T Nation

'Trainers' Not Looking the Part


What's the deal?

You see about 10 of them at once in a commercial gym, yet none but 1, and that's pushing it, even looks like they've touch some serious weights. Most of them most likely has some kind of Kin or Exercise Science type of degree.

So why dont they look the part? I'm gonna be taking Kin in about a year and I honestly can't wait, because I'm choosing something that I love to do and not something I need to take.

There must be a correlation to enjoying what you do and "progressing", or in this case "getting bigger", OR for someone who's not really interested in being big, they should at least look decent dont you think? Or perhaps put some okay numbers?

I'm not hating on "them" but I'm kinda confused in what drives them. Surely if you "work out", you have to enjoy it. And enjoying it, to me, means you're putting your time in and progressively getting bigger and stronger. But in most cases, it doesnt seem to work that way.

Any PTs in here? Chime in.


Some people really don't want to be big. It's that simple.


Im a CSCS, graduated from Umass-Boston with a degree in Ex Phys. I'm not sure if I would fall into the category you speak of, Im 6'4" 220, bench around 280 max, squat 375, dead 365 for 3, definitely not great numbers for someone my size so could be.

However, I would say that some of the best strength coaches in the biz dont really look the part either. If you didnt know Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey or Mike Robertson and saw them walking around in khakis and a loose fitting under armour shirt, you might think the same of them, I mean theres not going to be traps exploding out of a loose shirt or a massive bulk of pectoral muscle on those guys, except possibly Cressey.

You have to realize the clientele the average personal trainer works with. This could be part of it. If you are a guy who will stop at nothing to be huge and/or strong, it can be a bit of a rude awakening as you see client after client with poor flexibility who refuses to do the stretches you prescribe to them.

Clients like this often have GIRD as well, so right there you can pretty much kiss goodbye progressing on compound lower or upper body exercises, unless they agree to work hard on their tissue quality and flexibility. Getting someone to eat well enough and do enough energy expenditure work to lose weight is actually alot easier than getting them to do the above, yet without getting a client strong, showing them what their body can really do, its hard as a trainer to stay as interested.

I've worked with trainers that really fit the image before and in my experience, its a mixed bag. There have been some good trainers who are ripped to shit, but only one that I consider to be excellent. By and large the best trainers I have worked with, look pretty average, not for the general population, but for the fitness business. Probably hovering around 11- 15% bodyfat, has really hit the weights hard at one point, and although still working out pretty hard, doesnt watch food quite as well as he used to.


Some people call them "plastic" trainers and they are usually the most successful. For the most part these guys are endurance athletes(Triathletes, marathoners) and tend to be aesthetically pleasing rather than bulky. Almost the whole Exercise Science community is this way. Just go to a conference, it can be depressing.

I just graduated from one of the top Applied Physiology and Kinesiology programs last year and all of my profs, except one did nothing but run. Most of them look like they have never even picked up a weight, and that tends to rub off on a lot of the students. I was probably one of three guys out of 105 that weighed in at over 200 lbs.

I work as a trainer now, and no one puts up numbers like I do, and I consider myself pretty weak. I compete in Highland Games and Stongman comps and people here think I train like a freak. Only a few of the guys, out of thirty something, even train for bulk. It all comes down to how well you can sell yourself, personality goes a long way, and getting people tangible results goes even further.


A lot of trainers also struggle for time. It comes down to how bad they want the $$$ if you are willing to do stupidly early starts and then late finishers just for a few extra dollars then you are'nt giving your body a chance to recover. Top that with the amount of clients some have and they find it hard to train at all... Thats what i think anyway :slight_smile:


I know this isnt exactly news around here but I'm just curious as to what "drives" this people to go to the gym and start lifting in the first place, and why they seem to lose interest and seem to stop doing it.

I'm gonna be studying Kinesiology soon and I sure am looking forward to it because like I said, I love being in the gym, so going to work, really isnt going to work to me.

I had a conversation with this big guy in the gym once and he said half if not most of the students drop out after the first year. They lose interest. And some who make it and graduate, are downright laughable. We all make fun of them, so I know I'm not the only one here.....


exactly. And at that most out of shape people don't want Lou Ferrigno training them.
That being said, I think you at least have to look like you lead a healthy lifestyle


I saw a couple of women PT's at the gym I used to go to, they were quite obese, definitely not something any woman would aspire to, but thinking about it, it made perfect sense - why intimidate your potential clients?


Undergrad in Kines is a joke if you're big on weight training. There's a 99% chance your exercise physiology professor will give lip service to resistance training and spend all the time talking about his beloved RVEET (regular vigorous endurance exercise training... /puke).

Honestly, I think (and it is sad to say ) that a lot of people who become trainers do so because they don't like to work.. lol. They figure going to a gym and playing around is a lot better than sitting at a desk and plugging data into a spreadsheet. I've never met a full-time trainer who's passion was truly fitness that didn't work out regularly. The ones that don't truly don't live and breathe this stuff IMO.. they are just collecting a paycheck.

However, people who are in the business side of fitness seem to routinely not exercise. Like once a trainer crosses over to being a manager or running a business, they seem to get too busy to work out.

It's true that you can be 'too big' for attracting the most clients, but you have to be pretty damn big for that to be the case. I think CT said something like at 185 and single digit body fat at his height was optimal for getting clients.


I'm not a P.T. but let's say I was. i might know Greasy egg rolls, Carvel, lorna Doone, and sausage buiscuit with egg is not good for me, doesn't mean I'm not going to eat them all the time. I have trained friend from time to time and the best thing about it is yelling and telling THEM what to do.

Most people know what to do in life, they just don't feel like doing it. The shoemakers son has the worst shoes remember that.


the PTs at my gym are about the only people who look like they lift. Shame they don't have their trainees training like they train.


Not a PT but I have worked out in a lot of gyms and I can say that their shapes do vary tremendously. I have to believe that being out of shape has to effect their job skill in someway. I mean how can you teach things that you don't understand for yourself?

As far as Cressey is concerned however you are WAY OFF! Cressey is a natural ectomorph so he will never look like Dorian Yates but he carries a tremendous amount of muscle for a guy with his bone structure. I mean a tremendous amount. Given the fact that he is a powerlifter and not a bodybuilder I actually find that pretty amazing.

I have never met Mike Robertson so I cannot comment on him but Boyle was at one time a powerlifter who squatted over 500 at a pretty light bodyweight with minimal gear. So in his defense you could say he has a lot of real world experience regardless of what you might think he looks like now. Boyle could probably have a really tremendous physique, based on his powerlifting background, but his only problem is he refuses to lift seriously anymore because in his own words "he doesn't like lifting if he can't go heavy". I think that is a cop out and since he is surrounded by people who don't have the guts to tell him so what you wind up with is this incredibly knowledgable guy who looks the way he does. The bald head and glasses don't help much either. Maybe if he had a tan that would help?


You have to remember the type of people, in general, that are paying for personal training, are the same type that go get their nails done and get 150 dollar haircuts every other week. Personal training is looked at by many as a service industry in the same vein as those. How many hard working clients do you think you will have out of that stock?

You say it wont be work for you when you are a trainer because you love going to the gym. Pardon me but you have no idea what you are talking about.

Unless you get yourself into a situation where you are training athletes, personal training is and will feel like, WORK. Just the other day one of my male clients had to lay down on the floor and almost passed out after what I consider to be an EXTREMELY easy dynamic warmup. It is very possible that you end up having to spend hours and hours a week with the very people you in some ways despise (at least as far as work ethic).

Trust me it is no walk in the park. The biggest issue I recognized when I first started training was client adherence. It doesnt matter if you are the world best trainer sometimes, the majority of people will simply, flat out, not listen to you. It will be a very frustrating experience, at least initially. I guarantee it.


I've no doubt Cressey carries alot of muscle, and probably looks pretty good with his shirt off, but I wouldnt be surprised if he looked pretty average with a loose shirt on. As far as Mike Boyle, we are not saying anything about what he has done, or how he could look. This is strictly a remark about the ability to obviously tell someone works out in loose fitting, casual clothes.

I used to train with a huge juicer who was reasonably knowledgeable, everyone wanted to train with him, partly because he was a big, loud personality, but also because he was massive, 6'2" 245, and when he wanted to be, lean. People would ask to work out with him, and when they couldnt, refused to work out with me. There is a huge inspirational component to training with someone who looks the part, i.e. looks like a bodybuilder.


to be fair, you really can't answer this question for every average-looking trainer in one explanation. some people don't want to be huge for any number of reasons.

some (like myself) are working on it, but through a combination of getting little to no recovery time for the most part, bad genetics, and probably overtraining to some extent, just aren't there yet (the lure of being in a gym all day can sometimes lead you to push past what is really a proper amount of training I think. everyone else around you is working out, and so when you get a chance, even if it's supposed to be an off day, you get sucked into the atmosphere and wind up getting in extraneous workouts when you're already beat from being up at 4:30 AM).

there's also those that are indeed too busy with clients and/or other responsibilities outside the gym to lift when they should. Also, many people are just freaked out by big bulky guys - women get intimidated and think you are going to somehow put 40lbs of muscle into their arms and turn them into she-hulk, no matter how many times you explain that that won't happen.

For that very reason, I tend to wear slightly larger shirts just so I look a little smaller when approaching people about training. Sometimes being big can help, sometimes it's a hindrance. And, finally, some trainers don't care about their image and eat shit food and don't work out. I've seen all kinds in various gyms.


Amen to that. I thought training would be much more like fun than work before i did it full-time, but it's really not the case. I like doing it on the whole, but honestly some clients just don't want to listen to advice that they are actually paying for (WTF?), they refuse to keep appointments, and many just don't want to work. On the flip side, though, there are those awesome clients who will bust their asses, follow diets to the gram, and do whatever you say without question, and some are even coordinated enough to do it properly. I have a decent number of those, and that's why I get out of bed at 4:30 AM. Training sometimes feels a lot like a pain in the ass, but there are moments when it just kicks ass too. Besides, what other career allows you stop working in the middle of the day and lift, without even leaving the building?


Absolutely right, I have some excellent clients as well, whom I love training. The bottom line for me is if someone is willing to work hard enough to progress toward their own goals, they will be a good client. If they do what you tell them to, though it may not directly lead to their goal, they are great.


Myself and one other guy are the only one's who look like we train. The others are former athletes who seemed to either stop caring or simply don't go after the athletic market. They're mainly geared toward housewives and the elderly and everyone looks fit to them.


In my opinion not only do most trainers not "LOOK" the part they also don't "ACT" the part. In an industry where you should be selling yourself (your look, work ethic, dedication to clients, desire to learn) most trainers are seriously failing themselves and current/potential clients.

First off... Why would you ever want to get trained by someone who looks worse than you, if the trainer can't drag themselves into the gym to train and remove the typical muffin tops, extra chins or cottage cheese thighs why would any client bother spending $50 + per session.

Secondly... Just because someone slept through a Certification course , university degree, college diploma or weekend crash course on fitness, nutrition, bodybuilding etc. does not mean they should be given the reigns to prescribe 3 sets of 15 reps of single leg BOSU ball squats while doing shoulder shrugs with kettlebells to a client. Experience is essential and just because you "BOUGHT" yes "BOUGHT" the right to call yourself a PT doesn't mean that from that day forth you can preach fitness morals and values while inevitably watching your toes disappear below your large gut.

Thirdly... The gym should be a location where goals are reached, PR's are attained and sweat hits the floor. It is not a social hour or a water cooler hang out chatting or flirting with the cute girl while your client struggles to finish his/her last rep.

Finally... Keep fast food out of the gym... Trainers and the management staff at the gym lead by example, and I agree that the majority of the clientele are housewives or older clients but working out while watching a staff member eat (SUBWAY, McDonalds, 2 ENERGY DRINKS or PIZZA) can drastically reduce the chances of success.

As a certified PT with a 4 year Exercise Degree I know what I should be seeing in the gyms and so do clients. For all the dedicated Trainers LOOKING and ACTING the part keep up the fight on mediocrity.


im a can fit pro trainer ( please dont flame i already know) and well i guess to the untrained eye it would look to that im either not a "plastic trainer" or a cardio guy im 5'8'' 170 lbs and 13.5 inch arms. however squat 375 dead 405 bench 245. so the thing that the average person would judge my weight lifting ability on would usually be arms at first glance, very few people notice back thickness or large legs or even when your for arms and biceps are almost equal size. that being said i have not found a whole lot of trainers like myself who dont look the part to the common person because of a powerlifting or strength training back ground