The Problems with Personal Trainers

Personal training will be one of the best investments you can ever make in your entire life. Of course this is largely based on the fact that you are choosing a skilled, educated, and high caliber personal trainer. Unfortunately 80% of the trainers out there (no that is not an official stat, it is simply based on my experience) are not worth your money and time investment.


Imagine this. Your car just doesn’t seem to be working properly. So you stop in at the auto mechanics, park in the front lot and sit down in their office. After a brief talk about what you think may be wrong with the car the mechanic recommends a series of parts replacements and services for you and attempts to make you purchase those services immediately.


That is ridiculous.


What if there is nothing wrong with your car? What if what you think is wrong with your car is not accurate because you do not know very much about your how cars work? There is absolutely no way a mechanic can know how to fix your car without a thorough history of the issue and a hands on physical assessment of your automobile.


Trainers should do the same thing. They should do a thorough physical assessment of your body and mind before every prescribing a program for you. They should get to know your goals, expectations, time frame and needs through a sit down discussion. They should examine your health and fitness history. And they MUST do a physical assessment of your body. They need to be aware of any biomechanical imbalances, limitations, and injuries. They need to assess injuries and your current fitness level.


Many companies are adopting a system of forcing clients to purchase large amounts of training at a time. There is only one reason they do this: to ensure their profits. If they try to tell you differently ask them a few things:


-how do they know you and the trainer will get along?

-how to they know exactly how long your injury will take to rehabilitate?

-how do they know how well you will respond to your exercise program?

-how do they know personal training is the right option for you?


I have a rule I will not train clients for less then a 10 session commitment. Less then this is often a waste of my clients money as there is not much benefit from a short term exercise program, especially when the client is very new to exercise and fitness programs.


However, I think it is totally ridiculous that any trainer would force you to purchase 36 sessions or more, or attempt to convince you to purchase a full years worth of training at your initial consultation. There are so many reasons that this is a horrible idea that I will not even get into it here, but I will gladly talk about it with anyone, just drop me a line!


If a trainer attempts to convince you that purchasing a years worth or 36 session of personal training is the best thing for you without even doing a thorough physical assessment you should leave right away and never look back. They are giving you a hard sell.


All of our training options range from 10 to 24 sessions and up to a maximum of 2 months. Why? Because if we are truly good at our jobs we won’t have to coerce or force you to train with us, you will want to regardless of what we say. We should have repeat business based on our merits and skills as trainers not because you have signed on for a contract based on statistics.


Trainers should be happy if you work with them for a set period of time. They should then be happy when you stop training with them and  go off on your own to apply and utlize all of the advice they have bestowed upon you. That is what we consider true success. When we teach people to take care of themselves without becoming dependant on us. 


Like cell phone plans, television packages, and internet service, long term contracts are based out of fear. Fear that the service you are being provided is not as good as was promised and that another provider will steal your business.


If a trainer is trying to sell you months or years of training for your very first contract it is because they are scared you will not continue training with them, which means they are not confident in the service they are providing you.


My clients who train with me year after year still only buy their training in packages of 10-30 sessions. This does not concern me because I know that the quality of service I provide them will ensure that if they still want personal training service after their sessions are used up they will buy those sessions from me.


You want a trainer with a tack record and enough confidence in their abilities that they do not need to hard sell you on some simple statistics in order to ensure long term sales. If someone attempts to force you into more training you need to recognize that they are scared you will stop training with them after your sessions.


You also want a trainer that recognizes that after 10 or 12 sessions you may not require their services and they should be able to let you go. They should not try and convince you to train with them in order to help ensure their financial gain.




What to look for in a trainer:


-educated: preferably with a university of college degree/program (phys-ed and kinesiology programs do not guarantee you a good personal trainer)


-experienced: a trainer should have some experience. They have either been training for some time with numerous success stories to their credit or they have been heavily involved personally in the fitness and health industry


-certified: quality certifications include NSCA, ACSM, and ACE


-They should provide you a free consultation. Not every trainer can work with every client, your trainer should know their limitations and they should find out if you have any as well. They should never promise to be able to fix everything and they should never promise guaranteed timelines until after they have done a thorough verbal consultation, history, and physical assessment


-They should be more than happy to provide references from co-workers and clients


-They should be educating you and teaching you how to take care of yourself. My success is based mostly on knowing that my clients do not really need me, your trainer should feel the same


-Your trainer should look the part. You should look at your trainer and be impressed with their level of physical fitness. They do not have to be a swimsuit model or bodybuilder, but their level of fitness should inspire you and demonstrate their commitment to personal health and fitness. An overweight or unfit trainer is the same thing as an oncologist who smokes a pack a day, it just doesn’t make any sense


-you should interview your trainer as thoroughly as they should interview you. Ask them their philosophies, education, experience, and what they will be able to accomplish for you. Also speak to past and present clients of the trainer


Warning Signs of Poor Trainers and Trainer Philosophies


-Set up your program and base the number of sessions you need on a verbal consultation only. This means that they are basing their prescription for your health on statistics that are usually created from their employer’s information. This means that they are not customizing the program to you and your needs, they are instead attempting to fit you into a template that is based on creating long term sales revenue


-they do not teach you how to exercise on your own without their guidance and supervision. Many trainers are taught to build up a dependency on their services with the idea being that you will have to purchase more training from them as time goes on. This simply means that they are not confident in their service and must find a way to force you to purchase more time with them


-they put you on a simple machine circuit


-they spend hours watching you run on the treadmill


-it’s been 3 months and you have not reached any of your goals


-they will not provide you information on how to contact their other clients and employer so that you can review their services


-you are assigned a trainer and have no choice in who will you work with. All trainers are not created equal. YOU should be choosing who you work with, not the facility or other trainers

  1. Laura says:

    I found your blog through your viral over-fat post & I’m so glad I did! Such a breath of fresh air in an industry pandering far too much to quick fixes & easy ways out. I’m now reading through all your posts from the start.
    As I read this it called to mind the drastic differences in the three trainers I’ve worked with in the past. The first one was a year and a half ago. There was a special on 2 month gym memberships at a local hotel & I was assigned a trainer for my initial assessment & designing my programme. Even though I expressed an interest in weight loss through weight lifting she gave me a programme that consisted of upper body 2 & 4kg dumbell isolation exercises & a few ab exercises. Rather than let me move up in weights I was told to cap at 4-6 kg weights, 8 kg bench press. I don’t want to get bulky, I was told. As a person she was alright, even if she was very blunt & not very knowledgeable. One day I cranked out 30 reps of one move, realised how ridiculous it was but didn’t know what to actually do instead. I left that gym and never went back. It coincided nicely with the end of my membership & my move abroad. I went back to work in a spa with a gym attached & became good friends with the trainer who started the same day as me. He really listened to me & started me on basic weight lifting that really worked but of no fault of his I didn’t have the drive to keep it up. One day 4 months ago when we had both finished our contracts and left for home he sent me a motivational video (Greg Plitt – Keeping the fire alive) & it was the kick up the arse I needed. I signed up for 12 personal training sessions with a fantastic trainer who over the following 6 weeks not only showed me what to do but how to do it & gave me all the tools to keep it up for good. He not only showed me what to do but how to do it & why. I learned about straight sets, supersets, drop sets, circuits & how to programme sessions myself. He made sure that by the time we finished I had all the knowledge and skills to continue and succeed without him. Funnily enough we were in the same class in school and absolutely hated each other back then & got along great now.
    Long winded I know but those three trainers are a perfect example of your article. The first one didn’t really know what she was at, gave me a rubbish “programme” and absolutely no education on what I was doing. I had no say in who i was assigned to either. The two male trainers knew how to work with me. They taught me what to do, how to do it and I am now totally addicted to being fit and healthy. When I moved back abroad a few months ago I overcame all my previous excuses, took advantage of the free gym in the spa and the great food & made fantastic progress in that time. I still keep in touch with the second trainer. In fact we currently have a 2 month challenge to see who can make the biggest progress in that time. I never would have thought I’d be competing against a fitness professional! It’s amazing the difference a truly great trainer can make. I’ve had two and am so grateful to them for it!

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