I don’t know about you, but when I make a purchase greater than fifty-ish dollars, I’ll usually do some sort of homework to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth. It might not be that extensive, maybe read a couple reviews on Google or what not, but it’s pretty rare that I’ll part ways with a decent chunk of cash without first knowing a little bit about what I’m gonna buy.
I’m sure some people’s dollar amount differs than mine, but let’s say you’re ready to invest several hundred dollars per month on a product or service… would you want some quality assurance now? I’d gamble yes. Money doesn’t grow on trees (get off your asses scientists, its 2018 make it happen), and you probably work hard to earn yours. So, it’s only logical that if you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars, you’d expect to get some bang for your buck for whatever product you buy.
Personal trainers, strength coaches, or performance coaches are no different.
I’ve been working in this industry for close to ten years now, and I can guarantee with the utmost confidence that some consumers out there are paying 5 star prices for 1 star service. But is it their fault? I mean, most trainers are “certified”, so they’ve gotta know what they’re doing, right? I mean, if the trainer has a six pack and rippling pecs of steel, CLEARLY he can help someone else get it.
Ah, but alas, all that glitters is not gold.
Here are 5 questions to ask your potential trainer or coach to determine if he or she is worth investing your money into.
1) Can You Name 5 Muscles That Attach To The Scapula?
OK, so it doesn’t have to be this question specifically, but your trainer should have a basic understanding of human anatomy. If they can’t identify major bones/muscles in the body, or explain to you what muscles are being stressed during certain movements, this is a huge red flag. Run away and take all of your money with you.
Your trainer doesn’t need to be able to hold a detailed conversation with a medical doctor about the role of the brachial plexus in thoracic outlet syndrome.
Your trainer does need to able to identify the prime movers, antagonists, and synergists of a given movement, as well as be familiar with bones and well known bony landmarks throughout the body.
If you brought your car to a mechanic and he referred to the gas pedal as the ‘vroom vroom stick’, would you let him work on your car? Doubt it.
Don’t settle for your coach not knowing his or her way around the body either.
Plus, having a general idea of where muscles attach to and the actions they cause can be a real game changer in terms of how to coach movements, write a program, etc.
2) What’s The Last Book You Read?
So it’s totally fine if your trainer reads books about wizards or weird billionaires with red dungeon sex rooms, thats all fine and dandy. I would, however, be slightly concerned if they didn’t read books pertaining to fitness or bettering themselves.
Exercise, fitness, and health are all constantly changing with regards to what’s best, what’s correct, and whats right. It was not too long ago that dietary fat was evil, the smith machine was the ultimate training machine, and it was recommended you eat 6-11 servings of bread every day. I think if I told someone to eat 11 servings of bread today, they would pepper spray me and try to legally take my unborn children away from me.
Quality trainers are always learning and improving not only for themselves, but to deliver a better product to you. The day your trainer is content with what he or she has learned is the same day they start to become a bad trainer. What they know now might be terrible advice ten years from now.
For example, If 2007 Chris heard that 2018 Chris would be preaching the importance of breathing and walking barefoot on rocks, he would have called him a sensitive flower caressing hippie. Oh the irony.
But it doesn’t even stop with fitness books. There’s tons of self-improvement, business, psychology, nutrition, and coaching books out there that can all positively impact the product delivered to you. It would be nice the guy or gal you pay to improve you dabbled in them every now and then.
3) What Certifications Do You Have?
Let’s clear this up. Certs do NOT mean a trainer is a genius or has all the answers. Some of the most well respected coaches and trainers in the industry don’t have a ton of certs. Conversely, there are complete morons who have a TON of certs. Certifications basically signify one thing.
This trainer is not a complete idiot.
You do need to possess some level of intellect to pass fitness certifications. Higher quality certifications, like those provided by the ACSM, NASM, or NSCA, even have prerequisites in line to even obtain their certification (like a college degree). Does a quality trainer absolutely need a cert from one of these places? No… but it sure as hell helps their case.
Other ‘certifications’ can be obtained by passing a weekend course and unfortunately, there’s a lot of these ‘certifications’ out there today. Just because you passed a 2 day course does NOT mean you’re qualified to charge people $90/hour to train them. That’s like assuring someone you can safely fly a plane because you saw Top Gun…twice.
4) What’s Your Client Demographic Like?
So the good news with this one is that if general fat loss if your goal, you pretty much fit every trainer’s demographic, as experience dealing with that issue is almost a prerequisite for becoming a trainer in the first place.
But if you’ve got a more specific goal or have certain ailments or injuries that you need to work around, you may want to be a bit more selective with you hire. If you’re looking to increase sprint speed, you probably don’t want to go to someone who specializes in Silver Sneakers programs.
There’s lots of trainers out there who have their own niches: obese clients, youth athletes, moms, pre/post pregnancy, elderly, etc. Don’t just assume because someone is a trainer, they’ll be a good fit for you. That would be like having an eye issue but going to see a dentist just because they’re both ‘doctors’.
5) Can You Walk The Walk?
Ok, different people will have different opinions on this matter, but here’s my two cents.
Trainers do NOT need to resemble cover models for fitness magazines. They do NOT need to be able to squat 500lbs or run a sub six minute mile.
They DO need to be able to help YOU obtain those goals (or whatever your goals are).
Your trainer’s body fat percentage, deadlift PR, or ability to complete a half marathon don’t mean dick if they can’t effectively coach YOU on how to achieve these things.
However, they absolutely do need to be able to ‘walk the walk’ by effectively demonstrating and communicating to a client what they need that client to do, where they need to brace, how they need to move, etc. If they can’t effectively get their message across to you through either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic means, how good they personally are at that particular movement/exercise is completely irrelevant.
So, can your trainer show you a squat, deadlift, bent row, pushup, lunge, etc., appropriately regress or progress it, and troubleshoot that same exercise in order to tweak it so you can perform it correctly? I’d certainly hope so. If they can’t, their ability to perform that same exercise or obtain a result is pretty meaningless to you, the client.
It’s just like when people assume great athletes will make great coaches just because ‘they’ve been there, done that.’
Bonus Question: How’s Your Customer Service?
Ok, you can’t really ask this directly (or you can, could make for a hilariously awkward story later on). But does your trainer treat you like a person, build relationships, and genuinely care about your progress, or do they just look at you as their 6am client?
Remember, trainers aren’t in the training industry, they’re in the customer service industry.
So if you’re in the market for a coach or trainer or want to evaluate your current one, these might be some of the things to consider.