What to look for in a trainer?

What to look for in a trainer?

Choosing a trainer can be a daunting task. The market is flooded with people who grabbed their weekend certification and now call themselves personal trainers. A big misconception is that just because someone looks in shape doesn’t mean they know how to or care how to train. Every time I go into a GloboGym I see trainers making middle-aged soccer moms perform complex movements that have a higher risk than reward. After seeing some crazy stuff this past weekend I felt it was important to inform people on what to look for in a trainer. In no particular order, here is a list of things to look out for:

Certification

As I stated before it is not very difficult to obtain a general Personal Training Certification. Most courses only require that you pay ~$500 and attend 2-3 days worth of classes and pass a test at the end of the classes. I obtained a certification from AFAA while I was in college and I can personally attest that these classes do not properly inform students of good exercises or proper form. Not every certification is created equal either. There are some great organizations out there that require a lot of hours and education before they provide a certification. Take the time to ask your trainer what their certification is and do some research. With that being said a certification does not automatically make you a great trainer. Which brings me to my next point.

Experience

This will more than likely be the deciding factor on which trainer you choose. Experience trumps all else when dealing with a personal trainer. Everyone is going to make mistakes at some point in their career but the best trainers learn from their mistakes and move forward. Do not be afraid to ask what type of experience this person has. Most often trainers that have a lot of experience will let you know. It’s always good to go with the trainer with more experience.

Complexity

If I had to pick one category to watch out for then this is it. This is something that injures more people than anything else. No exercise you do out of the gate should be extremely complex or heavy, especially if you are just starting out. The exercises to begin with should be very easy, very attentive to your needs, and be very focused on form. Most will probably be bodyweight movements or at minimum very light weights. Easy doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging but it shouldn’t be pushing you to your limit before you’ve mastered form. If an exercise is too hard or too difficult to master, then they should be there to change the workout or modify the exercise so you can do it properly. All too often I have seen middle-aged women who were previously sedentary doing movements that I don’t even see athletes doing. Recently, a burpee/deadlift combination without letting go of the weight comes to mind. Ask to watch the trainer during one of his other session to make sure that they are the right person for you.

Attention to detail

How you move is one of the most important aspects of feeling better. More often than not people go to a trainer to feel better and lose weight. If your trainer doesn’t watch your movements and correct improper movements all the time, you need to look elsewhere. The smallest fixes are the ones that make the biggest difference. It may seem nit picky but they are really trying to help you in the long run. Make sure that your personal trainer is paying attention to you and not just prescribing a workout and standing there talking to you. The best coaches in the world pay attention to the smallest detail. John Wooden from UCLA used to teach his players how to put their socks on properly. His attention to how his players put their socks on saved them from getting blisters and saved them from loss of playing time during the season. It may seem annoying and useless but the smallest details make a huge difference.

Training Watching Points

With all the above stated there are some quick things that you can look for to tell if the trainer is not attentive and/or has no clue what they’re doing.

  • Rounded lower backs. If at any point you see someone pick up a weight, perform a deadlift etc. and the trainer allows the lower back to round without correcting them run!!!! There’s not enough space on this blog to list all the reasons this is a bad thing.
  • Squatting without full ROM (unless someone has a medical reason in which case they shouldn’t squat to begin with.)
  • The Smith Machine. There is a misconception that squatting in a Smith Machine is safer than with a bar but this could not be farther from the truth. A Smith Machine forces the bar to travel in a straight line and puts extreme pressure on your spine and lower back. The Smith Machine should only be used for elderly individuals or those with medical issues.
  • Skipping free weights. There is a misconception that machines are better for you and easier than free weights and this is often not the case. Free weights allow the body to move naturally and not on a set path. Make sure your trainer has a good mix of machines and free weights.



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