My Personal Trainer: Real or an idiot?

It should be no secret that In commercial gyms (Bally’s, 24 hour fitness, Gold’s, Equinox, LIfetime among others) personal training services are a huge source of revenue.   While I stand by my opinion that everyone could benefit from having  a personal trainer, I add the caveat that the trainer be both qualified and capable in providing personal training services.

Truth be told, not every trainer you see in the gym is equally capable.  Some are quite capable in handling a wide variety of clients, some can handle only a few types of clients or elect to specialize in one or two specific areas and yes….some have no business training anyone.

If the trainer has a small tool box or limited/no experience in training certain populations they should be honest about it.  They can elect to stick within their comfort zones or seek further education and guidance under other well qualified trainers.


So how do you know if your trainer is real, or possibly an idiot?  Especially if this person is your first trainer and you don’t have any standard to compare against?  Time to bust out the 1-2 combination of intuition and the My Trainer Chris trainer checklist!

Q; When I ask my trainer question, how is it answered?


They take the time to answer it and every question is answered thoroughly and in a respectful manner.  (Even if you thought it might be a silly question)


My trainer seems to be able to anticipate my questions. Sometimes it freaks me out how well he/she seems to know me.

My trainer doesn’t always know the answer, but is very good about getting back to me (or) my trainer may not have the full answer, but does know where to look it up or whom to consult. 



My trainer doesn’t ever seem to have the answer, but will Google the hell out of it  and forward me the link.


My trainer NEVER Googles it….he/she Asks Jeeves.


My trainer doesn’t Google or Ask Jeeves…he hits his bro up on Facebook or iPhone Facetime for what to do.  Amazingly, his bro happens to be in the same gym at the same time.  (and thanks to Facebook updates, we know today is his 5th Pecs-Biceps workout for the week…and it is only Tuesday.)

stink eye

My trainer does answer my questions, but it always comes with an odd look first.

Q: My trainers knowledge base can best be described as….


My trainer explains the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing and occasionally blinds me with his/her brilliance.

My trainer can break things down in simple terms that make sense and doesn’t require an Indiana Jones level knowledge of Latin.

My trainer can advise in several areas in which he/she specializes in, which they were very upfront about the first time me met.  They will admit if they don’t know something, or if the question is outside the scope of their practice.  (Self example: I have no intentions of running a marathon or participating in a triathalon. I can advise on the strength and conditioning sides of either, but a running/swimming/biking coach would be a far better coach on the sport specific side of things.

My trainer seems to always be engaged in learning something new.


My trainer baffles me with answers that have a slight…to pronounced BS odor.

My trainer knows everything about everything and was upfront telling me that the first time we met.

My trainer copies his routines from various muscle magazines…I know because I just saw the workout in the latest edition of _______  magazine.

Q: My trainers methods are effective . 


It must be, I am seeing/feeling results.

It is, my trainer is very good about tracking my progress in muscle gain, weight loss and performance improvement.

It is, one area may get special attention, but I am certainly advised of improvements as well as needs for regression.

It better be, he/she constantly monitors me (AKA “On my butt”) and has even prescribed exercises for me to do when I’m NOT with him/her. (AKA “When the trainer is NOT making $)

Too early to tell, but ‘m thinking it will be.  My trainer introduces me to his/her other clients and they all seem pretty happy.

It better be, I swear my trainer is trying to get me ready for the Navy SEAL program.

Too early to tell, but my trainer has testimonials supporting their skill.  (NOTE: New trainers may not have enough history to have built up a few client testimonials.)

cookie cutterIt must be, all my trainers clients are doing the same routine I am.   (Group exercise, HIIT and CrossFit coaches are exempt, this is just for 1-1 training)

Too early to tell, I rarely/never see my trainer with anyone else,

I’m not sure…he handed me a shake weight and……..

I’m not sure, I’ve never been told how or where I am improving and my trainer seems to be able to hold all that data in their head. (Note: Some trainers can hold an amazing amount of data in their head, I personally cannot and HAVE to write things down…even if I only had two clients.)

Q: Does my trainer know how to train me? (Client specific)


Special Populations,: including the elderly, disabled, pre-post natal, youth and those with chronic conditions that are medically cleared for physical training.

My trainer is educated and credentialed for my specific needs and has client testimonials to support his/her skills and abilities.

My trainer is willing to consult with, or is already networked with local doctors.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: ACSM CEP,HFS  or CIFT, NSCA CSPS, NASM SFS/YFS/WFS, Medical/Post-Rehabilitation Conditioning Specialist.

Sports Performance: My trainer has a history of coaching athletes of various levels and the education/certifications to back it up.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: NSCA CSCS, NASM PES, or a degree in Exercise Science or Athletic Training

Rehab/Medical/Corrective Exercise: My trainer has the credentials and education to identify faulty movement patterns, muscle imbalances and is more than willing to consult with my physician/physical therapist/chiropractor.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: NASM CES, Medical Exercise/Post Rehab Conditioning Specialist, Functional Movement Screen certification or a degree in Kinesiology.

Bodybuilding/Physique/Strongman/Competitive Weightlifting: My trainer has a verifiable competitive history or has coached competitors that have placed/won in competition.

BONUS POINTS: NPC / IFBB Pro Card, USAW Coach certification, NSCA CSCS, NASM PES certification as applicable.

I do not fall under any of those criteria, but my trainer does specialize in one or more of those areas.


My trainer said he/she knew it all and is quick to disagree with my physician/chiropractor/physical therapist/dietitian et al.


My trainer never stated an area in which they were particularly strong….unless you count them being able to max out on the hip abductor machine.

My trainer said “Shut up, pick that heavy thing up and put it down”


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