5 Questions that will Save You from Hiring Bad Personal Training

Looking for a good personal trainer can be confusing because everyone is different. Here are questions that any trainer should be able to answer.

I've got three things for you today: A story, 5 questions your trainer should be able to answer to help you become who you want to be, and a quick request.

Let's start things off with a brief history of the thing's I've seen.

Context is Important but, That Training Sucks.

Working out at commercial gyms I see some interesting things.

Let me preface this by saying, witnessing one workout or poor exercise is not a basis for judging a person's entire program. That person may be sick or have a medical condition or injury that prevents them from doing something well that day. This is more about the general scene of quality training and exercise instruction.

There are trainers out there who do not pay as much attention to detail as they should be. Clients might be performing exercises for the first time with little to no instruction. Worse it might be the wrong instruction.

My background has allowed me to see coaching in many environments:

  • Strength and Conditioning Coaches at The University of Missouri
  • High School Strength Coaches
  • Powerlifting Coaches
  • Large group (8-18) training sessions
  • Semi-private training sessions
  • One on One personal training
  • My own training and coaching

I can spot a good coach. I can spot a bad one.

The Best Coach I've ever seen is Andrew Paul who is now the head strength coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Every coach has a process, a way of teaching. Your success is based solely around what your trainer can teach you.

Here are some of the questions that your trainer must answer before you sign up.

1. How Will You Measure My Progress?

There should be some form of measuring progress. The primary reason that you do this, is to show improvement.

Testing and retesting is critical. There are ways of doing this that are more accurate (valid) The key is need to be testing this in a reliable way so they can retest it and say what they're doing is working.

Here are some examples of measurements and assessments they may utilize:

  • Functional Movements Screens
  • Body Fat Testing
  • Scale Weight
  • Circumference Measurements
  • Macronutrient Calculations or assessments
  • Photographs
  • Lifting Performance
  • Cardiovascular and aerobic testing

There are many things that can be tested. They may not do all of the testing themselves, I have people go get DEXA scans for body fat. There's a great place here in Columbia, Missouri called Advanced Radiology that does this for $50.

The main things to test are the things that help you reach your goal.

2. How will You help me with Nutrition?

You trainer can't legally provide you with a meal plan unless they are a registered dietician. They can still help you with your nutrition.

  • Will they be helping you figure out how many calories you're eating? 
  • Is there a list of acceptable foods that might be good for you?
  • Guidance on meal prepping?
  • Is this something that they contract out to someone else? if they do, that's okay.
  • It can be habits based coaching, that's fine too.

As long as they aren't telling you specifically what to eat at specific times in specific amounts ex. "eat 3 ounces of turkey tomorrow for breakfast", they can help you. "Eat 3 oz of meat (or protein dense food for the vegans out there) at every meal" is an example of real advice they can give you.

There must be a plan for nutrition. Without nutrition you won't see results.

3. How will You Progress my Program?

People change over time. They should have an idea of how to progress you and a plan or specific set of ideas on how they will do this. You may have heard the term "progressive overload". It means that over time, in order to keep seeing results, your program must evolve.

Once you have good form and a solid base, your training can begin to develop.

Here are some of several ways to progress a program:

  • Lifting the same amount over a larger range of motion
  • Lifting the same amount with better form
  • Lifting the same amount for more reps or sets
  • Lifting a heavier weight for the same sets and reps
  • Lifting a weight faster
  • Lifting the same sets, reps, and weight in a shorter amount of time
  • Lifting the same weight and reps more frequently throughout the week
  • Lifting the same weight, sets and reps while losing weight

Mind you, that list isn't all intensive list. Even in a group setting, you can be provided progressions and individualization.

This process isn't linear. You might progress really fast at times and slow at others, that's okay.

This is literally science. If they don't use science...

4. How will you Regress my Program?

You might have trouble with some things, now what? Injuries occur, the more active you are, the more often they happen. You don't have to do the most complicated exercise to get results. Are they going to force you to always progress?

Is there any way that they plan in regression when needed? How do they approach maintenance? You do not need to directly address all the physical qualities all the time (another super sciency conversation). What are their thoughts on this?

Remember, they can individualize, even in a group.

5. What are you learning about right now?

Strength and conditioning is still technically a new field. Modern Periodization is the basis of what training is founded upon. Periodization is the organization of training. According to Greg Nuckols of Stronger by Science "Periodization originated in Russia following the 1956 Olympic games." (interesting read if you want to spend a good chunk of time on in)

Since both the field and you are changing, are they constantly looking for ways to help you?

Okay I get it, they might be learning about more than one thing at a time. There are a lot of books. Business is important. Self advancement and personal interests are also important. What are they interested in learning about next when they aren't as busy?

If they can't say anything or if they say something that isn't helping you get closer to your goals and can't tell you how it will. Leave. Now about that request.

If You Already Know You Want a Trainer...

Phone: 1-573-443-1495