How To Find a Good Personal Trainer

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Q: So how do you find a good personal trainer? Obviously I can read you, find about Alwyn Cosgrove, or Mike Boyle, Craig Balantyne, etc. But what about just finding some guy(or girl) around me that will do more than just show me how to use the Nautilus machines?

A: Last week I ranted about a trainer who works at my sister’s gym back in Albany, NY. Long story short, most personal trainers have a reputation as being glorified “rep counters.” And for many people who end up hiring a personal trainer, a great percentage end up leaving the experience with a sour taste in their mouth and feel their money could have been better spent, I don’t know, on a pet rock.

Pet Rock

That being said, I’d like to take this opportunity and shed some light and offer my suggestions on how you can go about finding the right personal trainer for you.

1. Are they certified by a reputable organization?

As scary as it sounds, many people who consider themselves a personal trainer aren’t even certified. And if they are “certified,” it’s because they paid some random website $49.99 for an online course. I can’t make this stuff up. If you don’t believe me go ahead and Google “personal training certifications” and right on the first page you’ll see what I’m referring to.

So for $49.99 someone can become a certified personal trainer after he/she completes their ONLINE examination; which they can complete at their own discretion. This is the type of person you’re going to trust with your health and fitness? I’m guessing 95% wouldn’t even know where the Quadratus Lumborum is if you asked them. Ha! Idiots. Seriously though, where is that? That’s a girl part right?

All in all, certifications from the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) would be considered the “gold standard” to look for. Other acceptable certifications to look for would be ISSA and ACE.

In the grand scheme of things, a certification is just that, a piece of paper. What they do with it is what really matters (ie: continuing education, networking with other professionals, observing other trainers/coaches, etc). Don’t be scared to ask someone what their experience is and whether or not they make it a point to keep up-to-date on things by attending seminars, conferences, etc. I’ve actually worked with several trainers in the past who did nothing but copy/paste workout routines from magazines and use them with their clients. Sad, but true.

2. What’s their personal philosophy?

Ask the trainer you’re meeting with what their philosophy is on training. If it entails having you warm-up on a treadmill and then spending the majority of your session using circuit machines then you know what you’re paying for. (Hint: to waste your time.) Conversely if their philosophy entails an approach that takes note of any postural issues and other kinetic dysfunctions you may have while at the same time helping you attain your goals in the safest and most effective means possible, then you know you’re in the right hands. In other words, they don’t take a “cookie-cutter” approach with every client.

3. Ask for testimonials.

Most trainers will either have their own website which has written testimonials from past and current clients. Bonus points if they have an endorsement from Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris

Check out to see what other people say about their experience with “x” trainer. Additionally, you may want to ask around your gym and see which trainers have a good reputation for getting results with their clients. Gym members are more than willing to point you in the right direction and offer their honest opinion.

4. Observe

When you’re at your gym, take notice of how the trainers interact with their clients. If they seem disinterested and are just standing there counting reps while checking out other members, then you know to steer clear of them. If on the other hand, you notice that they seem to be focused on the client and tend to be a bit more hands-on (not in a creepy way), then you can bet that you’re going to get your money’s worth.

5. Do they look the part?

Simply put, I think trainers should look the part. It amazes me how many trainers out there look like they have never lifted a weight in their life. A perfect example would be Natalie, a contestant on this season of Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites.

Natalie lists herself as a personal trainer on the show, but to me she looks like the female version of Skeletor. That’s not to say that you should gravitate towards the biggest trainer in the gym (see #1), but it stands to reason that if someone actually looks like they train, they’ll probably know what they’re talking about.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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