T Nation

How to Consult With a Trainer?

I am going to set up the consult with a personal trainer. I have my husband to come with me and I really trust his imput but I think that I could benefit from having tips from more than on person. So what do I look for in a trainer.

So far my husband has introduced me to The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin and to The Book of Muscle by Ian King and Lou Schuler. The Book of Muscle has a beginner routine section that looks to be good so would it be acceptabe to take those books in and explain that Im looking to be trained for gains and goals of muscle strengh and weight loss not for warm fuzzies and high rep low weight “toning”.

What do I ask a trainer to really know if his principles of training fall into my needs and wants if I am still learning my needs and wants.

I need to gain muscle mass, strengh, and definition. I need to lose fat and intimidation of the gym. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks Mechelle


I think that it’s a good decision that you see a trainer, if you feel that you would like other opinions, and options with your workouts. There are so many routines, and resources available.

Things that I would look for in a trainer are:

  1. Qualifications; Degrees, specialty training knowledge etc. (Not always necessary, but great for peace of mind, and insurance issues)

  2. Personability. You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person. Make sure that you’ll be able to handle it.

  3. Physical fitness. If they can’t keep themselves in shape…forget about it!

There are also things that you need to tell your trainer, in-order to help them out.

  1. Be specific! Don’t say, “I want to lose 20 lbs”. Say, " I would like to gain muscle mass, and definition in these areas, while reducing the circumference of these areas…you get the idea.

  2. Plan ahead! Find out what times you can meet with him/her. If he/she’s always booked, or in school, then you might want to try someone else.

  3. Introduce YOUR ideas, routines, and knowledge with him/her. Chances are that they will be more then happy to work with them. After all, the idea is to keep YOU interested.

  4. You might even want to ask if they have any before/after shots of past clients. If not…no big deal, but if they do, it’ll not give you an idea of their success, but it might help you Visualize your outcome.

Hope some of this helped.

Ask him to teach you the RIGHT way to SQUAT, BENCH and DEADLIFT (it matters not whether or not you are a powerlifter). If he’s much different than Dave Tate, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertsson et. al, then dump him/her. Also ask him to write a list of the most favorable macronutrients (Protein, Carbs and Fats/oils) for your goals, if his list is not quite similar to John Berardi’s, dump him/her. If the trainer passes the above tests, you can ask him to tell you the musculature responsible for the above lifts, if he/she says “legs, chest and legs”, start looking for someone else.

And finally, ask him about post workout nutrition, a blank stare should send you running. If he talks about maltodextrin, dextrose and hydrolyzed whey, then get out the checkbook. These are the MININUM areas anyone getting paid for advice on your health/fitness should be versed in.

Along with the advice you all ready have, I say be wary of a trainer that after just hearing your goals and talking with you prints out a cookie cutter routine.

They should not only address you by talking to you and finding out your goals, but by also doing some actual physical work to get an understanding of where you actually are in that regaurd. To asses the actual physical capacity you have before making an INDIVIDUAL program.

After all you are paying this person to help YOU. Your needs will be individual to you and NO computer program will be able to address your personal needs.

Make them Work for there money.

Just my take,

A Personal Trainer can be an effective addition to your goals, however only if they know what they are doing. But just helping you stick to your gym appts and being motivated is great!

Just asking questions will be your first clue. If they don’t like answering them and just want you to do as you are told, get someone else.

Ask what type of routine and exercises you’ll be doing. If it consists of high reps on machines - get someone else. It may be good to start with high reps and machines depending on your current level, but you should be heading to free weights and lower reps asap.

Variations of the squat, deadlift, row, pullup, and presses should be staples. If they want you to do lots of tricep kickbacks while standing on a medicine ball - get someone else.

There shouldn’t be lots of talking and resting going on in your workout, otherwise it’s a waste of your time and money. You should be constantly moving.

Check what type of micro-cycle/meso-cycles you will be doing. They shouldn’t leave out any muscle groups, and preferable concentrate on movements instead of muscles as in the above exercises. If they want to start you off on a bodypart split (chest, arms, legs, etc) probably not a good idea - ask if that will ever change. A lot of trainers are supposed to follow certain guidlines - they may change the exercises but not the reps and muscles trained - get someone else.

Check their nutrition knowledge. If they push supplements - be very wary. The basics that should never change are the 7 habits by Dr. JB. If their nutrition paln varies widely from this - be wary.

Here’s the link to the 7 Habits:

Also - I can’t stress how important it is to be wary of the sales side as well. They may try and rope you into a yearly contract or pay overly high prices. You shouldn’t start with anything more than a 3 month or 36 session contract - what if you don’t like the trainer? And a good starting point for session pay is around $40-70 per hourly session. It’s possible to get good trainers on less and excellent trainers on more - but really make sure. Make sure you are getting your money’s worth and aren’t stuck with something you don’t want.

Congrats on getting in gear to achieve your physique goals. Be diligent and you’ll do well.

I also wanted to point out that’s there’s nothing wrong with a trainer suggesting certain foods, or meals that they feel you may benefit from, health-wise…however,

DO NOT let them plan ‘tricky’, or confusing diets for you. Goldin’s right. If it doesn’t follow The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs, then say, “No thanks”.

I’m a trainer in Canada, and I’ve seen, and heard some pretty sketchy stuff in my days, so far.

I bet by now we’ve probably given you more to think about, then you thought we would eh!

In all honesty, no one is going to fulfill all the requirements that you have received.

My advice is to contact Charles Staley personally, and find out what he can do for you.

You will save time, money, frustration, and lots of “learning curve” by simply doing that.

It is the best of all worlds in this kind of decision.

I think Phill hit it on the head (again, man I wish I could stop saying that…just kidding). Regarding making certain you get a personalized routine. As soon as you tell them your goals, they shouldn’t flip through a folder, pull out a paper and say “This is the routine you need”.

Also, I’d ask them:
A - To talk to their latest client. As a trainer, I’d have no problem having any of my past clients speak with potentials.

B - Who are his influences? When I was first certified, it was Dr. Squat, Fred Hatfield, more recently it’s been Dan John, Dr. Berardi, and Charles Staley. (not to say I haven’t been affected by all the other phenomenal coaches around, but you can get a decent handle of someone, when you look at who they look up to.) Every “good” trainer should be influenced by the “better” coaches before him/her.

C - Has he ever heard of T-Nation.com? That should be a give-away right there. :wink:

How about just posting where you’re located; I’m willing to bet that at least a few people here are located nearby and would know who would be good in the area (and they might offer to help you themselves).