Karsten Jensen, MSc, Creator of The Flexible Periodization Method

Most likely the coronavirus is currently affecting your work as a fitness professional in one way, shape or form, such as 

  • The facility where you conduct your work closed.

  • Even before the facility closed, your clients were cancelling their sessions due to concerns about social distancing.

  • Your clients have been financially affected and have expressed concerns regarding payment for your services. 

Due to the current situation, the practical tactics laid out in this article focus on answering the questions  

  • How do I work safely and effectively with clients if I am not physically with them?

  • How can I provide my client’s with a quality service at a lower, absolute cost for them, but a similar revenue per invested hour for me? 

I will not pretend that I can predict what the future of personal training/strength and conditioning will look like once things reach (a new) normal. However, the practical tactics I share in this article can be helpful both short-term or long-term, regardless of the way you wish to structure your business.Personally, I have experienced both pros and cons of all versions of the face-to-face to hybrid to online continuum.

table-1.jpgTable 1: Face-to-face to hybrid to online training continuum (FHOT continuum)

One of the advantages of Hybrids #2, #3 and online is that the absolute cost for the client may decrease, making it affordable for them to keep working with you. Hybrids #2, #3 and online might work well for the intermediate to advanced client, but may be more challenging for the beginner client due to their need for ongoing corrections. 

Walmart vs Rolls Royce 

If you shop at Walmart it is likely because price is a priority for you. If you buy a Rolls Royce it is likely that quality is a priority for you. 

You could argue that there is a sweet spot where price vs. quality is optimized. However, when you set up your service, you generally place yourself on a continuum of lower quality/lower price to higher quality/higher price.


Table 2: Quality vs. price continuum

This is not a critique, but rather an observation. When I worked in Denmark, I had a colleague who was proud that he made programs for 500 athletes every month. I was responsible for 20 (still a full time job). Naturally, I could invest more time in the 20 programs (presumably leading to better results), but I did not touch as many athletes as he did.

No matter how you choose to structure your business, I hope you choose to be about quality.

The information in this article supplements the core program design process of The Flexible Periodization Method – (For a full description see Are Your Training Programs H.I.P?).  However, you don’t need to know anything about the Flexible Periodization Method to benefit from the article. This article describes how to tweak

  • the assessment

  • periodization

  • program designs

  • instructions

  • the evaluation process

to create faster results for any client you may train, in any of the above five formats on the FHOT continuum.

I don’t believe you need to buy subscriptions to any of the online training platforms to get started with more online training, even though such solutions could make your life easier.

Over 26 years of working with athletes from 27 different sports ranging from beginner to world class and Olympic levels, I have never gone beyond simple excel sheets and videos. As simple as possible, as complex as necessary.

1: Assessments 

Any assessments you do through intake forms are not affected by the FHOT continuum, but direct, hands-on assessments become more difficult or impossible if you are not with the client. 

Key recommendations if you are not with the client during assessments (online format): 

  • Get as much information as you can through intake forms and confirm/discuss during an online meeting.

  • Pick the most essential assessments (for example, postural screen and movement screens) and do the assessment on a live zoom call (or equivalent).

  • Make sure to get information about the client’s available equipment.

2: Periodization 

The Periodization aspect of the program design is not affected by the FHOT continuum.

3: Program Design

In 2017-2018 I worked in a pure online format with a Danish, national team, volleyball player in his mid-twenties. In general, barbell squats are a useful exercise for volleyball players to prevent patella tendon overuse and to improve their jumping ability. However, we chose the leg press, instead, for the following reasons:

  • He had previously received extensive instructions in barbell squats, but – according to his own statement – he typically ended up with a sore back after squatting (largely due to his height, close to 7 feet).

  • He would do all the training on his own with no supervision.

  • He did not need the balance and coordination that would be one of the advantages of barbell squats vs. leg press.

With respect to exercise selection, the following tactics become more important the less frequently you see your clients:

#1:     Rely on thorough exercise progressions to build the client’s multi-joint patterns (squats, deadlifts,             lunges, pushing, pulling and twisting)

The FPM specialist Programs (Barbell, Bodyweight and Trunk) show the best progressions that I am aware of.

#2:      Use the least technically complicated exercise that serves the client’s goal at any point in time.

                        This was the guideline that I followed with the above mentioned volleyball player.

#3:      Use isometric emphasis whenever possible to help client control their from.

From working with beginner clients I have learned that it is easier to correctly assume and maintain a position, for example the bottom position of a squat, than it is to move in and out the same position. If you build the program around isometric exercises, you can simultaneously emphasize to the client to keep reinforcing good form.

#4:      Volume is not affected by the FHOT continuum. However, if the client does have minimal or no                      equipment, applying progressive overload through increased external load may be more challenging             or impossible. Alternative options to create progressive overload include:

Use a more difficult exercise (if available)

Apply antagonist resisted training

Reduce the rest periods

(Examples of the above can be found in the FPM Body weight Training Specialist program)

Additionally, there is a specific instruction used with the Flexible Periodization Method that highly increases the likelihood the client maintains correct form across a set:

Focus on executing one repetition at a time with perfect form and the awareness of being strong throughout the body. If one of these things change, then take a 10-20 second break before continuing.

This instruction is an integral component of all strength training with the Flexible Periodization Method (for more information click here.)

In the face-to-face scenario, it seems that the client pays for your time (and skill!). The more you move to the right on the FHOT continuum, the more the fee for the program may become your primary source of income with respect to that client. Thus, the quality and the look (professional) of the program becomes progressively more important.

How much equipment do you need
to train your clients?
The less you need, the better a
position you are in.

     Broom stick
     Floor, wall or railing/fence
     Sliding discs
     Stability Ball
     Suspension Straps
     Elastic Bands
     Clubbell or Kettelbell
     Door attached Pull Up Bar

4: Instruction

If you connect with the client via Zoom or live streaming and the client watches you as you demonstrate the exercise, the difference from the face-to-face situation is small. The same is true for your correction of the client. The main difference is that manual correction with your hands is not possible.

Recommendations, if you are not connected to the client during their session

  • Generic vs. personalized videos: In a “Walmart” set up, you film a squat one time and any future client who needs a squat gets sent that particular video. It is a good video, but it is not personalized. In the Rolls Royce set up, you record a personalized squat video for each new client. On the video, make sure to use the clients name and to address any particular mistakes you saw on their movement screen.

  • Teach the client to ask the same questions that you would have asked if you were there: With the Flexible Periodization Method the #1 focus between each set is, what needs to be improved in the next set? As instructors, our first thought is that we have to instruct the client on what to do. Then, we learn that we can engage the client by asking them ‘What can you do better in the next set?” Of course, we apply our professional opinion to their answer.

When your clients work on their own, teach them to ask that question all the time:

What can I do better in the next set?

This process is improved by a mirror and video.


5: Evaluation

Even though I have worked mostly with high level athletes throughout my career, many of them still needed constant reminders about correct form.

One exception to this rule is former Danish, Ju-Jitsu, World Champion, Nicole Sydboege. I had worked with the entire national team for about 18 months when their funding was reduced from Team Danmark, my employer at the time. When I had a one-on-one follow up session with her one year later, her form was still spot on.

The less you see the client, the more important a thorough- include feelings and technical notes -  training log becomes. Have the client fill out this log every session and send it to you before your (weekly) Skype or Messenger call. A simple Excel sheet is enough.

  • Exercises followed by sets and reps completed: 12 x 200, 11 x 200, 8 x 200.

  • Messages from the body language: Legs felt great, slight pinch right shoulder,

The above are the best practical tactics that I am aware of – and apply myself – to train clients anywhere on the FHOT continuum. Please, use what you can use and discard the rest.

This article finishes with a quick comment on a way to structure a training package that makes “selling” a lot more comfortable.

The Underappreciated Advantage of Flexible Client Packages

A client typically approaches us with a specific goal they wish to achieve. Sometimes - but not always – there is a timeframe attached to the goal. The journey towards the goal takes place under certain constraints, such as the client’s location, available equipment, time to train and financial budget.

Our primary focus is the ideal number of programs and sessions needed for them to achieve their goal. However, due to a combination of the mentioned constraints, the ideal may not be possible. Thus, two other types of solutions appear:

  1. The minimal amount of programs and sessions you believe the athlete-client needs to achieve the goal.

  2. The actual amount of programs and sessions you settle on with the client.

When you are focused on offering a service that is a perfect match to their situation rather than making them fit into a specific, random number of sessions, monthly memberships, etcetera, you can feel much more comfortable when you have the money conversation with the client.

Personally, I have all aspects of the service on one piece of paper with the fees listed for each aspect of the service. Based on our initial conversation I send a suggestion for the total package to the client. Sometimes, this sheet goes back and forth a couple of times before the client agrees.

With this approach, I can effortless take on all types of clients, ranging from someone wanting me to check out their squat to a full blown 3-6 month program.

Final Notes

In this article I shared how to tweak assessments, periodization, program design, instruction and evaluation to a scenario with less physical contact with the client. I also shared the idea of a super flexible client package and how that makes the money conversation more comfortable.

I would love to hear any questions, thoughts,  experiences you have. Please contact me with any feedback.

PS: My goal with this article is to provide real actionable value for you. If you want to go deeper together, please take a look at the FPM Program Design Master Mind Alliance

A Course in Breathing

Ground-Based Abs

Deep Strength

Against the Wall

I Am Strong
The Art of Exercise Instruction

Bodyweight Training - Part 1
Bodyweight Training - Part 2

Progressive Trunk Training

Progressive Powerlifting
Progressive Olympic Lifting

The Flexible Perodization Method

Periodization Simplified
Are Your Training Programs H.I.P.?

Victory Loves Preparation
Periodization of Flexibility Training

Needs Analysis for Sports
Beyond Functional Training

Exercise Creation
Periodization of HIIT

Beyond Sets & Reps
Maximal Strength

 Copyright © 2007-2022 Yes To Strength and Karsten Jensen. All rights reserved. 

All information contained on is intended for use by individuals who are healthy, injury-free adults aged 18 years and older who possess sound knowledge and skill execution of strength training exercises and their application and a thorough understanding of proper exercise technique and their application. We urge you to exercise care and caution when attempting any of the exercises, combinations, tips and strategies mentioned and to seek competent help and counsel from trained medical or fitness experts before beginning any new exercise program, or if you have any questions about your health. and Karsten Jensen are neither responsible nor liable for any harm or injury resulting from use of the information described herein.