10 Signs Your Personal Trainer Sucks
Updated: Oct 25, 2017
The personal training industry is about as well regulated as the youtube comments sections on my Trump video. Even a certification from an accredited organization (ACSM, NASM, OFC, ISSA, CSEP, NSCA, Starting Strength) does not guarantee a good trainer. Far from it. Most of these bodies teach overly-cautious, complicated and ineffective nonsense that will leave your wallet about as thin as your muscles.
Here are 10 indicators that your trainer sucks:
1. You never touch a barbell
You've been working with your trainer for 3 months and you're still doing kettelbell squats, TRX pushups and single leg dead-lifts (Smith machine doesn't count). Maybe you've been assured you'll get there once you're no longer such a frail weakling that a barbell might break you in half. You notice also that barbells are loud and scary. You assume therefore that barbells must only be for really intense guys who grunt loudly and listen to Rammstein.
2. You're only ever doing sets of 10 or more repetitions
Unless you're an intermediate-to-advanced bodybuilder, this rep range should not be the only thing you see. 10 reps is on the low-end of the hypertrophy (size building) range which is fine if that's your only goal - its also tends to be the default for large chain trainers who got 'certified' over a weekend course. If, however, you are interested in improving ANY OTHER physical attribute than muscle size, you need to "do yer fives!".
3. You spend most of your time on machines
Another big box gym staple is machine training. Useful as accessory exercises for advanced bodybuilders and popularized in the 90s and 2000s, machines let you isolate specific body parts while sitting down and avoiding mimicking natural human movement patterns. Exclusively moving joints in isolation is a great way to work your way to injuring yourself. Its also a very inefficient use your time since you're only working one muscle at a time. And time is money.
4. You spend most of your time on the floor
Your trainer needs you to improve on fancy sounding things like "core stability", "functional movement" and "joint centration" until infinity. To accomplish this, instead of adapting through the inherent stress of keeping stable during complex movements like the squat, press and deadlift, you spend the majority of your time rolling around on the rubber floor playing with bands, sticks, 3 pound dumbbells and body-weight. You mentioned some non-specific low-back pain so you perform many variations of 'core' exercises to help fix "inactive glutes" and "weak pelvic floor".
Getting really good at drawing in your belly button is fine if its needed, but if its taking up more than 25% of your sessions, find a new trainer who will actually push you.
5. They make you jog/bike for 5-10 minutes of 'warmup'
There isn't a much bigger literal time waster than the treadmill warmup. Unless, just prior to training, you were nearly freezing to death, your muscles do not need to be "warmed up". Unless stressed by a very cold climate, your heart does an excellent job keeping the entire body ready for physical activity at all times. There are other ways to 'warm up' that won't be such a waste of your time and money.
6. Mixing strength and cardio
Your trainer/trendy gym is INNOVATIVE. They use the most cutting edge workout plan that COMBINES cardio and resistance training because fun and reasons. This is an excellent way to get good at neither. They literally cancel each other out. Will you burn a few more calories? Sure, but don't let that fool you into thinking you've accomplished something.
7. They're distracted
Your trainer is talking with other trainers, gym goers or even other clients. Maybe your personal training isn't really "personal" at all - they've taken on multiple clients in the same time slot and hope you're ok with it. They're on their cell phone half the time and tend to lose track of your rep count. Is your form any good? Who knows. Is 13 reps enough? Why not, lets just call it a set.
8. Your workouts are random
If you are coming to every session without a pretty good idea what to expect for the day, you have not hired a personal trainer. You've hired an expensive random exercise generator and professional rep counter. Your trainer should have a full plan laid out for not just today, but the whole week, month or even year. You will never improve your strength or ability in any exercise if your not performing it regularly and seeing progression each day, week or month. This is why doing CrossFit is stupid way to train for anything - even CrossFit.
9. You leave exhausted, but never seem to get much better
This cancerous trend has infected not just CrossFit, but the whole fitness industry. Lots of flailing around, balancing, jumping and dancing to get tired and sore. You think that's what a workout is supposed to be. That is exercise, not training. Just because something is hard and makes you sweaty does not mean its making you any better. If your goal was simply to tire yourself out, you can do that at home for free with 300 jumping jacks.
10. They let you do whatever you want
Things too boring for you? Don't like an exercise? Legs are still kinda sore from last week? That's cool - we'll do whatever you feel like.
This is a yes man, not a trainer. With a few exceptions, if your trainer picked an exercise, it is because it is the best exercise for your goals on that day. If your goal was to lose fat or squat 300 pounds, then skipping your intervals or pause-squats because you don't "feel like it" is not a consideration for you trainer. You do your exercises like you do your homework and eat your peas. You don't have to like it every time.
Some wiggle room in programming is fine and even necessary. But if you get the sense your trainer will give in to your every complaint, then you'd best find another.
BONUS: They're way out of shape
Just because someone carries around a little extra fat, doesn't always mean they're out of shape. However, if they don't seem to possess and minimum standard of strength, then you've just got someone lazy who doesn't practice what they preach. Skinny Trainers present a similar problem. Most people's idea of a personal trainer is some tall jacked bodybuilding-looking guy. If your trainer is an ectomorph, know that its extremely difficult for them to put on mass. They may also simply be injured or sick. For ectomorphs, weight drops faster than fatsos gain it. That said, If your trainer, looks eerily similar to a shapeless bowl of string beans, they probably aren't going to be able to help you much.