The motivational interview: a key tool for setting the ideal objective of your client

One of the primary missions of a personal trainer is to create appropriate goals for each client. One of the most interesting tools for doing this safely is the motivational interviewing (MI). When creating appropriate objectives, it is important that the client accepts those goals as his own and is eager to overcome them.

Use Motivational Interviewing strategies to enhance client autonomy and success.

The theory of motivation states that individuals perform certain actions or adopt certain behaviours when they perceive high levels of competence autonomy and good relationships with others.

Whether you are helping clients adopt healthier eating habits, stress-reduction strategies or regular physical activity, use the following MI strategies to enhance client autonomy and success:

Open-ended Questions

These types of questions allow the client to open up more than do closed-ended questions. This way he/she can better offer his/her ideas and feelings about what stops him/her from taking up training. Here is an example of an open-ended question: “You would like to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months. What would this weight loss mean for you?”

These questions are also interesting for discovering underlying fears or problems. For example, if a client hates exercising, he/she may be asked about what kind of negative experiences he/she has had and why they associate them with physical exercise. His/her own response will allow him/her to delve into those fears and help  overcome them, and you, as a personal trainer, will understand those problems and act accordingly when you set his/her goals.


Create an MI that, from the first moment, leaves the judgments off the table. It is essential to generate a non-judgmental attitude between the coach and the client. You can put, from the beginning, something like: “There are no failures here, only learning opportunities. Nothing you do is inherently bad (even binging on a carton of ice cream) and anything you do will only teach us more about what factors might lead you to engage in an unhealthy behaviour (such as overeating)”.


It is proven that a person will be more constant in adopting a new healthy habit if he/she understands why he is doing it than if he/she is forced to do so. Do not try to impose anything. Turn into a teacher who teaches the client new healthy habits. Rather than telling clients what to do, help them explore viable healthy behaviour, understand the benefits of this behaviour, and recognize and overcome barriers getting in the way.

In this way, you can set goals according to each client, which will maximize the benefit they receive from athletic training. Remember to monitor their progress constantly and maintain a constant level of communication with them to adjust training and goals at all times.

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