10 Ways to Spot a Bad Trainer
I've met tons of great trainers over the years. In fact, many of them are actually readers of my blog and customers of my company, Precision Nutrition.
I've also met other trainers who aren't exactly qualified to help people get in shape. Unfortunately, the bad sometimes seem to outnumber the good.
So, today, I'd like to share with you my top 10 ways to spot a bad trainer:
1. They Don't Do Any Assessments
The best trainers perform thorough and complete assessments when working with a new client, before doing anything else.
That means the trainers will do a movement screening and even basic performance tests. And on the nutrition front, that means looking at the client's current food intake and assessing a host of lifestyle variables, including: schedule, primary complaints/discomforts, current level of social support, willingness to change, and more.
But many trainers perform no assessments whatsoever! And if any are performed at all, they're usually done during a free consultation that comes with your gym membership. Often this is a tactic used to pressure a client into purchasing personal training.
That's a huge mistake. Good assessments are the only way to gain real knowledge of a client and make the critical coaching decisions -- without which you have about a snowball's chance of seeing real results. If you're not put through a thorough battery of assessments in your first session, get a new trainer.
2. They Can't Demonstrate Past Successes
Personal training and nutritional consultation isn't cheap. So, you better make sure that you are getting your money's worth. The best trainers keep detailed statistics of their clients. They track client adherence. They log how their clients' bodies are changing and over what time period.
They record performance and lifestyle changes. They keep photo albums with "before" and "after" photos. And they can point to compelling testimonials from previous clients about their services. They can probably even introduce you to a few, so you can talk to them directly about the experience.
The worst trainers don't have any tracked data. If your trainer can't show you compelling evidence that they've helped people like you get the results you want, assume that it's because they've never actually done it before.
If a trainer can't demonstrate his or her previous successes, move on.
3. They Don't Keep up with Health Trends
Most personal trainers in the world today have nothing more than a high school diploma and a personal training certificate they got at a weekend personal training seminar. This is fine if you find a dedicated and knowledgeable trainer. However, a bad trainer with little experience or proper training can be a waste of time and money.
I would recommend looking for someone with multiple certifications who has clearly made it a priority to keep up with new trends. Someone who's gone out and sought a diverse array of knowledge, learning about training methodologies, body composition, nutrition, supplementation and more.
The best trainers go out and do this. They're life-long learners.
4 They aren't Healthy or Fit
Just like realtors who've never owned a home or financial planners who are broke, out-of-shape trainers raise a red flag.
Now, let me clarify. You don't have to look like a fitness model to be fit and healthy. So that's not the standard here. However, if a trainer doesn't have more muscle, less fat, and a better health profile than the average person, why would I listen to any advice on building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthier from them?
It's a no brainer. If a trainer isn't healthy and fit -- and doesn't practice the behaviors necessary to remain that way -- they can't be my coach.
5. They Don't Set Proper Goals
"I need to lose 10 lbs;" that's an outcome goal. "I need to exercise 5 times per week;" that's a behavior goal. If your trainer doesn't know the difference between the two, you should look for a new trainer.
Focusing on outcomes is the job of the trainer. Their program needs to be built in such a way that the outcome is an inevitable consequence.
However, focusing on behaviors is the client's job. Therefore any trainer worth your hard-earned dollars, should knows that to achieve success, their clients must be rewarded for successful behaviors, not for specific outcomes.
For example, if you followed this week's habits 90 percent of the time and didn't miss any workouts, that's worthy of a reward -- regardless of the outcome -- because it's this pattern of behavior that'll eventually lead to success.
6: They Don't Plan Ahead
Before day 1, session 1, after all the assessments are complete, the best trainers will already have, in hand, at least a 3-month plan based on their client's level, needs and goals.
Sure, the plan can be flexible. But there has to be some forethought here.
Bad trainers don't have a plan or a big picture goal. They make stuff up as they go. If your trainer can't show you their 3-month outline on day 1, session 1, after all the assessments are complete, walk away. Fast.
7. They Don't Keep Track
Clients want to achieve something measurable. So, what happens when your trainer or nutritionist measures nothing at all?
The best trainers and nutritionists measure everything. They monitor and record performance variables such as sets, reps, and rest intervals. They monitor nutrition habits and behavior compliance. They monitor workout attendance. They monitor body composition. They take pictures. Need I go on?
The point here is that you miss what you don't measure and record. Also, without metrics, no one knows if progress is actually being made.
8. They Can't Help Every Client
There are basically three types of coaches. First, there are the ones who are not good trainers, who can't get great results with any of their clients. Next, there are the ones who are great trainers, and can get great results with all of their clients no matter who they are or where they're coming from.
And finally, there are the in-between ones, those who seem to get great results with some clients but can only help a small percentage of those that actually come to see them.
The goal of every trainer should be to learn the techniques and strategies necessary to help every type of client that comes to see them. That's the hallmark of the great ones.
9: They Don't Integrate Training and Nutrition
In order to change your body, there is something you need to know. And you will likely never learn it at a commercial gym.
Exercise, alone, doesn't work. Time and time again, the research has demonstrated that without dietary intervention, even performing 5-6 hours of well-designed exercise programming each week leads to surprisingly little body composition change.
So you can bet that the best trainers offer an integrated nutrition solution as part of their programming. They schedule private nutrition sessions. They assess your nutritional intake and compliance regularly. They show you around the grocery store. And more.
The worst trainers? They either leave you to figure it out on your own. Or they offer useless nutritional sound bytes in between workout sets.
10. They Just Don't Care
Let's be honest here. If your trainer doesn't do most of the activities I've listed above, regardless of whether or not they say they care, they simply don't.
They don't care about being good at their job. They don't care about helping you achieve your goals.
Until next time,
- John Berardi
Dr John Berardi is the director of the world’s largest body transformation project. In the last 5 years, his team has helped over 15,000 clients lose more than 250,000 pounds of body fat. (That’s more total weight loss than all seasons of the Biggest Loser combined). For more on his one-of-a-kind program – Lean Eating Coaching – click here.