Hiring a personal trainer or coach can be an enormous boost to your physical development. From time to time, everyone needs some help to continue making progress. There are many advantages to working with a good coach, from a fresh set of eyes on your form, to introducing you to new exercises and training techniques, to keeping you accountable. There are some great trainers out there who are worth every penny, and you may have even hired one in the past.
But the problem within the fitness industry is that the gap between great trainers and just plain bad ones seems to be growing. This divide is pitting hard-working coaches who know their stuff, do their homework, and walk the walk, against a horde of self-promoting, social media charlatans who only care about the thickness of your wallet.
Today I want to shed a little light on the latter. If you are new to the trainer-for-hire market, beware of these strategies that many unscrupulous trainers use to fill their schedule with gullible, paying clients.
The Lazy Rep Counter
You’ve most likely witnessed this scene: Trainer leans on a piece of equipment, either looking down at their phone or staring into space, idly counting predetermined reps. He or she looks bored and is watching the clock—not for the client’s sake, but waiting for quitting time. They don’t take an active role in the workout, demonstrate exercises, or engage in deep discussions on the how and why of their program. They might as well be at jury duty, and you might as well have hired a high school kid waiting for the bell to ring.
Look for This: Your trainer should be completely engaged in your training. That means they should take an active role in your workouts, and demonstrate concern with form and technique. They should voice proper cues and be on the lookout for any signs of injury. They should be your partner in movement, visually demonstrating lifts and properly aligning your body for optimal performance, while creating an atmosphere of motivation and positive energy. You should feel like you are the most important client on their roster, and feel a sense of genuine concern for your success.
Stuffed in the Wrong Box
Some coaches are purists; they tend to veer toward only one mode or type of training. If they are a bodybuilder themselves, they tend to train their clients in the same fashion. Endurance freaks dole out the cardio, and powerlifters pile on the weight and try to bury their victims. The point is that neophytes don’t know any better. They hire a trainer and follow them blindly, and all of their faith and trust in someone who isn’t coaching them as an individual.
Look for This: Be present and alert to what your coach is telling and showing you. Be in an education mindset, and soak up all you can. Learn how all of the variables of training interact and relate to your goals. If you’re having a hard time seeing how the workouts your trainer gives you relate to your goals, ask. If they can’t answer, it’s probably time for a new trainer. Any training program should include a mix of modes such as strength, power, hypertrophy, cardiovascular fitness, mobility, and muscular endurance, just to name a few. A competent coach will be able to incorporate and explain the use of all or most of these variables.
You’re Becoming Dependent
Some trainers give you just enough information to keep you coming back. They secretly want you to always be in need of their knowledge and expertise. They knowingly keep you in the dark when it comes to the why and how of programming, for the simple purpose of hooking you into a long-term commitment. This way, their schedule stays full, and they have fewer new clients to recruit.
Look for This: One of the most important goals of a coach is to educate their clients. Their ultimate purpose should be to inform and train you to become so competent, knowledgeable, and independent that you won’t need their services every time you step into a gym. Sure, a tune up session every now and then will always be a great idea, but being forever dependent on a coach isn’t a very progressive mentality.
The Snake Oil Salesman
Along with efforts to make you dependent, many trainers will try to sell you products or additional services just for the sake of more money in their pockets. For some, simple trainer session fees aren’t enough. Peripheral services such as supplement sales, specialized training, and commission on referrals are incentives for trainers to make an extra buck. If you start to get bombarded by these gimmicks take it as a strong warning.
Look for This: The focus of your trainer should be on the task at hand. It’s fine to hint at other options after they’ve thoroughly evaluated your progress, preferences, and needs, but a full-on promotional campaign that takes over your session is cause for alarm. Your goals are the priority, and your time needs to be spent on proper practice, education, and a genuine interest on every aspect of what you’re doing and why. There shouldn’t be commercials during training.
They Just Don’t Care
Do you get the nagging feeling that you’re just a five o’clock appointment on a Monday? Maybe your trainer feels that way. Or maybe they just don’t care, and don’t provide much motivation, especially on days when you’re just not feeling it. Maybe they just go through the motions and let you call all the shots. If you’re just another appointment, then things need to change.
Look for This: First and foremost, the relationship between you and your coach should be mutual and established on a foundation of respect and understanding. Honest, constructive feedback should be a constant, along with you allowing them to demonstrate new ways to progress, regress, and modify anything as needed. Your coach’s active engagement and attention to detail is paramount to your success. It’s also the reason you pay them in the first place.
It’s Not About the Certificates
Professional education, credible certification, and comprehensive experience are wonderful traits to possess as a coach, but it’s the intangibles that complement those attributes to create a well-rounded, successful, and effective session for the client. No trainer will have every skill, but you have the right to a unique and personalized experience. If not, fire your trainer, set up an interview process, and hire wisely next time—you deserve it.
Six-pack abs are not a qualification: