Functional Training & 5 Other Essentials For PT’s in 2017

Owen Bowling is the founder and CEO of CrankIt Fitness, Australia’s leading functional training product and education company. With a background in both gymnastics, circus and elite level sports (both playing and coaching), Owen has a unique experience in human movement. He was also voted one of Australia’s top entrepreneurs under 30 years old in 2011, and is now expanding the Crankit brand across the globe.

We met with Owen to learn how how trainers can carve out a profitable niche in an increasingly competitive market whilst incorporating functional training into their programs.


1. Identify who your audience ISN’T

This concept is really difficult for trainers to grasp. Their natural instinct is to help people so they hate to ever say “no”, even whey they know they lack the required skills and experience. Consequently their success rate with clients is really low, probably less than 20%. The other 80% see really mixed results. However, if trainers had a narrower target audience, they would be paid far more to do far less work, and have a greater impact on their client’s performance.

Consider this example – you meet someone at a barbecue and ask them what they do. He answers “I’m a personal trainer and I specialise in weight loss, boxing, functional training, recovery from injury and body building”. In other words, he specialises in nothing, and has given you precisely no reason to either hire him or ever mention him to your friends or family.

“If trainers had a narrower target audience, they would be paid far more to do less work”

Then imagine that you meet another trainer at the same barbecue. You ask what she does, and she says she’s a trainer who works with teenage mums in the affluent Northern beaches of Sydney who have lost self esteem following their labour. She explains that she helps these teenage mums get back to full strength and renew their body confidence.

See the difference? Unlike the first trainer, the second gave a clear message that will stay with you long into the future. Even if you’re not a teenage mum yourself you will remember this trainer and should a friend or family member ever become one then you wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her. More importantly, the second trainer can charge considerably more as she’s a speciaiist with a valuable product aimed at a lucrative audience.

2. Decide what you are actually selling

In that previous example, the first trainer is selling time but the second is selling a goal, and not a surface goal like losing five kilos, but a deep goal that connects to the raw emotions of the client.


This is where most trainers fail. They lock themselves into time which means that their revenue isn’t scalable and if they’re not working then they don’t get paid. However, if you sell a goal rather than time, you can package it up into something that justifies a far larger price tag and even incorporate time for the occasional holiday!

“You have to move the focus away from hours and towards the end goal.”

For example, if I say to a client that their journey with me will cost $10,000 but at the end of 12 months they will finally be confident with their body, have a higher sex drive and enjoy a longer, healthier life, then they’ll value the product very differently to if I had said they’ll receive one session in person a week for a year. You have to move the focus away from hours and towards the end goal.

On this basis, rather than needing 50 clients a year just to tread water, you can make far better money with just 10 clients, and deliver a far better experience!

3. Manage the transition

Of course it takes time to build this model, and nobody is suggesting that overnight you throw away good clients that fall outside this narrow criteria. However, you must at least acknowledge that you are underserving them. Furthermore, you’ll never have time for the right kind of client if you’re constantly overwhelmed by the wrong kind of client.

My advice, therefore. is to start by losing your bottom 20%; those who only see you once a month and regularly cancel. Give them the choice to move on to a more intensive 6 or 12 month program and if they decline then politely explain that it’s time you went your separate ways.

“You’ll never have time for the right kind of client if you’re constantly overwhelmed by the wrong kind of client.”

4. Become an expert in assessment (or find a good referral network)

All trainers have a basic toolkit when they qualify, but most have extremely limited assessment capabilities. The first thing I tell new trainers is not to buy into the hype sold by training companies that you have emerged from their course as a master trainer, because that could not be further from the truth. All you’ve done is get your ticket to enter the industry. Now the real work begins!

In order to complete a useful assessment, you need to do a huge amount of learning. You need to find mentors, read books and attend courses. Until you can truly call yourself an expert in your specialism then the best thing you can do is refer the client to a more experienced trainer, although naturally very few want to do that!

5. Incorporate functional training into your programme

There is a common misconception about what is actually meant by functional training. People tend to have a very narrow definition and say “functional” when they really mean “fancy”. However, the reality is that functional training is just anything that helps a person perform an activity the way they would real life. Often these will involve the use of unstable weights such as kettlebells but some of the best functional exercises involve simple, stable movements.

To repeat, functional does not mean fancy. It is simply those exercises that help you live your life and do the things you love for as long as possible, whether that’s playing with the grandchildren or competing in elite sport. Functional training should therefore be at the heart of every programme you design.

“Functional does not mean fancy”

6. Become an expert in the kit that most benefits your audience

As well as assessments, it’s also essential you have a deep understanding of the kit your audience would benefit from using. This is one of the biggest challenges trainers currently face. Gym’s spend huge amounts of money on functional kit but none of it is used because there is no budget left for training. And even if there was, would gyms really want to fork out all that cash when the trainer may have moved on to another gym in six months?

“Gym’s spend huge amounts of money on functional kit but then none of it is used because there is no budget left for training”

The tragedy is that once a trainer has gone through the appropriate training for a piece of kit, they usually become really enthusiastic about incorporating it into their client programmes. This is why we’ve created a comprehensive online course that’s free for PT’s from gyms that have bought our equipment. We’re seeing a lot of traction in Australia and we’re now really excited about the market in the UK, as both gyms and trainers are crying out for support.


Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, Most Popular Interviews, Personal Trainers, The Fitness Network.