Exteriors II

Before reading this weeks blog I highly recommend reading my previous blog titled “Exteriors”… then come back here to catch up.  


“…you cant judge competence by the persons exterior.”

I stick with that opinion. That said, I believe you CAN judge competence based on someones performance. Competence is also relative to the task at hand and ones experience with the task. Put a barbell in my hands and I can teach a client how to use it with competence. Put a yoga mat under me and I become totally incompetent.

As a Strength Coach I believe it’s not about what I can do or what I’ve done but what I can bring out in others. My ability to get results across a range of athletes is what has kept my services in demand,not my appearance. I’m not one to judge a trainer on their appearance or even their credentials for that matter. I let their ability, or lack thereof define their competence.

My minimum-minimum competency expectations for entry level trainers are on the modest side. In addition to holding a current CPT and CPR/AED qualification the trainer needs to possess the following…
1. Practical knowledge of the location and function of the muscles and joints.
2.The ability to practically apply what they learned in their CPT course in a safe and client appropriate manner.
3.The basics. They should know and be able to perform them along with the progressions and regressions with competence and be able to teach them using simple terminology.

The longer they have been a trainer the better at #1-3 they should be. I can reasonably expect some advanced training or specialization to be part of their resume after the second year.


Todays blog focuses on professional competency in a real world scenario. Confounding matters slightly is this specific case involves a fat trainer.

Sidebar: Fat Personal Trainers/Coaches are a polarizing subject in the industry. Many of those against fat trainers fail to take into account coaches that specialize in areas where mass is an advantage, or the fact some of the top thought leaders in fitness have a few pounds on them.

Those accepting of (or are) fat trainers love emphasizing those points, but fail to mention that those coaches do not represent the majority of the fitness industry and their professional credibility and talent is of the highest caliber. 

History (Sept. 2015…Hopefully you read Exteriors) My gym manager friend decided to call the young lady in for an interview. Although her resume’ met the minimum job requirements and listed CPT and CPR/AED for seven years,she held no previous personal training or group exercise experience.

I’ve known several people that earned their CPT and even advanced credentials but never put them to use. This by itself isn’t a huge red flag in my opinion. For all I know she was raising children as a stay-at-home mom which is more than full-time job.

According to my friend, she did decently well on the interview and openly admitted she let herself go over the last two years and gained considerable weight. She believed that being employed by the gym would help her to lose weight.

Personally I find her honesty on her weight gain refreshing.

She stated she was physically fit to perform the job which required the ability to lift and transport 45lbs, the equivalent of the heaviest plates in the gym and a standard barbell but far less than the heaviest Dumbbells or another human being.

The problems occurred during the practical component. She couldn’t adequately demonstrate,explain or teach anything asked of her.

I can understand initial difficulties with some machines as manufacturer user settings are inconsistent. I made that point clear to the manager but apparently even some simple setting machines proved to be an issue. Additionally, if the machine is called seated row or incline chest press and the applicant doesn’t know which muscles are being targeted then this is indicative of a problem beyond simple interview nerves.

They moved onto barbell work to observe the candidate load a barbell (45lbs) with 45lb plates on each side in a squat rack set for the lifters height. She wasn’t going to physically squat the load,this was to see if she could handle the loads required.

Basically, you just have to be strong enough to meet the 45b lifting requirement and know where and how a barbell should be set for a lifter of given height.

The candidate failed to be able to initially set the bar to the correct height for squatting and couldn’t move the plates to the desired height. 45lb plates were substituted with 10lb plates.  Personally I would have already stopped the interview.


Based on the managers description the applicants squat technique looked like this photo.

The candidate was asked to demonstrate a barbell squat of choice for 5 reps and then teach the technique back to the reviewer. According to my friend, The candidate “had no clue how to squat..imagine a dog taking a s..t with a barbell on its back.”

This ended the practical.

The manager thanked her and called her back two days later to inform her they went with another applicant. She didn’t ask for guidance on what she could do to improved her interview performance or if the gym offered unpaid internship and none was offered.

Present Day (June 2016) The manager contacted me last week informing me the applicant has resubmitted her resume. The only changes were the date and her address. She hadn’t gained any work experience,formal education or physically changed based on his memory.

Which once again,doesn’t mean she’s incompetent. During the last interview she could have been petite and still not have been hired. My suggestion was to consider calling her in for an interview anyhow to see how she performs on the practical this time as she still met the minimum job requirements.

Sidebar: I cant believe how many trainers let their CPT certifications elapse and still somehow consider themselves eligible applicants. This applicants certifications were still in good standing.

It was possible she spent the last ten months learning her craft both academically and in practical application. Ideally she would have hired her own trainer to learn how to lift and train.

A practical review would reveal the answer quickly, or in the words of Dan John “exercise exposes you.”

In the interest of keeping things fair, the manager delegated the running of the practical to his trusted head trainer who had ample experience in these matters. The practical tests selected were different than the first time but of similar difficulty.

The results were disappointing to say the least, and a near duplicate of the first interview.

The applicant was clearly incompetent and hadn’t improved by any measure over the last ten months. Machines were still confusing,Barbells were even worse, progressions and regressions with bodyweight exercises seemingly unknown.

My advice at this point was that the manager and head trainer have done their job and twice gave the applicant a fair shot at the job. Her practical test was no different than any other applicants. In the managers opinion there is no need to grant her a third interview at this point.

My thoughts and opinions on all of this.
Interviews are a time consuming necessity. They are costly if you hire wrong and worth tenfold if you hire correctly.

Just because a trainer appears a certain way (very overweight in this case) doesn’t mean they cannot be a good trainer. Competence and incompetence come in all body shapes and sizes.

Unfortunately competence is often equated with appearance.

Weaknesses do not become strengths over time without effort.

Having a CPT is one thing, knowing what you’re doing is another. The applicant put in the effort to maintain certification and CPR/AED for seven years but seemingly did nothing else in that time, or at least in the ten months between interviews. She missed 3 out 4 of the minimum-minimums. 

The gym manager twice gave opportunity to an applicant other gyms would dismiss without the benefit of doubt. Had the applicant demonstrated a level of competency the job could potentially have been hers.

My advice to the applicant: Hire a well rounded trainer of your own and not the cheapest one you can find. Fat/Skinny/Musclebound, Young/Old, Male/Female I really don’t care, you want one that is competent and experienced.  Your goal, if you’re actually serious about becoming a trainer and no just saying you are, is to learn how to be a student.

Based on reports of your performance you would be starting at day one. You need a coach that has no problems taking people from day one starting points and educating them towards competence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s