How to Avoid Bad Personal Trainers

personal trainer

Table of Contents

And the award of stupidest personal trainer of the year… (drum rolls) the guy in the thumbnail! On a serious note, hiring a personal trainer could be a smart move that will and should help you in your weight loss or body composition journey. However, there is one major problem here, most of the personal trainers are absolutely clueless! It doesn’t take an expert or even someone who is working in the industry to tell you this, all it takes is for you to take a look around your gym next time you see a personal trainer training a client. If you cannot spot the reasons why I think most personal trainers are clueless, this article will help you out. By reading this information, you should be able to recognize some critical flaws in how most personal trainers “train” their clients, however, I will be writing a complete guide on how to choose the perfect personal trainer very soon.

Personal Training Certificates

The whole story starts with how personal training get certified. Let me establish a rule here, just because a personal trainer is “certified” does NOT mean he knows what he is doing, and vice versa. Personal training certificates are a way to tell people that this individual took an exam, passed it and met the MINIMUM required qualifications. So yes, your personal did meet a certain set of criteria but compared to the real world, especially in an industry like health and fitness where everyone is different in physiological and psychological ways, that criteria are absolute trash. How many times have you seen an obese personal trainer? Don’t misunderstand me, you can have someone who is out of shape and still know more than most fitness instructors, however, in 99% of the cases, this is not true! This says that anyone could be a personal trainer.
“Hey I read some information from an outdated book about training, passed the exam and I am licensed! Hurray” Not fun. This leads me to my next point…

Outdated information

You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to become a personal trainer nowadays, but the scary part is that besides the low standards the certificates set for their students, a big chunk of the information the licensing agencies teach and have in their textbooks is outdated! The course information is not updated regularly to see what new research is saying on a specific subject, instead, they have old information about using a kettle ball for warming from the 80’s because some guy said so! A gentleman can read some information from a stupid outdated textbook, pass an exam and claim being qualified. Not so fast my friend.

Unregulated industry

The fitness industry in general, and personal training licensing industry specifically is one of the most unorganized and unregulated industries in the whole nation. It starts with the FDA not regulating dietary supplements and ends with personal training licensing agencies not teaching proper scientifically proven and real world proven information. It’s all about money. I am sure you have seen or heard of the many personal training certificates someone can test for, however, majority of them are not any better than the others, they all follow the same old routine process with no creativity or care for future clients in mind. Although, admittedly, the American Council on Exercise has what’s called “Specialist Programs” which allows personal trainers to focus on one aspect of training such as weight management, strength training, fitness conditioning…etc. not a bad start, however, more work is needed.

Your personal trainer is not licensed

Let me start off by solidifying a statement; just because someone is not licensed, does not mean he doesn’t know what he is doing. A guy with real world hands on experience will most likely know tons more than anyone who memorized a few lines from a book. Nonetheless, you still want your trainer to have a license so that you are sure he has AT LEAST basic knowledge about training, conditioning and nutrition. Just because your gym hired a guy to train people, doesn’t mean he is licensed! A gym owner might hire someone for just being friends with him. Or he could be a part of the owning family, you never know. Always ask to see your trainer’s certificate and do some research on the differences between certificates beforehand. According to IDEA Health and Fitness Association, 45% of trainers that claim to be licensed are in fact unlicensed! Just think about that for a second.

Doesn’t track your progress

Okay look, I understand that at some point in life we only hard pens and papers, but guess what? THIS IS NOT THE CASE ANYMORE! With new technological advancements emerging every day, it has become extremely convenient to track your clients’ progress through devices like smartphones, tablets and applications. If your personal trainer does not track your progress, he is an idiot and so are you! Similar to benchmarking in the business world (business major here), tracking your client’s progress allows you to see if the exercise and diet plan they’re following -assuming the personal trainer did in fact design programs for his clients- are working or not! If they’re working, perfect, keep it up! If not, things need to be tweaked in order to help your client achieve his goals fast and safely. I mean this is the personal trainer’s goal after all, right? Ideally, your personal trainer will have an iPad or a table where he saves basic information such as: starting weight, weekly weight, body fat percentage…etc. and progress information such as: changes in body composition, changes in weight, how the client feels, progress pictures…etc. under different profiles for his different clients. This crucial step will make his life and your life easier. If he doesn’t track your progress, he is clueless. And don’t just rely on visual evaluation, because looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to changing your body composition. You need solid data.

No experience

Okay, so you found a trainer that happens to be licensed, now what? You want to hire a trainer who has real world experience. Scientific backed information on exercise and human physiology is great, however, can the trainer in question apply that information in real life? Has he successfully implemented those techniques with different people in real life? The world may never know! But, the problem is you can be very smart and base your information on scientific facts, but real world experience is necessary because when it comes to training, nutrition, and human physiology, we know less than we think we do. Everyone is unique and not all the scientific backed techniques could be used with everyone, this is not a shoe where one size fits all, however, real life experience with different clients exposes the trainer to scenarios where he needs to be creative and experiment with things to help his clients out, and that is something science cannot predict.

Stupid exercises

Okay seriously, what the f* is this?
personal trainer
Yes, I want my personal trainer to be creative when I hit a plateau, but not to be creative in coming up with different ways to kill me! If your personal trainer does not design your training program around proven exercises that fit YOU -more on that later- then he is just wasting your time and money. I cannot even fathom what the guy in the picture above was attempting to do. Doing squats on a medicine ball? And why would any client follow such a stupid idea? This is beyond my comprehension capabilities. Note to trainers: be creative, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Doesn’t pay attention

One of my major pet peeves is when I am training and I see a personal trainer training a client only to see him tell the client what to do then wander in space! What are you doing? Pay attention to your client. Your client is paying you in time and money to help him/her achieve their goals, the least you can do is give them your attention. In fact, not only is it respectful to pay attention to your client, but you need to do so to prevent any serious injuries that may occur or fix a client’s form if they’re performing an exercise with bad technique.

He doesn’t support you

Let me start off by saying I am not big on emotional crap when it comes to exercising, however, it would be negligence on my behalf not to point out the crucial aspect of psychology in fitness and nutrition. You want a trainer who will support you throughout your journey, be it when you are losing weight, building muscle or conditioning yourself. For instance, if you are losing weight, things will get harder at some point, and you may feel like giving up. A good knowledgeable personal trainer understands that this is normal and bound to happen, and he should have some tricks up his sleeve to help you push through those hard days and stay consistent with your diet and training regiments. Thus, your personal trainer should empower you throughout the whole journey, and that is something you will mostly find in trainer who are passionate about what they do, changing people’s lives.

Individual differences

I’ll repeat a statement I made earlier; we are all different, thus, we all have psychological and physiological differences. Your trainer needs to keep this in mind when first assessing your stating statistics and throughout the training period. Your trainer must understand that a 60-year-old gentleman will most likely not be able to train as intense or as often as a young buck in his 20’s! Applying the same methodologies to everyone is a recipe for disaster. Pay attention to how your trainer trains you over time, if he tweaks things around when your progress stalls and takes into account your own unique physiological makeup, he is a good trainer. If he doesn’t, well, he is an ….. (fill the blank lol).

Doesn’t listen to you

Since we are all have different psychological and physiological differences, it would make sense that we will experience different things throughout our training and dieting journeys. You may not be able to perform a certain exercise due to limited mobility that is caused by your body’s shape. If you bring a similar point to your trainer’s awareness, he must be able to comprehend that and not insist on having you do that specific exercise, instead, he should tweak things around to see what a good alternative exercise will be that will fit your personal makeup. If he is stubborn and thinks he knows it all, he probably doesn’t know anything!

Focuses on money!

And just like everything in life, money comes into play. I understand that you want to make a living through personal training, however, this should not be your main priority. If a trainer only cares about making money, he is bound to fail and he most likely doesn’t care about his clients, thus, avoid him like the plague! I have a question for trainers:

Would you want to make a lot of money but have unhappy clients or would you rather make decent/a lot of money and have satisfied clients who remember you and how you changed their lives?

I’ll leave the answer to you. Ironically, those trainers who do care about their clients and helping them achieve their goals will have a good image in the industry, especially that people talk and he will eventually be asked to train more people, which will result in more money for him! Keep up the good morals, trainers, it pays off.

I am aware that you want to make money, but let’s admit it, the average salary of a personal trainer in the U.S. is $56,590 per year! That is a good amount of money for a simple, yet important job. In the real world, the average cost of a personal training session is $45 a session! This is a lot of money. Some gyms and personal trainers even charge as much as $100 a session, so, you want that money you are paying to manifest itself into results.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario;

Becky has been training with a good knowledgeable personal trainer for a couple months who has successfully helped her achieve her goals. Becky gets a call from an old friend (Sara) who she hasn’t seen in some time. Becky goes out with her friend and her friend notices her weight loss. This is the conversation they will most likely have:

Sara: OMG Becky (look at her butt…just kidding) you look fantastic! How did you do it?

Becky: OMG thank you for noticing. I have been training with this gal from my gym for a few months know, and I must say that she knows what she is doing.

Sara: I have been trying to lose some weight for quite some time now with no success. You think she can help me?

Becky: If I had to recommend one personal trainer, I would recommend -insert her personal trainer’s name here-. She could definitely help you lose that last bit of weight you want to lose.

You see? It pays off, trainers! The word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool. Just do what you are supposed to do and success will chase you.

In conclusion

Hiring a personal trainer could be a great way to help you achieve your goals, especially if you are just starting to train and commit to a diet plan, and have no idea what to do. However, while this may be a great self-investment, it could be a nightmare if your trainer is as clueless as a cucumber. With an increasing number of personal trainers around the planet due to higher demand, it would be wise to choose a good knowledgeable trainer who will put you on the right path and follow you along your journey. If you have been training with someone already, utilize the information in this article to decide if you want to continue training with that trainer or not, after all, you are a paying a lot of money for his services and you shouldn’t feel sorry if you are not getting results due to your trainer’s mistakes.


AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE. (2016). Continuing education, speciality programs. Retrieved from AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE: (2016). Personal Trainer Salaries. Retrieved from Salary:



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