Find a Personal Trainer: How to Choose the Best
Personal trainers are nothing new to the fitness world. Walk into almost any gym and you are certain to come across a handful of trainers working with clients. The quality of personal trainers varies and it is beneficial to know some of the characteristics quality personal trainers have before spending your hard earned money.
A great personal trainer can help you reach your goals by providing custom workout programs, nutritional guidance, motivation, instructional guidance on exercises and much more. A poor personal trainer can hinder your progress, diminish your motivation and waste your time and money.
Related: 7 Tips to Hire the Perfect Trainer
The following information will help you choose a personal trainer that can help you reach your goals. Ask numerous questions before you hire a personal trainer, look for the following traits in trainers you have already hired and don’t be afraid to find someone else if you feel your trainer isn’t living up to their responsibilities.
Choose wisely so you don’t waste your time and energy. It will help you find a personal trainer; the best personal trainer.
Find a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer needs to perform a detailed assessment in order to properly understand your goals and set you on the path to improvement. This will include a verbal assessment and a physical assessment to help the trainer develop a comprehensive custom program for you.
Pay attention to the questions potential trainers are asking you and be weary of those that aren’t asking for detailed information. A quality personal trainer will make the following inquiries in a verbal assessment.
Specifically, what are your personal goals?
How can a personal trainer help you reach your goals without knowing exactly what those goals are? Your goals may involve some or all of the following: building strength, increasing muscle mass, reducing body fat, strengthening the cardiovascular system, improving posture, and/or increasing flexibility.
Make sure your trainer wants to know what your goals are and choose one that you feel comfortable working with. Trainers that don’t ask what your specific goals are will usually give you a general program that isn’t worth your money.
What is your current nutrition like?
You can’t out train a bad diet and informed personal trainers will want to know how you are currently eating. They should ask you how much you eat, what types of food you are eating and if you track your calories.
Be prepared for quality trainers to expect you to be willing to commit to eating healthy. Trainers that focus on exercise without addressing nutrition are not addressing the entire fitness equation and will not provide satisfactory results.
Inquiring about injuries, medications, past surgeries and medical conditions
No one wants their personal medical information to become public knowledge but you want your personal trainer to care enough to ask about this and you need to be willing to share this for your safety. Often quality trainers will have a medical questionnaire that contains a confidentiality clauses prepared for their clients to document any medical issues and to ensure the information is kept private.
High blood pressure, diabetes, compromised body parts and side effects from various medications can all have negative impacts during a training session that can cause serious health problems.
A personal trainer can avoid these situations by adapting your program to work around these issues. Every quality personal trainer will make these inquiries to avoid potential disasters from health issues.
Asking about your daily life
Your daily life will play a large roll in the type of exercises and training that trainers select for workout programs. Do you have an active job where you are expending a lot of energy throughout the day? Do you perform a lot of repetitive motions that increase stress on certain body parts or joints? Are you forced to remain in positions that negatively affect your posture?
Do you have a high stress job? How much sleep do you typically get? Do you work days or nights? Will you be training early in your day or closer to when you go to sleep? These questions allow a trainer to choose exercises and intensity levels that you will enjoy and perform on a consistent basis.
Personal trainers should also run prospective clients through a physical assessment to get a basic understanding of the client’s physical condition. This is something you should look for and expect so you receive a program specifically tailored to your goals that you can realistically perform.
General programs designed for the masses are great tools and are available here but individuals that hire a personal trainer should be receiving customized programs.
Most likely the first part of the physical assessment will simply involve having your pulse taken to find your heart rate, or beats per minute. This is important so your trainer can determine your maximum heart rate and exercise heart rate.
This information will be used when the trainer is drawing up various parts of your program such as cardio and HIIT. Your blood pressure may or may not be taken during your physical assessment, as it should already have been covered in the medical part of the verbal assessment.
Some type of flexibility assessment should be performed to allow the trainer to judge range of motion in various joints. This allows the trainer to identify any limitations the client initially has to properly select exercises for the program.
Flexibility tests can be as simple as performing a variety of stretches to specific sit-and reach tests where the distances are measured and recorded.
Most personal trainers will determine a client’s body fat percentage to help determine the amount of calories for the nutritional program and to provide the body fat percentage to the client as a motivational tool. This step may be omitted when weight loss is not the primary concern or in instances where the body fat percentage is high and the initial goal is simply to start losing weight.
You should have the ability to discover your body fat percentage if it is important to you and most trainers can give you a reasonably close estimate with calipers and charts.
Cardiovascular assessments allow a trainer to evaluate your aerobic capacity. Two examples of these tests include stepping up and down on a box or stairs for three minutes or walking for a mile. Step tests and walking tests allow the trainer to record and analyze your heart rate and endurance as you exert yourself.
Various muscle performance tests will be given by reputable personal trainers to allow them to get a working knowledge of a clients strength levels while observing to see if the exercises are currently being performed with proper form. These exercises often include squat, push-up and bench press tests but may be as detailed as a complete mini-workout that allows the client to demonstrate additional movements.
Potential clients are usually informed which exercises will be assessed when the assessment is scheduled.
Potential clients should make sure that the answers to the above questions about your goals and the results of your physical assessment were recorded on either paper or an electronic device. Asking the proper questions and performing a thorough physical assessment is one thing but you want to make sure your potential trainer retains this information to ensure the program is customized to your goals and abilities.
Detailed assessments include a large amount of information, trainers that don’t record your personal information may not remember everything and are showing a lack of professionalism.
Personal trainers will take all the information they recorded during your assessment and come up with a program specifically designed to help you reach your goals as efficiently as possible, this is a large part of what you are paying for. Make sure the program matches your goals and isn’t a general program designed for the masses when it is explained to you.
Quality personal trainers will explain your training program to you in great depth to ensure you completely understand everything it involves and exactly what you will need to do to successfully follow the program. Reputable trainers want you to succeed because it provides validation that they know what they are talking about and that they are properly performing their job.
Unsatisfied trainees with bad results reflect poorly on personal trainers and it hurts their business. Clients want to succeed so they reach their goals and don’t waste their money. It is vital that the program is clearly explained and understood for maximum results.
The exercises to be performed should initially be demonstrated by the trainer for the client to provide a visual example. This allows the client to see the exercise in action and ask questions to clear up any confusion. Following that, the client should perform the exercise for the trainer to watch for form critique and correction.
Experienced trainees may not need the exercises demonstrated to them but concerned trainers will still have clients perform each exercise to examine form and make corrections where needed.
Personal trainers should give clients their full attention during training sessions and it should be obvious they are interested in helping the client reach their goals. Every session should begin with the trainer asking how clients are feeling and if there are any issues or problems in case life has presented anything that could affect or change the session.
Some type of warm up and then the training session should follow this. Trainers’ attention should be on the client throughout the session so they can critique and correct form when needed. They should provide correct and safe spotting techniques when necessary and ensure you correctly follow the scheduled workout. Expect your trainer to push you for progressively challenging work and motivate you through the session.
Be weary of trainers that constantly jump through random exercises instead of providing you a written exercise program to follow. Avoid trainers that attempt to push supplements or products on you during your session.
The best personal trainers understand that the actual time in the gym is just one part of the process and will be interested in what you are doing outside of the gym as you progress through the program. They will encourage you to get enough rest, inquire about how you are doing with your nutrition and demand that you start keeping your promise to do a better job tracking of your calories.
Trainers love to remind you to incorporate their lessons into regular life by telling you to warm up and stretch before you do physical activities such as yard work and they’ll remind you to use proper form when you’re lifting your brother’s couch as you help him move over the weekend. Occasionally they may refer you to fitness articles to help clarify their point or to express why you should be doing something instead of just how to do it.
The Personal Trainer
To put it nicely, there is a large variety in the quality of personal trainers in the fitness world. One of the initial ways to size up a potential trainer is to visually determine if they practice what they preach. Personal trainers are fully aware that their bodies are a walking advertisement and their physical condition should reflect a successful result of their goals.
Personal trainers have various goals just like clients have various goals but you want your trainer to look like they are able to accomplish what they set out for. Bodybuilders, power lifters, runners, swimmers and countless other individuals will all have different bodies but your trainer should be in the proper shape for their goals.
Overweight or out of shape bodies on trainers should raise concern with potential clients.
A good personal trainer will be confident in their specialty but also be knowledgeable on a variety of approaches and open minded enough to understand that there are several different options for clients to reach their goals.
Stay away from trainers that preach that they have found the “ultimate” or “secret” way and downplay methods or styles that aren’t their specialty. Don’t hire a trainer that doesn’t have the ability to compromise or consider what works for your preferences and goals.
Most quality personal trainers will be certified with an accredited certification and not with a certificate they received after taking an online test or a two-day class. Some personal trainers will have various college degrees and numerous credentials.
Occasionally you will come across an individual that has a wealth of knowledge that is successfully used to get amazing results from countless clients but is not certified in any way – in these cases their results and reputation should take the place of any certification as long as they have the characteristics of quality personal trainers as listed in this article.
Hiring a personal trainer is an investment in yourself and deciding which one to hire isn’t always the easiest choice. Do your homework and find some that have good reputations. Speak with more than one potential trainer as you try to find one to help you reach your goals.
Look for the above characteristics when choosing a trainer and don’t settle for anything less. Don’t waste your time and money with the wrong trainer on your quest to improve your body. Quality personal trainers are excellent tools you can use on your path to success.
Rob Engelman is a certified personal trainer that trains clients in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. Clients receive one-on-one training and custom programs designed to provide results for a variety of goals. He can be contacted at