Choosing a Personal Fitness Trainer

Posted by Nathan Jackson on

Does Your Personal Fitness Trainer Know What They’re Doing?

I realize that I can’t write an article to answer every question that a client might have.  I also realize that not every person that I come across or who reads my blog will have a chance to work with me and have many of their questions answered.  Many of you all ready work with a personal trainer or are looking to work with one.  So how do you know they know what they’re doing?  If a personal trainer is any good they’ll at least interview you before they work with you.  If a CLIENT is any good they’ll do the same and interview their trainer.  So what do you ask?  What makes a good trainer?

I can tell you right now that I have very high standards in what a personal fitness trainer should know and so should you.  After all, this is YOUR BODY!  You only have one and you must always remember that every single thing you put your body through has a reaction or consequence to it.  Those choices and consequences are either making you better or worse, plain and simple.  For those of you who work with me or have read some of my past blogs you know that the moves you do or don’t do today can incrementally build up and cause injuries in the future and you won’t even know it unless you’re testing yourself and/or working with a good personal fitness trainer. 

What Makes a Good Trainer?

So here’s what you need to ask yourself or your current or prospective personal fitness trainer:

Do You Like Them?

This is honestly the most important factor.  If they don’t give you a good vibe, get along with you, adjust to your needs, motivate you, and educate you then what are you doing with them?

What’s Their Plan?

  After discussing your goals with them they should be very clear with you as to what you need to do and what they’re going to do with you.  I don’t mean they have to give you a detailed 12-month plan down to every exercise, set, rep, weight, etc., but more along the lines of, “If you want to achieve _____ then for the first 3 weeks we’re going to be focusing on __________ by taking you through _______ and teaching you ______.  For cardio I want you doing _____, but if you experience any elements of effort then we’re going to adjust by doing ______.” 

Formal Education

Ask them if they have a degree in Exercise Science.  If the trainer doesn’t even have a basic college degree in Exercise Science then that says many things about them.  One, they aren’t taking their career seriously.  This is a hobby for them and they only think they have a clue.  They most likely don’t even know basic anatomy, physiology, or applied kinesiology.  If they couldn’t even put in the four years to get the basic level of education of Exercise Science, what makes you think that that their certifications they got over the weekend and their “experience” can fill that gap?  It can’t.  By far, a degree in Exercise Science doesn’t make a good trainer, but it’s a fundamental start.

Accredited Certifications

Ask them if they have accredited certifications from NSCA, ACSM, NASM, ACE, CHEK Institute, or RTS.  Again, while this education doesn’t necessarily make them a good trainer, it shows that they went through a well established and credible organization for personal training.  All certifications outside of these organizations are referred to as “weekend certifications” by our industry.  They’re cheap and easy to get.  All you have to do is show up.  Anyone with half a brain could get them.  If your trainer has a long list of certifications and none of the above are listed then move on.

Test Their Knowledge

I’m going to list some questions and comments to run across your trainer and if they give ANY of the listed answers then I would find another trainer.  Any trainer that views the body as one functioning unit that gives us constant feedback and must be treated as such will agree with me.  Any trainer that doesn’t subscribe this understanding will not.

1.   Q.  I run a lot and my IT Band is killing me.  What should I do?

A.  Let’s use a foam-roll on them, then some static stretching.

2.  Q.  What’s the best way to lose weight?

 A.  Cardio and eating less calories.

3.  Q.  I want to get toned, but not get bigger or bulkier.

A.  Let’s do light weights with lots of reps!

4.  Q.  What kind of cardio should I do?

A.  Long, slow cardio at the heart rate that’s your “fat burning” zone.

5.  Q.  This workout is really pushing me.  I’m going to be hurting tomorrow.

A.  That’s good!  That’s how you should feel to get results.

6. Q.  I have bad posture.  My neck is forward and my shoulders are rounded.  What should I do?

A.  Let’s foam-roll and stretch your chest (pec) muscles and upper back muscles to relieve tension then strengthen your back.

7.  Q.  My back hurts.  What should I do?

A.  Let’s foam-roll and stretch your back and do more ab exercises.

Don’t Be Lured By Shiny Trinkets

Many popular trainers, especially the ones on TV, have professional websites, scores of testimonials, endorsements by celebrities and doctors, “studies” showing how much effective their product or technique works, and “individualized” diet and exercise plans printed on really nice charts based on “rigorously” designed evaluations all supported by “science”.  This is marketing folks, plain and simple.  The best trainers out there aren’t on TV and don’t have enough resources for marketing campaigns.  The best trainers are out there training and getting results for their clients first and making money second.  The best trainers are usually found by word of mouth and then conducting educated interviews from informed clients such as you.

I recommend you look for a trainer that passes the above criteria, plus:

1.  Focuses on making you happy and motivated

2.  Understands that the body is not a bunch of separately working pieces.

3.  Uses your body for feedback to know your limits and appropriate exercises.

In good health!

Nathan W. Jackson

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