How I built my business [Podcast]

Categories: Videos & podcasts

This was a surprisingly fun interview. James Rafferty interviewed me about the state of the fitness industry, how I built my business and how to deal with negativity. If you’re just into getting evidence-based fitness advice, you won’t find much of it in this podcast, but I think fit pros and people deep in the fitness industry may find it very valuable. Enjoy it!

You can check the time stamps and the automated transcript below.



1:14  Menno’s education and how he made a business out of his passion
6:21  The perks of being a nerd and a meathead: intellectualization of the fitness industry
9:29 The state of the industry after COVID-19
12:08 Launching the PT course
13:43 The biggest knowledge deficits of the coaching industry
19:52 What makes a good game for running a certification?
22:51 The thought process behind Menno’s PT course
31:38 Why the PT course certification doesn’t have an expiration date
34:36 Cookie-cutter template programs vs personalization.
40:30 Marketing your program and why this is covered in the PT course.


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Automated Transcript

James Rafferty Radio #022:Why I built my own PT Certification

This is an automatically generated transcript of the podcast. 

James Rafferty 0:08

Welcome back. This week we’re talking about what goes into the creation of a personal trainer certification. What most certifications miss, and how you can take an evidence based approach to coaching to go toe to toe with me all the way from Budapest is Mr. Menno Hanselmans. So let’s get into the episode. We are live we’re back on the podcast this week we’re joined by Menno Henselmans. So we’re going to be talking through a number of different topics but mainly Menno’s  PT certification and what he kind of understands to be a comprehensive take on getting PTS into the industry but before we get into that a big welcome to metal but before we before we get into the topic at hand metal let’s let’s kind of chew the fat a little bit your your background is robust, to say the least when I did my research God, I was going through your background and analytics data analysis and stuff like that I was kind of going well. If we if I get this guy on the podcast is background information, it’s going to be 75% of what we actually talk about. So if we, if we get them, I wouldn’t say summarize. It’s gonna give me a bit of a background just to contextualize what we’re going to talk about how you got into the fitness industry. What you did previously and and so on.

Menno 1:14

Yeah, I was very fortunate with my education, in large part due to my parents. They sponsored everything. So I went to UC u, which is the Honors College of Utrecht University, which itself is already a very good university. And there you I mean your workload you kind of know the equivalent of four bachelors, but you have to have a specialty of course, so I specialized in Economics, Psychology, and statistics, which essentially together form behavioral economics. And then behavioral economics is also widely studied at Warwick University and after that, I became a business consultant. I worked for a lot of top firms like casinos, airlines, insurance companies. And I learned a lot about data analysis and much more about real life and how people think and how you present data and those kinds of things. And those were also put me off because I just wanted to be a good data analysis, more like a scientist, if you will, than a salesperson. And I realized that in the industry, being a salesperson was often more convincing to many people than having a good data analysis because you have to in the end, explain your findings to the lay population. And if they don’t understand the nuances of backgrounds, different analysis than a fancy PowerPoint often actually persuades people more or being friends with the manager who’s ultimately the decision maker. So those things kind of put me off the corporate sector. And it wasn’t really my passion to begin with. I liked the tools. I loved scientific thinking, I loved reasoning data. My tagline actually, when I still had the Bayesian Bodybuilding company was science logic data. That’s still very much what I live and breathe not just in fitness, but in everything I do in life. And when I started implementing these things to what my real passion was, which was fitness, things went very quickly. I started writing on tea nation at a time which was like the hub of all the good writers, they were on tea nation, and then you have an audience of like 30,000 people instantly when you are your popular writer on there. So I scrambled to websites. And if things went pretty fast, I I just wanted to write about fitness and dispel some of the myths and these beliefs or myths and false beliefs that were prevalent at the time and still there are many, and people start asking me for coaching. So I thought well, okay, you know, I’ve been training my whole life myself, I have given a face some people I write about this. So yeah, let’s try it. And also got certified, actually before that already got certified, I think, with the ISA, which also was actually a formative experience for me for my PT course education because the reason I got certified was not to become a coach. Funnily enough, the reason I got certified was to see if what I had learned on my own and the research I did at home, and just reading scientific research following all the popular people in fitness, if that actually translated into applicable real world knowledge by the gold standard. So I thought doing a certification surely must be the gold standard. But I realized that so many people now realize that actually, if you’re really knowledgeable, you have to learn a lot of things. You have to you know, if you know how to teach someone to squat, then you have to kind of unlearn that and first person certification program, eight weeks of working up to a squat and you goblet squats, you do stretching and you do a cooldown routine and all the stuff that really doesn’t have any scientific merit. So it’s kind of a bad experience in the sense that you, you obviously learn some things but you also learn a lot of things that are false. And that led me ultimately to for my PT course, as a means of really data driven science base but also tried in the trenches method of how I teach coaches. And again, this this wasn’t something that I really anticipated doing. It was something that people started asking me for, because there was a big demand gap in the market. And when I started doing that, yeah, it was fast. And now we’re going Dutch, English, French, Spanish and German. And we’re, last year we crossed 1000 students. So yeah, it’s going super well. And I’m very fortunate to be where I am.

James Rafferty 5:30

It’s pretty bad ass. I think it’s interesting. You mentioned how does the market forward I think in the last maybe 20 years, there’s been a  kind of interlace action intellectualization of the fitness industry. You know, back in the 90s and 80s. It was okay, you might have had a few people here and there, but it was mainly meatheads. What they did you have kind of taken on wholesale I think it’s very interesting how you mentioned that you’re married the data, the science what’s, what’s there to be told with the tried and tested software? I think that’s where you can alienate one side or the other you know, you have them people are very data driven super by the book but then there’s no there’s no anecdotal evidence but then you have to the muscle heads and all this work for that guy crowd so do you think that was Was that was that super, super intentional for you to make sure that you’re you’re viewed as a kind of a combination of the two when you’re putting a course together?

Menno 6:21

Absolutely. And not so much intentional in the sense of how I was feeling but I think it’s, it’s essential to who I am as a person. So I’m I’m the reason I’m into fitness is because I love fitness. I go to the gym every day. So I want to do the things I do in the best possible way. And then, as a result of that, I’m able to teach other people how to do it. And I sometimes joke that my personality in general is kind of a mash between two things. Like, for example, this year, I had a very bad back injury. That probably is going to take my powerlifting to a bit of a lower level, the coming years, maybe your fancy minimum. I think I read that. Yeah, it was crazy. Yeah, it was. It’s it’s baffled most of the world’s experts on on back pain. But it’s it seems that basically the current state of the research on back pain is actually that we have no idea what’s really going on outside of the 10% of cases, which are very clear with you know, herniated disk and finger pain referral pattern. But in any case, because of this, I want to take boxing and I’m playing chess so probably I was thinking when I’m living in Madrid, which are meant to live the coming year, I’m thinking, I’m gonna go to a chess club and a boxing club and I was thinking, Okay, who do you know, that does those two things, right? So that’s pretty much essential to who I am. I’m kind of always in high school and as a kid everywhere. I was kind of a blend between a nerd and a meathead. So I had these these nerdy things, but then I had the kind of meathead things like I liked. Yeah, all of these things where I kind of fit in between two, two camps. And I think now it’s paying dividends because I’m able to merge those two kind of realms and also ways of how people think in these realms together to form something that works not just in practice, but also in theory, and I think ultimately, people make too much of a, they make too much of a deal out of the difference. Because if your theory doesn’t work in practice, it’s just about a theory.

James Rafferty 8:29

It’s funny how you mentioned that. The Venn diagram, the intersection of being a nerd and a meathead, I think I think the fitness industry does lean heavy on kind of copy and paste personalities where it’s just training or training or boss but that is starting to change a little bit. Before we before we come into your your certification. I’d want to open a broader questions and just your take on it in the state of the industry because it seems now I think, off the back of COVID as well, that again, did the fitness industry is leaning heavily on the digital world and I think it’s more so the case of kind of future proofing your business in case God knows what happened. That happens again, but there seems to be a problem where it’s people are doing very cookie cutter qualifications and then moving directly into the online space. Can you speak to that a little bit Do you think that maybe that’s symptomatic of why people viewed the personal training coaching industry the way they do? Well, the average layperson, a lot of people don’t really take it seriously because of instances like that.

Menno 9:29

Yes, I’m very I’m overall very optimistic about where the industry is going. But we have to realize that the whole concept of evidence based fitness basically started becoming popular in the 90s. So it’s been a short road relative to other industries relative to the medical sector relative to psychology, you know, in psychology, which also well familiar with much of the literature. If there’s a topic where we have good research on the definition of good research may consist of 20 papers, multiple meta analyses that have looked into different versions of it and fitness. We are lucky if we have a meta analysis on anything. And if we do, it’s usually six studies, three of which are horribly flawed. And the other three of which also have serious design limitations. So we are simply still in a state where science can only get us so far and science has gotten us very far. Much further, the last 10-20 years has been an absolute explosion in knowledge for evidence based fitness. But we are still in the infancy of being a real, you know, one of the big scientific fields that maybe taught at Harvard or Oxford. So it’s normal that the industry is still finding its way and when there are big changes like COVID it takes a while before we know how to to manage these things. And of course, it’s going to have big effects on the industry and those have some real people. There will be people abusing these things. And there will be some shocks to the system, bad reputation among online coaching and the legacy as a whole. I think that’s just a matter of finding our balance and finding, you know how things work. Kind of same with with dating now, for example, it’s also a big change of how things have gone and it’s just a matter of cultural norms and expectations and everything changing over time to accommodate new technology.

James Rafferty 11:24

I think people are getting less and less competent than being able to speak to other people so maybe that’s I think, I think that can that can definitely have a knock on effect. What was the thought process behind your personal training qualification? You’ve probably already touched on it to a degree but what what was like what was the initial thought process when you because you’re again, your background, you have a very distinct background and that’s it again to the data analysis. I think you compete you’ve competed on a world level as well as coach people to to international championships and so on. When did you first think okay, there’s there’s a gap here in the market for a really comprehensive evidence base PT qualification. When did that force begin?

Menno 12:08

A long time ago that the seed was planted after I did my own certification, and I thought, well, this is not the quality I expected it to have. And then over time, as people started asking me, it became a real thing. And then originally, it actually was a mentorship group, but didn’t call it a full PT course. It was something I launched mostly privately among some clients, people that were asking me for it, and it was just via email. It wasn’t even real, of course, or anything was mostly just me formalizing my notes because I have loads and loads of notes on anything. Like I’ve so many notes now that actually you have to spend days just formulating all the notes and making sure everything I have is is going somewhere either into an article or my PT course. And that’s actually what the PT course now for me is, in a sense, it’s a formalization of all my notes, all the knowledge I have everything together in one place in the best possible formulation. And I whenever I research anything, I think of okay, how am I going to incorporate this into the course how do i solidify this knowledge and that also helps me to formalize my knowledge and make sure whenever I want to look up something I know where it is.

James Rafferty 13:18

What do you think the biggest kind of glaring deficits are, for the average for the average personal trainer? It’d be we can if you’ve told him as we go on Google and we’ll get into maybe kind of competition prep because that sort of stuff is getting very popular. If you if you’ve done it and if you’ve coached it yourself. At first glance, what do you think are the biggest knowledge deficits instead of having to unlearn what you what you just mentioned, all of the different bad information?

Menno 13:43

Yeah, from a firm basis and scientific knowledge is, I think it’s simply still knowledge for most individuals, even among the basics, and also a misunderstanding of the, the level of evidence we have for certain things that we believe, for example, squatting with Batwing is the evidence for that there is evidence from McGill and some modeling research. And there’s also evidence from labor populations. That seems to suggest actually, it’s not so it may not be so important because posture in general doesn’t seem particularly related to back injury rates, for example, or any types of injury other than very clear overuse injuries. And we don’t have a direct study on people squatting with but weak or without battling for example, and possibly being posterior pelvic tilt, and then seeing who gets injured. So many people have very strong belief of this is how you should squat. This is the correct way and there is no other way that is correct. But we don’t have that much knowledge on it. So I think we are able to cite that. We simply need more knowledge on the commercial trainer can know what is kind of the optimal training volume for certain populations, or how to estimate that and the importance of energy balance and the practical implication monitoring, progression, those kinds of things. periodization but then, you also need to be flexible in the knowing and I think many certifications don’t do this. They just teach you what they think is sort of the right answer, but they don’t first go through the evidence to discuss okay, what is the evidence that we have is are we talking like 50 studies saying exactly the same thing this is this is absolutely set in stone, or is this something that we think is best based on the theory that we have and anecdotal evidence? And that’s the Bayesian kind of approach where first you talk about what is the state of knowledge, what is the state of nature, a Bayesian would say? Like, what is the probability that this belief is true? And then the next step is how do we implement this knowledge in practice, and those are very different things and also where you’ll very often see debates Like recently I posted a study on menstrual periodization in women and a woman that I think is a scientist says, Okay, I don’t agree with this at all. I said, there’s a standard of support and overall strong, strong evidence to consider this and your training. She said, This is not strong at all. And our perspective is that as a neuroscientist where if you think of what is strong evidence, while it’s like, you know, it doesn’t randomized controlled trials without serious design flaws and incorporating analysis showing, okay, this is a real thing. That would be strong evidence that would be something that in medicine, dentists going on Wikipedia, you know, but from a practitioners point of view when we have say, six studies, in this case, leaning towards one direction, and there being no practical downside for implementing something from a practitioner point of view. This is definitely a strong consideration to do this, because it might very well be beneficial. There’s no clear downsides. There’s absolutely zero evidence it could be detrimental. So yeah, this is what we do based on the current knowledge.

James Rafferty 16:51

Do you think that’s detrimental to the kind of the fitness industry where you have the more kind of science types coming in, let alone like you mentioned, there’s different levels of what you consider to be on, say empirical and epileptic evidence that you said as has no realistic downside so you wouldn’t be causing major harm but maybe going down that kind of garden path? Do you think that sort of it’s it’s infighting to a degree but it’s it can be tribalism as well, it can be people not wanting to be proved wrong, or want to be kind of like, they want to be bastions of knowledge, the reference point for the industry do you think that’s holding the industry back where it’s in that certain scenario, for example, you’re having massive back and forth or what’s considered to be like, overwhelmingly useful evidence. What’s your take on it? What’s your take?

Menno 17:37

Yes, I think it’s not unique to fitness. It’s just in every industry. We have certain people that are popular and they have a platform and certain beliefs. Everyone has confirmation bias. I’m the same way when I read something, you could probably if you put me in an cerebral scanner or something, you can probably even identify in my brain that I have confirmation bias just like anyone else. So when I see evidence that supports my prior beliefs, I’m more inclined to not be as skeptical, more inclined to think yes, this is this is the way things are and when I see evidence that challenges my beliefs, I put my skeptical head on and I’m really going to dig in to you know, every part of the full tax the data analysis, I may even we run the numbers to make sure that this is a real real finding. And I may have to update my beliefs. It’s always very important to to keep that in mind just for yourself as well to be able to do that. But in any industry, we have this and you we know that certain individuals are willing to update their beliefs. Based on your knowledge and others not. And in the long run, we see that the individuals that do they will have a much higher longevity in the industry in terms of reputation and everything. So it’s I think this is something that is just balances itself out over time. No industry is a one man army where  one person has all the answers and nobody else knows, we’re all learning from each other. And it’s just a matter of overtime, making sure that the the sort of average knowledge stream goes in the right direction.

James Rafferty 19:06

That’s a very interesting point trying trying to kind of skirt. What kind of split the difference between your own your own confirmation bias and maybe borderline kind of cognitive dissonance, and then also maybe not being overly cynical to evidence that you might not like or agree with I think that’s that’s that that’s something the industry could deal with a lot more of at large. I think if we’re moving kind of away from our own states, just the kind of qualitative stuff but if we’re moving away from Okay, having a solid base in science and looking at the evidence and then synthesizing what you’re going to do after that what what do you think makes a good game to running a certification? What do you think makes a good personal trainer for looking at it holistically and then we can go with maybe like a level deeper and kind of look at the practical kind of qualitative stuff.

Menno 19:52

I think one of the most important things for a personal trainer is actually to know your market. Because there are a lot of factors obviously that makes someone a good personal trainer, not just the scientific knowledge but also the application and then they’re your people skills and being likable and trustworthy or being motivating and energizing. And these are all different components to work to some extent that are probably even mutually exclusive and personality traits. So there are certain people that are really good people, persons and there are people that are more things persons in general and in general men are more focused on things and scientific knowledge. And the like. Women tend to be more focused on social relations, on average, of course. And so everyone has their strengths with these things. And it’s very important to know what your strengths are, and to tailor your approach based on that because if you are, absolutely talk to your masterminds science geek, but you’re coaching jump up populations, that you’re probably going to run into a scenario where Okay, your knowledge is far too advanced or excessive for the level of clients that you have. So they just need to implement the basics and adherence, like the science of adherence is probably a lot more applicable to your population and knowing you know how many sets of bicep curls you have to do per week, because if they’re not even going to the gym in the first place without the right programming setup, then none of that is moot. So it’s really important to know what the needs of your population are. And if they need you to be a motivator for them, if they want you to if they need you to be there in person in the first place. Or if you can do it online if you want more knowledge based and then based on that, I think you can you don’t need to be super super educated or super good at nothing as long as the skills you have are a good match for the population that you want to help

James Rafferty 21:46

it’s a very fair point so i i definitely acronym sentiments, your courses from my experience, look even looking at other courses through colleagues treating clients who eventually went on to become trainers because there was so much it seems like a lot of courses are only really there as a kind of a means to essentially be insured to coach someone and quote unquote not do any harm. Your your course can have a difference to that in the sense where I when I looked at some of the curriculum stuff you covered lots of niche topics that you probably otherwise wouldn’t see in your very basic introductory personal training course you know, you’ll have a opening called an introduction but like some anatomical stuff, maybe even exercise to music in cases for like fitness instructors and stuff like that. Your course looks at lots of different topics. What’s the thought process behind bringing some of them some of them in like contest prep and even tanning and stuff like that? What was what was the what were the factors that you can consider?

Menno 22:51

I think because we went from a very demand driven approach. So we started with serious trainees that want to take their knowledge to the next level and get the best possible contest prept. Prep has been there from the very beginning because it’s always been the most serious trainees bodybuilders, power lifters, people who want to become world champions or coach world champions. They did the first versions of the course, which wasn’t like I said, it wasn’t barely a course. And it was only until a few years after that I even started thinking about things like legal disclaimers, communication style. Those things with communication style being far more important than legal disclaimer because I myself as a coach did it the same way and I’m a firm believer that when you start your business thinking about disclaimers and covering yourself and those things, you’re you have a very, you have a wrong approach is like if you’re helping people and you have high client satisfaction rates, everyone that purchases your coaching thinks they have a good deal like you’re both getting value out of it, then they won’t sue you. So you don’t need legal disclaimer sense. I mean, now I have a disclaimer and the like and you know when you get bigger as a coach or PMP certification, you need to have these things, but they are not what should be the priority. And like I said these things about eight week trajectories to get someone to squat. No look, if you do my coach, do my course. Then I think you should be able to coach on two squats usually within one session. And sure not every personal trainer that we coach is going to do a good job of that. And probably they’re going to injure some people, but all people get injured. Everyone that starts lifting. I think that’s also a funny thing where people say look, if you’re a PT and you have a client that does this, they could get injured. That everyone can get injured. Like if they started lifting without a PT you think they will never get injured, like almost everyone that’s going to train in their iniquity or gets injured. If you look at injury rates and power lifters. They’re huge. And most power lifters, the vast vast majority. They don’t have coaches. Maybe they get a coach after years. of training, but very few people get into training and be like okay, I want to go to the gym. Now I’m gonna hire a coach. Usually those are the more like Gen pop populations that are like the honor ins you know, the people that are not interested in powerlifting and they’re like and need more help with diet adherence, and they may want a PT because they want someone to make sure that they go and they’re actually doing the program. So I think it’s it’s very important to start with what really works and what people really want. And then afterwards, you start thinking about legal ramifications, disclaimers, the other 10 other things which are not not so much driven by the people are the most serious people in the field are really interested in knowing but more like you know a corporate is kind of approach

James Rafferty 25:38

it’s interesting even even discriminate from like a top down approach, sleep optimization eating for optimal health and these sorts of topics. They’re not from what I’ve seen, a lot of them talking points aren’t really present in most personal training qualifications. What’s the what’s sort of the kind of gum definitely I know I know for a fact even from following your data, a lot of data from it, but what sort of data do you track from the course to ensure that the topics they are teaching are useful if you get me because we know we have to touch on autonomy, anatomy we have to touch on kind of dietary stuff, but how do you make sure okay to let’s say for example, sleep optimization, that that that as a as a module in your court, that’s okay, we’re going to work that’s actually making hay for us. How do you how do, you qualify these things?

Menno 26:29

I think first and foremost, knowing for myself, what works in my clients and what works in myself, and simply the things that are really effective because sleep optimization is absolutely one of those things that’s is not something that’s paid a lot of attention to, but it’s actually absolutely huge. If you look at the research, we’re talking about difference in nutrient partitioning is sometimes of 80% and 50% is some research so you have one group that sleeps well with that even just misses one or two hours per day. And then that group that misses one two hours per day, they lose like 50% more muscle and 50% less fat roughly over the course of certain diets. That is huge. That is far bigger than your your best possible optimized supplement stack combined with even many optimizations of respiratory exercise order. You know, there’s more variables that are not the super big picture stuff. Sleepest up there with trading volume, energy, balanced protein intake, they’re really big things. So they’re also topics where maybe they are not popular, but we’re putting them in there because you need to know and that there’s general big thing I think big difference between what people want to hear and what people need to hear. And then of course, of course, we really focus on things that people need to know. And then of course, we also have extensive survey after the course with everyone what they liked, and we look at the reviews I talked to people so and we do that for all the course languages and then we get a pretty good idea of if there’s a topic that people are saying like yeah, this is we feel needed more information. Then we work on that more.

James Rafferty 28:04

That’s, that’s that’s super interesting to hear, because a lot of a lot of courses would just be a conveyor belt of quantify, quantify, quantify, but even stopping serving and constantly reinventing, it seems like even from my own research, and on top of what you’re saying metal, it’s an iterative process where you’re constantly refining the course. And I think that’s what most boring personal trainers want to come on to kind of hear. Because one thing I read in your site was, you won’t be learning from a five year old textbook. So with yourself and obviously the coach that you’ve hired to teach at across different languages. How is that kind of from a from an administrative perspective? How is that kind of refined over time you can’t see me we are coaches and kind of be looking at okay, what’s the latest evidence? How can we apply this? This is outdated data is outdated. This particular topic we’re resting on anecdote a bit too much here. What’s, what’s the behind the scenes of making sure you’re on top of the latest information?

Menno 29:01

We use a two way process for one we get the feedback from people in the course. In general any any topic where there are a lot of questions on then people will say Okay, is there a lot of questions on this? It’s not clear. So we need to update this. And people from feedback in the course because we have a lot of professionals, physical therapists, high level competitors, people that have done a lot of other certifications, and they’ll say look, this is different in this course, and occasionally they spot a mistake or something and then okay, we immediately fix that. So there’s, there’s the user feedback, but most of the iterations of the course are me literally every single week, updating the course based on the newest data. So I have a researcher and I we are doing most of the takedown work. Or we specialize in implementing all of the latest electronic tables of contents or the research reviews, we look at all of those ads, any new study that there is we think is this useful? Is this study televant ? If yes, okay. It needs to go into course.. And it’s funny because the first courses had big differences in how they looked and everything, every single course that you did in the course looks very different, felt different. And now, I often spend five hours to change one sentence. So because it’s just, you know, there’s this new paper and it makes me question if the other evidence is still correct. And then in the end, I conclude, yes, this wasn’t you know, there was a statistical error or something in the paper, and I redo, I look at all the other data and it’s like, yeah, it’s actually very bearish till this was more of an anomaly. And then all you change is the word almost, or in a sentence that says, with one exception and then between parenthesis due to reverse causation or something. And yeah.

James Rafferty 30:40

I can imagine you’re just like, five hours of sitting here, just the Backspace on the computer changes one word, mental breakdown sort of stuff. Do you have to kind of or not and obviously when information but when it comes to fitness and training, it does evolve relatively quick, not so much to the point we have to change a prospectus every second or third week. But in terms of like the kind of wider community of coaches you have, do you ever have to kind of go back retrospectively, let’s say from year one to year five in the body of evidence has changed to such a degree the have I suppose it kind of a community outside of the kind of certifications themselves, where I’d say a coach did your first iteration of the course in year one, book a year five, you’re in a position where you kind of go information has changed so much in a particular topic that maybe it’s best to kind of put that out there because it was such a it’s a double edged sword kind of isn’t your courses. So it evolves out so quickly versus other ones, which will be relatively stale. How do you account for that?

Menno  31:38

Yeah, we have guidelines in the course for the alumni and we have an alumni group where I post these are the directions of this is what I recommend. And most certifications they have this deadline where every two years you have to redo the certification, otherwise you lose the certificate. We don’t do that, our certificates are for life. They haven’t they have a date on them. And then it’s for other people themselves to judge. You know, there’s a there’s a date on there. This is when they learned the knowledge. Is that still applicable. And I think it’s unfair to say you know, there’s this cutoff we need your money again, to make sure that you still have tickets. I think it’s it’s a subjective value and something that people have to judge for themselves. If you’re in a gym with super general population, you know, you know the basics. You don’t know seven years ago, they’re not going to change. And I think in general, of course hasn’t had major differences in the the basics, the real the fundamental pillars, because I did, I think a reasonable job of approaching every topic that’s actually how I got in the industry and how it became more well known at first is because every topic I approached from ground up points, I ignored what everyone says and just it’s my own analysis looked at all the studies that we have on a topic, and that led to some very controversial publications such as my paper on optimal protein intake paper on sex differences, saying women actually grow at the same rate as men based on the research protein intake saying low protein recommendations are not nearly science. based their protein recommendation requirements are far lower than commonly recommended. Stretching being mostly useless actually,

James Rafferty 33:19

That’s a big one that’s causing a lot of trouble across the injury industry. There’s a Freudian slip there as an injury.

Menno 33:21

Yeah, so that those things they have big impacts on I think, as a result of that, I also have the course reasonably evidence based, but every time it shifts very gradually, so it’s more like every time if you do the course right away afterwards, you’ll see it’s just a few sentences a bit different. This is an almost, you know, maybe the trading volume calculator that we have, it recommends one or two sets more for a specific group of people. They’re not major things, but if you do look, of course, five years later, then you’ll see okay,  these little things, they’ve amounted to substantial practical differences.

James Rafferty 33:50

If I were to move into one of the more kind of technical sides of things and I’ve taken a fair bit of your time, I really don’t know but when it comes to pro program design, that’s that’s an area that a lot of coaches will almost shudder at sometimes especially when I’m putting out programs out into the ether we’re getting download for free, maybe hundreds of people are always a bit apprehensive about how to best approach program design like you. You have your programs like the the utility, a beginner’s Bikini Body program, if I’m remembering offhand it’s the only program if you go I mean, how do you approach on your end and even as a coach that’s what the coach is cap on rather than the Creator of a PT certification? How do you approach program design from an economic holistic sense? Where do you start because you seem to start from the ground up on a lot of things?

Menno 34:36

Yes. And as a as you get more advanced as a coach, you learn that many of your clients can be fit into certain categories. So we have this kind of look, this is the 30 to 40 year old IT professional, mostly sedentary, intermediate level trainee got most of his knowledge to be evidence based stuff but it’s not doing the advanced things, you know, tracking protein intake, tracking energy intake, doing heavy lifting, but still unaware of any subtleties of nutrient timing, not really paying attention to micro nutrition, whatever. So you have these, then they can make templates for what’s kind of the base population. And they think, Okay, what kind of template do I have that fits the figures to this individual and then you tailor what differs compared to the average of that population. And sometimes you have to find that okay, yeah, this this this person is this is a new thing for me. You know, I’ve had a client with one arm and one leg coach, people in wheelchair so yeah, there’s no templates for these things. So you just have to start from the ground up and create something. And yeah, and then you you adjust it as much as needed, which can be either you adjust the whole thing or sometimes it’s like this. This is planned. I’ve had many of these almost exactly before, you know, not the same individual. So it’s just tweaking of the numbers a bit, but the overall structure and everything. Yeah, we know what to do for this category of individuals. And it’s the same thing, the beauty courseware I think it’s most important to teach people the principles of how to program and there are many case studies but they are almost by design, more eccentric. There is not like a good case study of like, this is the average person you’re gonna get as a client. There’s like, good this is a vegan. This is an advanced bodybuilder that wants to build but cannot consume enough calories. This is bikini competitor training twice per day. And when you learn these things, and you understand the general principles that you can create programs for anyone. And it’s also important to know that there’s a wide array of potential programs that may be optimal for certain individual. And we tend to think of these boxes of like, push pull legs or full body or how do you call the split and many of the programs you create they don’t have a name there’s no splits that you know is well known to this is a bodybuilders better this is push pull legs, now it’s just a combination of the optimized variables training, frequency training events, the training, volume, exercise selection, and they were put together and now it’s something it’s a program and it’s it’s, well it works well for this individual. And could you change you know, the 15 degree incline dumbbell bench press to a suspended push up and with that majorly changed the results? No, probably not. So there, it’s more important to know things that matter and how to do them and to athletes, you know, programs and that’s also why I don’t sell programs. I don’t really believe that that’s, I mean, I believe it can be helpful for sure, but it’s not what I specialize in and where I think my expertise is the best served. So the only category I had because I feel it’s woefully neglected is beginner female lifters that want a bikini physique. That’s why I wrote that program. Because I think there are a lot of female lifters that want to start lifting seriously and they go in many different directions. They start either with a pink dumbbells or do you have to Instagram stuff with the pink dumbells and the stair Walker and stuff that doesn’t work but it’s just there on Instagram because it shows your booty well, and then there are the women that are talked about Sirius XM where they often get a program that’s essentially designed for a meal. And it’s not tailored to the goals of many women after wanting more like a bikini fitness type body, and by bikini body. I mean like literally a bikini fitness. competitor, even if they’re not competitive necessarily. No mortgage focus lower body focused. So yeah, that’s the only program I put out there sort of a template.

James Rafferty 38:19

It’s interesting. Have you thought about how  you can always revert back to principles rather than putting ourselves into a box of a certain spirit or certain approaches? That’s probably a bit a big point listeners can take for especially kind of putting personal trainers or hold personal trainers, it’s always based on principles isn’t how you how you manipulate them.

Menno 38:38

Exactly. And that’s I think there’s also a good point for most I know that a lot of part of your audiences, fitness professionals and while marketing wise it can be very efficient to brand yourself in a niche. We like the intermittent fasting guy, the Keto guy, whatever. But in the long run, you will not be served well by just being a one trick pony. You need to be able to adapt your programs your principles based on both the evidence new evidence that emerges, which I think is much broken is a good example. He was you know the ultimate fasting guy and and it turned out intermittent fasting is actually not better for fat loss or for pretty much anything than other types of diets. It’s just one of many tools that’s suitable for some individuals but not you know better as a whole compared to any other approach. And yeah, then he kind of fell into the abyss. So yeah, that’s that’s what happens if you you don’t focus on you know, having a reputation as being someone that implements certain tools, but maybe you know, famous or you can have a specialty like bicycle trails. Good guy. Sure, great. But you want you want to be aware of being categorized as just for that one thing.

James Rafferty 39:47

It’s an interesting thought. If we’re going through a bit like a kind of a final whistle stop tour of some of the talking points. of your of your program that was gonna prick people’s ears up a little bit. How do you how do you look at the kind of marketing so I think, you know, that is one side of the other certification or certifications, maybe don’t look at too much. It’s okay. You have all of the information at hand. You’re able to synthesize that information, you’re able to work with people you’re a bit of a people person, you’re able to do all of them sort of things, but then it’s actually getting in front of the right people. You’ve touched on that kind of in Perth there but how’s your how’s your course approach that because a lot of great trainers out there now look, I know you’re gonna play the game a little bit you do. You do have to play the Masters a little bit. How does your course approach that?

Menno 40:30

Yeah, that’s not my expertise. So that’s why I hired a marketeer myself also for my business and he wrote the main guidelines of because we also have a business module and that covers a lot of marketing, setting up Facebook ads, all these things that you have to know either because you have someone do them for you or if you’re a beginner then you probably want to start doing some of these basics yourself. So we have all of that in the course as well and it’s not construed by me. So I’ve learned a lot about these things. But I think as you get to a certain level then you will probably want to outsource much of that because it also is a real job. The quantitative A B testing, digital marketing, do a pop up on your sites, how many seconds does it take for pop up to show up? These are things that you know the optimization that Facebook and Google are famous for, they matter and especially when you get to very big numbers, because if you’re you know your site’s as 1000 viewers per month, probably not so much relevant yet. If there’s a one or 2% conversion difference, but when you have 100,000 visitors then 1% actually is quite a lot of people. So yeah, then you probably want to think of outsourcing these things. But I don’t think it’s it’s important and the main thing I mean, think about marketing I’d say that struck home for me is that marketing is not some sleazy sales tactic to, you know, convince people into buying your product even when they don’t really want to, because I’m a firm believer that any economic transaction in a good ethical business should be value based. So both people become better off as a result of the transaction. One person gets money the other person gets knowledge both person happier as a result of that. And I think that’s also for long term reputation, everything that’s its core to many businesses, that marketing, like white hats, good marketing is mostly about as you say, simply getting your products into the eye of people that are interested in that information. So it doesn’t have to be sleazy or anything at all. It’s just making sure that people that are interested in your products actually see your product. And when you’re not on the consumer side, it’s easy to think that when you post something on social media, look, your entire audience sees it now it’s like 2% 2% of your audience sees what you post. And if you’d if you show an ads, people are busy, maybe they’re scrolling through, they are they forget so you have to show it multiple times. And a lot of times I felt I wasn’t really super wary. I don’t want to spam people. I feel like if you you’ve seen it twice, you know I’m I would be skeptical to show something twice. But it turns out no, you want to show it like seven times. Because people they forget they’re busy. They’re doing other things. They’re just think like, oh, this is something I should keep in mind. But then they’re at a at a party or they’re having dinner so they’re not doing it then then they they’re actually on the sales page. And they don’t have their credit card at hand. That is something happens. Someone calls them maybe their battery dies. So yeah, a lot of things happen. And you need to remind people you need to people don’t need to need to see your product. They need to see it from multiple angles, multiple people on different platforms many times and then eventually the people that want what you’re offering they will purchase.

James Rafferty 43:33

When I think one of the one of the adages I always heard from online marketing and sales is that there’s usually a lot of different touchpoints before someone decides to sign up for whether it be coaching or mentorship and it’s interesting. You mentioned that because a lot of coaches will have that mindset where it’s like Wayne’s World it’s like, if we poke them, they’ll come up and put something else that’s half assed put together and people will come flocking towards me. So I think it’s very, it’s obviously it’s very well intentioned from your course to really educate coach on that sort of things because rather vying for people’s attention on their phones, whether it be three or four seconds of attention before something takes it like you mentioned. It’s a very interesting look at the marketing side of things. Before we kind of wrap up just just to kind of give people a bit of an insight into where they can kind of find your information, digest content from yourself. I know you’re, you’re, you’re big into research, and I’m putting it out there to the masses so they can actually understand it in a way that’s you do really well I kind of like distilling information down so where can people find content from you educational content, your your course links, that sort of stuff.

Menno 44:36

Sure. We’re all social media platforms, I’m gonna name Facebook and Instagram your till now, but we’re actually going to change that we’re going to be on every channel. Pretty much tick tock YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Twitter I used at some point in the past, but I’m gonna get back to it. And the best way to tie it back to marketing, because I know that almost every one of those might be T corpse has not been following me for a podcast or they’ve seen me somewhere note if you follow me for at least a year, often multiple years, and they don’t even remember when they first heard about me. So normally, that’s our approach to marketing and I think that’s for all like high value products is your first offer them a lot of value, a lot of free contents. And then at some point, they are so convinced that they actually buy your your main products. So that’s exactly what we do. And that’s why I have a free newsletter for people that aren’t on a chat. If you just go to Menno Henselmas. First thing we spam in your face is the email box. You can subscribe and it’s absolutely for free. There’s 14 lessons of my most popular high value content. And then at the end, we try to convert you to the big question.

James Rafferty 45:50

I’m interested to hear three quick before you go ahead. I know the content you put out, obviously really enjoy it too. But I mean, and it’s pretty a question if you’re American or going hell, you’re going to take that and put it into a little machine and make  like younger tik tokers look, here’s a longitudinal study about how  muscles grow and that’s, that doesn’t involve dancing or lip syncing.

Menno 46:14

Yeah, well, you’ll see that pretty soon because yeah, we’re going on tick tock probably starting next week. So by the time this is out, probably we are getting our tick tock started. And it’s got to be more clips and shorts and short stuff. Yeah, for sure. For the younger generations limited attention span, but I’m optimistic. I think people still want to learn and there are still people interested in science based information, even if it’s just a few. And in the process. We can also educate a lot of people on like smaller stuff.

James Rafferty 46:42

I love your eternal optimism. The younger Tiktok generation isn’t lost just yet. Man, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time so for everybody listening, this episode I’m recording should be on next week. So if you enjoyed the podcast below you can give it a like give it a share. Follow  Menno’s pages is educational content is second to none so big thank you to men again. And we shall see you all next week. My pleasure.

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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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