Is Your Personal Trainer Full of Crap?

I have heard and read about personal trainer stories that just make you wonder where did these personal trainers get their training from? For those of us who seek out the help of a personal trainer, it’s important that we don’t end up with someone who isn’t very qualified or just doesn’t care about their client’s well-being. As with anyone you hire to provide a service, you want the best for your money. How can you know if a personal trainer is qualified and genuinely cares about helping you? Below are some things to look out for.

Beware of the personal trainers that:

Tell women not to lift weights
I won’t go into the details of the importance of lifting weights for both women and men, but if a personal trainer tells women not to lift weights – dump that trainer fast!

Cut your calories to a dangerous level
Reducing calories helps in shedding pounds but be weary of a personal trainer that suggests reducing calories to dangerous levels. If you’re in doubt consult with a nutritionist or your doctor.

Won’t track your progress
I’ve seen both types of trainers at my gym. The ones that carry a log book or clipboard as they train clients and those that don’t. If I had to choose one, I’d consider the one that is logging their clients progress. A good trainer will track everything – exercises, weight lifted, measurements, sets, reps, etc.

Tell you that you must purchase vitamins and supplements
This will happen most often in the larger gym franchises. Many times the personal trainers are also pressured to upsell these items. A recommendation is fine but they shouldn’t make you feel like they are required to be in shape.

Daydream while they’re spotting you
A trainer should not be dazing off into the distance as you are performing your reps. They should be focused on you ensuring that you have proper form and that you aren’t struggling with the exercise.

Push you too hard
Most people think that working out hard is a sign of a good trainer. A bad personal trainer will take advantage of that and push you beyond your limits to avoid really doing their job. You shouldn’t be in pain after a training session.

Tips before hiring a personal trainer:

  • If you’re going through your gym ask about a free training session before buying a package
  • Check certifications (some good ones include ACE, ISSA, NASM)
  • Ask for referrals from friends or family
  • Check references

Those are just some of the things to be aware of when considering a personal trainer. Feel free to leave more tips or advice in the comments.

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Author: Eartha Haines

My name is Eartha and I created this blog as a motivational resource for myself to keep up with exercise and eating right. I enjoy reading, learning, and writing about all things fitness related. I hope that as well as motivating myself, others may find motivation to try fitness as well. Learn more.

34 thoughts on “Is Your Personal Trainer Full of Crap?”

  1. Thanks for cutting through the BS in a clear and concise manner. On the first two points, the combination of never lifting weights and starving yourself is a great way to go nowhere fast!

  2. many great points, especially about the vitamins and supplements. I’ve worked at several gyms where this is actually a requirement!

    I agree that you should also interview a trainer as well. Get an idea of their style and personality before you buy. You don’t want a trainer who is not willing to do this.

  3. Hey,

    Great post. I felt the same way that you did about personal trainers. My father had a bad experience with one and ended up hurting his shoulder and being unable to exercise for 4 months. It was a joke really.

    There is a really good website that has a directory of fitness professionals. You can view profile pages with pictures, rates, certifications, bios and more. Kind of takes the mystery out of looking for a trainer.

    Anyway my father found his new trainer on there and has been very happy.

    You can check it out here.

    http://fittron.com

  4. I’m a trainer myself, and have found that for the most part, decent fitness facilities hire qualified trainers.

    It’s the poorly managed gym’s that often hire people that lack qualifications so they don’t have to pay them as much.

    I think anyone looking for a trainer should try to find someone with more than just a “personal training certification”, because these days that doesn’t mean much. I took the ACE test, and it really wasn’t much of a challenge.

    Having a college education in the health sciences, or at least an extensive background in sports and training is a must in my eyes.

    Thanks for the post!

  5. My first personal trainer at Bally’s was horrible! After my first workout, I was extremly sore to the point that it interfered with my regular job duties (I was a teacher, and I couldn’t write on the chalk board or move fast.) I was sore for a few days. I had pulled a muscle becasue the weights were too much. Then, he would put me on a elipitical machine for about 30 minutes (I can do that myself!) I got another trainer, and she was totally awesome!!! She was very attentive, created workouts to meet my needs, pushed me as necessary, kept track of my progress, and was good for me. I lost weight under her strict structure.

  6. That’s a great post. You nail many of the poor qualities to watch out for in trainers. While each of those are not outright wrong, when they are the primary focus they sure can be.

    I think you could probably add to watch out for trainers who do no assessment before creating a program. NSCA and ACSM or two very respected certifications people should watch for.

  7. I’ve heard rumors about flexibility trainers for ballroom dancers. What do i look for, are there any certifications or methodologies i should inquire about?

    I’ve got severe fibromyalgia and gently warming up and correctly performing light stretching at my own pace is incredibly painful. Maybe a personal trainer to distract me from the pain would help keep me going.

  8. Great post.

    I see a lot of brutal personal trainers at my gym. They typically advocate EXTREMELY LOW intensity on EVERY EXERCISE. In fact, most PTs in my area are obese.

    Now, I have seen many less-than-impressive looking trainers who are great. However, unless one has published some well-respected material, s/he should be looking fit. Otherwise it would lead me to believe that their principles are BS.

  9. Great post. Good idea to go with a trainer who practices what they preach, not just the biggest one, they may also be a marathon runner or cyclist for example. Also try to talk to some of their clients, a referral from one of them would be the wat to go. I’m a personal trainer in Brisbane, Australia and I have been operating my own busy pt business for nearly 2 years and still have my first clients because I do the things mentioned in this post.

  10. Far too many personal trainers I’ve known daydream I think. At the end of the day, the best personal trainer you can get is yourself. Find ways to really motivate yourself and you’ll do well in the gym!

  11. New to the blogging lifestyle and also new to being a personal trainer. I just started to work as a PT and by watching my fellow co-workers I can see why some are good and some who are not. The ones I don’t get are the ones you described above, but are still usually the number #1 or close to the top in sales in the club. It puzzles me.

  12. I would never take health or fitness advice from someone who isn’t fit themselves. Some personal trainers are a joke, and honestly sometimes its the fault of the organizations giving out certificates.

    I took a personal training course that was a joke. I was one weekend and there were a bunch of unfit and overweight women in there who passed!! Unbelievable.

  13. This is such a great post! I would like to add that your nutrition advice should really come from a Registered Dietitian. Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist”, but an RD has to obtain a bachelor of science degree, complete an internship, and then sit for an exam before receiving credentials.

  14. Very well written article! You wouldn’t choose a doctor without doing some research, why trust your health to a trainer who isn’t qualified?

  15. Waaaaaaaay to many personal trainers are full of crap. I’ve seen and heard so much awful advice given in the gyms over the years it’s insane. Some of these guys have even been working with high level, high pay professional athletes – who have taken their advice and suffered from it.

    It really is sad.

    Good, important article. People need to know this stuff, and the crap needs to be weeded out of the business. Do your homework before hiring a personal trainer, and make sure to hire someone who is REALLY qualified.

  16. Great article. I guess Personal Training is like any industry, unfortunately you get the good and the bad. Great tip on making sure that your trainer tracks your progress, you want to make sure you are moving forward and this also give additional motivation. Personally I think that supplements enhance training and can help with results, so I do recommend these for clients. Overall make sure that your Trainer isn’t just rocking up to each appointment, there are a lot of things involved in getting results such as diet and tracking sleep patterns.

  17. Yes, it’s definitely a problem! It also drives me nuts that trainers charge their clients to watch them walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes while they warm up. You do not need to pay someone to do that, I just have my clients come in 15 minutes before their session and warm up on their own.

  18. Hi, good post. I’ve had friends ask me to train them a couple of times, but although I know how to train myself, I would’t want to do it wrong. One of them is a girl. Any tips? How about a post on it? (Training Your Friends)

    btw, I don’t think I want to go to school to become a PT since I already have a career. thx!

    – BUM

  19. I would have to disagree on the tip to not choose a personal trainer who push too hard. I come from Moscow, Russia, over there if you are in fitness or any sport you will be pushed beyond your limits. Sometimes people don’t really know where their limit is. But a good personal trainer will know. And should push you hard. I am not saying you should be in pain after a workout, but you should’t feel chilled. You should be wiped out, sweating. Training is called Training for a reason, if it was relaxing that you are practicing then working out is not for you. You should always push through your limits, that is how you will get results. I’ve been in sports all my life, my husband works for Cirque Du Soleil and I am going to school for personal training. I know how hard people should train.

  20. Just to add a little something I think trainers should do. Call or email our clients on off days to check on how they feel. How they are doing. Some people will workout with their trainer for example twice a week. They are expected to work out on their own 1 or 2 times alone. Check in on them. Are they working out, what did they do, etc. Just a way that a good trainer will keep on top of things as well as hold their clients accountable.

  21. I definitely agree that there are important qualifications that you have to check out to find the best trainer. After all, exerting added effort to engage on the process will only mean ensuring the best benefits that you can possibly avail of.

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