What to Look for in a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers either work in health and fitness centers or they work privately, visiting their clients at home or the office. As you can see, it’s not hard to find a personal trainer, but knowing what to look for in a personal trainer can be a bit more challenging.

Before you hire one to help you reach your fitness goals, make sure the personal trainer you’re interested in can pass the test before they try to push you to your limits.

Here are some tips to help you know what to look for in a personal trainer:

1. Certification and Continuing Education

Do not assume that because your personal trainer is working at a gym that they are certified. If you find that they are certified, that certification should come from a legit certification body. This is one of the most important aspects to know when learning what to look for in a personal trainer. The American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise are some of the most recognized and sought after certifications for personal trainers. When you find a personal trainer that you might hire, visit the website of the certification body that they claim to belong to and check your trainer's certification. However, some personal trainers may also be certified athletic trainers (National Athletic Trainer's Association), strength and conditioning coaches (CSCS) or exercise physiologists.

When you are wondering what to look for in a personal trainer, you want to see that the personal trainer is also keeping his certification current. You want to make sure that when you find a personal trainer that they continue to attend classes, seminars or successfully complete continuing education courses for credit. Your personal trainer should also be currently certified in first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator. There may be moments when a gym-goer (either you or someone else) will need medical attention. Any number of things can happen: dropping a weight on a body part, sprains and strains, fainting spells or even cardiac arrest. Your personal trainer should be able to react quickly and efficiently until further professional help arrives.

2. Medical History and Fitness Evaluation

Before a personal trainer puts you through your first workout, they should take your medical history and have you perform a fitness evaluation — if they don’t, you should tell them what to look for in a personal trainer. A fitness evaluation may come in the form of a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), which will ensure that your personal trainer is aware of any conditions that may affect your performance (such as asthma, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and scoliosis). Also, musculoskeletal or orthopedic injuries have to be considered when choosing exercises and any exercise modifications that have to be made. The fitness evaluation includes your fitness goals, your target heart rate, blood pressure, starting weight, and body composition. Don't forget to sign the informed consent form.

3. Fitness Programs

Once your personal trainer completes their initial evaluation, they will set up a program that incorporates your goals, but they should also address your needs. For example, if you sit at a desk all day, your chest is probably tight and your rhomboids are probably weak. Your hamstrings and piriformis will also likely be tight and weak. As a result, postural issues and imbalances should be addressed and/or corrected. Men are notorious for neglecting their lower body and it becomes the personal trainer’s job to help you train all muscle groups. Every four to six weeks your personal trainer should make changes to your routine to avoid a plateau, helping you continue to make fitness gains.

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4. Costs

If you are hiring a personal trainer that works for a gym, the gym will offer different personal training packages depending on how many sessions you buy. Generally, it’s cheaper to buy a package instead of single sessions. Upon joining most fitness centers, you may receive up to three free personal fitness training sessions. The price may range from $70 to $90 per session. Depending on the personal trainers level of certification, they get a cut of $20 to $40 per session. If you’re hiring an independent personal trainer, expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $125, depending on the services provided. Will they visit you at home? Are they bringing their own equipment? Are they offering sports massage after your sessions?

5. References

Before you hire a personal trainer, don't be afraid to get references. Talk to their previous or current clients to get a feel for how that personal trainer addresses their fitness concerns, handles cancellations and rescheduling, and whether or not they have made progress while working with them. Also, check if your personal trainer only trains a certain type of client. Are all their clients already in shape or do they have clients on a variety of fitness levels and are able to work with all of them?

6. Getting Personal

A personal trainer who approaches you to offer a session or give pointers on your form, shouldn't look like they need a personal trainer themselves; they should be in good physical shape. In the health and fitness industry, a personal trainer's appearance is definitely part of their marketing. If you've been a member of your fitness club for sometime, you may have noticed some of the personal trainers on staff working out between clients. Can your personal trainer demonstrate the exercises they're asking you to perform? Some of your training sessions may be outdoors — cross-country running, boot camp training — and your personal trainer will actually workout with you. It is important that before you shell out bucks and put your trust and, in some instances, your health in the hands of a personal trainer, make sure they are fully prepared, trained and professional.