In this era of social media networking and of exposure, you must have wondered if hiring a personal trainer was good idea to try and accelerate your results, start off correctly, get a program, good technique and accountability. The answer is simple : YES
But how do you figure out if you’ve hired the right person?
1) The interview :
First off, before you actually do any work he/she should give you a questionnaire, or interview you for a minimum of 20minutes. If she/he gives you exercises to do right off the bat without asking you anything, RUN!
The questions he/she should include (minimum amount) :
- your goals – She/he should ask you to make them measurable (kg, seconds, minutes, etc)
- the sports you have practised in the past (all of them)
- your current nutrition (meals, snacks, supplements, drinks, times you eat at)
- your daily levels of stress (upon waking, during the day, when you try to sleep)
- the amount of work you do in a day, what kind of work (mental, sitting, walking…)
- how much you sleep and the quality of that sleep
- the kind of injuries you have had in the past (yes every one of them, they create imbalances that will have to be corrected)
- and if you have any chronic issues you have to deal with (pain, medication you have to take…)
This will allow the personal trainer to preemptively assess your current level, issues that may arise, what direction he/she will take the session, and the type of testing she/he should do to understand what your current level is.
2) Mobility assessment :
Secondly, he/she should check how you move before making you do any exercise. This is to make sure you have enough range of motion to safely execute the exercises he/she plans on making you do.
It should include a minimum of ankle, hamstring, quadricep, hips, adductors, lower back, obliques (rotation and flexion), shoulders (front,side and back abduction, plus rotation), and wrists.
3) Strength assessment :
He/she must then spend a significant amount of time (45mins-1h15mins) showing you how to perform the basic exercises of the program she/he is planning on making you do.
For a strength, hypertrophy program, he/she should at least make you work on :
- the squat
- the pushup
- the pull-up
- and the plank.
If you are going for a more cardio / metabolic program, he/she should take time to assess your technique in running, cycling, swimming, jumping, or any other activity we take for granted. All these sports have optimal techniques that allow for safer performance, and better performance.
The personal trainer should start with the easy variations of the exercise first, and if she/he sees you master them easily, he/she should then guide you through the harder steps. Once she/he sees you start having trouble, he/she can then move on to the next exercise.
Why should this take a long time? because she/he should be focusing on perfect technique, and get you to understand how to execute the exercise as well as it can be done. Perfect technique allows for better joint and soft tissue health, more longevity and faster results.
4) Tailoring :
Depending on how much time this whole process took, and if you still have the energy, he/she must be able to instantly create a small session that should last anything between 10 to 20 minutes to assess your conditioning. This should be done quite easily, and allow you to feel your heart beating, and breaking a sweat, while the last reps of the last set quite hard, but not so much that you lose form.
If you find this too hard, he/she has not paid enough attention during the strength assessment and has made a judgment mistake. This means he isn’t capable of proposing the correct level of intensity for your level even after all that testing.
Caveat : If you want to get your ass kicked and cry at the end of every session because that’s what you paid for, and she/he gives you a wimpy session because he considers you’re going to injure yourself, maybe you should listen to him. Or see point 9) and 10)
5) Attention :
Your personal trainer should be paying attention to every single thing you do,including your mood.
If he/she just gives you the program, lets you execute it while looking at his phone, and then comes at the end to ask you how it went, chose someone else. She/he should be there to make sure you are doing everything properly, adjust the session if it is too hard or too easy, count your reps, give you the rhythm, the cues, and also motivation to push through when things get hard…
Because they will.
6) Punctuality :
If he/she is more than 15mins late, fire him/her.
If she/he forgets you had a session, fire her/him. Especially in the first few months.
He/she should be there for you. If she/he is incapable of planning ahead enough to be there on time, and fails to warn you, then how can he plan your progress?
Of course, if this happens only once a year, or some catastrophic event happens and he/she is stuck, that She/he warns you 15-30mins beforehand, and makes up for the lateness / absence, it is another matter entirely. But you should feel like the time spent together is special and important, because it is.
7) Progress :
If he/she is incapable of explaining why you are doing something, it’s bad.
If he/she cannot explain what he is doing in a way you can understand, she/he is probably lost. He/she should be able to show you you have made progress. This is important because progress can sometimes be slow, especially when it comes to changing your body.
He/she should also see that progress is slowing down or stalling, and offer the correct solution to put you back on track. If she/he can’t do any these things, you should choose a new personal trainer.
8) Injury :
This is the worst case scenario.
Injury should be preventable. Especially when you are exercising. If your personal trainer has not taken the correct steps to make sure you were exercising safely, and blames you for anything, he/she isn’t fit to be your personal trainer.
He/she must be able to work around an injury so you can continue making progress without making things worse. She/He must also be able to assess if you should absolutely stop exercising, and go and see a doctor or other specialist.
Caveat : you should mention any pain or discomfort at all times. There are things he can guess, and others he cannot. Tendonitis, isolateral muscle soreness, back soreness and all mostly invisible to the eye, and must be mentioned how ever small the discomfort is. In most cases you can keep going, but let the personal trainer be the judge of that.
9) Refusing to work with you :
This might sound strange, but some collaboration aren’t supposed to be.
A personal trainer should be able to assess that the two of you won’t be a winning team.
If he/she thinks your personalities don’t match, and he won’t be able to push the correct buttons to motivate you, then maybe the smart move on his part is to refuse to work with you, and let you find someone more suitable.
Maybe your goals aren’t his specialty, and thinks you would make better progress if you worked with someone else. Maybe he knows someone who can help you.
This is a good thing. Don’t takeout personally. It means even though he isn’t working with you, he still wants the best for you.
10) Have fun
On the other hand, if you don’t like him/her, but he/she checks every other point in this list, follow your gut feeling.
You should be having a good time, even when the sessions are hard. If something doesn’t click, if you don’t feel it, then you should find someone else.
Especially if you feel like he / she is hitting on you, or if you don’t feel safe. Some people are just sleazy and awful, stay away from them.
I hope all these points will help you find the perfect match for your future progress!