Do Not Hire a Personal Trainer Until You Read This! 20 Keys to Finding the Right Personal Trainer for You

Like in any industry, there are real professionals; people who know what they are doing, take pride in their work, better themselves in their industry continuously and make it a must to provide the best value to their customers. Unfortunately, there are also the “not so” professionals; people who have no clue what they are doing, do not have passion for what they do, have minimum education requirements to do the job and do not care about their customers’ welfare. Unfortunately, in today’s world I find a lot more of the latter then the former. It is extremely difficult to find a true professional, someone whom you will commit to and refer to everyone you know. Most people are skeptical of whomever they hire, and I don’t blame them. There is obvious reason to be cautious when considering professionals vs. non-professionals.

When it comes to industries that depend on hiring the right person, especially when it comes to your health, it is that much more important to do a background and quality check. For example, if you hire someone who does a lousy job fixing your plumbing, then the worst possible scenario would be a leaky pipe. The worst possible scenario when hiring a bad personal trainer or going to a sketchy doctor can result in much worse consequences.

Here are my top 20 things to look for when hiring a Personal Trainers (in no specific order):

1) What credentials does the personal trainer have?

Minimum requirements are what they are, minimum. It is still important that your personal trainer has some schooling and credentials. I am not a huge believer in only having credentials because I think that a lot of knowledge comes from your own experience and self-education. The trainer should have at least some sort of certification in Personal Training. The more credentials that the trainer has, the better. This also shows the trainer’s level of dedication to continuously better and improve his/he knowledge and repertoire.

2) What is the personal trainer’s experience?

Experience can be thought of in a couple ways. One being, time spent with other clients and what he or she has learned from other people. Experience can also be through the trainer’s own practice of living a healthy and fit lifestyle. How long has he or she been involved in the fitness industry? How long has the personal trainer been training? Does he or she have scenarios of what a typical goal would look like and how long it would take? What are the usual struggles and limitations of people that the trainer sees? What are the common faults that people tend to experience in lifting and exercising? These answers cannot be memorized from text book. They come from experience.

3) Does the personal trainer live the healthy and fit lifestyle?

Personal training is one of those industries that involves a lot of passion. Most trainers first live the healthy and fit lifestyle and then decide to share what he or she has learned with others. Why do they do that? Because when the trainer finds something that has benefitted his or her lives so greatly, he ort she can’t help but to share it with others. That is if the trainer cares about helping people. You need to practice what you preach. Telling someone to be healthy and not doing it yourself makes you a hypocrite and out of integrity. If a trainer does not live a healthy lifestyle, telling someone to do it will come across as fake and out of integrity.

4) Is the personal trainer in good shape?

Personal trainers are walking billboards. Sometimes the best marketing a personal trainer can do is workout and stay in shape. It goes back to living the proper lifestyle. There are great trainers out there that are not in great shape. This doesn’t mean that they do not know what they are doing. But how will this motivate their clients if they themselves cannot accomplish something that they are trying to teach their clients. It goes back to having integrity and being a great example to others. Now, if a trainer is a great Powerlifter, but is way overweight, and the client’s goal is to be a Powerlifter, then there is no problem in that. The goal is just pure strength, which the trainer has and is able to teach.

5) Is the personal trainer in better or worse shape then you?

This point is somewhat a continuation of point number 5. Sometimes I see personal trainers who are in a lot worse shape then their clients. I’m still trying to figure this one out. I understand that if a client is learning a strength skill or a technical skill from a coach who just happens to be in worse shape then their client, as in the above example with the Powerlifting coach, then that’s ok. It doesn’t make sense when that client is trying to get fitter and loose weight and learning it from a personal trainer who is in worse shape then his or her client. It’s like having a broke financial advisor.

6) Does the personal trainer care about you and your success?

This step is very important. A personal trainer must genuinely care for his or her client’s success. The client will have a subconscious feeling when they work with a trainer if the trainer actually cares for his or her success. Does the trainer care because he or she wants the client to keep signing up for more sessions or does the trainer care because he or she wants the client to genuinely succeed? Does the personal trainer get satisfaction from seeing his or her client succeed or does he or she just want to make money? Body language and energy will reveal this step.

7) Does the personal trainer look in the mirror at themselves and at his or her phone more then at what his or her client is doing?

This point is simple. It is also a continuation of step number 6. If the personal trainer looks at himself or herself in the mirror more than at your form, then he or she obviously pass step 4 and 5, but what does it say about the trainer’s professionalism and his or her care for their client? A client needs to feel like the personal trainer cares. The client needs to know that the trainer is as much engaged in their client’s success as the client themselves. Paying attention to the mirror and the phone more then acceptable shows non-focus and non-care for the client. Just this act alone will cause a lack of motivation and a lack of results.

8) Does the personal trainer have rehab background? How much Anatomy does the trainer know?

I think that this is a biggie. If a personal trainer has rehab background, either working at physiotherapy clinics, learning rehabilitation or studying with rehabilitation specialists, it puts them ahead of most trainers. Why so? Knowing rehab gives the personal trainer a lot more knowledge about anatomy and biomechanics. It makes them aware of what can injure someone and what is safe or unsafe. This knowledge puts technique in front of anything and allows the client to enjoy a healthy and injury free life for a longer time. Just working out senselessly to “burn calories” requires no more knowledge and education than subscribing and occasionally reading Muscle Magazine or watching Youtube too much.

9) Does the personal trainer emphasize form and technique over everything else?

This step is a biggie as well. It is also a continuation of step 8. Form, form and more form. People are short-term gratification minded and feel like they just want to start everything right away. Bad form is simply a bad habit. Bad posture is also a bad habit. Chronic overuse pain is also a bad habit. What do personal trainers do? They break bad habits and instill good ones? Short-term gratification is the killer of success. Patience, persistence, discipline, commitment and long-term gratification are key. If a well-educated and patient trainer knows this, he or she will emphasize the foundation of a proper healthy program and long-term success. Skip form and prepare to be injured and have an unattractive posture.

10) Does the personal trainer teach the client how to use the mind to the client’s advantage? How does a personal trainer motivate their client?

One key aspect that is very important and often forgotten in personal training is the mental quadrant. The inner world, the mental and emotional parts, have to change before the outer world, the physical parts changes. This is the reason why most people fail completely at their health and fitness goals. They go into something with little reason, they try it, it doesn’t really work and they quit and make up BS excuses. With a strong mind, the client knows that he or she either has excuses or results. You cannot have both. Does the personal trainer emphasize mind training? Does he or she emphasize persistence, dedication, focus, discipline and a positive mind set? Does the trainer let their clients get off the hook or does the trainer keep the clients accountable and call them out on their BS and negative self-talk? How dos the trainer motivate his or her clients? Does the trainer make his or her clients realize and stick to their big “Why” and “Reason” for starting the whole journey in the first place? The inner world will change the outer world. This is very important.

11) Does the personal trainer do a detailed initial assessment and re-assessment?

It is important for a personal trainer to get to know his or her clients as best as he or she can. This doesn’t only include doing physical tests, but as well includes finding out what motivates the clients, what specific goals the clients have and what lifestyle factors the clients have that should be changed. Any information that will help the trainer design the best program for his or her clients is key. This step also builds rapport and a relationship. A good working relationship will accelerate results and make the process fun. Re-assessments not only help show how the program is progressing, but also motivate the client by showing them how far he or she has come. It also holds the trainer accountable to having the client reach certain goals.

12) Does the personal trainer have a unique plan set up for his or her clients with the client’s specific goals and needs?

There are many programs that work for many people. A personal trainer can use the same or similar programs with different clients and have great results. Most programs work great. Knowing if a program works for a client will take time with some trail and error. What I am talking about here is; does the trainer take into consideration the client’s schedule, the client’s commitment, the client’s specific physical limitations and needs? Does the trainer adjust his or her client’s program based on specific needs and wants? Having a unique plan includes exercise, nutrition, supplementation, habit and lifestyle factors. It is important to be aware if a trainer is using the same program for every client or if the trainer structures the programs accordingly to every client’s needs.

13) Does the personal trainer track the client’s progression?

In order to progress, progression is key. Duhh! The program will need to be structured in a way to continually challenge the client and have his or her progressing. This can be done in a few ways. Is the weight increasing? Is the volume of the workout increasing? Does the program change to allow for metabolic and muscle confusion to take place? The trainer should have an idea of were his or her clients are in their progression and were they are going at every step. It is not always ideal to have a structured workout before every workout. Sometimes a client may not be able to do a certain workout and the trainer will need to know how to adjust it on the fly to keep accomplishing the client’s goals. Some trainers like to improvise and can remember exactly what their client is doing at every session. Some trainers use a notebook for everything they do. I think both methods work as long as there is a designed and structured progression.

14) Does the personal trainer know if his or her client really “can’t” or if his or her client “doesn’t feel like it”?

A trainer should know if his or her client is actually tired or just making excuses. Knowing how hard a client is actually pushing it comes with experience. If a client truly can’t do something, then it is wise for a trainer to understand that and back off. If the client’s mind just gets in the way and he or she won’t do something, then it is wise to continue to motivate and encourage the client. This step is important because it is a critical factor to avoiding injury, while still pushing a client over their comfort zone and into new territory.

15) Does the personal trainer educate his or her client on what he or she is doing? Does the personal trainer have good and understandable logic? Can the personal trainer answer the client’s questions?

If you find that a trainer is making things up from thin air that do not have much logic, turn around and run. A client should be able to ask the trainer about anything that he or she is doing and there should be a good reason for it. A trainer should also have the education background to be able to answer most of the client’s questions. If the personal trainer doesn’t know the answer, then he or she should say so and get the answer at another time. I believe that doing a fitness program isn’t just about getting fit. It is a practical course about learning how to train, how to eat, how to alter lifestyle factors, how the body works and what the client can do in any part of his or her life in order to be healthy. A client is paying the personal trainer a small insignificant fee to not only get fit and healthy and change his or her life, but also to pick the trainer’s brain as much as possible to learn as much as possible. It is and should be an intensive practical crash course with life changing results. Education in a program is key.

16) Is nutrition a big part of the program?

I think that this part should be a no brainer. Nutrition is huge in the fitness industry. If a client is trying to loose fat, then nutrition should be number one. It is no secret. Abs are made in the kitchen. Only honest personal trainers will tell a client that. How effective would a fat loss program be without a nutrition program? Pretty damn useless. Even if the client is trying to get better at a sport by increasing their power, for example, the trainer should educate his or her client on proper nutrition. Now, if the client just wants to learn a skill, such as specific Kettlebell techniques, I still think that discussing proper nutritional habits is important. Maybe not as critical, but the trainer should still mention something.

17) Is lifestyle and habit alterations a big part of the program?

Other than nutrition and exercise, lifestyle factors and habits that are detrimental to health and fitness have to be addressed. Lifestyle factors that are detrimental to health and fitness include bad sleep, too much stress, no fun in life, no play, over thinking and worrying and being disconnected from one’s true self. The way we do anything is an accumulation of habits. Gaining fat, sleeping bad, over worrying and being unhealthy are bad habits. Simple! Having a client just train and eat properly without changing his or her inner world of habits will do little for sustainability. Sure, they will get their asses kicked during workouts and will have to endure eating foods that they do not want to eat for a bit, but how long will that last? This is one of the biggest reasons why most people fail at their health and fitness goals. Their habits and bad lifestyle factors are not addressed and creep back in when short-term motivation dissipates. So, does the personal trainer address these factors?

18) Is the personal trainer passionate about what they do?

To truly give it your all, you need to enjoy what you do? Unfortunately, there are many people out there that do not enjoy what they do. This mentality reflects on their passion and care for getting results. The inner world creates the outer world, so if there is no passion in the inner world, then the outer world results are no good. I found that most trainers love what they do. They like sharing their knowledge and they like seeing their clients succeed. They live and breathe the healthy lifestyle. Passion gets results. It is important to see that in a trainer. How can someone find that in a personal trainer? Body language and positive energy. Some of the other factors were also discussed earlier.

19) Is the personal trainer a professional?

Is the personal trainer on time? Is he or she courteous? Does the trainer run their business in a professional manner? Does he or she talk bad about other people and co-workers? Does the trainer look at the clock too much? Does he or she chew gum a bit too much? Does the trainer smell like sweat constantly? How does the trainer dress? Is he or she organized with his or her documents and files? Does the trainer have specific rules and regulations that he or she abides by? Etc. A professional trainer will take things more seriously. This translates to a client getting better results. Simple.

20) What do past clients say about the personal trainer?

This is probably the quickest way to finding out most of what you need to know about a personal trainer. Check out the trainer’s testimonials. Does he or she even have any testimonials? See what past clients have said about them. I would even go as far as asking permission to get into contact with the trainer’s past and current clients and asking them the questions that I have posted above. Why not? Your health, fitness, time and money depend on it.

There is a saying; how you do anything is how you do everything. What type of results do you want? What is your motivation and what will you do to get your results? Lastly, how does a personal trainer or possibly your future personal trainer do things? Now you can check.

– Simon Bialecki

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