Hello everyone! Thank you for all the positive feedback from my last article Picking the Right Trainer. This article is to help you understand without a doubt if your trainer is qualified to give you the assistance you need. Since I left collegiate coaching in 2006 and went into the private sector, my eyes have been opened to issues in the coaching industry today. I have seen some great trainers over the years, but unfortunately, I have also seen a plethora of bad trainers.
My main question is does the person paying for the training realize they are getting bad service? Do they understand there are more knowledgeable people out there? From what I’ve seen, I'm convinced the answer is no for a number of reasons. First, it's easy to see physiological and neurological changes in your body if you're starting from ground zero. Secondly, if you have no idea how you should feel during exercise and are not tuned into your body, a trainer can tell you anything and you’ll most likely believe it. Lastly, correct form for different exercises varies across the board and if you don't understand body position, you're relying on the trainer to put you in the right positions. If the trainer doesn’t know what they’re doing, bad body posture can lead to unnecessary injuries.
I call it stealing when I see a trainer working with a client, promising quality service, but providing sub-par instructions. I once witnessed a trainer teaching the worst squat technique I had ever seen in my life. Not only was the squat pattern being taught incorrectly, but the client expressed poor flexibility, which should have been a hint to the trainer that squatting would be a difficult exercise to engage in. On top of that, the client was paying a whopping $100-$150 per session. In my book, crazy prices, plus bad service, equates to stealing. So, how does a regular person, looking to get in shape and make a health change to their life know if their trainer is qualified or not?
I tell all my clients and athletes that there is no science in getting you sore or physically exhausted. Anyone can make you feel fatigue. High volume and minimal rest can make you sore for over a week, which is not productive to a regular workout schedule. A good trainer/coach begins with some kind of body assessment before you even touch a weight. The assessment should minimally cover your exercise history, past injuries, and any limitations or restrictions you have to exercise. A really good trainer will use some type of evaluation system to check for weaknesses and asymmetries in your body. Grey Cooks Functional Movement Screen is an example of a great assessment tool used by many fitness professionals. You're trainer should also ask a ton of questions and listen to your goals and needs before you start your first session. If none of these occur, that should be the first warning sign that this trainer may not provide top quality service.
A good trainer does not train everyone the same way. Every person has different goals, needs, training experiences, and body types, so they should all be trained differently. If you're 50lbs overweight, your trainer should not make you do 100 Box Jumps paired with Treadmill Sprints. That's just plain dangerous. There are going to be some commonalities in exercise programs such as mobility, flexibility, and corrective exercise for people who sit most of the time. If your trainer works with you in the same exact way as all of their other clients, you’re not getting the specific attention you need or deserve.
A good trainer constantly looks for new information and wants to better their abilities for the sake of their clients. The trainer you eventually settle with should have extensive experience in the fitness/coaching industry and have learned under some more experienced trainers/coaches. Fitness is a career, not a part time job. Great trainers invest in themselves by going to seminars, reading books, and keeping their certifications up to date. I have seen an unfortunate amount of trainers doing exercises with their clients who have no business ever doing that particular exercise. They think Functional Training is balancing on a Bosu Ball with one leg while holding a kettle bell, when in reality there are numerous levels to every type of exercise.
If your trainer is still training you the same way after 6 months, then you should ask him/her on why. You're body is always trying to reach a homeostatic state, so program designs should always be progressive and not repetitive. Exercise order is very important. A good trainer should understand exercise order, the reasons why you should be performing certain exercises over others, and how to coach each move properly. If the trainer/coach cannot execute the exercise themselves, then they have no business teaching it to you.
Soreness is a big issue when you workout. General soreness is okay at the beginning or when you start a new phase of training. But you should never be sore all the time. If you're sore all the time, you’re most likely being over-trained. Nutrition, proper rest, and recovery are the main factors to fight general soreness.
The last point I'm going to make is crucial: Trainers who take programs out of magazines or workout videos are not providing anything close to proper quality of service. I worked at a gym in 2010 and one of the trainers got his programs out of Muscle & Fitness and P90X. This particular trainer had no idea about program designs or training periods. He did a disservice to the real professionals in the fitness industry. Clients could find those workouts on their own and save the money they’re wasting on their trainer. Trainers are hired to be personal fitness coaches for each of their clients. Anything less should be considered fraud.
I hope this article was informative and taught you what to keep an eye out for when choosing a trainer. If you're going to pay for a service, it should be the best possible service given. Make sure you are getting the absolute best quality fitness coach you can find because a healthy body is the foundation for a healthy life.
Todd Gates, MCore FTS
Founder & President