3 Signs You Hired the Wrong Personal Trainer
When people want to better themselves, they’ll often seek out a professional to help them reach their goals. These professionals should be held to a high standard, but in the personal training world, that is sometimes not the case.
This is largely due the low barrier to entry; most gyms only require you to complete a weekend-long certification course, and voilà! You’re now entrusted with the physical well being of that gym’s clientele!
Make no mistake, there are a lot of good trainers out there, but it’s up to you to differentiate the good from the bad when you’re considering whether or not you should hire one. These are three telltale signs that will immediately let you know if you’re hiring a professional that cares about your progress, or a salesman that cares about your recurring payment.
#1: They don’t perform an assessment
A good personal trainer will assess your individual needs, goals, and limitations — and then construct a plan for you based off of this information. A bad one will just start giving you exercises to do, often without having the first clue as to whether or not you’re even physically capable of doing them.
Be sure that your trainer conducts an initial assessment with you before your first workout together; pay attention to the types of questions they’re asking. They should want to know:
- Your injury/medical history.
- Your training experience.
- Your goals
- What’s stopping you from reaching those goals now.
… And on top of telling you what to do, be sure they’re explaining how to do it. Before any new exercise, your trainer should be explaining what the exercise is, how to perform it correctly, and how it’s going to benefit you. And if they see that you’re having trouble with your technique, it’s their job to help you get it right.
2. They aren’t writing a program for you
Personal training is personal, which means whoever is training you should design a program specifically for you — based off of all the criteria established during the initial assessment.
But more often than not, a 20 year old college student will get put through the same workout as a 75 year old grandmother. That is because many personal trainers at commercial gyms don’t actually “train” you — they give you exercises to do, mostly picked at random.
They know that by “feeling the burn” now, you’ll feel productive, so they’ll prescribe a bunch of arbitrary exercises, performed for way too many reps, with no real end result in mind other than exhausting you. A 5-year old could tell you to do 1,000 jumping jacks and that would exhaust you; it doesn’t mean you’re actually working towards anything, though.
If you’re investing your money into somebody, they need to present you with a structured plan that explains:
- Where you’re starting (your current level of fitness).
- Where you’re going (your desired outcome).
- How you’re going to get there (the program).
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” — Lewis Carroll
Bottom line: if your trainer can’t tell you why you’re doing what you’re doing, find a new trainer.
You’re doing barbell exercises on your first day
Barbell exercises allow you to load a movement pattern with the heaviest weight possible. If performed properly, they’re an invaluable, foundational tool for building strength and size. If performed improperly, they’re one of the easiest ways to get injured in the gym.
Joe DeFranco talks about “earning the right” to use a barbell — by first learning an exercise in its unloaded, bodyweight-only form, then progressing from there. For example, you should learn to perform a perfect bodyweight-only squat before you even think about doing one with a barbell on your back.
But because bad trainers are more interested in delivering instant gratification than lasting results, they may put a client under a barbell from day one. Short term, this will make them feel good about “making gains” by lifting weights they aren’t ready for, while putting their health and well being on the line for the long term.
Find a trainer that will take the time to teach you how to properly perform movement patterns in their most basic form before you start loading them up. In the case of a barbell squat, that progression may look something like this:
- Bodyweight squat to box
- Goblet squat to box
- Goblet squat — no box
- Barbell squat — empty barbell only
- Barbell squat — with weight
… This, of course, would be accomplished over the course of a well-designed program that’s written for you after your initial assessment. If your trainer is trying to put a barbell on your back from day one, they either A. don’t know what they’re doing, B. don’t care, or C. both.
If your personal trainer doesn’t perform an assessment, doesn’t provide you with a program, and doesn’t care whether you’re ready for a barbell exercise or not — you’re hiring the wrong personal trainer.
In summary, consider your investment in a trainer as seriously as you would consider the purchase of a car or home. You’re trusting another person with your body, so make sure they take your health and well being as seriously as you do.