Finding the Right Personal Trainer for You

Finding a Personal Trainer is an often a first step for many wanting to begin their physical improvement journey, or to make sense of all the gym equipment at a nearby training facility.

We now live in a world where a “following” can be bought, and the six-pack physique on show is almost more likely to be a product of fabrication rather than hours of hard training and a balanced diet. If you’re not playing devil’s advocate and questioning the legitimacy of what’s around, you’re doing yourself a disservice.


Just because someone has a large online following, a six pack or the money to buy a fitness center or franchise, doesn’t mean they have the requisite knowledge, experience and know how to help you improve your physique. – Jacob Schepis, JPS Health & Fitness


When selecting a personal trainer, you’re investing time, money, and a great deal of trust into that person. Due diligence is important, and we recommend looking closely at the trainer’s expertise and experience to make sure it aligns with what you wish to achieve.

Would you hire a coach specializing in Bodybuilding if your goal was to run your first half marathon in 12 weeks?


Being blasé will leave you frustrated, confused and misinformed.

In turn, we’ve outlined some important points for you below. We highly recommend you familiarize yourself with everything written here before an initial consultation with a personal trainer.

If their answers don’t check out, burn ’em and don’t continue to waste your time nor theirs.


1) Understand what you want from a personal trainer


If you can’t state specific, measurable goals in one or two sentences, you’ve jumped the gun. You will put the prospective trainer in a situation where he or she will have to infer objectives from your generic ramblings about “wanting to lose weight” or “wanting to gain muscle”.

For example:


Do you have a time frame in mind? I want to run a mile in under 8 minutes.

Do you have an objective weight goal in mind? I want to lose 5 kilos in 2 months. I want to be able to Deadlift 200kg.

Do you have an event or important day coming up? I want to compete in my first amateur Gymnastics competition in 6 months.


By making these points clear, a suitable trainer will be able to make sure their program is tailored specifically to your needs through the initial testing and consultation process.


2) Question their qualifications and experience


It’s now becoming easier to obtain a personal training certification in a shorter time frame. I recommend that you do your homework and ask a new trainer about both their qualifications and experience to decide if it aligns with your objectives as outlined above.

As a caveat, a PhD in Exercise Science (for example) with limited training experience does not necessarily trump an unqualified trainer who has actively attended relevant expert-led workshops with five years training experience.

Here’s a guideline:

Experience + Qualifications > Experience only > Qualifications only

This idea also holds true with employment/freelancing opportunities. As a Graphics Designer or Web Developer, you’d have a rough time finding high paying work if you had little to show when a potential client requests to see your previous projects.

Thus, the portfolio of work reigns supreme.


3) Does the trainer practice what they preach?


Akin to self-help gurus who market lucrative systems they don’t follow, a personal trainer that doesn’t live and breathe what they’re teaching is an immediate red flag.

They may know it in theory, but struggle to confidently demonstrate it in practice.

For example, in weight lifting there are several metrics used to gauge the difficulty and intensity of the training you’re performing. If a trainer in this space is unsure about what “5×5 @ 80%” means or how to work up to an “RPE 9” in a training session, you have every right to question their experience.

By not practicing what they preach, you risk the trainer being disconnected from what you’re feeling during the session even though the planned numbers seem reasonable. We all have sub-par days when there’s something amiss, preventing us from achieving the lofty standards we like to set for ourselves.

A good trainer understands this (as they have been there themselves) and can make necessary adjustments within reason.

In fact, there’s a sales strategy you could apply to this situation we like to call the “BS test”.

The test involves taking a topic that you’re knowledgeable about and feigning ineptitude when consulting a new source.

For example, in the event where the trainer is a proponent for debunked “broscience” rationale, you’ve identified a poser who should be avoided or seriously questioned.


4) Review testimonials


Health and fitness is a visual industry. This means that we should be able to observe discernible results from a personal trainer’s client base. Testimonials can immediately prove the trainer’s worth, showcasing that their trainees are reaching their physical and/or performance-based targets.

Quantity implies quality.

Be privy to the before and after photos. Were the photos taken with similar lighting conditions and angling? This is crucial. It’s stupidly easy to fabricate these kinds of photos and part of your due diligence should involve inspecting them for any kinds of tomfoolery or fabrication.

Read more: The Dream Body is a Marketing Myth


5) How long are you able to work with them?


Results worth attaining take time, and so does building a rapport with a personal trainer. If meeting your goal in a certain time frame is what you want, make sure you understand if the trainer is able to stay with you until the end. Do they have any upcoming vacations or events which may inhibit the time they’re able to spend with you? Ask them.

From our experience, 6 – 8 weeks is a suitable timeframe where you will notice the early signs of progress. However, we believe 12 weeks is the ideal sweet spot for measurable results with physical appearance and/or skill work.

If you’re unhappy with your results after this time, there may be something awry which is keeping you from getting where you want to be.

During a 6 – 8 or 12 week personal training stint, the program of work supplied to you will undergo some changes depending on your progression.

Unless your trainer is a mystical deity who can foresee your progress months into the future, a training regimen should not remain static or “locked in”.


6) Think.


If something doesn’t seem right about a trainer, you have every right to question it. Ask your friends, ask their colleagues, and most importantly, question how you feel about this person.

For those who are unsure about where to begin on their health and fitness journey, hiring a personal trainer is a reasonable starting point. Please share this article with anyone who you believe requires this guidance. Let’s make sure everyone has access to the right information to realize their training potential; especially at the beginning of their training journey.

Are you interested in taking your bodyweight strength training to the next level? Inquire about online coaching with FitnessFAQs.

Readers, have you had any bad experiences with personal trainers? Do you have any extra advice for newbies? What do you look for in a personal trainer? Comment below with your words of wisdom!