Monthly Archives: August 2013

Personal trainers that suck. (Part 1)

Of my non-trainer specific skills, I can do three things particularly well.  Remain angry, switch between Jekyll and Hyde modes and go on rants.  Consider the “Personal trainers that suck” series an entertaining and informative rant.

In 2006, the National Board of Fitness Examiners (United States) surveyed several thousand personal trainers in an effort to create licensing standards.  Among the more interesting results, nearly 2/3rd of all participants stated they knew, or worked alongside trainers they believed were incompetent.

Nearly 66% of all participants stated they knew, or worked alongside trainers that sucked . That scares the crap out of me. Even worse, its been nine years and that number hasn’t changed.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but better you hear it from me than find out on your own after it is too late.  If you have hired a personal trainer, there is a chance they might be the type that I think sucks.

Mind you, I consider myself a pretty even-tempered guy…but I’m no Dalai Lama.

I’m not attacking your trainer as a person (they may be perfectly nice and well-meaning) nor am I out to declare myself King of the Streets.  What I am trying to do is provide some of the warning signs of incompetent trainers who are responsible for your safety, well-being and hopefully guiding you towards your fitness goals.

I sat down and thought about the trainers that I’ve had the fortune, and misfortune to work alongside, resumes of those seeking employment and independent trainers I have seen putting clients through workouts.

I have done my level best to identify the traits of trainers that suck (or at least suck in my opinion) to help others considering hiring a personal trainer.

TRUTH TIME:  Have I made some of the mistakes listed in this series? Yes, just like many other trainers have.  Have I learned the error of my ways and evolved from them? Yes, again like many other trainers have.  Fact: Good trainers get better over time .

As for my review of incompetent trainers, if you are still in doubt take a good look at the trainers in your gyms and see how many of the below traits you notice.

Hopefully the clipboard isn’t just for getting girls phone numbers.

The No-note taking/tracking of workouts trainer.  This applies to all personal trainers, even those with only a singular client training the general public.  How does your trainer know where you are improving/stalling week-to-week if there is no record of what you’ve been doing?  Easily spotted: They NEVER write anything down during your session, or even have anything to write with. ..some may not be able to actually use a pencil.   (UPDATED ENTRY:  There are some trainers that work with advanced clients that seldom seem to write things down.  Typically they know the client extremely well and although sessions are pre-planned to some degree, they will work within the “how are you feeling today” parameters.)

The No Personalized approach trainer.  In personal training there is no such thing as “one size fits all approach.”  You are a unique individual with unique strengths and weaknesses, preferences,abilities and needs.  The training system needs to be tailored to you, not you trying to fit into the training system.  Semi-Easy to spot:  Watch your trainer with another client of theirs.  If your workouts are identical your trainer is on auto-pilot.

The Mystery Trainer.  Your trainer has no documented success, testimonials or happy clients.  Granted, this largely depends on how long the trainer has been training people.  Does not apply to trainers that are new and you happen to be one of their first assigned clients.

If the fitness manager/hiring manager did their job properly they would have carefully screened this individual and assessed their skill before hiring them.

 Speaking of which…..

Hey, you’re pretty big, want a job as a trainer?

The I got hired off the floor trainer.  Yes, this actually happens.  Literally, a person that “looks good” is hired off the gym floor to train other people.  No formal education, no credentials, probably not even a CPR qualification, possibly not even a triple digit IQ.    Just because a person looks good is no indicator they can help others get in better shape.  These guys may not suck, but are you willing to take a 50/50 shot on this?

(1)   This person could be blessed with great genetics.                                                                 (2)   This person could have been working out for many years.                                                           (3)   Their physique could be the result of genetics, years of training and steroids.

Side Rant: Managers that hire people off the floor as trainers also pi$$ off the trainers that actually earned degrees / certifications. FACT: High performing trainers want to work around OTHER high performing trainers.

Why hire unqualified trainers in the first place? Easy, they cost than qualified trainers, therefore the companies per session profit margin is greater.  They are also easier to replace since there is always a pool of available candidates.  Note the turn-over rate of trainers in your gym, if it seems high to you there is likely a reason why.

How do some of these gyms get away with this? The bigger chains have “in-house” certifications they sometimes put the recently hired through.  These courses typically can be completed in a matter of days and are MEANT TO BE PASSED QUICKLY AND EASILY.   Personal training certifications are not regulated, therefore anyone could call themselves a “trainer” or “coach” without any formal education in the Exercise, Health or Nutrition sciences.

The Workout of the Day trainer.  Not to be confused with the CrossFit version of the term. This is when a trainer literally makes up a routine…possibly on the spot…and uses it for every client they have for the day.  Most likely does not track workouts or takes notes, certainly does not personalize training sessions.


The Drill Instructor trainer.  I’m not talking about the demanding trainers as there is always a place for them, and frankly some clients need those guys. I’m talking about the trainers that REALLY were in the military, think they still are and somehow think you are as well.   Some of them were previously were in charge of improving fellow Soldiers/Sailors/Marines/Airmen fitness standards and have simply taken their skills into the civilian community.

While I will argue there are benefits to this method of training, there are also warnings attached.  Fact is, the general fitness level among the armed forces will be higher, the clients younger and in overall better health.  You cannot put a 48 year old sedentary adult through the same brutal workout you used on a chubby 22 year old that you outranked.

 A sad example: I ran into a trainer running a military fitness routine/group-exercise program that never served in the military.  As a veteran I find this insulting and as a trainer I find it outright misleading.

The worst example:  Not too many months ago, an unqualified trainer with a military background put a new client through a session so hard (including the withholding of water breaks!) that the client collapsed outside the gym following the workout and had to be carted off in an ambulance.


MytrainerChris Q&A’s

I receive a fair bit of e-mail inquiries from various blogs I’ve posted and have decided to post three of them, with what I hope is some information that can help others.     C

Q: “I would like to become a personal trainer and am having a tough time trying to figure out what credentialing group to go with.  Which ones do you like? Not like?”

A:  Quite honestly, your credential only gets you through the first part of an interview.  That said, certain credentials open more doors than others.  Any credential is only as good as the trainer that holds it.  It would be best to know what your training interests are,  what your goals are (part time/full-time) and your current education level.

The next order of business is to find out what certifications your potential employer prefers.  Truth be told, some gyms don’t care what your educational background is, just that you look good and can sell.

My unofficial tier ranking system:  TOP TIER:  ACSM, NSCA, NASM.   LOWER TIER: ACE, AFAA, ISSA, NESTA, NCSF, NFPT.

The tier ranking explained:  Top tier group credentialing exams all have exceptionally high failure rates and the courses of study are particularly in depth.

ACSM focuses on the clinical side of exercise, NSCA focuses on the strength and conditioning side geared towards athletes and NASM draws heavily from physical therapy and biomechanics.  Many of the specialized credentials within these organizations require Bachelor Degree minimums but all offer the entry-level CPT certification.  A certification from any of these organizations can get your foot in the door with nearly any gym in the United States (non-CrossFit / Power lifting type gyms.)

Lower tier groups credentialing exams are noted to be comparatively easier than the top tier groups, with at least one being un-proctored/online/open book.  Many gyms will accept certifications from these organizations, but higher profile gyms might not.  Some employers will insist that otherwise qualified candidates earn certification under one of the top-tier groups within a specified period of time.  A recent job posting stated (in summary) they would accept group exercise instructors from ACSM, ACE or AFAA and personal trainers from ACSM,NSCA and NASM.   Otherwise qualified personal trainers without ACSM,NSCA or NASM credentials will have 6 months to obtain certification.

 This does NOT MEAN my lower tier is LOWER GRADE.  A prime example of this is ACE, which is perhaps the most well-known credentialing group and a high quality organization.  There are trainers holding these credentials that are excellent at their craft and provide top-quality service.

Without going into major debt, I would consider obtaining one of the lower tier certifications that your potential employer will accept first, determine if this is indeed what you want to do for a living and then pursue advanced education afterwards.

Q ” I’m experiencing the same ,losing inches not weight. But I have another problem , I,m retaining fluid, staying away from salt, eating out, a lot of salads and healthy food the fluid stays Had heart tests . Drs. have no answers. Please Help….”

A: Seeking proper medical advice is, and always will be my first advice. I am neither a registered dietitian or medical professional.  Below are a few known things that can lead to water retention (aka Edema (US)  or Oedema (UK) )

Heart Conditions (already ruled out? ), Histamine, Lymphatic System issues, Kidney issues, OTC/Prescription Medications, including but not limited to NSAIDS and Estrogen aids, Pregnancy, Malnutrition, Protein deficiency,Allergies, Thyroid disease, Physical inactivity.

Only a medical professional can diagnose a condition and prescribe a remedy as this is well outside the scope of my practice and education.

Q:  “I am a Type 2 Diabetic and am well-controlled.  Is there a special workout program I should be following, or would you advise I hire a personal trainer.  I don’t live in Las Vegas.”  (NOTE: For clarity purposes, this person does reside in the United States.)

A: I defer to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Diabetic Association (ADA) joint position on exercise and T2D.  You can read the full position here:

As far as hiring a personal trainer, I highly recommend ACSM certified trainers holding the Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) credential.  According to the ACSM website…

“The ACSM Health Fitness Specialist assists those with medically controlled diseases and health conditions, as well as apparently healthy clients, in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Academic preparation also includes fitness management, administration, and supervision. The HFS is typically employed or self-employed in commercial, community, studio, corporate, university, and hospital settings.”

In practice, I have yet to meet an HFS working at a commercial gym (I.E. Gold’s Gym, 24hr Fitness, Bally’s et al.)   There is a far better chance of finding an HFS working as either an independent contractor or at more upscale gyms (I.E Equinox, David Barton.)

The HFS credential requires candidates hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology or Kinesiology to sit for the exam and is among the highest credentials that a personal trainer can attain.   The ACSM offers a locator service to help you find a local professional:

Non-ACSM certified personal trainers should adhere to the ACSM protocols for training medically cleared T2D clients and how to render proper first aid.


Getting rid of that belly fat! (Part 6)


Sleep like a boss
When it comes to sleep, it’s about quality and quantity.   Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much fat is stored.   Not resting soundly enough disturb leptin levels leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves causing you to store calories rather than burn them.


Don’t starve yourself.
Humans absorb about 80% of the nutrients from the food you eat.  When the body is deprived of nourishment, it starts pulling nutrients from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.


Eat Slower
It can take 12 minutes or longer for the signal that you’ve started to eat to make its way to your brain.   Sip water between bites of food you eat and don’t eat alone.


When researchers in Brazil studied 13,000 people over a three-year period, they found that men with the highest levels of inflammatory agents in their body were also the most likely to gain weight.  Periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral health care, is one of the most common sources of inflammation. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and making regular trips to the dentist are the best ways to prevent the disease. Hate flossing? Studies show that a dose of Listerine may be just as effective at reducing levels of inflammatory bacteria within the mouth.

Getting rid of that belly fat! (Part 5)

Get in a cheat meal (MEAL…not Day/Weekend/Month!)
Think of this meal as a reward for good behavior and to keep a sense of reality.

Say no to white bread.
The calories from white bread and refined grains seem to settle at the waistline more than calories from other foods.

Know what eating less ACTUALLY IS.
Thin people that have been thin their whole lives often have a better understanding of portion size compared to people that are overweight.

Forget the Fat Burners your Personal Trainer (who sucks by the way) is trying to sell you.  

Never totally forbid yourself a favorite food. (Just be modest about it)
The more you tell yourself you can’t eat something you love, the more you’re going to want it.

Pace around your office or house while talking on the phone; avoid drive throughs, park further away, take the stairs etc.   When Mayo Clinic reserachers fed a group of volunteers an extra 1,000 calories a day over the course of eight weeks, they found sedentary individuals gained 8x more weight than those who fidgeted a lot during the day.

Get Extra Sleep
When researchers at the University of Chicago studied men who were sleep-deprived, they found that after just a few days, their bodies had a
tougher time processing glucose in the blood—a problem common in overweight diabetics. When the individuals returned to a more normal
seven to eight hours of sleep a night, however, their metabolisms returned to normal.

Getting rid of that belly fat! (Part 4)

Mr. Peanut may skip arms and legs day at the gym, but he rocks a monocle like a boss.

Go Nuts
Nuts make you feel fuller after eating than many other foods. University of Michigan researchers found that men who added 500 calories’ worth of peanuts a day to their diet gained no excess weight at all.

HIIT Sprinting

Short, all-out sprints with brief periods of rest is the most effective form of cardio for fat loss, Try a 2-to-1 “work-to-rest” ratio (sprint 2x longer than you rest) Perform sprint intervals for a designated distance (land) or designated time (treadmill.)

“Stressed” is “Desserts” spelled backwards.  Coincidence or Conspiracy?

Avoid Emotional Eating
The desire to snack can come from loneliness, depression, or anxiety.  Usually you will go for comfort foods…which typically are sugary, salty or fatty.  Try blowing off steam in a more productive manner.

I too would be an emotional wreck if I was a 30+ year old man still sporting a Sailor suit (and didn’t happen to be an actual Sailor or modeling for a Scotch/Rum advertisement.)


Shop in Single Servings
If you have to buy cookies, chips, or other processed junk foods, buy the single-serving package over the zoo feedbag sized family-style bag.

Find inspiration. 
Take a digital photo of your current self.  Focus on the fact that you are looking at the OLD YOU.  Note:  Avoid posting these on Facebook or leaving the pics on an unsecured mobile. (and make sure you didn’t photo fail yourself!)

Know your portion sizes

Getting rid of that belly fat! (Part 3)

Drink..then eat
Have a glass or two of water before a meal.  The water takes up stomach real estate making you feel more fuller sooner.

Dinner out? Veg over pasta, potatoes or rice

Play a sport (to hell with the haters!)
Softball, Cricket, Soccer, Basketball, Football, Rugby, Lacrosse or even Dodgeball.  This creates a scheduled exercise session into your week and competition makes you up your game (unless I’m playing on the opposing team,,,,then you’re totally screwed.)


Go ahead…..touch the incline button.
Treadmill belts help you move, therefore making the act of walking slightly easier.  Hit the incline button to come a little closer to the real thing.


Stick to no-calorie drinks.
Coffee, Green tea,Crystal Light and water.  If you have time to kill at work and want to come off sounding like a snarky personal trainer, you can visit this link:


This guy sure loves himself some breakfast.

Eat Breakfast
Nutritionists believe a.m. meals help regulate insulin levels and hunger, so you’re less likely to overeat throughout the reminder of the day.


Avoid foods that come in a bag, box or greasy bucket
Typically, these are highly processed carbs that quickly raise blood-sugar levels and shut down your body’s ability to burn fat.

Snacking prevents overeating at lunch and dinner and keeps your metabolism stoked.

I would LOVE to see this in real life!

Conquer your kryptonite foods.  

There are things you eat that you KNOW are bad for you….yet you still eat them.   Try eating them less often, in smaller amounts, or ideally both.

The Evolved Personal Trainer: Bridging the gap between fitness and medicine.

The following link redirects to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) website.  Phil Kaplan presented a seminar on bridging the gap between fitness and medicine during the 2013 NSCA Certified Personal Trainer conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

About the NSCA: The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 with 76 strength coaches from across the country with the common desire to network, collaborate and unify the profession of strength and conditioning. Since its inception, the NSCA has grown to nearly 30,000 members in 72 countries and become the leader in the research and education of strength and conditioning professionals.