Nowadays, everybody wants to be a personal trainer. Fitness influencers are all around us, and it's like they just keep multiplying. Although this is true, having a good personal trainer is beneficial if you can afford it.
A quality PT will provide you with excellent programming, make sure your form is optimal, give you nutritional advice or plans, and will probably become a life-long friend if you really click with one another.
Whether you’re looking for a trainer at your gym, someone to train you outdoors, a Zoom trainer, or any other type of trainer, keep these things in mind if you want to find the right one.
1. Knowledge and (Continued) Education
First and foremost, your trainer should have some sort of certification. A degree in Sports and Exercise Science would be perfect, but there are great trainers without a degree.
Having a personal trainer certificate doesn't mean that a PT is a great coach and that he's continuing with his education, but it's a start.
The field of fitness and exercise is ever-changing, and the changes are coming in fast. That's why your trainer must be passionate about learning. Continued education is a must in the field. Stop paying attention for a year or two, and you'll be out of the loop.
2. Fancy Words and Exercises
Many trainers like using fancy terms and jargon you don't understand. Some do it because they are insecure, others do it to impress you, while some do it because they don't know how to communicate in any other way.
If a trainer uses jargon you don’t understand, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s BS’ing to impress you, but it's something you should pay attention to.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fancy exercises. If your coach switches up your workout every time you get into the gym, and no two workouts are the same, there's definitely something wrong.
If your goal is to be entertained in the gym, then great, he’s doing a terrific job. But if you’re there to progress and improve your health, not being consistent with your workouts is a bad idea.
Everybody, especially beginners, can get tremendous results with just the basics. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, rows, and pullups are always the way to go. Of course, there are a lot of effective exercises, but the fundamentals are the most important when you're starting.
If your trainer is making you balance on a Bosu ball while standing on one leg and doing a barbell curl with bands, something is up.
3. Initial Testing and Assessment
A quality coach will make sure to do several tests and assessments with you before you start training. This includes asking you about your medical history, prior injuries, etc.
A postural assessment is critical if your goal is health or longevity-oriented. He should take note of any imbalances or dysfunctions you may have.
Depending on your goals, they might make you do a few physical tests. Programming a workout plan without knowing the client's physical capabilities isn't possible unless he guesses his way through it.
For example, if your goal is to improve your endurance, he should test your VO2max, and if you want to get stronger, he should test your 1 rep maximum on specific exercises at one point.
Tests should be repeated after some time to ensure you're progressing and to know at what pace you are progressing. These tests keep both of you accountable, and they are an excellent motivator for you along your journey.
4. He Understands the Need for Rest and Progression
Without adequate rest, there's no progression. And without progression, we are just wasting time.
I know some trainers who just love to kill their clients every training session. It would be an understatement to say that's bad. Even Olympians need time for their bodies to recover, let alone a person just wanting to get fit. You get stronger and bigger while you rest and sleep. Even losing weight isn't possible without enough rest.
Progressive overload is one of the most important principles in training. It tells us that the overall intensity of our workouts needs to go up for us to progress. Most people are familiar with this concept instinctually since they will try to lift more weight as time goes by, but you can achieve it in many other ways.
5. Your Type of Motivation
This is an important one. We are all different, and we get motivated in different ways.
Some people need a trainer to push them hard in order to do anything, while others don't need any external motivation.
You need to figure out what type of person you are and what gets you excited. If that means you need someone to slap your face and scream before every set, go for a trainer who can give you that. The same goes for the other extreme. If you don't need any motivation from a trainer, find someone that won't slap you in your face.
Although not always, good trainers can modify the level of motivation they are bringing to every client, depending on their needs.
6. Being Real
Most people underestimate the time needed to get the results they want. It’s the PT’s job to tell the client otherwise and educate them.
People think they can get jacked or lose a hundred pounds of fat in 6 months. While you could maybe get close by using steroids, no good trainer would obviously suggest that.
Fitness is a lifestyle, and there aren't any shortcuts. If shortcuts existed, we'd all be walking around with a big butt and a complete set of 8-pack abs. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The most realistic rate of weight loss for most people will be around 1-2 lbs per week. That seems slow, but it's easier to keep weight off this way.
When it comes to building muscle mass, you can see the first results after about 4 weeks, but the gains you will see are probably minuscule compared to your fitness goals.