There are fantastic personal trainers and terrible personal trainers. Most personal trainers will fall somewhere between the two.
People hire personal trainers because they need the expert guidance, knowledge and occasionally the motivation that they don’t have themselves.
When a personal trainer costs upwards of $50+ an hour, you expect one that delivers great results. But what if you’re not getting the results you expect? Or you have no idea what separates a great personal trainer from a poor one? This can be both expensive and disheartening, not a great place to be!
Here are 5 key areas to look out for to help you understand whether your personal trainer is wasting your money.
1. Lack of Motivating Goals
When most people start working out, they rarely have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. And if they do, it can be as vague as “I just want to get bigger”, to as ridiculous as “I wanna look like The Rock!”
One of the first things a great trainer will do is help you define your goals. Setting goals gives you both long-term vision and short-term motivation. One of the best ways to ensure you’re creating a suitable goal is to ensure they are SMART.
SMART is a popular acronym that is used to give a criteria for goal setting. SMART stands for:
Once your goal is SMART, it’s much easier to break down that larger long-term goal into smaller ones. Getting into the habit of hitting your smaller goals will quickly get you into a winning mindset.
The goals that are set with your trainer must be your goals and inspire you. A great trainer will seek to understand why they are important to you.
A poor trainer by contrast, may not be interested in understanding your aspirations and motivations. Worse still, they may not even help to set your goals.
If you find yourself in this situation, you’ve got no goal destination and no plan on how to get there.
2. No Nutritional Guidelines
There is a debate as to whether offering nutritional advice is really the role of a trainer. In order to get a complete tailored nutritional plan you should seek the assistance of a qualified nutritionist or dietician.
But when around 80% of how you look is determined by your diet, it’s vital you at least have some guidelines to follow. You could be doing the best workout possible, but with poor nutrition, the results will be small.
A great personal trainer should be able to tell you 3 things:
- What components make up nutrition
- How many calories you should be consuming each day
- The principles behind nutritional guidelines
If 80% of how you look is determined by your diet, why do some personal trainers not do this? Often it’s a combination of laziness and a lack of knowledge. It’s easier for those trainers to put you through a gruelling workout than to educate you on the importance of proper nutrition.
If your trainer can’t at the very least talk you through the basics, then you’d be right to be concerned.
3. Your Workout Never Changes
How often do you see people in the gym doing the same workout over and over again? Often they can be seen on the treadmills or elliptical going at the same speed for the same amount of time as they always have.
The same happens on the weights floor. You will see guys lifting the same weights, doing the same amount of reps, for the same number of sets. And they will do this every workout! Guess what the result is? They look exactly the same as they did 3 months ago and will still look exactly the same in 3 months time.
Don’t let this happen to you.
A personal trainer is there to help you progress in your workouts towards your end goal. Nobody has ever started working with a personal trainer and said “I don’t want to get any stronger, fitter or leaner. What do you recommend?”
If your personal trainer has you doing the same workout week after week with absolutely no progression, it could be time to look for someone who will challenge you.
4. You’re Doing Poor Exercises with Poor Form
If your goal is to pack on the muscle, then you need to be doing the most effective lifts. Those are compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench pressing. These lifts should be performed with free weights, ideally a barbell, rather than using machines.
Every day seems to be national bench pressing day in the gym. But how often do you see people squatting or deadlifting?
Most people are reluctant to do them because they don’t want to injure themselves. And that’s understandable, barbells and dumbbells are pretty intimidating if you’re used to the safety of the machines.
An essential element of a trainer’s role is to ensure that you are lifting with correct form. If you perform every exercise with correct form then the likelihood of injuring yourself is extremely low.
But for a lazy trainer, it’s far easier to tell someone to use a leg press than it is to teach some to squat correctly.
If you find that your trainer gives little guidance on your form, is not watching you closely, or is even playing about on their phone, alarm bells should be ringing.
5. Your Trainer Makes You Feel Shit About Yourself
It can be intimidating speaking to a personal trainer, especially for the first time. And let’s be honest, your ego takes a little bit of a hit when you do. Sometimes reaching out for additional help, can feel like a sign of weakness.
But it’s not true.
And the last thing any personal trainer should do, is to take advantage of that vulnerability.
Yes personal trainers need to win clients. But this should be done by encouraging you, pushing you and motivating you. Not beating you over the head, knocking your confidence and making you feel shit about yourself.
Anyone can give you a gruelling workout for 45 minutes, say your out of shape and need them to help you. But if you don’t feel comfortable around that person, they’re not the right trainer for you.
Now that you understand what separates the top trainers from the poor ones, what do you do now? And what do you do if you see that some of those points apply to your trainer?
Well don’t despair. There is no better time to discuss it than the next time you see your trainer. No personal trainers are perfect, but the best ones will always listen to feedback and try to improve.
It’s also worth noting that one size doesn’t fit all. What may be the right personal trainer for one person, may not be the answer for you. The best trainers will often have a strong image of who their ideal client is and are best equipped to help those clients reach their goals.
Testimonials are a great way to understand what type of clients a trainer works with and the results they have achieved. If the people in those testimonials had similar goals to you, then that is a strong indicator that you’re dealing with a trainer who can get you results too.
A personal trainer isn’t cheap, but can be a thoroughly worthwhile investment. When you are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a service, you have a right to expect results. If you’re not seeing those results or have no confidence that those results will come, then vote with your feet and look elsewhere.
Whether you have been working with a personal trainer for months or have just plucked up the courage to try one for the first time, hopefully this guide will help you find the right personal trainer for you.
What have been your best and worst experiences of working with a personal trainer?
What else do you look for when deciding if a personal trainer is right for you?
Let me know in the comments!