T Nation

Why You/We Hate Personal Trainers


Ok so here's the story. I'm looking to get ACE certified within the week. I've been studying for a while now and am not all too worried about the test. I'm more concerned about being the best personal trainer possible. I've read the shit out of T-Nation articles and have been posting here for a while now and believe me it's no fun to have to contradict everything you know to be true just to pass a certification exam.

But I know what's effective and what's not from T-Nation, and now I know how to deal with special needs clients (hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes etc) thanks to my studies and textbooks.

BUT. I want to know from everyone here: Why do you think trainers are shit? What can I do to make sure that I become the best trainer I can be?

I can promise you already this much: no bosu balls, no "functional" training, no pretty pink 2.5 lb dumbbells for the ladies (or the embarrassed men), no zumba class bullshit, no 1/4 squats for clients who are capable of full squats.



Good luck man! I'm actually going for my ACSM within the next month, so I'm right there with you on the whole not being a shit trainer thing...

I would vote trainers who clearly do not look the part


Well, I'm sure you are gonna get a lot of squat rack curl-type answers, but I will give you a heads up on one of my pet peeves.

Be professional. Show up on time. Don't talk on your cellphone during sessions. Don't spend any amount of the client's time eating. No flipflops. Listen and teach more than you talk. Practice what you preach. Continue to learn.

Don't be a douchebag, basically.


get an impressive physique and no one will give you a hard time about being a PT

I hate PTs that are 150 lb soaking wet and think they have any sort of credibility. If you can't live the lifestyle yourself, you have no business charging others for your 'advice.'


I think trainers are fine. I don't feel the urge to pay one, though. I've been able to use free military trainers - lucky me! My pet peeve with trainers is when you see one trainer give the same program to 15 different people. Come on, they can't possibly all have the same training goals?!?



This is key. Also, if you have the time, become CSCS-certified. Those who want a more serious PT (and are probably willing to pay more) will look for the better certifications.


Just like any profession you will find those that excel and those that make it look bad. Unfortunately, most people think it's a piece of cake to be in the fitness industry and that what they've learned in the Myth and Fiction Magazine is enough to train a mom of 3.

The industry is loosely regulated so you get a lot of people that really shouldn't be in it, but usually aren't for the long haul.

People often judge trainers on how they look and think if they're not 200 lbs of lean muscle they're idiots. News flash, you don't have to be impressive looking to be a good trainer training the general fitness population.


[Background: Trainer since 2001, everything from meathead dirty iron gym in hawaii to 24 hr and ultra fancy private studio in silicon valley, now independent contractor while working on my master's. CSCS, ACE, USA Weightlifting sports performance, FMS certified, Supertraining clinic, Westside seminar, etc.]

Firstly, genuinely care about your clients and thier goals. Be attentive and focused on them during thier session. Not sitting or leaning on equipment just counting reps - I hate seeing that.

Second, always be learning. Go to seminars and clinics, read books (old and new) and keep up to date on the current research and what's happening in the trenches. You can learn a ton from widely varying sources, use what works- regardless of the fancy term that may go with it. (even the dreaded crossfit has some useful info)

third, learn how to advance and/regress each and every exercise and movement you do, (maybe the little old lady with the prosthetic leg can't deep squat yet, but she can do wall sits and strengthen those limbs- actual client) and always try something before you put a person through it.

Most shitty trainers are shit because it's just a job. Treat is as more than that, people will put thier faith in you- and that is a big responsibility.


Thanks alot guys! The physique thing is an interesting point. While I agree with JF that it has nothing to do with you competency, I think it has a ton to do with how you influence your client base. There's no room for hypocrisy and I hate it when I see overweight PTs -- it really pisses me off. I'd love to do a CSCS somewhere down the line, but atm I'm a soon-to-be senior in college and would like to get some valuable experience training at my university gym before becoming an independent contractor and so on.

But gimme more!

I like the professionalism bit, gonna have to plan my heavy eating around my appointments! Actually hadn't thought of that one...


If you haven't already, read this article. I think the best advice you can get is within it:


I dont really think some personal trainers suck, at least the ones at my gym, but when I see their clients, it looks to me like they never make progress (except for one, but he really wanted to get healthier). I do defend PTs in a way, because they can tell you how to eat and train you, but if you dont eat healthy, and do some of it on your own, I guess you never really will se results.


Just read it through a second time. Thanks! I forgot how much useful stuff was in that article, it might not be a bad idea to buy Cosgrove's book either....


I have had to personal trainers in my life and i hated them both.
My first trainer told me I was a decent wight for my height but to get me lean he put me on a ridiculous diet based around. of canned tuna, rice cakes, and sliced turkey. he had me lifting weights that were way too light for me and made me do speed rep. I and most people on T-Nation believe and the lift heavy and eat enough training style.
my second trainer did'nt know shit about how to choose exercises that actually build muscles he had me doing natural lunges, leg extensions, step ups and sit ups with a medicine ball. I am pretty sure the front squat routine I was doing was better than all those exercises combined lol.And to add insult to injury he told my that I was just good at front squats because I was used to them, the important thing was to keep my body guessing.

please don't become one of these idiots.


A fair amount of the ones I've seen appear quite poorly educated at best, or clueless at worst and I knew after just a short time of researching that they were full of crap.

Fat personal trainers are the worst.

I've seen others who know what they're doing, though so I can't totally generalize.


Bosu balls aren't completely worthless, just don't start shoving them down the throats of every client you meet.


my only compliant with the personal trainers i have met is that they only have their clients do exercises that will make the client fell the "burn" in areas that they think will make them thinner. like crunches and what not. they should make their clients do heavy duty compound movements IMO. but whatever keeps your clients coming back i guess.


Bosu balls are great for balance for athletes with power lifting, I used to use them. I hate PT because half of them don't do what they should with clients and I've seen some of their clients stay the same if not get fatter with months of the PT's "programs"...Saying that, there are alot of awesome personal trainers, but damn those few that suck.


Don't worry about it, all my clients will learn the first day that spot reduction isn't a reality.


Wow! Thanks a lot. Question: how did you first get started? where were you working? what were your first clients like?


Could you explain this?