9 Ways Of Knowing That Your Personal Trainer Isn’t Good Enough

Are you given the drill sergeant approach?

At the top end of the personal trainer scale are the PTs who are efficient professionals that study endlessly, practice on themselves, never stop learning, and whose primary goal is the best possible results for their clients. Opposite to this are ‘graduates’ from a 6 week entry-level qualification, those that never go on to progress properly, sexting their partners while you run, and lazing as you struggle. In an industry that’s forecast to expand 25% by 2020, choosing the right PT has never been tougher. Where do you start? Here are 9 signs to watch out for:

1. Are They Continuously Correcting Your Form?

Proper technique is essential in every exercise from deadlifts to dumbbell curls as it prevents injury, improves human kinetics (total bodily movement), and leads to results not wrist surgery. Yes it may be possible that every rep you complete is done using flawless form without any feedback after only a brief demo, but it’s hardly probable. If during squats your PT allows your heels to rise, or you to only lower half the way down, it’s a red flag. A worthwhile instructor will provide continuous tips (“arms in, back neutral” etc.) as you’re lifting. A poorer one will just recite the number of reps you perform back at you.

In A Sentence – Your PT should by fully focused on your technique and aid in improving it.

2. Does Your Trainer Practise What They Preach? 

Never take on a PT purely because their abs are chiseled and their biceps bulge. Having strong genes and a quick metabolism does not mean they’ll be effective at achieving successful results for you. Similarly, many elite PTs have prevailed against poor genetics and terrible athleticism through working their ass off mentally and physically, and yes they may be slightly flabby around the edges, but their first-hand experience shouldn’t be dismissed offhand.

Nevertheless, if you’re still deciding which personal trainer to hire then a good benchmark to follow is this: if the PT is fat, has a terrible diet, and can’t do a set of chip-ups, then there are probably better options out there. A trainer that lives by their teachings shows that they care about what they do.

Your trainer’s choice of attire is also pretty important. Remember that this is their career and not just another workout, and whilst their workplace may be a sweatfest, a worthwhile trainer will look smart, clean, and professional.

In A Sentence – don’t take a PT’s pec size as a guarantee for success, but a healthy and fit individual is a good place to start.

3 – Are They Writing It All Down?

Off the top of your head what were the workout stats from your previous sessions? You may not know, but your PT should. It’s fine to use tablets and iPhones instead of jotters and programme cards, but make sure they’re not updating Facebook with topless selfies. If your trainer doesn’t know your levels then consider what you’re paying for; guesswork does not equal progress.

In A Sentence – The top personal trainers will document and discuss your notes and adapt workouts accordingly.

4. Are You On The Cardio Machines For 15 Minutes Or More?

Take 5 minutes before your session to do a decent warm up. If your trainer then puts you on the treadmill for a chunk of the workout at a speed you can chat at, do you really feel you’re getting good value for money? Of course your PT’s presence can be beneficial throughout a cardio session, improving your running posture or monitoring rowing intervals for example. However, if you’re discussing the local shops and bars while you jog, then you’re essentially paying thirty odd pounds for someone to judge your fashion sense. Standard PT time-wasting.

In A Sentence – Cardio machines during sessions should be used efficiently and productively

5. Are They Regularly Monitoring Your Diet?

Becoming a personal trainer does not suddenly turn someone into a nutritional guru, but the most knowledgeable trainers will treat your food habits as importantly as they do your gym ones.  Your diet is so essential to achieving the results you want, that if your PT rarely checks what you ate for lunch, it’s probable that they aren’t fully focused on your long term progress. Oh and by the way, the proper response should be “soup with a chicken salad wrap” and not “a macaroni pie and a Lucozade.”

In A Sentence – Every session should include some degree of dietary discussion and at least one new piece of advice.

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live

6. Are they killing you every session?

Any idiot can leave you knackered and aching by enforcing hundreds of press ups and squats, but a worthwhile trainer will actually improve your abilities. Effective programmes involve rest days as well as ‘structure work’ to improve your posture and mobility (to help fix the ‘works-at-a-desk’ look you’ve acquired.) Both you and your trainer may get a literal post-gym ‘kick’ from a thrashing workout, however if sessions are becoming back-to-back killing sprees then it’s may be counterproductive. The best trainers understand the importance of subtler activities such as stretching and cool-downs.

In A Sentence – Your PT should make you work hard, but not by trying to inflate their ego every workout with impossibly hard sessions.

7. Were You Initially Evaluated? Are You Still Being Reevaluated?

Before you started your first session were you put through a thorough health and fitness assessment? A proficient PT should examine not only your body measurements and composition, but all of your strengths and weaknesses. This information forms the basis of a personalised programme, one which should be constantly assessed to ensure you’re always progressing. If your PT takes the ‘actions first, questions later’ approach and isn’t regularly improving your results then it might be a good idea to find a new one.

In A Sentence – Your PT should pre-plan and review every session, starting with an in-depth fitness review.

8. Does your trainer go above and beyond?

The really professional PT’s frequently go out their way to help everyone in the gym environment as their passion is to support those in need, not because it’s their job or there’s money involved. If you’ve seen your PT ignore anyone who needed assistance (whether they are on the clock or not), or they only contact you when scheduling session times, then it’s likely they’ve become a PT for the wrong reasons. How passionately dedicated to the industry does your PT really seem?

In A Sentence – Your personal trainer should be actively helping you (and others) outside of your working session time, and not just be motivated by money.

9. Are you using a Bosu or a Swiss ball in every session?

Despite Bosu balls (the blue inflatable half-air ball things) having some functional use within a gym, they are very overused and overvalued. If you’re working on rehab following an injury then great. Bodily awareness for top athletes? Okay. Balance work? Maybe. Everything else on top of the wobbly blue ball? Proceed with caution.

If your workout involves bicep curls and shoulder presses on a Bosu and your PT tells you it’s to “work the stabiliser muscles” then the chances are only two things are really happening. Firstly, you’ll be lifting lighter weights and thus the efficiency of your exercise will be less beneficial. Secondly, the naive gym user (which may include you) will think your PT must be good because they’re doing something slightly different (which your trainer probably knows and exploits.)

In A Sentence – a Bosu can be beneficial for select groups but beware if you are put on one regularly

Picking the wrong trainer can really put your health at risk