Does Your Personal Trainer Actually Know What They’re Doing?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I recently read an article discussing the abundance of Personal Training Certifications available to anyone and everyone. As I read the article I began to think about what qualifications were important to me when hiring a personal trainer as a business owner and as a Healthy Living Director at the YMCA. On the surface it seems like an easy enough decision... the candidate has a 4-year degree or is nationally certified and that is it, they’re hired. But the process is much deeper and more challenging than just what you read on paper. 

I think certifications are nice, but prefer a person who has gone through an extensive 2- or 4-year college program. This is not to say they must have a college degree, but it does show they are more vested in this process as a career. I think experience is a plus, but you must consider your goals. A newer trainer may lack some of the adaptations to work with a client with several dysfunctions or advanced chronic issues, but be excellent at helping a client with their weight loss journey. Many personal trainers now specialize with certain populations and areas of expertise. This can be helpful in deciding who you would like to work with. In most cases, the more specialized a trainer, the higher the cost per session. Higher cost does not always equal a better trainer.

Again, you must look further than what is written and actually work with a personal trainer to learn firsthand how they will progress with your goals. I believe all personal trainers should offer an introductory or free session for them to gauge your fitness level, assess your abilities and let you get to know them. A good indicator that things are starting off well is that “you” are doing most of the talking and the hopeful trainer is listening intently. Your first session should always be a conversation and learning session with a possible movement assessment. At this point they do not know you well enough to put you through the “grinder.” Particular moves can be challenging and a prospective client may feel “out of shape”, but at no time should the trainer be pushing you to the limit on the first visit. This is professionally unacceptable. 

To make this easier for you I have put together 3 categories to help you in your search for a personal trainer. Remember, after doing your homework you will need to meet with this personal trainer to decide if it is a good fit. I should ad this holds true for the personal trainer as well… they need to get to know you and see if you are a fit for them. A trainer confident in their abilities and practice will refer you to another trainer should they feel underqualified for your goals and/or fitness level.

Yblog Personal Trainer 2019

The three categories list a few important facts when looking or assessing any personal trainer. While these points are my opinion I do believe these are paramount in determining the quality of a personal trainer. An individual that has put thousands of hours into their craft and shows a strong ethical position with the ability to motivate a client to hit their goals is an individual worth exploring further in your fitness journey!

Must Haves in a Prospective Trainer

  • Your first session is for Goal Setting and Conversation. Often times a movement assessment is completed at this stage.
  • Your initial session should start slow and be appropriately challenging. A movement assessment should be completed by this step.
  • Your trainer should be providing constant feedback and exercise correction in addition to encouragement
  • Your trainer should know their limitations. Are they in over their heads on the first visit?
  • Your trainer must get to know you. Listening Skills are top priority in these early sessions.
  • College Degree. In addition to the knowledge gained it shows this individual is vested in their career.

Nice to Have in a Prospective Trainer

  • College Degree. I put this twice as you may find a diamond in the rough that is outstanding at their craft with no college degree.
  • National Certification. This is a whole other topic. Not all certifications are created equal. 
  • Experience. As stated earlier, with experience comes confidence. Depending on your needs this can vary amongst those looking for training.
  • Is the trainer part of team? This can be beneficial if the team is made up of trainers with different specialties and experiences. It makes it easier for a trainer to refer you to a member on their team if your needs are more than they are qualified to train.

Move-ON... Red Flags

  • Your first session is a gut-wrenching workout you can barely finish or not finish at all.
  • Your first visit does not include any of the following: Goal Setting, Health and Lifestyle History, Assessment, Review of background in training.
  • Your trainer continues to tell you to push through pain. They just met you!
  • If after your consult the prospective trainer does not adhere to anything you just discussed… as if they were not even listening!

This list is just a few tips when beginning your search. You may have a gut feeling that you go with or some other information that will help you come to a decision, but the point is, make sure your new trainer is interested in your goals and not just another paying client.


Eric Gorder BS, CES  Greater Green Bay YMCA
Ferguson Family Healthy Living Director