How Do You Find A Good Personal Trainer?

I didn’t have any early morning sessions today (which almost never happens) so instead of getting up at the crack of dawn and heading straight to the gym to make people awesome, I got to stay at home for a few hours and get a ton done.  I was able to have a cup of coffee (or three), write several programs for clients, finish this blog, actually see my wife before I left and most importantly I was able to get my daughter out of her crib when she woke up-something I usually only get to do on Saturdays.  So yeah…today is pretty much awesome so far.

I think most people would have taken the opportunity to sleep in and not get up until they had to, but seeing as how I love what I do and feel incredibly dedicated to it-it’s pretty easy for me to get up earlier than I really need to to get things done that make myself a better trainer and provide a better service to my clients.  

Which leads nicely into my topic today.

I get asked by people fairly frequently what qualities/attributes/degrees of awesome I think make someone a good personal trainer.  While there is a lot to that question that can be left to a clients personal preference, I believe that there are certain things a trainer should be doing (for both themselves and for their clients) that are universal.

So for those of you who are thinking about hiring a trainer, but aren’t sure how to know if they’re going to be worth your money or not, or for those of you who are wondering if your current trainer is worth the money you’re already spending-here are some things you can look for to help you decide.


If you’re going to hire someone, I would make sure that at some point they have obtained a certification.  The most respected certifications are CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM, but ones like ISAA and ACE aren’t bad either.  Obtaining a certification does two things.  First, it says that there is some level of commitment for the individual in their own education,  Second, being able to pass the certification process doesn’t mean their incredibly smart, but it does mean they aren’t an idiot.  And if you’re wondering-that’s a good thing.

I personally don’t think that maintaining a certification through the CEU process is terribly important considering that most CEU’s are simply a way for certification organizations to make more money off of you while providing less than quality content.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Bottom Line: A trainer should have been certified at some point.


While I realize that this seems to contradict what I stated above-it doesn’t.  I’m not saying that people need to do “official” continuing education, but they should be investing time weekly in understanding the human body better, researching how to program for their clients more effectively, reading articles and blogs by trainers who are dominating the field, and reading through research journals to discover what research is saying about the efficacy of current training modalities.  I personally spend between 5-10 hours a week educating myself.

If a trainer isn’t continuing to strive to better themselves through ongoing education I would strongly recommend thinking twice about hiring them.  I mean, would you want to be taken care of by a doctor who just wasn’t interested in keepng up on what current research was saying, but rather, just do things the way they’ve always done them?  Remember, you are putting your body and physical health in the hands of whoever you hire.

Bottom line: A trainer should be spending at least 3-4 hours a week investing in their own education.  


Everyone is different.  We all have different ouchies and histories of physical injuries that limit us in what we are able to do.  My personal belief is that every client should be assessed to some degree to see what limitations they have as well as what exercises would be appropriate as well as inappropriate for them.  We are all individuals.  We all have individual needs and limitations.  These should be identified and taken into account.

Bottom Line: Some sort of assessment should be done before a client hits the floor.


New trainers are exempt from this considering that they don’t have a history of doing what they are trying to do.  However, a trainer who has been training for more than a year or so should be able to provide you with a history of success.  Whether it be before and after photos, testimonials or a list of their clients you can call who will serve as a reference to their experience with the trainer, you should be able to see that the trainer has been able to improve the condition of their clients bodies.  If all of their clients look the same after six months of training do you really want to hire them?

Bottom Line: Ask for proof that they are good at what they do.  No trainer should mind this-I love getting to show off my clients!


I don’t think that a trainer needs to have every muscle in the body memorized, but I do think they should have a basic understanding of the body and how it works.  They should know that it’s called a “rotator cuff” and not a “rotator cup”.  They should know the difference between internal and external hip rotation.  They should know that the quadratus lumborum isn’t a muscle in the thigh, but rather in the low back.  And they should know that the “trapezoid” is not a muscle but a shape that is taught to children on Sesame Street.

Bottom line: They should understand a basic level of how the body (the thing they are training) works.


Call them on the phone, meet them in person, talk over e-mail, or ask to observe a training session.  Doing so gives you an opportunity for two things.  First, you can ask them about all of the above points.  Second it gives you an opportunity to see if you even like them.  Personality is a HUGE part of whether or not your experience with a trainer is one you enjoy.  Your going to be shelling out money to them, listening to their advice and spending several hours a week with them.  They should be someone you can stand to be around.  Or even better-enjoy being around.

Bottom line: They shouldn’t make you want to punch them in the face

I realize this post is a bit longer than usual, but I feel like it’s full of some valuable information for anyone who is looking to hire a trainer, or is less than satisfied with their current training situation.

By the way, I can totally meet all these qualifications…you know, in case you were wondering.

(If you would be so kind, please take a moment to share on Facebook or Twitter.  Simply copy the link and paste it into your “status”.  Thanks for your support!)


4 thoughts on “How Do You Find A Good Personal Trainer?

  1. Great info, but you left out the bottom line, which is: “What is a reasonable fee that a prospective client should expect to pay?” Should the fee be based on the certifications, the years of experience, and should the fee be payed by the visit or like a ‘seasonal pass’ by the month, quarterly or annually?
    this might be a luxury that if a person has to ask, then maybe it is beyond their budget.
    I appreciate your blogs, keep them coming.

    • @ MR and Mom (AKA-Karyn)-Thanks!
      @ Vicky-The best answer, unfortunately, is-it depends. I think that, like with anything, the better the service the more you should expect to pay. However when it comes to training, I would never pay more solely on the fact that someone has more certifications or letters after their name, or more years of experience for that matter. It is completely likely that someone who has been training for 15 years and has seven certification really has no idea how to get any kind of results with their clients, while some kid who has been training for a year is absolutely killing it.

      I would say that it really comes down to three things:
      1. Is a trainer able to get results consistently with their clients. If so, expect to pay more due to the fact that the service is higher quality.
      2. What level of attention are you receiving? If its a bootcamp where there are 10-20 people and you get very little 1:1 attention from an instructor you shouldn’t be paying much. If it’s a semi-private setting (which is what I do) where a trainer is working with 3-4 people, I would expect to pay a bit more. If it’s 1:1, expect to pay the most for this type of session.
      3. Are you receiving an individualized program based on your needs and wants, or are you simply following a program that a trainer is having all of his clients follow? If things are individualized, I would expect to pay for this as it takes quite a bit of time to write individualized programs, but provides the client with a much higher quality service.
      Great question! Hope that helps!

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