Design a kick-ass PT session

Over the years, we’ve seen more and more gyms start to increase their revenue by way of personal training. Not only is this is a great idea, but it allows us to open up our doors to segments of the population that might not want to do CrossFit.

The perception of the general public is that personal training and CrossFit are completely separate entities. In reality, the two are more connected than most would like to think.

I’m going to outline how to design a personal training template for your current and new clients that do not necessarily take CF group classes.

Some considerations before beginning:

  1. How often is your client going to train with you? 2x, 3x, 4x a week? What days of the week?
  2. How old is your client and what are their goals?
  3. What is their training age (if any)?
  4. Do they have any nagging injuries?
  5. What is their life like outside of the gym?

Of course, there are many more questions that can be asked and screening that can be done beforehand, but this is a basic guide that will work for just about anyone that comes into your facility. I stress the word “basic” because there are always exceptions to the rule.

These recommendations come from my insights after 15 years of training a wide array of athletes from all walks of life. Below I’m going to outline what I feel to be the most logical mesocycles of training for the average client.

Phase 1 General Physical Preparedness (GPP)/Unilateral Work

The first four to six weeks will be devoted to improving your client’s base/work capacity through a variety of GPP work. The GPP work will not only help build our client’s foundation, but it will also serve as our conditioning. In the beginning, most GPP work will be quite difficult for your new athlete.

We will also look to improve muscle-imbalance, and by doing so, we will uncover unforeseen muscular imbalances which will serve as a guide later. Most of our training will be in the form of push/pull supersets; total body fashion that will not keep time management efficient will help further build our clients base elevating their heart-rates to 60-70% of Max Heart Rate (MHR). Each session will start out with a learning portion each day.

Here is a Three Day Example Week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday)


– Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility
– Today is intended to be somewhat “basic” so you can get an idea of how your client moves. 
– You may need to increase rest intervals depending on the clients level of fitness

1a) DB Reverse Lunges: 3 x 6-8 ea. Rest 45s.
1b) DB Push Press, neutral grip: 3 x 6-8. Rest 45s.

2a) DB RDLs: 3 x 8-10. Rest 45s.
2b) DB 1-Arm Rows: 3 x 8-10 ea. Rest 45s.

3 Rounds of:
60 yard Sledpush (light)
30 yard each Single-Arm Farmer Carry (moderate weight)
Rest 2:00 (or until HR is down to around 110 BPM).
*You may find that some of your new clients have zero bases of fitness so always opt for less over more volume.

       Recovery: 5 Minutes of Parasympathetic Breathing or global foam rolling


–   Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility
–  Spend extra time getting warm today as your new client is likely to be quite sore from Monday.

1a) Goblet Box Squat: 3 x 8-10. Rest 45s.
1b) Ring Rows: 3 x 8-10 (1 ct at top). Rest 45s.

2a) DB Bench Press, neutral grip: 3 x 8-10. Rest 45s.
2b) DB Hammer Curls: 3 x 10-12. Rest 45s

4 Rounds of:
Front Rack KB Carry x 90 ft. Rest 60s.
*In between rounds complete 15 Banded Pull Throughs

Recovery: 5 Minutes of Parasympathetic Breathing


–  Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility
– Learn Sumo Deadlift +  Turkish Get-ups

1) Sumo Deadlift: 4 x 5 @Light to Moderate. Rest 60s. Reset on each rep.

2) Partner Assisted Chin-ups: Accumulate 20-25 Reps. Rest 60s.

3) Sledpull Powerwalks: 4 x 60 yards @moderate weight. Rest 60-90s.

4) Bottoms-up KB Carry: 4 x 90 ft. each. Rest 60s.
*In between sets complete 15-20 Banded Pushdowns varying the grip.

        Recovery: 5 Minutes of Parasympathetic Breathing

Additional notes:

  • This does not include ramp-up or warm-up sets; these are “work sets”
  • Within these sessions, you’ll have the ability to connect with your client as well as coach them. This is a big opportunity for you to show your client what they are getting goes far beyond what they’d get in a group session.
  • Take feedback from your client before starting. Ask them how they are feeling, how they slept, how their diet is going. Track things like HRV if you can. Take a vested interest in making sure they get the most out of their time with you!

On the surface, these sessions look relatively tame, but context will vary for each person so it’s important that you use your own discretion. I know some of you are thinking, no barbell movements? We will get to those later on — don’t worry. From the outset, we simply we want to learn some new movements and find out what where people are weakest. People will get a great workout, but we want to make sure we stay away from going overboard. Remember when you first started training how you felt the next day(s)? In these cases, less is more.

After the four to six weeks of running a mesocycle that looks similar to above have been completed, it will be a great time introduce some barbell movements as your core lifts. The format of your training session will be similar sans the learning portion, but look more like this:

Dynamic Warm-up. Include correctives/activation. This should take 10-15 minutes.

  1. Core Lift: Compound Movements
  2. Assistance Work: Unilateral Work
  3. Direct Ab Work
  4. Conditioning/GPP Work

A training session will likely consist of one compound movement, 2 assistance exercises, and some GPP work that can double as your core work. Remember, less is more. 4-5 movements per session are all you need.

Once your athletes are moving efficiently and have established a base for their conditioning, it will be more plausible increasing volume and loading, but as I said before we want to make sure we provide people with the correct dose of training.

Also, varying conditioning work can take place if your client wants exposure to more types of training that we use in CrossFit, but remember building their base first is your primary goal. They don’t need to see “21-15-9” until they can pull a sled or carry some weight without dying.

Personal training is a great avenue to provide individuals with one on one attention. As such, we should be able to design a program that focuses on each individual’s needs; this is simply a guide to help you start training your clients in an efficient and safe manner. Overall, I see most new athletes lack a solid base from the outset of their training.

As coaches, we often overlook the “less sexy” or simpler forms of training to be replaced by their technical counterparts. You’ll be amazed at how far the simple and “less sexy” work goes!

Don’t have the time write your PT sessions? Here are 15 sessions for a beginner to intermediate client fully linked with videos here!

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