It can be tough to know what to look for in a personal trainer.
With no frame of reference, you are pretty much left with assessing their credentials through certifications (which don’t tell the whole story), referrals & reviews, or maybe even their physical appearance…if they look the part then they probably know what they’re doing, right??
Before even booking a consultation, you can assess the personal trainer/gym by looking at their website and reading their reviews.
If the reviews are bad, then that sums it up right there. Pretty straightforward. If the reviews are good, then that means there’s a chance that the training is at a high level, but it is not a guarantee. There’s the first filter.
Next, you can look at the website & pictures of the space.
Is it somewhere you can see yourself?
You can look at the demographics of the clients in the pictures and see if it matches what you are looking for. Remember everything on the site is likely staged so take that into account and don’t be surprised if everybody looks overly enthused…~cue picture of trainer giving client a high five with gigantic smiles on their faces~.
What is the vibe of the gym?
Look at the coloring, the equipment, the type of building the facility is in. All of these can cue you into what the feel of the space will be and what market the gym is going for.
A warehouse/industrial space with nothing but barbells and racks is quite different from the studio that is on the second floor of an office building. One is not better than the other, but just a different feeling when you train there.
Just remember that a website will only show you so much so it might be worth a trip to walk in and get a feel for the space. Also a given space can have a much different feel at 11 AM vs. 6 PM. The late morning is usually more of the retired/work from home crowd with a more chill vibe, and evening clientele is often a little more high energy and bustling.
What is their speciality?
If you are seeking personal training, then you may not want to go to a gym that focuses mainly on group fitness, and has personal training as an a la carte option. Take into account what management is putting the most stock in and that will tell you what is likely going to be the highest quality there.
Something we stress all the time is that it is a trainer/coach’s role, first and foremost, to be able to identify what the client is looking for. The only way for a trainer to be able to do that is by having both their eyes and ears open constantly during a consultation.
If a trainer is already telling you exactly what they have planned for you within the first few minutes of meeting, then all they’ve done is determine what bucket you fall in. By your appearance and age, as well as the general goals you outlined, that trainer has determined you fit into a certain category and all they’re going to do from there is train you like the last client you resemble.
The initial conversation in this meeting should be inquisitive from the trainer, and you should be able to sense genuine curiosity with the questions they are asking. Now sometimes people may hide behind not knowing the answers by just asking questions. So you then have to look for if the trainer is identifying some starting points given the information you’ve provided.
After chatting for 15-20 minutes, you will likely go through a movement assessment. These can vary trainer to trainer with different objectives.
There is no one way to structure these but what should be covered is some foundational exercise and some logic behind why the trainer has chosen these exercises to look at. If you feel you are just being run through a random workout the trainer decided five minutes before your arrival then that should be a sign worth noting.
As far as going through the actual exercises you should feel safe and comfortable enough to tell the trainer if something doesn’t feel right, as well as properly instructed through how to execute and what to look for/feel. If you came in with a specific pain point or injury, was the trainer able to address a potential root cause/areas of weakness?
If your goals are fairly general, was the trainer able to identify some goals of their own for you? And if something felt off during one of the exercises, was the coach able to troubleshoot it to get you to be able to feel an exercise where you should be?
It’s not fair to expect the trainer to cure you 100% in a 30-minute movement assessment, but it is fair to expect them to at least identify a starting point and even be able to have some movement correction that has a tangible effect.
Following the movement assessment you should be given a clear summary of what you did, what the trainer identified as areas of strength & weakness, and a general plan of how they would approach your training.
Then it’s the simple logistical components to look at, mainly scheduling and pricing. Clarity and transparency should be present here with no gimmicks or loopholes present. You should be able to know what you would be paying, what their policies are, and what to expect should you sign up.
Making a Decision
Basically what it comes down to is this…do you think this trainer can help you? Have they demonstrated a strong knowledge base, an ability to troubleshoot situations, and have they given some feedback on what your training would look like?
Of course price and location are factors, but we assume those things check out; it is in your budget and the location is relatively convenient. Those variables being fixed, you want to really make the decision based on the trainer themselves.
Hopefully this gives you some helpful information on how to assess if the personal trainer you are looking at is the right fit for you. At the end of the day it is up to each individual to decide how much stock to put into each component covered here.
Just remember, the trainer is there to identify what you value as a client, and show you how they can provide that.