I'm thinking of hiring a personal trainer to help me with the form of exercises. Don't laugh. I know the general attitude of people here about personal trainers, and I generally agree. But there are some decent ones and I have some very specific needs.
A little background. I've been exercising with weights for about 8 months at this point, although only about 4 seriously. (Thank you, T-Nation!) I was your basic semi-couch potato - I'm a 31 year-old attorney working about 60 hours a week, give or take, and ate 2 meals a day at my desk. Since then, I'm still working that much, but have cleaned up my diet and gained about 10 pounds while dropping a decent amount of fat based on the scientific thumb-and-forefinger test (I have no early bf or other metrics recorded besides weight, unfortunately). I'm about 5'8", 205 lbs.
I also have some medical issues that made it difficult for me to exercise totally normally and make form extremely important. About 5 years ago I had bone cancer (Ewing's Sarcoma) in my left tibia. The tumor and surrounding bone were surgically removed. That was replaced with cadaver bone (an allograft) and I have a plate along my tibia from just above my ankle to about four inches below my knee. I also spent about year and half bed-ridden or on crutches from the year of chemotherapy and the surgery. Because of the surgery and plate, my ankle is not normal.
My hips, particularly the left, are also abnormal from Legge-Calve-Perthe's disease as kid.
But what induced me to try to get back in shape was the fact that I had injured my back (a disk issue) and literally could not sit through an entire day of work. After about 5 months of PT I was feeling much better.
So, basically, my left side and biomechanics are screwed. Oh, and the funky hip and lower leg have annoyed my knee recently too. Joy.
I work out in a commercial gym - an Equinox. (Don't laugh, please - its subway stop is on my way to work, my girlfriend likes the pool, my physical therapist's office is attached to the gym, and, uh . . .). There's only one power rack and a waist-level half rack, but other than that the gym is pretty good. There's even an Oly platform and bumper plates that no one ever uses, and a full set of kettlebells collecting dust, etc.
On my own, I've been okay with the major upper-body compound free-weight exercises, as well as squats and Romanian deadlifts. I've even added front squats and barbell hack squats. But I've been a bit leery of true deadlifts and good mornings because of the back injury, but I've built up my core strength enough to attempt them. Problem is, it's critical for me to have good form because of the risk of injury.
At any rate, I'm thinking about hiring a trainer to help me learn/re-learn the form of some of the exercises that I don't know well, and to help me with my own weird biomechanics. For example, I've never done the Olympic lifts and want someone to teach them to me. If the trainer is good, I may continue on with him. I've identified the one trainer at my gym who is 1) big and in shape, and 2) seem to know what the hell he's doing. Good sign: I've seen his clients doing bent-over barbell rows and never seen him with a bosu.
Okay, so that was probably too much information. But you can see why it's very important to me that the trainer know his ass from his elbow.
My question for you guys is: what would you ask the trainer to feel out his knowledge and skills, and what would you look for in a trainer?