Is your trainer the bomb or a dud?

My friend Doug posted this video on Facebook this morning and it made me laugh out loud… a couple of times.

Now the sad part: I’ve seen people like this. Not a ton, but people who think like this and actually HAVE clients. I just hope their clients are getting results, not injuries. Soooo it prompted me to write a quick post on personal trainers and whether they’re good for you and know what they’re doing, or not. Here are some things to look for in a trainer you’re thinking of hiring:
  • Are they certified?
I’m not saying that you need a certification to know what you’re talking about, but would you let a surgeon operate on you without having passed their board exams? Seriously? This is your body we’re talking about. It shouldn’t be in the hands of somebody that hasn’t passed a test. It’s not expensive, it’s not that hard if you’ve learned your ish, and it’s not a big deal, if you have a professional attitude and are serious about becoming a trainer. If they haven’t taken the time to study and take the certification tests, will they take the time to make a good program/workout for you? I’ve met trainers who haven’t taken their exams because they already know everything… but if they know everything already, what’s keeping them from a taking a test that should be easy?
  • Do they have a degree in a related field?
Same as above. Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have a degree in Physiology to get certified as a personal trainer, however, the people that do have degrees in the field tend to have a greater understanding of how everything works and are a bit more well-rounded in area. They also tend to get hired at higher positions. It’s not imperative, but it helps.
  • Do they listen to your goals?
You want somebody who is going to give you the best plan for YOU and what you want to achieve. Not what they gave to every other client that day. It’s called PERSONAL training and every person’s different. If you already have a steady workout regimen and just want somebody to give you some new ideas, are they talking you into training 3 days a week? Because you probably don’t need that much. You want somebody that’s going to listen to you and not just try to sell you packages/sessions.
  • Do they make corrections to your form?
I’ve seen trainers just chat away with somebody else while their client is doing lunges the most AWFUL way possible and not say a word to them. Out of all my clients, I have about 2 that don’t need many technique corrections, but still, they’re not perfect and I end up fixing them at least a couple times per session. No offense, but you’re probably not perfect at things and if you go through an entire session without so much as a peep from you trainer about form, they’re not paying attention. They should be telling/showing you how exercises are supposed to look, feel, etc. And how it’s not supposed to feel.
  • Do they advise you on what to do in the meantime?
You may need additional cardio time/ stretching time as well with your program so if they haven’t given you any ‘homework’ to do without them and you feel like you’re not making progress, ask them!
If you’re trying to lose weight or are a competitive athlete, you will need nutrition advice as well as workout advice. Your trainer can give you some guidelines to follow on your off time if you need it. Having said this, in most states, it’s illegal for a trainer to give out a written diet plan unless they’re also a dietician/certified nutritionist. They can give you suggestions, but should really be pointing you to somebody that’s in that field. They shouldn’t be writing out meal plans for you unless it’s in their scope of practice.
The same goes for injuries. They can probably point out some things that you might do to help an injury, but we’re not all physical therapists/doctors, so if you’ve got a serious injury, take it to your doctor, not your trainer.
  • Do they push you or kill you?
Every trainer pushes you, that’s how we get you to try harder and be stronger. But if your trainer is giving you the hardest exercises in the world or not listening when you tell them something hurts, they’re going to be doing you more harm than good. You’ll be sore after your sessions but you shouldn’t be debilitated for a few days after every session (excluding your first week… first week’s always the worst. But you shouldn’t be HURT hurt). If you’re doing an exercise and you have joint pain and you tell your trainer, they should fix your form first. If it still hurts, they should give you a different exercise. If they tell you just to keep going, suck it up, you might want to look for a new trainer.
  • Do they attend continuing education courses/conferences?
Sure they might have been a great trainer 20 years ago, but things have changed since 1990. Scientists and physiologists are discovering new things all the time and re-creating guidelines constantly. If your trainer hasn’t attended a continuing education course or trainer conference in the last few years (or ever) that could be a bad sign. We are required, in order to keep our certifications current, to attend courses to get credits every year, just like doctors, nurses, dentists, etc. It keeps us up to date on contraindications and safe techniques, as well as cutting-edge training protocols. If we don’t, our certs expire and we have to re-take our certification test. Make sure whoever is training you is somewhat current in their cert. Then you’ll know if they’re up to date… or if they’re a hot mess, like the one in the video up there.
Hope this helps! And I hope if you’re working with a trainer now, you’ve got a great one that’s taking good care of you!
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  1. Great write up. Much more thorough than my simplistic comparison to Jillian Michaels 🙂

    All really great points for anyone looking for a trainer to think about.

  2. Whatever, If you die you didn’t work hard enough. You can rest when your dead. Psch…

    Nice advise Ami!!

  3. “I don’t train people who suck!” I’m still laughing!

  4. has anyone told you that your profile info. is awesome! i love it! therefore i am following you! 🙂

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