What you’ll learn from this episode
Highlights from the interview
[06:53] – His radical 15-minute training protocol technique that is perfect for training with social distancing while maximizing customers per hour
[18:39] – His training technique that works great with anyone, even the challenging clients with many injury limitations
[38:05] – How much he charges for these 15-minute sessions to see if this concept would work well for your business
[47:06] – How he has transitioned part of his business to be online training and how that online training is almost completely automated
About our Guest
With over 30 years experience in the fitness industry, how he created his radical 15-minute training protocol technique is mind blowing
Today on the show we have Steve McKinney. He has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years.
His accomplishments include placing first as Mr. Southern Illinois, reaching a black belt in Jujitsu, and owning multiple fitness studios in Jujitsu and bootcamp.
He recently started a new personal training gym that uses his 15-minute workout where clients only need to come in for two times a week and see complete body transformation.
Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 15
Kristy: I’m so excited to have you on the show, Steve. How are you doing today?
Steve: I’m doing great.
Kristy: Awesome. Well, I know that you are basically a fitness entrepreneur veteran. You’ve done really well with bodybuilding and now you’re just kind of passing on the information to your clients.
You have your own personal training gym and now you do a lot of online training. So, can you tell me just about what your business looks like, maybe as a recap before what’s happened with Coronavirus?
Steve: Absolutely. So, you said I was a veteran which means I’m a little older. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, probably before I was in Vogue.
I started training people 30 years ago. I remember buying a little ‘How to personally train people’ out of a course in a Reader magazine, in the back. I got that course and just started working from there.
What I did was I started a business years ago in my garage. The local gym closed so I had clients come in and pay a monthly fee, and it got out of control. I’d have 50 clients. There were 50 members and they’re coming in and out of my garage all hours of the day.
I decided then with a small business, to come up with the idea of wanting to prove to people that you didn’t need a ton of equipment to build a good physique.
So, I decided to enter a bodybuilding contest, and actually entered a few. From there, people would come and ask me a lot of questions and that’s where the personal training thing morphed.
I stopped doing the gym membership and just did the one-on-one private training.
My background has always been high intensity training. You probably won’t recognize some of the names, but back in the ’80s there are guys like Mike Mentzer, and then in the ’90s during Nate’s, Arthur Jones, and all these high intensity training protocols and this type of stuff and so what it was, was very short, infrequent, hard workouts.
His radical 15-minute training protocol technique that is perfect for training with social distancing while maximizing customers per hour
[06:53] Steve: I just over the years, built a system. I know this will sound crazy, but I’ve literally done probably 150,000 one-to-one private personal fitness training sessions.
I was doing up to a hundred a week. Once again, I was doing very short workouts. So, one of my niches is a 15-minute workout. I’ve trained a lot of people like that over the years. We also get very good results.
From the garage, three or four years ago, we moved into a bigger place because we also have a Jiu Jitsu school now. I’m a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and so was my son. He kind of runs that side or in the personal training side.
I used a lot of Facebook advertising. I would go around and do a lot of presentations and kind of built the business from there.
Then, I hired some trainers to work with me. I taught them my system. We were really rocking it before the Coronavirus hit. Honestly, we had just moved into a new building, three weeks before this hit.
We had actually taken a lot of our savings and put it into this, so it was pretty devastating.
However, we’re going to recover. I have never overspent. I’ve always been really under the radar as far as budgeting and things like that. So, we’re good in that respect.
We’re going to make it through. We’re dealing with all this stuff that everyone is dealing with at this point. That’s where we’re at right now and then I have a plan moving forward.
Kristy: Yeah. And if I could ask two questions. One is your high intensity training, which as of five years ago seems like a new thing, but it’s been around and you’re seeing it. Is this the same type of HIIT that people are talking about or do you have a different protocol for yours?
Steve: Well, tell me what people are talking about. Which ones are we talking about here?
Kristy: They’re high intensity interval training. Is it different?
Steve: It’s a little bit different. High intensity interval training probably is going to be more like about protocols, 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off with more ballistic type movements.
I have clients that are all the way up to 80 years old so the principles still apply across the board; a body is a body.
My theory on training as a whole is I train people that are generally a bit older.
Here’s what’s interesting. You’ll talk to people about how to train as you age but that’s only theory. You only can learn what you’ve aged. So, people really don’t understand when you’re training clients that are 35 plus.
I have clients that are all the way up to 80 years old so the principles still apply across the board; a body is a body.
The way that I train people is a full body, high intensity workout, one set each set, right at muscular failure, keeping time under load probably around 45 to 60 seconds. No rest in between sets so I can build metabolic momentum or kind of a conditioning factor in the middle of that.
I trained people specifically for strength. Also, the movements are very slow and controlled.
My reasoning for that is, I think that as a trainer, I don’t want to get anybody hurt. The number one thing is obviously to do no harm. So, I combined that and I developed a system over the years.
I’ve written a book called The Three W Approach To Fitness which are weight training, walking, and watching your diet.
I combined that altogether and I have a system. Then, what I do is I take that system and I apply it to people. For example, I explained it to people like this; let’s say that you go and you’re going to buy a suit off the rack. The suit off the rack is general, but we make it individual by sizing the suit to you.
So, my program that I use is general and it works, but I also individualized that meaning that if someone has a tweak here, a knee injury, shoulder injury, those types of things, what I look at is the least amount of exercise to elicit a response; not the most.
I’m looking at the minimalist approach to exercise rather than the maximum.
The reason for that is I’m looking for a return on my investment. I want the best return on my investment. What I mean by that is my exercise investment. So, even myself to this day, I use those particular protocols.
For example, I filmed a video yesterday. My son was training and he’s a pretty good athlete. We did a seven-minute and 52-second workout. It was a high intensity workout. I filmed it and it was just really intense workout.
That’s how I approach my training protocols. Each individual is just that an individual so I apply those things to that particular person. Does that make sense?
Kristy: Yeah, definitely. So, I got that you only do one set for each exercise, 45 to 60 seconds under load. I was wondering, when you do use weights, how heavy then do you go if it’s 45 to 60 seconds?
Steve: Whatever that person can do at that particular moment. For example, I’ll start the person off with my initial session. I’ll take them through and teach them the exercises.
Then, I have a general idea after training so many clients, what a general strength level is. Once I get them kind of just started, I begin to add weight to where they will then fall into that category of muscular failure within a particular time frame.
I try to keep the muscle loaded the whole time constantly using tension. Now, if you have had clients over the years, then obviously you’re going to have to throw some variation.
So, I use a lot of machines. I also use dumbbells, but the reason I use machines is because for example if we’re doing a bench press, you have to learn how to do that. It has somewhat of a skill aspect to it.
You have to learn how to do it properly but with a machine, you set the person in, you get them set up and you show them how to do it, they can actually work hard without worrying about the technique aspect of it. That’s why you use a lot of machines. It creates more efficiency.
Once I get that load and that timeframe set up, I go from there but I also continue after a period of time. I throw in variations because I do think that your body does adapt.
So, I really do like variation in the middle of that. It sounds crazy; short, high intensity workouts, and I know this will sound even kind of crazier as well but I only have two sessions a week. I don’t have them do any more than that.
For example, with athletes and things like that, some of them can only recover from one session per week because of the intensity level. Once again, this is out of the box. This is just different stuff.
And what I look at, I look at exercise as a very inefficient way to lose weight. Most people come to you, and you kind of understand this; they want to lose body fat. They want to feel better. They want to look better. They know exactly what they want, but that’s kind of what it comes down to.
I look at the categories like this. Weight training has one particular reason and that’s to build muscle. It’s just to build strength. One of the number one things for anti-aging is strength.
As people get older, and that starts even in their twenties if they’re not doing anything, they’d begin to decline in strength. So, we need to make sure that we remain strong.
As people get older, and that starts even in their twenties if they’re not doing anything, they’d begin to decline in strength. So, we need to make sure that we remain strong.
When it comes to diet, I know a lot of people will argue against this but I’ll just kind of give you an overview; I look at a caloric intake as a whole to begin with. There’s a point where that stops working and that’s where the individual aspect comes in.
I’ve also written a book on fasting. I’m a big intermittent faster. I’ve been doing that for eight years. I get my blood work checked. A lot of my clients do that. That is a lifestyle.
So, I don’t generally set up diets for people in the long term even though we do start them like that. I generally try to develop lifestyles.
The best way to anti-age is to reduce body fat levels within a reasonable amount, increase your strength levels the best you can, and use walking maybe 30 minutes a day.
If people want to go outside of that, it’s fine, but that is just my general approach. I have a private page on results and I just get people results all the time. I’ve literally had three people just this week who started the program, texting me with different results that they’re getting in. I always tell them, the program never fails.
It just works. After doing it for a period of time, you kind of get an idea of that.
Kristy: That’s really interesting. I actually haven’t met anyone who does a 15-minute workout, that’s why I’m extra curious. I think that really appeals to people.
For the 45 to 60 seconds time under tension, is that about 15 to 20 reps?
Steve: It just depends on how fast your reps go. So, I kind of use like a three-second up, three-second downs. Then, you’re looking at about 10 reps per exercise; 8 to 10 right there because you’re looking at 48 to 60 seconds in that particular time. A lot of times though, I do a lot of freestyle.
Actually some of my equipment is archaic. I have some old Nautilus equipment from the 70s and 80s but I love it because the force curves are really harsh and they’re hard. That’s what I want. I want the exercise to be hard, not easy.
Let’s say I have people in a particular movement and they get five reps and they haven’t made it to where we want them. I can do a drop set, type set, or an isometric hold in the middle of that.
There are a lot of variations that I can make on the fly to keep them in that particular range.
With a lot of my clients, one of the things I’ve been experimenting with recently is more type of contraction, which is isometric training but kind of pushing against an object. Not just holding it but pushing against an object that doesn’t move. I got a piece of equipment that actually measures pounds per square inch in the middle of that.
So, I get clients that have a knee injury. What I am able to do is work outside of the joint pain, still increase muscle and strength and help rehabilitate those injuries while we go through the process.
Does that make sense?
Kristy: Yeah. Well, I’d love to see the isometric one pushing against an object. That sounds really interesting because when I had my gym, there were so many older clients that did come in; or not even older, like they just had so many injuries. The trainers who train them would say, “I’m not sure what to do with them.” And I was like, “I don’t want you to hurt them.”
So, I think a lot of trainers could use a technique like that.
His training technique that works great with anyone, even the challenging clients with many injury limitations
[18:39] Steve: Absolutely. We train outside of the pain zone. For example, let’s say someone has a knee problem, I can do that type-static contraction or I can work outside of the zone where there’s pain.
Maybe we’re near the extended part of a leg press and we’re only moving four to six inches. We’re doing that in a very slow way and there’s no joint pain, but if you go seven inches, you’re hitting that joint pain area.
You want to stay outside of that zone. That’s one thing that I try to do with clients if we can’t get any movement at all.
A lot of people I have come in overweight, and what happens is I would have to ask, “Where’s your joints down at?”, “Where’s your knees down?” So, I’m able to train people and put off the replacements for periods of time.
One lady I trained for 10 years was supposed to get a knee replacement. We were able to keep that from happening. We just extended it by adding muscle and she felt fine with that. We were adding strength without her working outside of the pain zone.
I have a whole bunch of just different things that I do after either training with people for a long period of time and just learning things. I’m kind of a geek when it comes to this stuff. I’m just studying it.
I have a lot of clients that are physicians and so I’ll be able to kind of learn things from them as we go.
Kristy: So, could you give me a quick example? Let’s say a lot of people come in with lower back pain, you mentioned that you do exercises where they just push against something, then what would that look like?
Steve: I actually have a gym. It’s called 1REP GYM. I would have to show you a picture of what it’s like. It does 10 different exercises. What it does is it measures pounds per square inch on a meter.
So, I put a person at a particular angle, then I find that angle that doesn’t hurt the joint and then I’m able to work in that particular area, measure their results, record their results, and bring them back the next time to see if they get stronger.
It’s really interesting how it all plays out. Let’s say that a client has back pain. Some people have disc problems and things like that. You have to be super careful. I use a foam roller just to kind of pinpoint what’s going on.
Most of the time, what you’ll find is that with foam rolling, you’ll be able to narrow down some trigger points, and most of the time they’re in the glutes.
So, I’ll roll that person out right when they come in just to see how they respond. Generally what you’ll see is like, “Oh my gosh. I feel much looser, like much less pain just from that simple rolling position.”
Because what your body is doing is trying to protect that particular area by tightening up the muscles around it. I’ll use that, but sometimes I directly go after that back pain.
For example, isometric or time static contraction, deadlifts seem to work outside of the pain zone and seem to build the surrounding muscle in those areas. Personally, I started using those types of exercises about a year ago and I have had some low back pain.
It has helped my low back pain incredibly. I feel more stable in it.
Kristy: So, you’re saying you’re doing some deadlifts and kind of just holding it at different angles?
Steve: You do hold it, but you also pull against the resistance. There’s a difference between isometric, which is holding, and time static contraction, which is intentionally pulling against the resistance for a period of time. Does that make sense?
So, let’s say that I put my hands in front of me and I begin to push my palms together. As I push my palms together, I instruct my clients to start slow. I increased the intensity a bit, and then I have them go as hard as they dare for a particular amount of time teaching them what ‘as hard as you dare’ means so that they’re safe in the middle of their movements.
Kristy: Right. So the isometric is basically pushing against their own muscle. That’s the tension, right? When you’re isometric, you’re kind of pushing your muscles against each other?
Steve: When you’re isometric, you’re holding; when you’re static contracting, you’re pushing against the muscles. So, there are two different ways to go about it. Isometric hold would be like holding 20 pound dumbbells in your hand for as long as you can. Does that make sense?
Time static contraction would be like, I’m overloading and I’m pulling as hard as I possibly can for a period of time.
Kristy: In a direction.
Steve: I have a machine and it measures the pounds per square inch. You literally get 100% effort. It’s one of the only ways that you can measure that particular effort because all other measurements are subjective.
This is one objective measure that I can look at and say, “Boom. I am hitting this at a hundred percent. Now I’m seeing how my body responds to it.”
I was reading a book the other day. It was called “A Minimalist Approach To Exercise” by John Little. It is an excellent read, but he just talks about measurements after training on when muscle peaks. What he finds is that muscle peaks not immediately. It takes days for the muscle to grow.
I think his training protocols are probably once a week. Doug McGuff, who’s written Body By Science, he’s also doing maybe once every five to seven days. I find that two days a week seems to work pretty well for people, and so that seems to work best for my clientele.
Kristy: Do all of your clients do 15 minutes?
Steve: Yeah. It’s kind of a general guideline, but the answer is yes.
The comments that I get over and over and over again is, “I’ve never felt anything like this.”
It’s always interesting. It’s like people come in, and it’s like, “Oh, 15 minutes isn’t gonna work for me.” So, it’s always fun to take someone to actual muscular failure with intentional muscular contractions and keeping the weight loaded the whole time.
Literally within the first two exercises, you can see the look on people’s faces.
The comments that I get over and over and over again is, “I’ve never felt anything like this.” But it’s just targeting muscles. It’s just learning how to go about things. It’s just applying that particular principle to people.
Kristy: Yeah. I have one more question about isometric pushing. If somebody hears this and thinks, “Oh my God, I have a client and this is what I need to do with them.” But they don’t have your tool where they can measure it? Can they just use a wall?
Steve: Definitely. I use the floor. I took someone through a full isometric. I’ll give you an example right now where you’re sitting, okay?
Let’s say that you would take the palms of your hands and put them outside of your legs, right near the knee. And what I’m going to have you do is I’m going to have you act like you’re going to open your legs up, but what I want you to do is slowly begin to push, but don’t let the legs move and just push it about 50% of what you could do.
Do you feel that a little bit? Okay, so I have them hold that for about 10 seconds. And then I have you go to about, let’s say 75% or medium of what you can do. So, you’re kicking that up just a little from there.
Now what I want you to do is we’re going to go as hard as we can go, as hard as we dare for about 30 seconds, and so you’re going to feel your upper body.
You can use a belt if you don’t have one, I’m just doing this because we don’t have anything, but as you begin to do that, do you feel the tension on the outside of the legs, the hips? And you do that as hard as you dare for 30 seconds. What you’ll find is immediately you’ll feel like your heat, the heat in your body rises.
And so, there’s all kinds of ways to go about that.
Kristy: Yeah. Incredible. For your 15-minute workouts, do you have them come in earlier? This is blowing my mind.
Steve: I love it.
I love the fact that it’s blowing people’s minds. No, I have people come in the door.
We set you up, and I start them. I have an old school Nautilus clamshell machine and it just isolates your abs. So, what I do is I start a person on that app. I don’t get people in, I don’t warm them up because that is my warmup. So I start them with a particular movement. I’ll have them begin and go very, very slowly.
Three seconds to the contracted position, three seconds hold, three seconds back, keeping tension on the muscle the whole time. I take them right at muscular failure. Let’s say that I’m taking you through. I get you to that end. I’m watching cause I can kind of read what’s going on.
Then I have you do that hold at the end. I may do a five-second, I may do a ten-second hold. And right when you get to that and you’ll be like, “Whoa! That felt interesting.” Then we go immediately to, let’s say I do a V-Bar pull-down.
So, I go from abdominal pull down, same thing, three seconds down, intentional contraction by trying to almost pull the bar into your chest, driving your elbows back, acting like the weights on the back of your elbow, squeezing your upper back as you do it.
I come back up to the top, make sure it’s a really smooth turnaround. Then I go back down the next movement, I’ll take them to a Nautilus chest press and I’ll do the same. So I go push-pull, and go from there. And then when people get more advanced, I could do bodybuilding routines of back and biceps.
I could do a lot of variables in the middle of that. If I’m breaking it down, I train it so that when people get more advanced, I’ll do chest and triceps Monday; back and biceps on Thursday; the next Monday I’ll do legs. And I have all kinds of tools that I use to target those particular muscle groups, and I do a lot of variables in the middle of that.
Does that make sense?
Kristy: Yeah. So, you’re mentioning your programming, do you break up one set of muscle groups per day?
Steve: I actually generally start people with a full body. We generally do two full bodies per week. After a period of time, then we begin to look at things and say, “Hey, here’s where we’re at.” I’ve had people with me for 20 years, so I throw a lot of variables in to keep that particular way of training fresh.
Kristy: Yeah. I don’t know if I’m reading into this correctly, since you’re getting to real muscle, exhaustion, fatigue, and that’s the key, right? They stay through it. And I think a lot of us, even as trainers do, if we’re not with someone who’s pushing us, it’s that hard to stick through it.
Steve: You’re absolutely right.
Can people get the same results if they’re going to try to do the 15-minute workout on their own?
Kristy: So is it hard for people to do? Let’s just say we’re just talking in general to do this type of protocol correctly. You really do that fatigue for 15 minutes without a trainer.
Do you find that they don’t get the same results if they’re trying to do it on their own?
Steve: I personally can do it. But I also will have my son come in and train me at times as well. But no, you are absolutely correct.
That is hard to do on your own. And generally, if people are on their own, I’d generally say, do your best to go to failure, but you might want to add a second set. The routine might be a little longer for you.
But like I said, with my clients and having as many clients as I’ve had and the results that I’ve gotten over the years, the protocol really does work.
And once again, I’m not just locked into a 15-minute workout. It’s kind of a bit of a niche market, a bit of a selling point. But it’s just what I’m looking at is how can we, in a busy world, reduce the time spent in the gym, still get great results and go from there.
And once again, I think a lot of people like to use exercise to burn calories and that’s fine for me.
What happens as you begin to age is, you don’t want to wear your joints out. And I attribute that to proper strength training without scorching my joints in the middle of everything.
What happens as you begin to age is, you don’t want to wear your joints out. And so, there’s a lot of protocols that work, and I’m not against any of those types of things, but what I’m looking at is I’m 59 years old. I still can train hard. I still do Jiu Jitsu.
And I attribute that to proper strength training without scorching my joints in the middle of everything.
So, if I’m doing ballistic movements, power cleans and presses and things like that, that’s going to wear your joints out over a period of time. If people want to do it, I’m not criticizing anyone’s programs.
I’m just saying that here’s what I have found to work the best and to keep people strong for the rest of their life.
I try to tell people we’re going to develop a lifestyle. For example, we’re going to develop a lifestyle of eating. I don’t like putting people on diets, but I develop lifestyles to be there and listen to. The bottom line is it’s always going to be calories in, calories out, no matter how we cut that.
It still comes in down to that, but how do you apply that? What does that look like in the real world? And that’s how I approach those particular things.
Kristy: That’s really cool. And then this is going to sound like a funny question because I asked about the warmup, but after the 15-minute, do they stay in stretch on their own after?
Steve: I don’t particularly see a need for stretching, but some people do. If people want to stretch, I have a machine that they can use. Most people opt not to stretch. The reason for that is all I’m trying to do with my clients is build strength throughout a full range of motion. And that’s the most important thing.
So, they’re strong throughout a whole range of motion. Stretching can be fine if it’s needed. For most people, if it feels good, great. If you need it for joint health, great. But it’s just not one of the things that I use as a protocol.
Once again, I’m outside the box all the time.
Kristy: That’s really interesting.
Steve: Well, if you think about stretching, here’s my thing. Honestly, this is just the question I have. “What is my point? Why do I need to stretch other than someone telling me to stretch?” I don’t do anything that people tell me. I just figure out what’s gonna work for me.
How is this going to apply to my clients? And then I go from there. So yeah, if a person’s a martial artist, they probably need some more flexibility.
But for the average person that you’re training, and that’s, most of us have average clients, If they want to stretch, they can, but it’s not like the most important thing in the world because it doesn’t apply to real life.
What applies to real life? What’s functional is to be strong throughout a full range of motion and every exercise that you can, keeping your joints safe and healthy, not breaking them down.
And then the reason I only do two days a week is because once you stimulate a muscle, what you want that muscle to do is compensate, but not only compensate, you want it to overcompensate or get stronger.
And so that’s the whole goal. Once again, building strength. Most of the time what I find with people is they train often enough to recover so they can do their next exercise, but not infrequently enough to get stronger, if that makes sense.
Kristy: I want to do a pull up. I have barely made any progress on that. I’ve done different things. But then if I don’t see progress, I’m just doing this on my own. I feel like that would apply.
Steve: Correct. And I’m terrible at pull-ups, but I still try them. I’ve been actually working on them recently, and so if I want a client to do a pull up, there’s all kinds of ways that I go about it, but I might just start with negative onlys.
And it might just do negatives, or it might do inverted rows to begin with because we’re working that same muscle group. Or I might grab a dip bar over my head and do seated pull-ups with just a dip or to begin to do that. But yeah, with that thought process is like after time you’ll be able to do a pull up.
But it is a challenge for ladies because of the upper body strength. And I think a lot of times, you just have to find what kind of fits you in the middle of that. But I like that goal. I want to do a pull up. I love it. I always tell clients, we’ve got to have goals. We’ve got to have goals.
It’s super duper important.
Kristy: Yeah. But it sounds like you’re saying the way to approach it would be to build up through it with a way to fatigue, but then to allow my shoulder muscles to recover or my back.
Steve: Yes, absolutely. Because obviously with a pull up, the weak link is going to be biceps.
For me, even as a competitive bodybuilder, my biceps are always weak. My back was good, but my biceps weren’t. And so, I really have to work hard at getting even, even in my best days, 12 pull-ups was hard.
The odd thing about pull-ups for me is that I have found that I would be able to get six to eight reps with my body weight, and then I would add a 25-pound weight and still be able to get that same six to eight reps, which is very odd, but it does.
Kind of give you an idea of muscle fiber typing from there on when you get fatigued. You know what I’m saying? There might be a fast twitch that causes fatigue in a particular amount of time.
Kristy: Okay, cool. Well, that was really interesting. And I think a lot of trainers, we’re assuming we’re in the normal times.
So, this could be an incredible way to address older market demographics and people who are busy.
How much he charges for these 15-minute sessions to see if this concept would work well for your business
[38:05] Kristy: How do you price this? How would you usually charge for 15 minutes and how many sessions usually sell?
Steve: I generally look at the approach of training for when I’m bringing a client in.
We look at a 12-week program that has a start and ending program on that particular client. Then we set goals for them. And generally in 12 weeks, if you do it properly, you’ll be able to lose anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds of pure body fat and maybe based on the client, maybe gain a little bit of muscle, or just maintain muscle because the truth is after 40, it’s hard to, unless you’ve never trained before, you’re not going to gain a lot of muscle.
The truth is just if you’ve trained for any length of time you’re trying to hold on to muscle. So anyway, with that said, in my area, I charged $30 for 15 minutes. That’s how I approach it.
And I think it’s very reasonable. It’s a win-win for my business; it’s a win-win for the client and it’s a very doable program.
Kristy: And from your experience, since you have more clients in a shorter amount of time, how do you schedule them? Do you do one session and then another person or do you have like breaks.
Steve: I go right after it. We got a block of time, let’s get it in. And I find that once you get a rhythm, it works so much better. And there’ll be breaks in the middle, obviously, but I’d like to go back to back. So, when you’re looking at four clients in an hour, you can figure the math on how that works.
I know we have a pretty good business model. Before the ban, we were actually at our best month. But once again, social proof is the key. And what you’re looking for is results. You have to be able to get people results.
And I know the big thing now for a lot of gyms is bootcamps. I just don’t like it, I’m kind of an introverted person. And so, I like that one-to-one interaction there, that works really well for me. I am also real kind of anal about how things should be done. So, I want to make sure that the client is doing that.
Those particular exercises, like you said, they can’t do it on their own, you want to make sure that they’re doing those particular exercises correctly and they’re getting the results that they’re after.
And so that’s why I just do and it’s a bit more work, not having a group in the return is not as great, but I just think it’s the right thing for me personally.
And so I would rather do the right thing to make more money, if you know what I’m saying?
Kristy: Yeah. It seems like it works perfect for how you like to train, your personality, your interaction. So, then that brings me to today.
Now, I know that you just had to close your gym and I’m so sorry. I’m so worried about all the small businesses.
Steve: But it’s good. Listen, here’s the thing. I just keep the attitude, we’re going to make it one way or another. We have to figure it out. I have trainers but I had to lay them off. That was the hardest part. And it should be hard when you’re an employer and you have to lay off somebody that should hurt that, if you care about people, that should be an issue.
I had to stop my advertisers and the whole nine yards, so that’s heartbreaking. But it’s also wise. And we’re always going to go through. I’ve been through a crisis. We’ve been through it all. And so my thought process in the middle of this is I’m going to figure it out. If I have to go back to work and do the appointments, we’ll figure it out.
I did 30 years of this. Here’s the beauty of being a trainer, you have something that people need. Yes, we’re going to lose some clients, that’s going to be part of this whole thing, but once they need you, and you work together well, you still have a business model.
I went from having a great month to zero, I literally stopped everyone’s payments. I said “We’re shutting the gym down and so I’m stopping everyone’s payments.”
Then I would reach out to people individually and say, “Hey, look, I’m going to do some online work. And if you want to be in on this, let me know.”
And most people are like, “Nah, I think I’m going to wait.” But you also have a lot of people who are going to try it. So, then I started developing protocols with online work. It’s doing body weight or dumbbells only, staying within the same confines though.
What I do is 15-minute workouts, staying within that particular principle. For instance, today this week’s theme has been legs. So, doing leg work with people. It’s time static contraction, isometric exercise, using dumbbells, all those things, but we’re targeting legs. And that’s how I approach my online program.
I don’t know how many I have now, but what I’m going to do now is I’m going to actually start scheduling them because they’re kind of random. I got one here, one there.
So now, I have enough where I’m going to start scheduling these particular clients at this particular time, and see where it goes from there.
And then I have an online program I used, we just used Teachable for it, where people can buy six to 12 week programs, that we filmed a couple of years where I worked with a guy, Steven, and he is an online coach and he helped me. He just said, take everything you do in your brick and mortar business and put it online. That has been really, really helpful.
So, I brought in a videographer. We invested big in it and my son and I did work out since we have the whole system together that people can just go through. I mean, everything that I would do with people they could purchase that particular program.
And then there’s even the option, because I don’t do a lot of private coaching, but I will do some private coaching, which obviously is a little higher priced in the middle of that.
So, that’s how we’re approaching things at this particular point in time.
Kristy: Okay, so the teachable is a six to 12 week program where people sign up and they get the videos, but they don’t get one-on-one with you unless they sign up additionally for some type of program.
Steve: Correct. What happens is if they want that initial phone call, they can talk to me, but here’s what’s been interesting. I’ve got it set up to where people can talk to me, but actually I found it really interesting. No one really talks to me and I was like, “What is going on?”
But the program is really explained well cause I reach out to people, “Hey, I just saw you bought my program. Is there anything I can help you with?” And they say, “No, I’m good.”
I kind of understand it. And then I have a private VIP group on Facebook and anybody who signs up for anything that I do, I put them in that private group. And then in that private group I shoot videos nearly every day. I just uploaded that short, high intensity workout that I do with my son yesterday.
I’ll shoot, for example, right now people are dealing with emotional eating, that’s a big deal. People who are stuck at home are dealing with emotional eating and I’m just talking to them. I shot a video on food addictions and what we do and how we try to control our moods through food. Always educating people.
And then every Friday, what I call check-in Friday, where I post a form to where people can fill out, how they’ve done, what week they’re in, how much weight they’ve lost, why or why not have they lost that weight. And then if they do need a response, they can send me a message and I can respond from there.
So, everything is put into a system where it’s all set up. And then we celebrate wins for people. Somebody just contacted me with that online program. I talked to them yesterday and they said they’re down 19.7 pounds. I think they’re at the eight week point.
And we just ask them “Well, what has your experience been?” And they said, “This is not as complicated. Everything I do is very, very simple. And this is very doable,” or “It’s not as complicated as I thought it would be.
It doesn’t kill my body.” I think that like in training, you have to treat your body gently so that you can go for a long period of time.
How he has transitioned part of his business to be online training and how that online training is almost completely automated
[47:06] Kristy: So, you have two online programs, right? Like, well, technically one is an online training program where they just get videos and another is one-on-one virtual training.
Steve: Virtual training. Yeah. And I don’t do a lot of those, a lot of people one-on-one, when they just buy the videos though, a lot of people need the coaching with that. They need a weekly phone call, a weekly check in, and because of time constraints, I do three or four of those a month, but everyone else goes into the VIP group and there’s no charge on that.
I just put people in there and it’s just a way to build a community and to keep people engaged and things like that.
I also have a free giveaway on Teachable where I give away a free workout to introduce people to what I do. .
Kristy: So the main thing during normal times has been this video program, right? The six to 12-week video program. And then they jump in and if they want more like a private coaching. What are the prices for those two programs?
Steve: I have the six-week program at $299 and the other one at $599 and then the private one, I just do that privately with people. That’s a higher price tag there.
Kristy: And let’s just say some trainers want to do that, what would you suggest or what has worked for you for the private coaching?
Steve: You mean like how do you price that or how do you do? Well, once again, it’s built off a platform of what I already have. And so when you’re adding that private coaching, you might want to look at doubling your prices there simply because you’re working with people in a one-on-one type of a setting.
And so, you kind of want to coach people through, you want to talk to them, you want to see where they’re at. Then you want to also suggest to people, “Hey, listen, this may not be a good fit for you.”
For some people it’s a good fit. Maybe this program works better for you. So you want to try to make sure that you’re finding the right program for the right person and all that.
And there were a lot of people who’s like, “Listen, I just want you to get me results. What can I do?” It sounds crazy, but when you’re talking to people and when you’re meeting them once a week, it’s really just a short phone call.
That was her question, and I’m like, “No. You’re not having cravings, you’re hungry. So you got to embrace that hunger.”
For example, I had a lady who recently purchased a higher priced program. She called me and she said, “Hey, I’m doing really, really well, but I have cravings.” And she said, “Could I grab some almonds in the middle of those cravings?” That was her question, and I’m like, “No. You’re not having cravings, you’re hungry. So you got to embrace that hunger.”
And so just answering that one question is how people get results. You have to embrace the grind of it. And so having a coach to say, “Hey, how are we doing this week?” That is just maybe a week I give them access to call me as needed. And then I schedule that one time a week call.
Kristy: Okay. Yeah. So you were saying that, if they want, a more connection with you in that weekly coaching call, maybe double the price.
So let’s say, $600 or $1,200 for the 1-week program. They get a weekly call, and then they have the opportunity if they need to, they could call you or text you if they’re having a concern.
Steve: I know a lot of people spend so much money on fitness. They do. They just spend a ton of money on things that just don’t work.
And so when you get a client at the end of 12 weeks, who’s dropped 25 pounds of body fat, who feels better, that’s priceless to them.
Kristy: Yeah, that’s absolutely priceless. What about this one-on-one training? I know, with the recent change of events, that’s even more important.
Have you really leaned into that?
Steve: I’m not going to do a whole lot more of those, but I do have some clients. I could if I wanted to, but I just really don’t want to, I’m busy with other things at this point as well, but I have a pretty good base and I kind of stay with that particular base. If everything stays in the same direction, then I might have to come up with an idea to kind of go from there.
So, I haven’t reached out to a ton of people. I may have 10 or 12 clients right now, which isn’t bad. And so, we’re doing that. And then we’re also using the pre-made program as well. We’re going with both of those particular programs.
Kristy: Yeah. Do you charge about the same amount for your 15-minute sessions?
Steve: Everything’s the same. I haven’t changed anything. Yeah. Because they’re getting the same programs.
Kristy: For both of these, is there a specific way you’re getting clients mainly for the online program? How do you get people interested?
Steve: Yes, I’m using Facebook organically. That’s one thing. Giving away free stuff all the time. We are doing a lot of posts right now. Everybody’s out there doing stuff, everything is virtual, so you’re swimming amongst the sharks, so to speak.
But over the years, I’ve got a pretty good following. And so, I still post things regularly. And then I give a little bit of a call to action for people who want to move in that direction. That’s I think the best way to go at this particular time.
And once again, I learned a lot from a guy that I worked with, Stephen, where you’re online he’s very, very helpful. A lot of trainers can go into his program and he gives us a lot of content for free just to help people get set up for the online training.
Kristy: Yeah. Actually, Stephen was on the show, I saw he was your friend. So yeah, he has a lot of good content out there about how to get your online program going.
Steve: Yeah, he’s a good guy. He’s a really good guy. He’s the guy who helped me kind of set everything up to begin with, and he just gave me that one thought of, take everything you do in your brick and mortar and put it online. Then what I did from there was I tried it and then, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m getting all kinds of results online for people.”
It works perfectly. The follow along was great. It was really, really simple.
Kristy: Yeah. I did have a question for the videos, to create your videos, how much did it cost to put together your online website and how much time?
Steve: Oh man, I don’t even remember back then. It’s been over a year ago. And I just hired a guy to come in and do it.
But off the top of my head, I just don’t recall. You can honestly, you could probably get away with it just using an iPhone. Yeah. But the guy that came in, he had a GoPro and had all kinds of angles and lighting and the whole nine yards. So he was pretty good. He was one of our buddies, but he was pretty good with it.
Kristy: About how much time then did it take you to put them together?
Steve: It took us a lot of time and the reason was we were actually doing workouts and we did dumbbells and body weight, so when you’re doing a workout, I started off by myself.
Then I brought my son in cause I’m like, “Oh, these are going to be super hard.” So I trained him. And then he would train me, and then we’d try and get an extra one in. But you have a lot of fatigue from, so we would generally film about two a week.
And that’s kind of how we went about it. And I filmed six months worth of content, so I haven’t even released a second amount yet. We just have the first 12 weeks.
Kristy: Oh, wow. So what about your number of members that you get signing up a month? How many do you usually have?
Steve: Oh. Just on the online, I haven’t pushed it a lot but I think I had four or five sign ups last month, which isn’t bad.
I mean our primary source of income is our one-to-one in house, but now we’re getting more people signing up from that. So, if we get up to 10 a month, I think that would be great. It’s just a matter of staying with it in the middle of everything else that’s going on and just continuing to market and go from there.
But right now, when everything hits pause, I was actually doing advertising online. I was trying to build that up. I was actually using paid Facebook ads for it but we stopped, so now I’m trying to figure out which way is the best way to go about it.
Kristy: Did you stop because it was getting expensive?
Steve: I stopped because we didn’t have any income coming in to pay for the ads anymore. You know what I’m saying? Yeah. Facebook advertising is very expensive stuff. But I had an advertiser that did the work for me. Because once again, being busy, it’s not my niche figuring out how to do those things.
So, I use people over the years to help me do those. And that really helped build my business.
Kristy: Yeah. So you were saying that you were doing Facebook ads for your brick and mortar business and not your online training business?
Steve: I did both.
Kristy: All right. I think that’s just really helpful information for anyone who was thinking about putting their programming online. And then I actually just had one more question because I know you mentioned that, you seem like a relaxed guy but, a lot of other people are just pulling their hair out and they’re worried.
But it sounds like you said that you set up your new gym, which I know you said you just opened in a way where you can get through it.
Could you tell me, just like some numbers when opening your gym? Because I threw a lot of money at opening my gym, and it was expensive. And I’m always just curious with the different ways people have approached it and what it ended up costing them.
Steve: Well, we actually bought a building and I had never done that before, that was about $150,000.
That was our investment. And so right now, with that said, I’m doing everything I can to keep that moving forward. But I also had saved a lot of money. I had enough money for a down payment. I had enough money for a few months in the gym in case something like this happened.
And so, we’re able to make it, at least at this point, make it through. And the other part of that too is, I don’t know what’s going to happen. We may not make it through, so I don’t really know.
But also I give an example of last Friday, I also went to church, by the way, so that’s why I’m busy with a lot of different things.
Kristy: Sure. That makes sense.
Steve: So last Friday, I was going through, trying to get the loans for the paycheck protection program, and it was so stressful. I didn’t have the proper documentation. I just felt all this stress. And I thought to myself, you know what? I’m not going to live with my life like this.
I’m not even gonna worry about this stuff. I’m going to leave it alone and see if it comes back to me. Because we didn’t have the paperwork, I couldn’t get a hold of anyone. So I just, I stopped it. And then, I have a meeting today that actually my banker contacted me and asked me to come in and meet with him.
And so it’s kind of coming back around for me to see what happens and if we get that program, great. If we don’t, that’s okay too. If we make it, if business comes back and I believe that we’re going to come back. But if we don’t, there’s not much we can do about those particular things at this point in time.
And so for me, I’m just trying to keep my faith alive and keep my hope alive but I also understand that the reality of this is very, very heavy. I will say that’s how I’m going to make it, that’s my mindset. I’m going to figure it out.
I started in my garage with nothing. If I have to start again with nothing, I’m good with that. Yeah, we’ll figure it out. So that’s my mindset.
Kristy: Well, I think that sounds like a good mindset and I think that’s really all we can do. So, I think that works. And you mentioned that you bought the building.
Did you have to put a lot of money in like the buildout to get it ready as a gym?
Steve: We did a ton of work, but I had a lot of gym guys, we have such a good community. We just came in and people were so helpful. We have a good Jiu Jitsu school as well.
Now, the hardest part was moving the gym equipment. That was the hardest part. But, I honestly did not have to use a ton of money with that. Obviously. It really wasn’t more than a few thousand dollars.
Kristy: Oh, that’s awesome.
Steve: Yeah, so we were really fortunate in that respect. But once again, we’re in the middle of this thing and so you’re going, “Whoa. My timing was about three weeks too soon,” because we’re just three weeks in and we have to shut down.
Kristy: Yeah, I know. And I’m so sorry to hear that, but we’re going to stay positive like you said. And it sounds like you’re online programming is going really well. And, I’m really interested in seeing how that goes, because I think it’s a unique product within 15 minutes.
Steve: I know. It’s like I said, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, there’s no way that could work.” But, well, I’ll send you some of my results once I get the chance.
Kristy: I’ve seen them and it’s fantastic. So actually, I wanted to ask you, I think a lot of people are going to look this up.
I know that you’ve kind of pioneered a lot of this from what you’re talking about, but is there a term besides high intensity training since that’s a lot of people can use that word if they want to search for books on this. Is there a word for that?
Steve: Let me give you a few authors that I love. I got Ellington Darden, one of my favorites.
I actually spent $500 to go to his home and talk to him just because he was someone on my bucket list. I was in Florida. I sent him a message and because I’ve read, he’s written 70 books or so, and he’s just, he’s really good with what he does. And so I was able to go in, he trained me. The workout took about eight to 10 minutes, trained me in his home, super high intensity training. So he is excellent with that.
John Little’s another one. Doug McGuff, also a guy named Drew Bay who’s got his site. There’s a lot of, it’s kind of a movement there. There’s actually a guy named Lawrence Neil who does high intensity podcasts. And we’re all in this community because it’s something that we all love in the middle of what we’re doing.
So, there’s a ton of people out there who do this. It’s just not real mainstream at this point. And some people use half-hour sessions once a week. It just depends on the person and what they’re doing.
Kristy: Yeah. Okay. Thank you for that. I will definitely look them up and I think our listeners learned so much from you and your experience on this 15-minute workout.
So thank you so much for your time and I really hope that we all get it open and you could open your gym once again.
If anybody wants to reach out to you, how can they reach you?
Steve: So do I. It’s a pleasure speaking with you.
Kristy: Thanks so much, Steve.