The 12 Biggest Myths About Personal Training

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Sit ups on exercise machine
credit: Adobe Stock/Igor Mojzes

It’s time to set the record straight: Personal training is at the forefront of preventative care -- exercise is medicine after all -- yet the elitist gap between the general public and fitness industry seems to be widening. This disconnect is unfortunate, because trainers are really here to help. In an attempt to bridge the gap, these are the 12 biggest myths about personal training.

1. Trainers Know It All


The truth is that trainers get tricked into emptying their wallets just as much as the clients they serve. While they have at least one or two tried-and-true methods, they're also tweaking and testing new programs and exercises. When you ask yours a question about a new workout fad, pill or supplement -- even if he's heard of it -- he might not have had a chance to read the research surrounding its effectiveness (if it exists). It’s impossible to keep up to date with everything. What’s most important is to find a trainer you trust and follow his or her guidance.

Related: 9 Crazy Fitness Trends to Make Your Workout More Fun

2. All Trainers Have Six-Pack Abs


Most trainers are human beings who don’t eat broccoli and plain chicken exclusively. They indulge in an extra piece of cake, occasionally skip a workout and sleep in. Don’t judge trainers solely on their appearances, because you might not be willing to do what they do, and even if you are, every body is different. Case in point: Tiger Woods has a golf coach, and he’s not a better golfer than Tiger Woods. An expert has taken the time to study the craft, and the best trainers have a deep understanding of how the body works. Just because somebody has abs, doesn’t mean that she can help you get them for yourself.

Related: 3 Cardinal Rules of Fast Six-Pack Abs

3. Trainers Are Paid a Salary


It’s rare to find a trainer on a salary. Most get paid as they work. Also, in many gyms (especially large commercial gyms), there's a lot of pressure to hit sales targets. This means many trainers view the job in the wrong light. The best way to get and retain clients was, and always will be, to do a great job. But when a client cancels last minute and the trainer doesn’t get paid, the job becomes stressful to the point where it’s impossible to serve our clients. Even though you’re paying for an hour session, recognize that at least an hour of preparation time has been put into that session in designing the program, scheduling and researching.

Related: 10 Steps to Becoming Your Own Personal Trainer

4. Trainers Love to See You in Pain

Fitness woman looking tired after intense workout
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To get stronger and look better, you don’t always need to be sore, and it’s not (or at least shouldn’t be) your trainer’s goal. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs when you use muscles you haven't used before or in a different way than you're used to. That might also be helping you build muscle, but pain isn't mandatory. Truth is, the more intense the pain, the fewer high-intensity training sessions you can do. Hypertrophy (muscle gain) occurs in three primary ways: mechanical stress, metabolic stress and muscle damage. A good trainer monitors your soreness because it’s an indicator of how your recovery mechanisms are working.

Related: 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself

5. A Trainer’s Job Is to Help You Lose Weight


While losing weight and getting fitter, are admirable goals, they're not SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). Without these components, you're likely to flounder in your attempt. A trainer helps you make SMART goals. A goal of losing 10 pounds always should have a deeper reason. Whether it's to fit back into your favorite outfit, look better naked, impress your in-laws or set a better example for your kids, ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Sticking to an exercise program is hard work. There are times when you’ll want to quit, especially in the beginning. Without understanding your why, you'll have a harder time sticking to achieving your goal.

Related: 10 Essential Fitness Goals and How to Achieve Them

6. You Have to Confuse Your Muscles


Keeping the body guessing isn't a good way to get fit. A trainer doesn’t need to teach you something new every day -- they need to teach you how to do something better. All of the most important movements you can do in the gym should come naturally. Perhaps you still know how to perform them or maybe your body has forgotten over years of inactivity. Either way, what’s most important is learning how to generate as much tension throughout a proper movement as possible. Trainers don’t need to teach fancy new exercises. Instead, they should focus on teaching you how you should be feeling throughout a movement. Form and consistency are fundamental.

Related: 10 Workout Moves You're Probably Doing Wrong (And How to Fix Them)

7. Hiring a Trainer Is Enough

Young man is a happy salad tosser
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Most trainers don’t go into the business to get rich. Most trainers had their lives changed by finding fitness and made it their goal to spread that passion. Because of this, trainers get frustrated when their clients don’t do their homework and adhere to a prescribed nutrition and workout plan. Your success is their success -- both personally and financially. So if something is wrong and you don’t like the program or you're not seeing the results you want, speak up. If not, get it done. Even if you work out with a trainer three times a week, there are still 165 hours a week that you’re on your own.

Related: 10 Nutrition Mistakes That Undermine Workout Results

8. You Need to Work Yourself Up to the Gym


Please stop thinking this! Personal trainers are trained to work with people at all levels. Some specialize in working with people new to training, while others focus on the advanced. In either case, they're there to help. The gym is meant to be a place where everybody is welcome, and if you’re not comfortable for any reason, let your trainer know. You might be nervous stepping into a gym for the first time, but there’s no better time than the present. If you don’t feel comfortable in the gym you’re using, change locations and find one you enjoy. Building a community with other exercisers is a great motivation to stick with your regimen.

Related: The Newbie’s Guide to Bizarre Gym Lingo

9. Trainers Also Supply an Intricate Nutrition Plan

fresh berries, fruit and muesli for breakfast, close-up
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This is a bit of a sticky subject, and the rules change depending on where you live. In most places in North America, trainers may advise you on nutrition as long as that advice doesn’t extend beyond government guidelines. That said, few trainers have an adequate background in nutrition. A trainer may be knowledgeable if your situation mimics her own, but trainers often don’t know what the proper guidelines are for you. There are exceptions, but a trainer’s job is primarily to create your workout routine. If you’re looking for in-depth nutrition guidance, there are professionals -- such as registered dietitians -- who can work in tandem with your trainer.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Workout Nutrition

10. A Perfect Workout Is an Hour Long


Most personal trainers hate the one-hour session. Workout protocols change depending on the goal of the session. A fast-paced metabolic workout might only require 30 to 40 minutes, while an intense hypertrophy (muscle gain) workout could be as long as 90 minutes. If a trainer ends a session in 50 minutes, it’s not because he's slacking, but because that was the optimal time to accomplish the goals of that session. Trainers have to maintain a schedule and because of that, they stick to charging for either 30 minutes or an hour. Think of it this way: You’re not paying for an hour of the trainer’s time; you’re paying for the accumulated knowledge that the trainer has spent years acquiring.

Related: 23 Fitness Secrets From the World's Best Trainers

11. The Workout Is the Most Important Part


If it feels like you’ve hired a trainer to give you 10 exercises and stand over you while you sweat to make sure that you count properly, you’re getting ripped off. Requirements for an exercise program are basic for most beginners. A trainer’s job, first and foremost, is to get you to want to do the program and the workouts. It’s our job to get you comfortable, confident and looking forward to coming into the gym. Hopefully he knows how to count, too.

Related: 10 Ways to Spot a Bad Trainer

12. You Have to Train in Person


With the advances in technology, more trainers are taking their services partially online. There are four main reasons why online training is great for the client: First, it’s often cheaper. Training one-on-one can get costly very quick. Second, it’s independent of location. If you live in a remote area where there isn’t a gym or you’re not confident in the abilities of the trainers close to you, this is a good option. Third, matching your schedule with your trainer’s schedule can be a pain. Training online helps avoid the problem. Finally, online training allows you to research and find an expert in dealing with your specific goals.

Related: The Personal Trainer Development Center

What Do YOU Think?


Have you ever hired a trainer? What did you think of the experience? Did you find it to be beneficial in improving your fitness? Were you surprised to read any of these myths? Did you believe any of them? What other personal training myths have you heard? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Related: 45 of the Smartest Trainers You Might Not Know

7 Benefits of Hiring a Personal Trainer

credit: Adobe Stock/Igor Mojzes
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It’s time to set the record straight: Personal training is at the forefront of preventative care -- exercise is medicine after all -- yet the elitist gap between the general public and fitness industry seems to be widening. This disconnect is unfortunate, because trainers are really here to help. In an attempt to bridge the gap, these are the 12 biggest myths about personal training.


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