How To Choose The Perfect Personal Trainer

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The pursuit of  being fitter, stronger, healthier is one goal all humans have in common.  How can we not, it’s encoded in our DNA. 

But not many people find this goal to be either achievable or enjoyable.


Why is this?


If you don’t enjoy your workouts, there’s something missing.  Either it’s a lack of progress or failure to get any desired result.  You struggle with knowing or understanding what you’re supposed to be doing?  You’re doing the same monotonous exercises?  Or, maybe your reason for exercising has no real purpose or depth.


Whatever the case, I have found that hiring a personal trainer has changed the way people see fitness.


Think about it this way.  If you want to learn how to drive a car, what do you do?  By law you need to get lessons.  If you attempt to learn by getting bits of advice, here and there from peers, family, neighbours, online websites, you will more than likely fail.


So why is it any different for your body?


If you are looking to improve your health and fitness, the fastest way to get results is to pay an expert.


You need to acquire the knowledge.  If you can’t jump into a car and suddenly know how to drive, how can you expect to start training without knowing what you’re doing?  Unfortunately our bodies are, arguably, even more complicated than our cars.


So how do you find an expert who’s actually an expert?


There are many ways to go about this, such as asking around for referrals, looking up trainers online and checking out their social content.  But whatever you do, don’t jump into the first one you see, because if you’re going to be paying for a service, you need to do your research. 


I know I know, the point of paying an expert is so you don’t have to do the research.  Well I thought I’d save you some time. 


In this article I have outlined exactly what type of trainer you should be looking for and why. 


Strength and Conditioning 

If you are looking for a gym trainer, it’s important you look for someone who is qualified in strength and conditioning.


What’s that?

 Strength and conditioning is the practical application of sports science, which tailors programs to an individuals needs.   In short, they have a real plan!


A real plan, not just a random selection exercises you do to build strength.  S+C uses very specific, individualised programing that focuses on injury prevention, followed by performance enhancement.  An S+C coach should always know why you’re using a particular exercise at a particular phase of your program.


Unfortunately, the increased popularity of S+C as a training method, has also increased the number of trainers who claim to have the same level of training, when actually, they don’t. 


It’s very easy nowadays to become qualified as a personal trainer, but there is a huge difference between a person who has spent years studying and developing their craft, to someone who became qualified after a 12week course.    


What is the difference between a trainer and a coach? 


When you train with a coach, they listen, adjust and apply movements that are suitable to the individual in order to get them to where they need to go.


A sports coach has the ability to come up with a strength and conditioning program for athletes, all with different injuries in the space of five minutes.  They can come up with a program that’s inclusive, progressive and include specific movements to help them reach their goals.


How To Spot A Bad Coach

Firstly it’s important to look at the ethics and morals of the trainer, which you can probably gather from their social content.  Are they passionate about what they’re doing, or are they just focused on looks and the content of people’s pockets? 


Once you pick a trainer/gym you’ll probably be offered a free consultation, so here are the things you should keep in mind:


Are you getting coached or are they just counting reps? 

Are you learning in each session? 

Do you understand what you’re doing and why? 

Is your program being explained to you? 

Are they on their phone during a session?

Is there a program being followed, a plan in place or is it being made up on the spot?

Are they prepared and on time?


You are paying this person because he/she is an expert, so make sure they have relevant qualifications.  Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand why you’re doing something. Hold them accountable and test if they a valid reason for the exercise selection and volume.  


You also need to look at their environment, does the space make you feel comfortable? What standards do they hold for themselves?  This trainer is going to be the one holding you accountable on your journey.  If they don’t hold themselves to a high standard, they will never be able to do the same for you. 


How To Spot A Good Coach

The purpose of paying for a coach is so they can analyse where you’re at, what you need to do right now and target the highest priority, something you might not be able to see yourself.


Health and Risk Assessment 

In order to achieve this, the first thing they will look at is injury prevention.  They need to make sure you are fit and well.  You should be asked to fill out a DETAILED health questionnaire.  Some simply ask for this as an insurance policy, but a good coach will use these details to develop your program.  They should be very inquisitive about your health history.


Strength and conditioning coaches are obsessed with movement assessment, but a lot of the times they miss the boat on going back to the very basics.  If a person has a heart issue they need to firstly get doctor clearance, to protect the client.


Movement Assessment

A movement assessment informs the coach of your movement pattern and will significantly reduce your risk of injury.  Although strength is the foundation of all S+C programs,  you cannot improve strength if you have an insufficient range of motion, such as the inability to touch your toes or put your hands over your head.  The coach will need to make sure the body is functioning properly by testing - can they move from A to B, can they complete a 30 minute walk for an extra 3 days a week?


All coaches need to ensure their client has the strength and mobility to optimise the performance.  They should regularly test your movement and your strength while continuing the process of injury prevention in order to have you working at optimum movement, optimal strength and optimal performance.


Don’t feel disheartened if your body doesn’t move the way you think it should.  This is why you hire a trainer, so they can teach you things about your body you would never be able to see. 


As people get older they loose agility, balance and coordination because they’re not moving.  So most trainers will make you go back to absolute basics. 


For example, take a 21 year old who played sports all his life.  At 21 he decides to go to college and spends the next ten years dedicating all his time and energy on developing his career.  If at 31 he decides to get back into training,  after spending years not moving, and the trainer gets him to do the same program he did when he was 18, it will break him. 


That person needs to go back to foundational movements – agility, balance and coordination.


You can’t open up a joint or stretch a muscle and expect that muscle to stay elongated.  You need to lengthen that muscle and then put strength on top.  

If you’re oiling the hinge of a door and now the hinge moves well, you want to make sure those screws are screwed in tight while it moves well so it keeps functioning.



It’s important your trainer is able to recognise these things and not put you on this killer strength program, just because you want to loose weight.  Look for a coach who wants to educate you.  A coach who can be 100% honest on what you should realistically expect, what route is the right one for you to take and why.  That takes time, effort, authenticity, but also a coaching team who are extremely self-aware and know how communicate.


Knowing how to program efficiently is a highly developed skill, not every trainer has.  So I’m going to leave you with 10 questions you should ask every trainer before you agree to train with him/her.


Questions to ask a coach before you hire them: 

1.     Where did you get your qualification and how many qualifications in health and fitness do you have?

2.     Where do you source all you health and fitness information?

3.     How often do you spend on learning, researching and developing your craft?

4.     What do you plan on doing next for your continued education?

5.     What’s the best way to achieve my goal?

6.     What makes your method different to other trainers?

7.     Do you use the same program for everyone you work with?

8.     Have you worked with clients who are similar to me?

9.     Do you have any testimonials or is it possible to talk with them about their experience?

10.  How will you hold me accountable?

 Start your relationship with your trainer as open and honest as you can.  At the end of the day, no trainer out there is a mind reader.  They can’t help you if you don’t communicate with them. 


Ciara Glover

Unit 13

Unit 13 focuses on creating an environment that is friendly, authentic, professional and enjoyable. 

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