5 Signs of a Bad Personal Trainer

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5 Signs of a Bad Personal Trainer

|By Alex Carnall|

If I could master time travel and talk to the 18 year old version of me about training, I’d probably save myself the trip.  Like any other young lifter, I was convinced I held the key to untold success under the bar.  I watched others with a critical eye and wouldn’t dare admit to being wrong.  Additionally, most of my supporting evidence was anecdotal and I thought programming was something for geeks.

Five years later, I’ve found that there is still no shortage of people like that.  And, some of them have been hired as fitness professionals.  In response, I feel compelled to shed light on a few things your trainer may be doing that could hinder your advancement into the realm of physical greatness.

#5. Your trainer has no idea what you’re talking about.

But isn’t the trainer supposed to do the talking?  Bear with me.  I’ve worked with teams, individual athletes, and one-on-one with regular fitness enthusiasts.  The common denominator is that they all do their own “research” and come armed with information.  In an industry that’s as polluted as a kiddie pool with bad information, it’s up to the trainer to be selectively well-read.  Having said that, I would actually encourage you to challenge your trainer frequently with questions and solicit them for answers and opinions.

Maybe you’ve read articles in mainstream print like Muscle and Fitness (hers) or Men’s/Women’s Health and you want to know what your trainer thinks about them.  A good trainer will usually have at least heard about what you read, and be able to provide insight regarding it’s pertinence to you and your goals.  A great trainer will impart further knowledge to you so you may understand more clearly the “why” of everything in your sessions, and give you the knowledge you need to train yourself!

#4. Your Trainer doesn’t have a niche.

Anybody who markets themselves asa fitness professional should have well-founded beliefs and practices.  In other words, not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  Trainers range from powerlifters to yoga enthusiasts and everything in between.  The bottom line is: trainers with specializations tend to have greater passion for something besides taking your money.  Of particular importance is that trainers who have goals themselves will likely be more motivated to squeeze every ounce from YOU as well.  If you want it to be easy, you’re better off “training” yourself so you can quit when you want to.

Ask your trainer about their personal gains; have they been able to accomplish their own goals?  You won’t need a polygraph to be able to tell whether or not they’re giving you the run-around.  Pay attention to the way they talk about training too; are they passionate and particular, or are they waiting for the end of their shift?

#3. Your trainer never talks about other clients.

I don’t mean that your trainer should talk at length about how bad their earlier client smelled, or about how another one is actually getting fatter.  I mean they should have success stories, TRUE ONES.  A good trainer should not only be encouraging to you and your endeavors, but also provide examples of people just like you whom they have personally helped achieve similar goals.  This not only demonstrates that they have been doing their job longer than a week, but that there is more than hope for you if you are able to adhere to the training plan.

If your trainer never brings up past success stories, or relates you to other clients they have had, don’t just assume they’re being humble.  Ask them if they’ve worked with people like you before and what kind of results they were able to achieve.  A good trainer will be happy to talk about when they created positive changes in others’ strength, body composition or lifestyle. They may even show you evaluations of other clients that were recorded before and after their time with them (more on this in #2.)

#2. Your trainer isn’t interested in your training history or where you currently stand.

A trainer who is interested in optimizing success for their clients will be very curious about what type of experience they have under their belt already.  A pre-training interview about medical and injury history, a movement or athletic evaluation, and simple anthropometric measurements are all useful pieces of information to the right person.  Safe to say, if your trainer takes no interest in any or all of these, your time (and money) could probably be better spent elsewhere.

These types of things give your trainer a better picture of where you can start safely.  Biomechanical inefficiencies may be exposed through movement evaluations so that your trainer can decide what type of training limitations might be present, and further facilitate the development of seamless training plans.  Speaking from experience, there is nothing I want to do less with someone than to present them with a challenge that they cannot overcome with sheer willpower.  Exposing and making limitations apparent can be VERY demotivational, and should be avoided at all costs.

#1. Your trainer doesn’t demonstrate the qualities they demand of you.

A hypocritical trainer is the number one thing that massively peeves me.  Three things: A) Trainers should never prescribe exercises they themselves have never performed. B) Trainers should demonstrate character in the form of diligence and accountability. C) Trainers should keep themselves in good physical condition, and (particularly in a commercial gym setting) be well groomed.

There is nothing more detrimental to credibility and reputation than being wrong.  That’s obvious, but believe it or not, it happens – a lot.  If I may be permitted to get a little sentimental, it is your right as a client to feel like you are in careful, well-intentioned and knowledgeable hands during your experience.  If this is not the case 100% of the time, you should probably think about other options.

There are my top five things to watch for during your undertaking as a developing superhero in the gym.  Keep in mind that these are only five of many indicators for a less than fulfilling experience.  Success and adherence for clients is best conducted through creation of a consistently positive experience by the trainer.  If you ever have doubt in your trainer or what they are having you do, don’t be afraid to raise concern and talk to them.  If they are offended, chances are it isn’t a good fit anyways.

Alex Carnall – B.Sc., CSCS.

Alex is a graduate of the University of Texas – Pan American (NCAA, D1 – Texas) and Cisco College (NJCAA, D1 – Texas).   A two-time All-American selection for baseball and Dean’s List Kinesiology student; Alex demonstrates strong commitment to both sport performance and academia.  He has formerly interned with the Strength & Conditioning Coordinator at his alma mater working with Division 1 athletes and currently works as a strength coach at a sports performance facility in Oakville, ON.  More recently, he is training to powerlift competitively and aspires to obtain his Masters degree.  More articles by Alex can be found on his blog www.gamedaystrength.blogspot.com, website www.gamedaystrength.com, or followed on twitter @Gamedaystrength.

By |November 4th, 2012|Archives, Articles|

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Strong Athlete was founded in 2011 by Strength & Conditioning Experts PK Mills and Gaétan Boutin. With over 40+ years of combined experience in sports nutrition, athletics, and fitness, the Strong Athlete team is dedicated to helping athletes achieve their maximum potential through a holistic approach to training, nutrition, and mindset.

One Comment

  1. mr x July 22, 2013 at 6:16 PM - Reply

    How about the trainer who use the gym illegally, bring their clients and pretend that they are gym buddy? but everyday different faces of their gym buddy. Its not fair to other trainers who pay the rent work legally and sacrifice their time.

    This is unprofessional act.
    To all clients, how can you get a good service if you trainer can not even push you by saying some words while on training?
    What if something happened to you? your trainer might run away, as your are not in legal way.

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