Let’s be honest, the average person reading this, assuming they are not a Coach or Trainer themselves, really has no way of knowing whether a Trainer that they hire is any good or not. That’s not an insult by any means. Unless you are very knowledgeable in a particular field, it’s hard to tell the phonies in that field from the real deal.
For example, if I was talking to a mechanic, a computer programmer, or an insurance salesman, I wouldn’t have any clue if they were actually good at their job. Sure I could base it off of how financially successful they are or how many clients/customers they have, but that’s not really a fair assessment. What if their parents owned the business and passed it down to them recently? Or what if they just moved to the area and they haven’t had time to build a clientele?
Think about what you do for a living and consider how many people that you know in your field that are really, really good at their jobs…? It’s probably not very many, right? 5%? Maybe 10% if you’re feeling generous? It’s the same way with Trainers, and maybe even worse as there is a relatively low barrier to entry to become a “Trainer” and even worse, for some reason every human with an XY chromosome believes that they know what they’re doing when it comes to the weight room (hint: you probably don’t!)
Keep in mind that it’s not your fault that you may have hired a less-than-stellar Trainer or Coach in the past (heck, even I have done it!) You may have been subject to slick marketing tactics or you may have been wooed by a Trainer with a great six-pack or a cute smile.
So how the heck are you supposed to know if they are good or not? Are they a good Trainer if they have a good body? Not necessarily as that can be chalked up to great genetics. What about if they have tons of degrees/certifications? Eh, much of that information is outdated and/or is more applicable in a laboratory than in a real world setting. Well, what about if they have lots of good-looking, fit clients? Well, sometimes Trainers offer to train people who are already good looking and fit at a reduced rate in order to make themselves look like better Trainers (shh…that’s one of those slick marketing tactics I mentioned above). So how are you supposed to be able to determine if your Trainer knows what they are doing? Hopefully the checklist below (to which you should be able to answer YES) will give you an idea of how good your Trainer is.
- Do they ask questions about your medical history and training history, pain, injuries, etc before your first training session?
- Do they assess the way you move before/during your first training session?
- Can they pinpoint specific issues you might have (weaknesses, imbalances, postural issues) during your assessment?
- Can they explain WHY you are doing the exercises you are doing and how those exercises are benefitting you and preparing you to progress to other exercises/movements?
- Do they ask you how you feel during the workout? Do they ask you how you feel doing certain exercises (i.e. “Does that feel OK? Do you have any pain doing that? Can you feel a stretch in your hamstrings when you hinge back like that?”)
- Can they modify an exercise on the fly if you: aren’t able to do it, aren’t using the correct muscles groups to do the movement, the movement is too hard, the movement is too easy, or the movement causes pain?
- Do they cue and correct you when you are doing movements incorrectly or sub-optimally?
- Do they continue to challenge you and give you more difficult progressions as you get better?
- Do they modify your workout based on how you are feeling that day?
- Can they answer your questions in a way that you can understand them as opposed to trying to sound really complicated in order to mask the fact that they don’t know they answer?
- Do you feel better after working out with them for a while? (i.e. less pain, better sleep, improved posture, more energy, feeling stronger, less winded, etc)
- Do you look better after training with them for a while? (i.e. less body fat, more muscle, better posture, etc)
While the list above is not an exhaustive list, it’s a pretty good starting point for most people when looking for a good Trainer.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hiring a great Trainer does not have to be super expensive. Do your research and look into Small Group Training (3-6 people) or Group Personal Training Classes (10-30 people). You can also find out if a good Trainer in your area has anyone doing an internship or apprenticeship under them. Those interns/apprentices will often train people just as well as the head Trainer at a fraction of the cost since they want to gain experience.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Hopefully it gives you some insight into what to look for when hiring a Trainer/Coach for yourself. And if I left anything off the list, be sure to let me know below! I would love to hear your feedback!