9 Things To Look For In A Personal Trainer

9 Things To Look For In A Personal Trainer

9 Things To Look For In A Personal Trainer

| IN Education & Development, Gym Equipment, Personal Training |

Are you considering engaging a personal trainer, but haven’t worked with one before? Or perhaps you have had your fair share of personal trainers and you are looking for a better trainer? In this post, I’m going to share with you 9 things to look for in a personal trainer so that you can make the best possible choice.

I was just having a chat with a new friend and she was complaining about the quality of personal trainers (or lack there of) whom she had come across during her experience being a member with different commercial gyms.

There is no real authority or proper regulations in the personal training industry and that means any man on the street can become a ‘certified’ personal trainer over a weekend certification. In fact, you can start marketing yourself as a personal trainer without any fitness certification and nothing will happen to you.

Let’s get it to it. So that your investment will be worth every single dollar, in no particular order, these are the 9 things to look for in a personal trainer.

1) Certifications & Qualifications

There are many types of certifications in the fitness industry. You have the basic certified personal trainer ones and then you have the rest:

  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Special Population
  • Injury Pre-habilitation & Rehabilitation
  • Pre and Post Natal
  • Olympic Weightlifting
  • Athletics, Track and Field
  • Youth Fitness
  • Exercise/Sport Nutrition
  • Crossfit, Kettlebells
  • Zumba, Kickboxing, etc

And then you have certification courses for every possible exercise equipment – foam rolling, TRX, swissball, bosu ball, Viper, battling rope, etc. Certified Swissball Instructor.. Certified Viper Instructor… Seriously.

The fitness industry is coming up with new exercise equipment and fads all the time. What better way to make more profits besides selling products than to come up with certification courses to earn money off trainers?

swissball barbell nonsense
Someone please have the ambulance on standby.

Some trainers might hate me for saying this, but I personally wouldn’t engage a trainer who has tons of certifications in various exercise equipment and little else. An exercise equipment is just a tool. Anyone can learn to use a tool in minutes. What’s most important is having a fundamental understanding of training principles and science.


Question – would you trust a MBA graduate without real business experience or an proven entrepreneur who has achieved tremendous success building businesses? Which would you say is more qualified to providing business advice? I think you get where I am going here.

That is not to say that certifications are useless. They are in fact very important and a pre-requisite for most jobs in gyms and fitness organizations. And of course, if you are not sure where to begin, a certification course is a good start to increase your knowledge and skills in which ever area you decide to pursue. In many instances, you will need to start at the basic level before you are able to progress on to more advanced levels.

With that being said..

There are a few unique individuals who do not have any sort of fitness certification, but are self-taught and well read. Combine that knowledge with years of experience coaching others non-professionally (just because you don’t making a living coaching doesn’t mean you aren’t a good coach), they are able to help people achieve results better than many trainers who do it for a living.

That is what I call being qualified – it doesn’t matter if you have certifications or not, as long as you have a proven track record. That’s for me at least if I am employing someone. So it depends on you.

In fact, having been a personal trainer over 8 years and having helped hundreds of people, I probably only had one or two persons asking me about my certifications.

2) Experience

The longer the trainer has been in the industry, the more experience he has to better help you achieve your goals and solve your problems after having worked with clients from different backgrounds and goals.

If you were critically injured, would you choose the junior or senior surgeon if you have a choice? Obviously, you would choose the latter because he has more experience and you feel more assured.

Similar to how we would prefer an experienced taxi driver who has been driving for many years as compared to a new driver. The experienced taxi driver is going to get you to your destination faster whereas the new driver might get lost or use a longer route.

3) Personality

I think this is an under-rated factor when it comes to choosing a personal trainer.

You are going to spend many hours with your trainer so it’s important that you choose a trainer who has the right kind of personality that will suit you. We all have different personalities and work well with certain personalities.

Are you looking for a trainer who is like a military instructor? Someone who pushes you beyond your limit, gets into your face and shouts at you to motivate you and doesn’t accept your excuses and bullshit? He is tough, aggressive and doesn’t give you chances. Are you up for it?

Or you prefer a trainer who is easy and lets you off the hook easily?

It probably lies somewhere in the middle for most people.

I think that an ideal trainer should have these similar characteristics such as patience, passion and good listening skills, but yet is firm and willing to push you hard during training and expects you to give your best.

4) Testimonials

Just like how we like to check out reviews and ask around before buying something, it’s important to look at the testimonials that the trainer has. Not only will testimonials tell you if the trainer is able to deliver results, you might find out more about his personality as well.

If he doesn’t have testimonials to show, how sure are you that he has the ability to help you achieve your goals?

Of course, a new trainer might not have testimonials yet, so you can expect a lower rate compared to a more experienced and proven trainer.

5) Skills

This is related to point number one, certifications and qualifications.

What is the trainer best skilled at? What is his speciality? His forte?

If you want to become a bodybuilder and compete on stage, find a trainer with bodybuilding success.

If you need help with injuries and want to continue being able to exercise injury-free, find a trainer who has success helping people with that.

And so forth.

6) Cost

In general, more experienced and successful trainers will command higher rates than the rest who are just starting out, have less experience and lack a proven track record.

However, just like any industry, you will find trainers who charge very high rates, but their service and skills do not match up to their rates.

Just to give a real life example – a friend of mine signed up at a Japanese personal training gym locally and it cost $200 per session while the average market rate per session in Singapore varies from $70-$90. For $200, you would expect world class coaching and service. However, her experience was ordinary and certainly not worth what she paid for. It was a rash decision signing up for the package.

On the other hand, you will also come across trainers or gyms who charge incredibly low rates – find out why. It might cost you less, but is it going to be worth it?

Ideally, you want a trainer who charge a competitive rate and over deliver in every aspect.

So if your budget allows it, go for the best, but do your research and ask questions to make sure that your trainer is worth what he charges.

Ultimately, you do get what you pay for, at least most of the time.

7) Professionalism

If you are training in a gym that has trainers working in there and you are thinking of hiring one, take your time to observe them.

Is the trainer giving his full attention to his client or is his attention diverted to elsewhere? Like eyeing a particular good looking gym member constantly?

Is the trainer spending a lot time on his mobile phone texting somebody instead of watching over his client properly? In this case, you might have to be more observant because some trainers have their clients’ training programs uploaded into their phones so they could be typing to log down their clients’ progress.

This next factor is a personal choice. If a trainer is a smoker and heavy drinker, I wouldn’t engage him as my trainer no matter how good he is. It is my personal belief that a trainer should be a health and fitness role model. But that’s a decision to make for yourself.

Last, but not least, trainers who are out of shape. It just disgusts me. How can a trainer help you get results if he or she can’t even get results for themselves? A trainer should set a good example and be able to lead himself or herself first. And even if they have the knowledge to get themselves into good shape, it is just uninspiring and unprofessional for them to be out of shape. Unless you are looking for a strength coach, then that is another story.

8) Accountability

Does the trainer offer any form of accountability to keep you on track? Unless you are a highly motivated and diligent individual, it will not be easy trying to achieve your goals by yourself.

It doesn’t matter if it’s some online tracking system, a physical training and diet log, emails, Facebook or Whatsapp groups, there needs to be some form of accountability and regular update.

Think about it. A typical session with a trainer is one hour. And say you have 3 sessions with your trainer a week. That’s 3 hours per week. What is going to happen with the remaining 165 hours of the week? A LOT. 165 hours that your trainer is not able to control.

Having to be accountable to your trainer will make a big difference towards keep you on track to achieve your goals.

Basically, you want a personal trainer who offers more than just instructing you what to do in the gym, counting reps and sets.

That’s the difference between a trainer who is just there for a job and a trainer who is truly passionate about fitness and improving people’s lives.

9) Location

Well, this is straight forward and a personal choice.

If you manage to find a trainer that fairs well in the factors above and he lives on the other side of the island, would you be willing to travel the extra distance?

Assuming the trainer is the best at what he does and you are truly serious about achieving your goal, I guess you would be willing to make sacrifices.

Otherwise, there are good trainers around and you just need to look for them.

Was this helpful? I hope this is going to help you choose an ideal personal trainer for yourself!

Comment below if you have questions and share on Facebook with anyone who you know is looking for a personal trainer!

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