If you haven’t noticed already, the obesity epidemic in America is at an all-time high making the demand for personal trainers, health coaches, and nutritionists go through the roof. Therefore everybody and their mama is getting in line to become somebody in the health and fitness industry.
The issue with this is not everyone is qualified to be a fitness professional. Don’t get me wrong, I have deep respect for passion players; people who embark on a career in an industry they love.
Unfortunately, many who jump into roles like that of a personal trainer do so without adequate knowledge or experience.
Since a client’s well being is at risk there is little room for rookie experimentation and the screw-ups that come with being a newbie trainer. To give you a helping hand in making the decision of who to work with, this is a rundown of my top 5 tips for hiring the best personal trainer to fulfill your needs.
Certification - Do they know what they’re doing?
I was once told by a client’s very wise wife that, “You have to know just as much as the person you’re hiring if you want the job done right.” She couldn’t have been more right!
The first step to hiring a personal trainer is to know the scope of their certification. There are at least a dozen personal training certification companies out there, and not all of them are created equal.
The majority of certifying companies don’t require the trainer to have practical application before handing them their certificate of completion. That means they buy a textbook, study it, and either attend a weekend workshop or sit for a 2-hour exam to earn their certification. That’s it. Many have never been physically shown how to cue a client through a movement or simply correct form.
Most top ranking personal training certifications that serve the general population require the individual to have a degree in kinesiology, sports physiology, exercise science, or something similar.
For example, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) has 11 specializations in addition to their Certified Personal Trainer certification to help a trainer work with anyone from those needing a weight loss specialist to those who work with seniors.
Specialization - Do they “specialize” in multiple areas?
Does the personal trainer you’re looking to hire claim to specialize in strength training, weight-loss, women’s fitness, corrective exercise, men’s fitness, youth fitness, along with 4 other fitness niches?
Believe it or not I’ve seen multiple trainers claim to have that many specializations in my town of Charlottesville, VA.
To specialize in something means to spread your knowledge and energy between 1 or 2 skills and be extremely good at them.
Think about it like this, how would you feel if your plumber also specialized in interior design, stone-cutting, and landscape? Would you feel as confident in his knowledge to deliver you non-sewer water as you would if he’d just stuck to water and pipes.
Figure out your needs and shop a professional trainer accordingly.
Programming - Do they have a plan to get you to your goal?
Programming or planning out the phases of how a client is going to be progressed to their goals is THE centerpiece of a client-trainer relationship. Without a direction to work in, what the heck can you expect to achieve when you show up for each session?
Maybe it’s the planner in me, but if the personal trainer you’re looking to hire can’t give you a breakdown of how they are going to build your program and how it will progress, you shouldn’t slide your VISA card across the table.
In order to plan out a proper non cookie-cutter program they have to get to know how your body works through a series of assessments. At the very least a personal trainer should assess your movement patterns, your strength (or lack thereof) in push and pull dominant movement, trunk control, hip-dominant movement, and finally knee dominant movement.
The personal trainer should able to make an educated guess at how long your program needs to be to achieve your goal, and bookend your program with a date.
Experience - Are they fresh out of that weekend workshop?
A personal trainer’s experience becomes more important as your list of needs grow. If you simply desire someone to provide structure to the workouts you’d already planned to do, then that fresh out of the weekend workshop trainer might be just the ticket.
But if you suffer from lower back pain, have a shoulder injury that limits overhead movement strength and stability, or have a heart condition history, someone with more training hours under their belt (and a solid continuing education background) would be more suitable.
For instance, I want to begin work with neuroplasticity training - the rewiring of the brain to break limits in movement. Do you think I’ll hire the trainer who has no idea what neuroplasticity means?
Social Proof- What do their clients say about their work?
A lot can be learned from the experience of other people. Why do you think companies like Yelp exist!
Seek out testimonials from this trainer’s previous or current clients. Look for things like what problem did the trainer help solve? How large or small of a goal did those clients have in relation to your own? What was the customer experience like?
More than anything you want to make sure you like the person. Time and again I’ve had clients tell me they’ve done decent work with other personal trainers but in some way or another they just didn’t like the time spent in the presence of the person. Either the trainer was too quiet, lacked energy or encouragement, didn’t do much to educate them, or simply ignite the fire to keep going.
Follow these five simple steps before you commit to a personal training program and you’ll be sure to not only be successful in meeting your goals, but you’ll enjoy the process as well.