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5 Ways Personal Trainers Can Steer You Wrong

Hiring a personal trainers can be an intimidating process. Often, people begin considering hiring a personal trainer because they find themselves struggling to achieve their goals on their own. But how do you know if the “professional” you’re considering is the right fit for you?

To help you figure this out for yourself, we’ve identified some of the common ways in which the wrong professional can hold you back, and what warning signs to watch out for.

1. They use complicated jargon and talk over your head.

This can be a warning sign for one of several reasons. First, it can be that they are doing it on purpose to make you feel self-conscious about how little you know. They will then attempt to sell you on their services based purely on what you don’t know.

proper personal trainers at gym

Here’s an example: “You mean you don’t know what an undulating periodization workout plan or a ketogenic diet are? You really need my help!”

Alternately, this could also be a sign that they’re fresh out of school and have minimal experience coaching people in real life. An experienced coach will be able to communicate with you in a way that YOU understand clearly, regardless of how “complex” the subject matter is.

2. They don’t consider your individual needs.

Sometimes this is obvious, in the case of a trainer or coach who does not complete a consultation or assessment to discover what your specific goals, needs, and limitations are. But sometimes this can be slightly more subtle, as with the coach who insists you MUST squat in one specific way, or that all of their clients MUST follow a Paleo/Zone/Ketogenic/etc diet.


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The former is an example of a coach who either doesn’t care, or doesn’t know better. The latter is most likely a case of a new coach who doesn’t have enough “in the trenches” experience to understand that different people have different needs. Not everyone will benefit from squatting in the exact same way, because not everyone has the exact same hip anatomy! Not every body responds to the same diet. Your body and your goals are unique!

3. They don’t keep notes.

good sport for ladies

Odds are that if you’re considering hiring a coach, it’s because you’d like to make some kind of measurable improvement in your life. If your coach cannot explicitly tell you how you’ve improved as a result of your training with them, it’s probably time to find a new coach.

4. They claim to be able to do it all themselves.

The most obvious time this comes up is if you experience an injury and your coach diagnoses it without referring you to the appropriate allied health care professional. Unless your coach is also a licensed Physical Therapist, RMT, Chiropractor, etc., they should not be making a diagnosis. They should instead be referring you to someone in their network who is properly qualified to make such a diagnosis.

Note: Not having a trusted practitioner to refer you to is also a red flag!

From there, they should be following up with that professional to ensure that they are making any necessary adjustments to your training plan, based on your limitations.

5. They make their goals your goals.

lets make fitness now

Okay, this one can be tricky: the reality is that if you are turning to a professional for guidance, there’s a chance that you’re looking for help in establishing realistic goals for yourself. Asking for help with this from your coach is absolutely reasonable. What is not reasonable, however, is for your coach to make blanket statements about what all of your goals should be (with a couple of exceptions).

Does everyone NEED to be able to back squat 1.5 times their own bodyweight? No. Again, nothing says we MUST barbell back squat at all, but I think we can all agree that all humans need to be able to get ourselves up off the ground using nothing but our own strength, if we want to continue to live independently as we age.

Of course, this list is nowhere near exhaustive. There are countless ways personal trainers or coach can steer you wrong. Another important thing to keep in mind is that even if a coach doesn’t make any of the above mistakes, they still might not be the right fit for YOU.

The reality is, no one coach is the best coach for everybody. We all have individual differences and needs, and no one person can accommodate the needs of everybody.

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