Here's How To Find A Great Personal Trainer

Not all trainers will have a degree in kinesiology, but a great personal trainer continues to take courses to build their practical skill set

02/20/2018 10:57 EST | Updated 02/20/2018 11:18 EST

If your weight is rising and health is dwindling, your best option is to hire someone on the forefront of preventative health care: a personal trainer.

This shouldn't just be someone to motivate you and make you sweat, but someone who understands how the human body should move and who can help you improve your health without increasing the risk of new injury.

But how do you find a trainer who is a true health professional and not just a rep-counter? Here's your guide.

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Use a search engine and consult local gyms. Do not use Instagram

When trying to find a great personal trainer, start with an internet search of gyms and trainers in your area. Here you'll uncover your local gyms along with information on nearby trainers, notably their education, credentials and sometimes even testimonials.

Step two is to stop by any gyms that are convenient for your purposes. Ask about their trainers and get all the information that you need.

Between the internet and in-person visits, you'll have vetted all the trainers in your area and will have a short-list of possible candidates.

Why not Instagram?

Some trainers sell themselves on marketing alone. They make flashy videos that show off their desirable physiques or strength and lure-in clients with the plug of, "I've done it, so I can show you how to do it!"

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Reality check

You do not lead the fitness-driven lifestyle of a personal trainer. Their job is to be lean and strong. This should not be a selling point, but instead a reasonable prerequisite.

Your genetics are unique and unlike those of your potential trainer. If a personal trainer believes that others will get the exact same results by doing as they do, this demonstrates a lack of empathy and transferable skills.

If a personal trainer is spending hours making videos, how much time are they also spending on becoming a better personal trainer? Do you want an Instagram celebrity or do you want to find a great personal trainer?

Competitive athletes and bodybuilders can be great trainers, but proficiency in a sport does not make someone a great trainer. If they are using nothing but their personal experience to help you — a lifestyle that requires more training sessions and recovery time than a typical desk-job allows — this person will not be an effective personal trainer for you.

Look at educational background and more importantly, ongoing practical education

Not all trainers will have a degree in kinesiology or related fields, but a great personal trainer continues to take courses to build their practical skill set and evolve over time. You may not know the meaning of the acronyms beside a trainer's name, but a trainer who pursues ongoing certifications is in the right frame of mind.

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Red flag: Any trainer who uses a blanket approach for all clients. If a trainer has a biased approach that "should work for everyone," this is not a great personal trainer.

Ask to speak to one of their existing clients

Don't just take a trainer at their word: ask to speak with one of their current clients. Make sure this client is similar to you in as many ways possible.

Red flag:If a trainer can't provide you with a testimonial, take a pass.

Pay for one session vs a huge package up front

In one session, you will discover if you've found a great personal trainer. Here's what to look for:

  • Assessments that go beyond weight and measurements. This demonstrates that they care about your movement quality, life demands and health.
  • Individualized recommendations. They can explain why you are qualified for certain movements but not for others, which demonstrates their understanding of how the body should move, and that they will create a plan to safely get you results.
  • Simple cues and demonstrations. A great personal trainer will give you verbal and kinesthetic cues that make sense to you and help you understand your body. They will also demonstrate movements.

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  • Video and documentation. A great personal trainer will use video to document progress (not for Instagram.) They will record your movement, walk you through your opportunities and highlight your successes.
  • It's about you. They will spend the session asking about you, your history and goals, not talking about themselves or their exploits.
  • No lifting through pain. If a personal trainer pushes you through pain or acts as a physiotherapist and tries to diagnose and treat an injury, this is not a great personal trainer.

Finally, a great personal trainer does not: show up late; text on the job; eat on the job; sit on the job; do their own workout while training you.

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Whereas, a great personal trainer will always: ask you about your sleep and stress, and adjust sessions accordingly; for women, ask about your cycle, and adjust sessions accordingly; keep a detailed file about your progress, injuries, personal bests, etc; respect your space and not add stress to your life; give homework to ensure you reach your goals as quickly as possible.

This blueprint should help you find a great personal trainer to help you with your goals. Quality movement and building strength are two of the top defenses we have against aging and disease, so find a great personal trainer who understands the value of their profession, and the importance of your goals.

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