9 Ways to Spot a Really Bad Personal Trainer

 In Blog

Did you know that you could get a personal training certification online? Yep, that’s right: you can plop down a few hundred dollars, take a test with the blessing of anonymity, and then became a “specialist” to work one on one with clients. The fitness industry is the wild west – it doesn’t require a license to work with people so many certification companies end up butting heads as the “gold standard” in the industry.

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To compound matters, personal training is an art form as well. Functional anatomy and exercise physiology are just half of the equation; people aren’t going to work with you if you have the personality of a broomstick. Can you educate people without talking over their head? Are you able to promote accountability while still providing motivation? All in all, you can’t be a stick in the mud: a boring trainer makes that one hour feel like an eternity spent at City Hall doing jury duty.

Hey, no one’s perfect, but if your trainer does a whole lot of the following, it may be time to find a new one. Here are some ways for you to spot a really bad personal trainer.

  1. Rambling Man- Does your trainer count tempo during your repetitions? Do they explain what movements you perform and why? Or do they talk…..a lot? A lot of rambling means there really isn’t a developed training program and the trainer is just killing time. Furthermore….
  2. I, Me, Mine – All that rambling is even worse than you thought. Why? Because all that energy from your trainer is being spent talking about themselves. Don’t you just love spending money to hear someone talk about their problems? I once observed a trainer tell the client everything – about their kids, their spouse, their bills – you name it. The poor client didn’t even get a word in. To try and defend himself, the trainer argued that he talked about himself so much because he felt it “inspired his clients to work harder.” Right…..
  3. Please Put Your Phone Down- Does your trainer allow cellphones on the training floor? No, not your phone but theirs. I’ve seen trainers make a major boo-boo by sending texts while their clients workout, but the gravest mistake are the ones who will make calls or even answer their phone. That’s a definite 15 yard penalty because your trainer needs to be paying attention to your tempo and providing coaching cues, not setting up dinner plans for that night.
  4. Weird Science –Does your trainer rely on peer reviewed research? Does he or she read books from the very best strength coaches in the world? Sadly, most do not and refuse to spend time on self improvement.
  5. Head of the Class – Speaking of being the best, a good trainer realizes that they have to spread themselves around a bit. You want to work with a trainer who follows up on the world’s better coaches and tries to implement that knowledge where it’s needed. Once again though, bad trainers are reluctant to give up that hour making a bit of loot in order to better themselves.
  6. Assembly Line – What’s the reason for this lack of new knowledge? A lot of trainers run an assembly line business, meaning they train people from 6 am to 8 pm. The hours are hell but the trainer is caught in this endless cycle of never gaining any knowledge so they can charge more. So instead, they simply work themselves into the ground. In the end, both parties suffer, as you have to deal with an exhausted trainer that hardly pays attention to you. They also run their clients like an assembly line; no time for writing out comprehensive programs means everyone gets trained the same.
  7. Toys- Is your trainer constantly “switching things up?” Is each training session like visiting a Toys R Us for fitness coaches? If so, you might want to consider donating your remaining sessions to someone else. Pulling out gizmos and having clients stand on one foot like a circus act is an old trick trainers use when they have no idea how to get the client lean or strong. As the consumer, you associate a difficult challenge as a good thing, and thus having you pat your head while rubbing your tummy might stimulate you for a few minutes, you won’t do much for your performance.
  8. Glass Half Empty- I love when a client has questions. Asking me my opinion means that my client is invested in learning about fitness as well as respecting my opinion on certain matters. But some trainers spend more time putting things down than learning new things. It’s almost as if “hey client, I know you have questions, but all you need to know is that everything I’m not currently doing myself is stupid.” It may be funny at first but it gets old real quick.
  9. Do they even train- Not all of us are genetically gifted to be a bodybuilder or to destroy a world record in the snatch. But that doesn’t mean a trainer shouldn’t look like, well, a trainer. They should stand out as someone reasonably strong and in shape. All in all, they should practice what they preach and be able to set an example for you.


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