How To Tell A Personal Trainer Sucks
by Chris Giblin Men's Fitness
You’re finally going to dish out cash for some extra motivation and guidance in the gym? Here’s how to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.
Make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.
If you need motivation to work out or are trying to get over a training hump, a personal trainer can help. He or she can evaluate your abilities and goals and create a program that works for you, while providing some guidance and accountability. (Think about it: Who wants to waste time in the gym if you’re paying extra for it?)
But if you just got a trainer or are in the market for one, beware. There are a few telltale signs that point to lack of experience—and recognizing them can help you maximize your results (and money) while avoiding frustration and injury. Click through to find out what they are.
This is the biggie. Even if you like a trainer upon meeting him, he comes with glowing recommendations from your buddies, or he’s ripped beyond belief, don’t run up and make yourself his next client just yet. Simply ask about his qualifications. Is he certified by a reputable organization, like the American Council on Exercise or the American Fitness Professionals & Associates? Their programs ensure all certified trainers been taught properly and know all the right techniques.
As personal trainer Mike Duffy puts it, “Many trainers do not have any nutritional training yet give out nutritional advice as though they’re an expert.” So unless he can prove he’s qualified (think: credentials), be wary of a trainer who is pushing you hard on tons of energy drinks, supplements, or shakes. A good trainer won’t step up as a nutrition authority unless he actually is—he’ll simply encourage you to find what works for you or share his personal experiences, saying things like, “This is what does it for me.”
A trainer should show you how to do each exercise properly, plain and simple. Because if you don’t have the right technique, you won’t just risk injury—you’ll also miss out on the engaging all the right muscles, which means lousy results. Make sure your trainer is going into detail about how to do every new exercise, using both words and physical demonstrations. “If your trainer is not explaining how to squat when you’re squatting or how to breathe properly while performing ab work, that’s a bad sign,” says Duffy.
Every body and mind is different, meaning to reach your goal—whether that’s running a marathon or looking cut—you need a plan personalized to you. “An experienced trainer will constantly ask questions to delve deep into what the client wants to get out of the exercise program,” says Duffy. So if you see hear trainer telling a few different people to do similar workouts, it’s not a good sign. In short: “If a trainer doesn’t assess you from the start, don’t hire him,” says Greg Robins, a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA.
If a trainer goes through his clients in a number of months or even weeks, it’s a clue into how much he struggles to motivate them and bring in the results they’re after. So Duffy recommends that you simply ask a potential trainer about his longest-lasting clients. “An experienced trainer will say they have clients for 5, 10, 15 or 20 years,” he says. This is a great way to find out how long the guy’s been around—and it also shows how effective his training style is.
The stereotype of a personal trainer as no-excuses, mean-spirited hardass? It could help you in some cases, but most people have better experiences with a trainer who is firm, but keeps a good attitude and exhibits a positive, strong, pro-active energy. Because think about it: If you’re already getting a trainer, you’re motivated on some level—and don’t need someone screaming at you or putting you down.
We’re not saying you need to tell a potential trainer to rip off his shirt and show off his six-pack before you hire him, but let’s be honest. He should appear pretty fit. “The very best trainers are the ones who live, eat, sleep and breathe health and fitness,” Duffy says. Plus, you won’t be inspired to get in the best shape of your life by someone with a gut, right? And as Duffy puts it: “If you’re going to climb Mt. Everest, are you going to go with a guide who has been there numerous times—or someone who read a book on how you get there?” Enough said.
You’re paying someone to get you fitter than you’ve ever been in your life, so before you hire him, try him out—or at least observe how he works with clients. Is he focusing all his energy on the trainee, or is he chatting with other people and texting his way through the session? A good trainer not only tells you what to do and how to do it—he’s watching you closely and gauging your energy and effort levels throughout. That way, he can adjust your workout to get you the absolute best, and fastest, results possible.