocking around in you and as a personal trainer, fitness consultant or club owner it would be good to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a consequence. For those of us who are fitness professionals - dealing with 'D' styles can be very productive or very scary. Cut to the chase, read this article and be prepared.

When looking back at my personal training career, it is easy to pick my favourite (and highest) D client. Let’s call him Tom.


About Tom…

Tom strode into reception. He sat at a table in the gym café, straight posture, business suit, and took in his surroundings. I approached him and introduced myself. He had a firm handshake, an assertive tone of voice, and maintained direct eye contact. ‘He’s a D’ my brain was shrieking. Being an ‘S’ I was trembling inside, but I knew what I had to do.  I straightened my posture, shook his hand firmly in return, and put on my most efficient and confident voice.


“Thanks for coming in Tom. Let’s head into the consultation room and have a look at why you’re here”.


Tom was 50, a high powered business man – a partner in his firm. He radiated authority, and as he stated his reasons for being here, he slapped his hand on the table to accentuate each point.


“I’ve hurt my back; I want you to fix it. I want to lose some weight, and increase my fitness. I want to cycle around Lake Taupo in November. I want to personal train with you 3 times per week if you think that’s enough, and I expect to see results”.


While my knees shook under the table, I matched his tone of voice, and slapped my hand on the table – accentuating my own points in reply.


“Great Tom. We’ll train 3 times per week at this time, for one hour per session. You will need to do 2 sessions per week on your bike to compliment this to achieve your cycling goals. You’ll also need to do some stretching at home, and we will incorporate some rehabilitation exercises in your sessions to help your back. The cost will be $180 per week, and we will start with a fitness test to see where you are at, and how much work there is to do”.


After a brief and no nonsense screening, Tom was out the door, preparing to dominate the cycling and back rehabilitation world.  I was in the foetal position under the table, but I knew I had achieved a small victory.  Over the following 5 years – Tom would prove to be an educational goldmine for how to train a high ‘D’ client.


Tom’s strengths

Tom was a very determined, motivated and competitive client.  He was extremely goal orientated, and the prospect of cycling around Lake Taupo kept him firmly on track, especially as a few of the blokes in the office were doing the race (he wanted to beat them, of course).  He responded well to direct and concise instructions, and, as D’s are task focused, concentrated intently on the training session at hand. Being a hard worker, he never missed a session, and if he had to reschedule he always made it up. Tom was fun to train in that he loved being pushed hard.  His adherence to his program was excellent, especially the intensity of sessions and the completion of his stretches as he directly related those two factors to the achievement of his goals.


Tom's Weaknesses:

Tom wanted things done quickly; he was not so interested in the finer details of training. This caused a few minor stand offs when selecting what weight to lift, as Tom often found the weights I selected were ‘too easy’.  Being a stickler for technique – I had to hold my ground and keep the weight at a level where he could learn the correct posture and movement – before we upped the intensity.  Early on I learnt to include a couple of machines in Toms programs that he could lift reasonably heavy weights without compromising his back, and I snuck the stability and core exercises in around these. Another helpful hint I found was to stroke Toms ego when I could – “Tom, you can obviously lift more than this, I just want to check your technique on the first set before we put the weight up”. 


D’s can at times come across as domineering and insensitive, especially if working with an ‘S’ type who is much more sensitive (that’s me!).  As a D is very task focused, Tom often did not consider how anything he said or did would affect my feelings. He also liked to be in charge of whatever he was doing, which created a challenge for me in our sessions. When training Tom I had to be very mindful to 1) not take anything he said personally, and 2) be assertive and take control of the session when required.  When doing this I had to remember that D’s want their point of view validated, and to feel listened to and important.


An example of this could be:

Tom: “Interval training is the only way to improve my fitness”

Me: “That’s a great idea (validate point). While starting out, lets focus on building up endurance – 160km is a long way around Lake Taupo (me being assertive). Then we will move into more of a speed phase like you’ve suggested (make Tom feel listened to and important – it was his idea!)”.


The moral of the story

Tom and I had a great training relationship, but if I had not understood DISC we may not have made it past day one!  At times during our training, I could have felt insulted and submissive had I not understood what makes the D style tick, and how to adjust my own behaviour to suit his. However, as I matched Tom’s style from the start and responded to him in a way that he understood and respected, we made a great team.  Most importantly, the great training relationship ultimately led to great results!  Tom went on to rehabilitate his back, cycle around Lake Taupo in a time that he was happy with, and most importantly - beat the boys from work!