T Nation


Ok here is the story, just today i had a job interview for a personal trainer at a big gym. I have nver done personal training, i am currently a fitness instructor but thats it. That is not my concern because i will put clients on hardcore dumbell and barbell programs. Stuff that works. I see personal trainers make their clients do walking lunges and push ups on the smith machine and all type of stuff like that. Heck i will have my clients do stiff leg deadlifts. Anyway the manager asked me to come in next wednesday and take him through a 30 minute workout so they can make sure i know what i am doing. THAT is the problem, they expect me to take him through a circuit type workout where we will go through all body parts. I have never done circuit classes, how do i structure this 30 minute workout? They will obviously want me to take control and have a structured plan. I dont at the moment. Please if you guys can help at all i will be forver in your debt.
Sorry guys but i will be bumping this topic all week, i really need help. Thanks.

Just approach the session as if you only had 30 minutes with the client 2 times a week and that was all the lifting that they were willing to do. You’d likely have to use a full body routine. Pick a horizontal push/pull, deadlift, vertical push/pull, squat, bi/tri movement and you have most of the bases covered. Be creative - look thru TC’s Regurgitate your lunch article, Meltdown training, Fat to Fire - all of these are circuit type routines. Don’t just try to give them what you think they want, give them what will work. If you can’t have your supervisor completely wiped out in 30 minutes with all major muscle groups exhausted, then maybe you’re not ready to train yet.

I agree with Jason on this. Stick with the basics since your only allowed 30 min. Working out does not have to be complicated.

What Jason said. Personally, I’d put the guy on Meltdown and then stand back and watch him puke. But then again, you might end up not getting the job if you do that.

It depends on what you want out of this. Do you want to show him that you really know what’s going on, and damn the consequences? Then try one of the above suggestions. However, if you really need this job and want to do what’s safe, I’d suggest going into the gym and watching what the other trainers there do, then putting together something similar, maybe just a touch more intense.

Let us know what happens…

Thanks Jason. I will certainly look at these training routines you gave me. Any other advice t-men?

No deadlifts. Even though they are effective this guy will probably freak out that you would even have him do an exercise like that. Do some form of Fat to fire or German body comp style of training. Superset 2 exercises back to back in antagonistic fashion for 2 or 3 sets each until you have the entire body covered.

Whats wrong with walking lunges? If you have ever done them you know they are hard as shit.

I used to work out in a gym where the trainers used negatives for everything! And another where they would drag older people around in agonizing pain… Remember that such routines can overtrain a new athlete. Stick to basics and know proper form. Educate your clients and use advanced techniques with the right individuals. I belive most personal trainers are hired to assist someone in making begining and basic fitness goals. So do exercise that will help mind-muscle connections and strengthen joints to get them past the “shaky” period and on to their results. My .02

DO NOT ever have anyone do leg lifts. They are far too dangerous to the lumbar section. And, all they really accomplish is to induce shortening of the iliopsoas complex, which further increases the risk for lower back injury. In other words, of all the things they do for you, none are good. It’s another one of those exercises which, when observed, tells you someone does not know what they are doing.

Slaine, just throw together a routine like Jason suggested. I would pay extra attention to form,speed of execution,etc. Watch for anything he might be doing wrong, intentional or unintentional.Circuit training, you may want minimal rest periods,but don’t be afraid to explain the benefits of longer rest periods(Just to let him know you know).Pull out a technique trick or 2 that increases the effectiveness of an exercise(cocking the wrists back on bicep curls, explain why, and that it’s safe).Just don’t do anything too radical. Just be confident, polite, keep anything too “hardcore” to yourself, and you’ll do fine. Save all the great knowledge to introduce after you have the job. Good luck.

One more thing. If you choose to do what I suggested, you might want to preface that by mentioning something like, “I approached this as a session where I would only have 30 minutes to work with you 2 or 3 times a week and you really wanted results”. I also agree that you want to pay close attention to form, load, tempo and anything else that might make you stand out from the rest.

You may want to consider how the manager expects you to train him. Since he works at the gym, I would imagine he’s trained. So, do you treat him as such (read: use the more effective, complex movements)? Or as the typical newbie (read: an overweight, middle-aged woman who wants to “tone up”)? I know a lot of people here may say “doesn’t matter, they should all train the same”, but it might matter to him.

It’s the same as with any interviewing process, really: tell them what they want to hear so as to secure the job, or blow them away with your detailed knowledge of the subject.


If you want the workout to kick his ass go with Meltdown or a half hour of some Renegade Training.

Ask him if he wants to be trained …

a) as a out-of-shape person wanting to 'tone’

b) as an experienced body-builder

c) as an athlete looking for improved performance

That way, when he gives you an answer, you can explain your rationale behind whatever circuit you design.

As an exercise physiologist, i get to se a wide variety of ‘clients’…so in addition to what most people have stated above, try to show him that you can also train “special popualtions”…post op patients, people with hypertension, diabetes, or lower back problems. A large percentage of your clients may come in with some of these problems and you should be knowledgable enough to know their special needs. Remember having a trainer is an expensive perk for most of us, and with the popualtion getting older, it is these older folk that have the money and the time to hire a trainer. Many of them will have some sort of special condition.

Man you guys rock. Thanks all.
Jason, i love lunges, but when i see personal trainers make clients do them with no extra weight then i have a problem.

You will be mostly working with beginners. Safety and perfect form should be your emphasis. That includes teaching them how to use the abdominals properly in the squats and deads. If you do this routine, they’ll be effectively alternating between lower body and upper body and largest to smallest muscle involvement:

Bodybuilding Squats
Supine Grip Pulldowns to Lower Chest
Romanian Deadlifts
Incline Dumbell Presses
Leg Press Machine Calf Presses
Overhead Dumbell Press Partials

15-20 controlled reps each. High reps are best for learning correct form and gaining the needed muscle memory. And high reps are best for getting one’s joints acclimated to weight lifting. That’s one circuit set. Then give 1-2 minutes rest in between circuits. 2-3 total circuit sets.

In my opinion circuit training is ridiculous. It is far better to, by your example, do 2 or 3 sets of each exercise before moving onto the next. This helps the trainee get their head into that bodypart, and to feel the muscle as it performs through fatigue. When you jump from bodypart to bodypart, especially thighs to upper body, you are redirecting the blood into a new area of the body. This not only hinders the bodypart of the previous exercise from fully re-oxygenating, but it also leaves the toxic byproducts of metabolism. I experimented extensively with circuit training many years ago, and found that, probably for the reasons I’ve already given, it induces a discomfort which feels totally unnnatural–sort-of a nausea that served no real purpose. I think my body was telling me something. BTW, it also did not produce the results grouping the exercises together did.

Circuit training’s not right for you then. But he only has 30 minutes, and most people new to fitness are looking for the best of all worlds (anaerobic, aerobic, strength gain, muscle gain, fat loss, and healthier heart). I think a properly organized circuit training program like the one I mentioned though not ideally addressing any one of those goals can get a beginner started in the right direction for them. When people rest between every set it’s usually long enough for any aerobic benefit to be negated. And in 30 minutes, you will get in more total sets/work by doing your workout circuit style with rest in between circuits than normal rest in between each set. That means more calories burned and hence a greater contribution towards fat loss. I believe in relaxed stretching immediately after workouts to clear metabolic wastes.

I stand on my previous statements. Have you considered a workout schedule similar to the Jones/Darden Nautilus type? I’ve been through it. No, I should say I survived it. Offers EVERYTHING (except, of course, practice at power movements). Perhaps you could tone down the intensity a little bit and stretch it into 30 awesome minutes. In my professional opinion so-called circuit training presents an additional form of discomfort which is both detrimental and unnecessary.