When it comes to finding the right personal trainer for you, the first thing you need to do is decide on one of two things: Am I just looking for a exercise workout that can be done a few times a week or am I looking to transform the way I physically look?
There are plenty of places to choose from if your just looking to get your ass handed to you a couple of times a week or if you want to train in a group setting and meet other people. It’s a completely different story if you are looking to physically change your appearance for the better.
Over the years I have lost count of how many absolutely pitiful trial sessions I’ve seen other personal trainers going through with a client they just met. This is pretty standard practice and allows the client to get a feel for how the trainer operates, what their personality is like and ultimately if they would be a good fit together.
While there is loads of information on what a personal trainer should do during this trial session (how to assess a client's strength, flexibility, and mobility, etc), there isn’t much info on what a client should be looking for in a personal trainer.
I'm going to highlight some of the more important things clients should look out for when evaluating their trainer.
PUTTING YOU THROUGH A GENERIC WORKOUT
If you told your personal trainer you wanted to transform your physique and he has you doing a circuit during your first session with push-ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc, that should start the alarm bells ringing.
Nobody in the history of body transformations achieved credible results for their clients by taking them through a circuit training program. Sure, you may drop a couple of pounds, but you definitely won’t be adding much muscle mass to your frame (this is what all transformations boil down too, (adding lean muscle mass while dropping body fat at the same time like this case study).
One of the most effective training programs for this is GBC or German Body Composition training, which roughly breaks down into training the upper body and lower body together as a superset, with minimal rest between sets.
TRAINING ABS WHEN BODY FAT IS STILL TOO HIGH
This is the one that always makes me look at a personal trainer like they are missing a few chromosomes. Your client has 30% + body fat and you’re making them do crunches? why?
All my clients know that until their body fat drops to at least below 20%, we won’t be specifically training abs. Now, this isn’t to say the abdominal area doesn’t get trained at all (abs are engaged when performing squats, deadlifts, overhead press, etc) but to specifically spend a part of the workout on abs is a waste of time that can be better spent in other ways.
The other thing is the trial session is a chance for the trainer to impress you with their fitness knowledge, so getting you to perform sit-ups isn’t really showing you anything new.
STICKING YOU ON CARDIO EQUIPMENT
This one’s pretty simple - your not paying $800-$1000 a session to run on a fucking treadmill or peddle on a stationary bike. You can do that shit at home on your own time and it costs nothing.
Cardio is accessory work and should be added into your weekly workout schedule here and there, it should not be the main focus. Resistance training with weights and tempo is where the focus should be.
CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT THE TRAINING PLAN IS FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS
After the first training session or two, you should have a good idea of what the next few weeks will involve regarding training methodology, nutritional points to follow and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Anyone can randomly walk you around the gym for an hour, moving you from one exercise to the next with no purpose or plan and have you gassed at the end of the session.
But does that mean you’re actually going to see visible results after a few weeks of that? It takes a clear plan for each client to follow in order for results to happen.
HAS YOU DOING WORKOUTS YOU CAN DO AT HOME
Push-ups, crunches, Bosu-ball, planks (my all-time favorite)- all stuff that is a complete waste of time if you’re at a gym with a ton of equipment and machines.
If your personal trainer has you doing these on a regular basis and you can do it yourself at home, what the hell are you paying for?
Time under tension and resistance training with weights are key for developing a physique and although the above exercises will give you a great burn and have you feeling like you just killed your workout, trust me you didn’t.
To change the way a specific body part/muscle looks and feels, you need to stimulate it at its core and target the muscle fibers. Resistance training is what’s going to really change the way your muscles feel (when clients say they want to get “toned” this is what they actually mean).
If you want firm glutes and hams, jumping up and down on one leg on a Bosu ball ain’t gonna cut it.
PERSONAL TRAINER NOT IN SHAPE? (ALTHOUGH THE OPPOSITE DOESN’T ALWAYS GUARANTEE ANYTHING EITHER)
Let’s be clear, your personal trainer HAS to be in shape. You wouldn’t go to a dentist if he had jacked up teeth, so why should this be any different.
Now obviously there are some exceptions to the rule, your trainer might be dealing with an injury due to the fact that he/she works out multiple times a week at a high intensity, but for the most part a trainer can’t expect their client to listen to them when it comes to areas like nutrition if he/she looks like they have been storing up for the winter.
At the end of the day the first session with a trainer should be just as much of a test for the trainer as well as you the client. You’re essentially about to drop a couple of racks on someone you’re putting your trust into getting you to where you need to be, so don’t take the decision lightly.
The sad truth is it’s easy as hell to get a basic Personal Trainer qualification, so take your time looking at potential trainers previous client results and client reviews before making a decision.
Stalk them like a potential crush on tinder to find out as much as you can before handing over your hard earned cash.