How Long Should You Have a Personal Trainer?

How long should you have a personal trainer? If you pick up exercises quickly (and picked the right parents), you can see results working with a trainer in as little as twelve weeks. How often should you see your trainer? Read on to find out.

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How Long Should You Have a Personal Trainer?

You should plan on working with a personal trainer for three to six months when you first get started.

There are no secret exercises or programs in fitness. If you're doing the right things, your results will compound over time. A good personal trainer will work to help you feel comfortable and confident in your form.

Decide if you want to commit long-term once you have the moves down.

Training might cost you one to two car payments per month. We can always come up with new goals to retain you as a client but, you've got a budget.

If you can train twice a week, great, that's all you need. If you can afford to come in three times per week, there's a chance that you'll benefit in the long term.

(You'll spend the rest of this article going deeper into the above.)

Before you think about hiring a personal trainer to lose weight, read the rest of this article.

Let's talk about how long you should plan on working with your next trainer.

Below we'll answer some of your questions including:

  • How long does it take to see results with a personal trainer?
  • How long do you need a personal trainer?
  • How many times a week should I train with a personal trainer?
  • How fit can you get in 3 months?

How Long Does it Take to See Results with a Personal Trainer?

With a personal trainer, you should see results in about three to six months.

It can, however take longer or shorter than that.

The real answer depends on a few things:

  1. Your goals. It takes longer to build muscle and strength than it does to lose weight (or build confidence).
  2. Your lifestyle and starting point. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that more than three-fifths (63.6%) of your BMI is determined by your genes¹.
  3. Your body will fight against major weight changes. Your body regulates hormones and activity to sustain your current weight.

Decide what success looks like to you and work backward.

We all have individual responses to the same fitness program. The truth is, no one knows how long it will take to see results.

How Long Do You Need a Personal Trainer?

You need a personal trainer for a year. Okay, it depends.

You need a personal trainer for as long as you can afford to fit it in your budget.

You'll make initial progress but, it will slow down. Your goal is to develop good form and technique while gradually increasing the challenge.

Gains in fitness compound like savings accounts.

Consider this:

  • You might not notice losing or gaining a half-pound per week - that's 18 pounds in six months.
  • Adding 5 pounds to your glute bridge each week sounds like slow progress - 65 pounds in three months.

Expect to commit to a long-term, sustainable process. You don't need to train like an athlete or a bodybuilder (if those aren't your goals).

The most important parts of your fitness and nutrition habits are consistency. You build confidence by setting clear expectations and achieving success.

How Many Times a Week Should I Train with a Personal Trainer?

You should train with a personal trainer one to three times per week.

  • Once per week - If you're on a budget and can train solo at least one other time a week.
  • Twice per week - If you're looking to meet the minimum frequency that you should train
  • Three times per week - If you're looking to learn exercises faster (and maybe get more gains long term).

Exercises are like skills that you practice consistently. If you get the basics right and stay in the game, you'll continue to make progress.

Several individual differences will impact the speed of your progress:

  • Stress levels - How stressful is your life?
  • Recovery rate - How long does it take you to recover from a training session?
  • Injury history - Have you been injured? Is there anything currently affecting the way you move?
  • Physical makeup - Are you built well for the exercise you're performing?

We could come up with more than 10 reasons why you're special. Let's consider physical makeup alone.

(Brace yourself, there's science below)

In a study published in 2019, Cooke et al assessed back squat performance in well-trained male and female lifters. The authors wanted to find out how body mass, sex, body fat percentage, and femur length related to the number of reps to failure at 70% of a max lift.

Note: 70% is an estimated training weight. A rep calculator would tell you that something you could only lift for 12 reps is "70% of your max".

A couple of highlights from what researchers found2:

  • Subjects performed 14 ± 4 reps on the squat at 70% of 1RM with a range of 6-26 reps.
  • Body mass, BF%, and femur length were inversely related to repetitions performed at 70% of 1RM in the back squat.

In other words, subjects performed 6-26 reps with something that researchers expected to be a 12 rep max.

A trainer who tells you exactly where you'll be after following a twelve-week program is flat out lying to you.

How Fit Can You Get in 3 Months?

At a rate of adding 5 pounds per week to an exercise, you can become fit enough to lift a 50-pound bag of dog food in 3 months.

How fit you can get in 3 months largely depends on how you respond to your training.

We learned above that more than three-fifths of your size is determined by your genetics (thanks mom). This is part of why your trainer constantly works to individualize your routine.

Some exercises are more friendly for people with longer arms (deadlifts). Larger bodies can be extremely strong and simultaneously not be able to do 10 pull-ups. Think NFL offensive linemen.

This isn't to say that you can't make changes and grow confident in the body you have now.

In the aforementioned analysis, 36.4% of BMI was controlled by the environment and other factors.

Some lifestyle factors you can change include:

  • Exercise (duh)
  • Rest
  • Nutrition
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Professional stress levels
  • At-home stress levels

The more stressful your life outside of your fitness routine, the more stress your body has to deal with.

Let's say for example you're skipping fueling up for your workouts (aka breakfast). On a small scale, that might mean that you’re able to perform one less set per workout.

If it’s one day, an extra set won't matter much. Over a year, that one extra set per week adds up to a pretty big difference

What Are Your Fitness Goals?

Personal trainers make different decisions to tailor routines towards different goals.

If your goal is to get in better shape, you'll focus on increasing the amount of exercise you perform in a given timeframe. If your goal is to build confidence and strength, you'll focus on lifting heavier weights.

A plan for strength focuses on:

Exercises that are easier to load include squats, deadlifts, and various pulling movements.

You build confidence by achieving success. If your weights crush you at the gym on your first day, it might be some time before you feel up to going again.

Learn more about how you can build your confidence by reading What You Need to Know About Goals and Motivation.

If your goal is to lose weight (or gain weight) your focus is more on volume and creating an energy imbalance.

A plan for weight change focuses on:

  • Weight loss (or gain).
  • Progressive overload-focused on doing more sets and reps with moderate weights.
  • Selecting a mix of exercises that may include aesthetic or full-body movements.

You'll still need to lift weights to maintain the lean mass you have. It's hard to lift real heavy weights for high volumes while also dieting.

You can choose to focus on both strength and weight change at different points (or the same). Some lose weight then shift to strength, often the exercises used are pretty similar.

For more on what goes into a strength training routine, check out Strength Training for Beginners.

Here's How Long You Should Have a Personal Trainer:

  1. Three to six months - if your goals are within reach.
  2. A year or longer - if your goal is to completely change the way you look (think Adele).

It all depends on where you're starting from. No one can give you an exact answer-if your goal is achievable for you.

References:

  1. Segal, N L, et al. “Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Body Mass Index: Comparative Analysis of Monozygotic Twins, Dizygotic Twins and Same-Age Unrelated Siblings.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 33, no. 1, 2008, pp. 37–41., doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.228.
  2. Cooke DM, Haischer MH, Carzoli JP, Bazyler CD, Johnson TK, Varieur R, Zoeller RF, Whitehurst M, Zourdos MC. Body Mass and Femur Length Are Inversely Related to Repetitions Performed in the Back Squat in Well-Trained Lifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Mar;33(3):890-895. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003021. PMID: 30640306.

This article was originally published on 3/14/2019

Last updated: 2/13/21