In their quest to add muscle or lose fat, one option that people have is to hire a personal trainer.
Some people don't really know what to do in the gym, so hiring a trainer can be very helpful.
Others know what they are doing (or think they do) and just really want someone to help motivate them and perhaps push them farther than they might push themselves.
Others still are just looking for a little bit of guidance in order to stay on track.
The problem is, most people do not know how to CHOOSE a personal trainer. And the other problem is, the vast majority of personal trainers do not (and ultimately can not) guarantee you results.
Over the last 15 years, in gyms of all types - from small training studios to National chains (like Equinox, where I was a trainer and then the personal training manager) - MOST trainers I have observed just do not have what it takes to get you results. Period.
It is frustrating as I watch trainers put clients on one machine after another, teaching them nothing.
It is frustrating to see trainers demonstrating bad (even dangerous) form, and then watching their clients follow suit.
It is frustrating watching clients who meet with their trainers three times per week getting fatter and fatter as each week passes. So frustrating. But I see it ALL THE TIME.
And I'm sure it is WAY more frustrating for you, if you've ever had trainers like this.
There are a lot of ways to choose a trainer - but I'm going to break it down for you so you can really understand who will be good (and who will not).
A lot of people think that the trainer with the best National certification(s) is the best choice. Nonsense. Yes, some certifications are better than others, harder to earn, but NONE of them alone will ensure that someone is a good trainer. Certification is a requirement and a starting point. Nothing more.
Most people would prefer not to work with a trainer who is clearly out of shape, overweight, flabby, etc. That said, the converse is not necessarily true. Just because a trainer is buff and has low body fat does not mean that he or she can help you look like they do. Very often people who have excellent genetics and have an easy time maintaining a great body go into the fitness field. If you are not likewise blessed, you may be disappointed when your trainer cannot help you to look as good as he or she does.
This is a slightly better criterion than the ones above. Someone who has dedicated years of their lives to a degree in health, fitness or wellness program is more likely to be the kind of dedicated trainer you are looking for. Advanced degrees are often an even better indicator. There is probably a better knowledge base and dedication level in someone who has, say, a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology, than in someone who got certified by a three-day program last weekend.
#2 CLIENT PROFILE
An even better way to choose a trainer is to watch how they interact with their clients in the gym and decide if their style would be a good match with yours. And even more importantly, watch them with their clients for a few week or months. Are their clients looking the same (or worse)? If so, run the other way. On the other hand, if you see real improvements in their clients week-to-week, there is a good chance that they might get similar results for you.
If they have a program that you will follow, with a specific beginning, middle and end, there is an EXCELLENT chance that that can help you achieve your goals. The alternative is what you will see in 95% of trainers: GUESSING. "Yo, dude, what do you want to work on today" or "should we do chest and triceps today? Lets start with an incline press machine" are things you NEVER want to hear from your trainer. What you want to hear is: "Today we are switching from a strength and growth program to a high intensity interval training program. You have added a lot of muscle and now it's time to use that metabolic advantage to strip away the fat and start to get lean. We will be changing your nutrition program as well so that it works perfectly with your new phase of exercise". GUESSING doesn't work. You could do that yourself.
A trainer with a program will also take notes. Look around your gym and see how many trainers have a program into which they are writing the details of their clients workouts. Sadly, you will not see many doing this at all. This is another clue that you should run the other way. That is not a trainer you want to work with. Why? Well, I have a decent memory, but I cannot remember exactly how many sets and reps and with what weights I did even in my last workout, much less my workout 2 weeks ago. Multiply that by all of the clients a trainer may have and there is NO WAY that they will remember. None. Never. And if they don't know what you did last time, they will not know how to progress your program and you will simply not get results. This is something that I guarantee.
If you are going to spend money, time and effort to get the best results you can when you hire a personal trainer, make sure that you are getting back what you are putting in.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful and that you will find a trainer who is educated, compassionate, motivating and has a program that helps you to reach your fitness goals.
Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.