5 Qualities To Look For In A Personal Trainer
Updated: Sep 19
For many people seeking to get in shape and reach their fitness goals, the exact way to go about that can feel daunting and even a little scary. Having a personal trainer can be a vital resource in guiding and motivating you on your journey to a healthier, stronger you. Keep in mind, not all trainers are created equally, but if you know what to look for, you can find the one that suits you best. In my twenty-plus years of training hundreds of clients, I’d like to share with you what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced along the way.
1. Exceptional communication skills
A personal trainer must exhibit the ability to communicate with you, clearly and concisely. The exercises that you will be asked to perform need to be explained in an easy and organized manner for you to understand what is expected of you. Clear instruction also includes staying a step ahead of you with each exercise at all times to assure your safety and success.
Exceptional communication also means being a good listener. If you tell your trainer that you have an issue with a part of your body and certain movements cause you pain, their number one job at that moment is to listen to you and make a note of it. And, if at any time during an exercise you are feeling pain, you should speak up, and your trainer should either modify that particular exercise to suit your needs or stop and move on to something more appropriate.
If you feel that your trainer is unable to remember the important details and unwilling to listen to you, they are probably not the right trainer for you.
2. Education and experience
There are many personal training certifications out there, and hiring a certified trainer is absolutely important. However, I don’t believe that asking your trainer what certification they hold is the most important question to ask. Many of the accredited certification courses out there take three to five months to complete and they ask a lot of challenging questions on the exams that the trainer must satisfactorily complete. However, most of them do not include working with an actual in-person instructor to guide them.
Hands-on training in this field is so crucial during this learning process. Nothing is more valuable than working alongside an experienced instructor with actual clients. This is the time for trainers in training to shadow, observe, experience supervised practice on a wide variety of people, make mistakes and ask questions, lots and lots of questions in a safe and controlled environment. This is also their opportunity to succeed and shine, which builds confidence.
So, keep in mind, even if they are technically ‘newly certified’, if they have had hands-on training, they will hold a level of quality experience that other trainers will not. Important questions to ask are, “How long have you been working with clients?” “Why did you become a personal trainer?” “What type of exercise do you specialize in and why?”
3. Positive Attitude, Patience and Personality
Many things can be taught, such as proper form, muscle groups, different types of workouts, and appropriate exercises for individual issues, but a genuine positive attitude, patience, and personality cannot be taught.
When it comes to helping clients get stronger, feel better, and reach their goals, a positive attitude should be synonymous with the fact that they love their job. A great trainer goes into this field because they love helping people and their passion should be obvious to spot. Watching their clients succeed gives them a sense of joy and pride.
Because each client is different, and one approach isn’t appropriate for everyone, patience is a must. Their style and personality must be a good fit for you. A trainer’s job is to motivate you, safely guide you toward your goals, and take into account that each client’s needs and fitness levels will vary and assure you that that’s okay. Having this ability is what allows you to not only feel comfortable working with them but also establishes the necessary trust between the two of you.
A great trainer will help you succeed by lifting you up, and encouraging you with a positive attitude. And above all else, you should like your trainer as a person.
The word professional invokes many images. When it comes to personal trainers, being a professional should look something like this. Your trainer should always be on time for your scheduled appointment, no excuses. When they are training you, their focus should be on you and only you, 100%.
They should look clean, tidy, and smell fresh. I have actually had clients share stories with me of other trainers they’ve worked with that didn’t wear deodorant, or at least smelled as if they didn’t. This is not professional.
As far as how trainers should be dressed, in my opinion, wearing short shorts and tank tops or half shirts is making it about them, not you. They are providing a service to you and should look the part. I am always impressed when I visit a gym or training studio, and I can immediately separate the trainers from the clients. I believe a company logo shirt and set color scheme for the personal trainers looks sharp and oozes professionalism.
5. Knowing when to push and when to back off
Have you heard of the saying safety first? Well, this should be every responsible personal trainer’s motto. Even though the two main reasons clients hire personal trainers are, to make them accountable and to push them harder than they would ever push themselves, there is a time and place when backing off is the safe choice.
If you arrive for your workout and tell your trainer that you were digging holes to plant trees all weekend and your back feels a little tired and tweaked, they should definitely take this into consideration moving ahead with your workout.
Experienced trainers should have several tools in their tool-belt to help that body issue feel better instead of worse. Lighter weights on some exercises and modifications on others will allow the muscles to get just enough movement to loosen it up. Fatiguing the muscles just the right amount can allow the problem area to relax and release tension. When handled properly with care, you should leave your workout feeling better than you did when you arrived.
Hiring a personal trainer is a great way to safely and effectively achieve your desired health and fitness goals. Be clear on what qualities you are looking for in a trainer and pay attention to those details when speaking with them. A trial session is a great way to get to know them and decide if they feel like the right fit for you. Remember, no one knows your body as well as you do and you should always feel comfortable speaking up to your trainer when something doesn’t feel right to you.