Three Things To Look For In A Personal Trainer

Personal training is more popular than ever. In today’s society, people want results and want them fast. Typically, people think if they hire a personal trainer, they will achieve their goals faster. This can be true, but there are some warning signs in personal trainers to be on the lookout for.

First, does the personal trainer take the time to get to know you? Does s/he sit down and talk with you at the beginning of a cycle and talk to you about your goals and workouts? A personal trainer should take an hour to talk with you, learning about your training history, goals, likes and dislikes in the gym, and what you do outside of the gym. All of this information helps personal trainers develop an effective program for you. It takes about 120-140 hours to get fit - some of these hours will most likely be on your own time, as it is not financially practical to see a personal trainer five days a week. Personal trainers should be giving you workouts to do on your own when you are not with them to better help you achieve your goals.  All of this is to ensure one thing: your personal training is personal. I have heard personal trainers running every client through the same workout. This facility was charging $120-140 per hour for personal training and the trainers were recycling the same workouts, as long as they knew the clients did not know each other. By sitting down with your personal trainer every four to six weeks, you can be sure to avoid this.

Secondly, does your personal trainer teach you movements? Are you being taught the nuances of barbell, kettlebell, and dumbbells? Do you understand the “method behind the madness” in WHY you are doing these movements? If they do not, this is a red flag. Personal trainers are supposed to be experts in their field. They should know why - and explain why -  you are doing the things you do. Regarding barbell movements, the barbell is the single best thing for building strength and, when done properly, is very safe. If your personal trainer is unwilling to teach you barbell movements, and one of your goals is to be stronger, ask about it. If your trainer says "it's too dangerous," or "it's too complicated," it is likely s/he is either not comfortable teaching the movements or simply doesn't want to take the time to teach you. Either way, it is a major red flag.  Trainers may also resist teaching barbell movements because the facility doesn’t have training bars. A well-equipped training facility should have 28-29mm 45lb/20kg men’s bars, 25mm 35/15kg women’s bars, and 25-28mm 15lb/5kg training bars. A personal trainer should be well versed and competent in all areas of fitness, including the uses of the Olympic barbell, powerlifting barbell, general strength and conditioning barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, TRX or gymnastics rings, and the correct use of plyometrics.

Thirdly, personal trainers should be fit themselves. Your personal trainer should practice what is preached. Trainers themselves should be fit and able to do everything they make you do. Even Louie Simmons, the owner of Westside Barbell, squatted 800 pounds and benched over 600 pounds at the age of 51. All of my strength and conditioning coaches at TCU trained every day either before or after us. The other reason your trainer should be in shape is for continuing education. Being a personal trainer is not just knowing how the body works theoretically, but also knowing how to perform actual movements. To be a USA Weightlifting (USAW) coach, the certification weekend involves nine hours of practical as well as an exam.

I hope this guide can help you pick a personal trainer who is truly invested in making your training personal, not just regurgitating an old formula. Trainers should take the time to learn about you, teach you, and continue learning for themselves. 


George Cullen