9 Signs of a Great Personal Trainer

December 13, 2019 - 8 minutes read

Simple things to look for to find a great personal trainer.

Working with a personal trainer is a great way to learn about your body, progress your workouts and keep you motivated and accountable, but this can often be limited if you’re not working with the right person.

There’s a lot more to a trainer’s role than simply booking sessions and counting reps so we’ve compiled a list of 9 signs to look for in a personal trainer to ensure they’re a great fit for you.

Their assessments are well-rounded

Before they can create an effective program for your specific goals, a personal trainer will need to know where you’re starting from. A good trainer will spend your first session taking you through an initial assessment that focuses not only on weight, height and body measurements, but on your movement quality, your posture, your health history and any challenges you’ve faced up to this point.

There should also be a plan in place to revisit elements of the assessment that are important to you throughout your training. This will allow you to see how your body is changing over time and will provide your trainer with updated information as your body progresses.

Their programming is specific to you

Personal training should be exactly that – personal. A great trainer won’t put you through a one-size-fits-all workout, they’ll create a program that purposefully tailors each exercise to your body and focuses on progressing those movements to move you closer toward your specified goals.

Your trainer should be able to explain what muscles or movement patterns each exercise in your program is targeting, why they’ve included it for you and why you may not be qualified for other movements at this point in time. They should also keep a detailed file about your progress, your injuries and your requests so they can continue to cater the workout to you as things change.

They offer clear cues and demonstrations

Along with the need to understand why you’re doing certain exercises, it’s important to know how to perform those movements safely and effectively.

A great trainer will be able to clearly demonstrate how each exercise is to be performed and will offer simple cues as you go through the movement to help you feel your body correctly. These cues should consist of both verbal descriptions and physical touch to ensure that you’re able to align your body properly and activate the required muscles.

They modify exercises for you

Every exercise has the potential to be progressed to make it more challenging or regressed to make it more accessible. A good personal trainer will be able to gauge where you’re at on any given day and offer modifications to make your program more suitable for you in that moment.

Some days you may be able to push further while others you may need to pull it back; it’s a trainer’s job to pick up on that and adjust the session accordingly.

They continue to educate themselves

The world of fitness is constantly changing and it’s important that your trainer remains up to date on the latest exercise research and best practices.

A great trainer will regularly seek out continuing education opportunities and will workshop new methods or exercises on themselves or colleagues prior to including them in your fitness routine.

They build a strong rapport

Your personal training sessions are a chance for you to really invest in yourself and a good trainer will respect that by spending the workout solely focused on you.

They will take the time to inquire about your history and goals, take interest in your other activities and ask you about your sleep and stress levels. They will arrive at your sessions with a positive attitude, avoid bringing their personal problems into your workout and create an environment that’s conducive to helping you progress as an individual.

They show empathy

Not all trainers will be able to say they’ve experienced the same struggles as you, but that may not necessarily need to be a prerequisite for working with them. A great trainer will listen to your pain points, empathize with what you’re going through and make you feel truly heard by how they adjust your program in response.

A great personal trainer will give you homework to ensure you reach your goals as quickly as possible but will do it in a way that respects your space and doesn’t add stress to your life.

They don’t try to diagnose your injuries

If you’re dealing with an injury or ailment, your trainer may have a good sense of what the issue might be but it’s beyond their scope of practice to actually diagnose you with anything. This is true for both certified trainers as well as kinesiologists, whose credentials limit their diagnostic scope.

This isn’t to say that your trainer can’t make a suggestion as to what they think you might be suffering from, but a good personal trainer will always refer you out for an actual diagnosis by a physiotherapist, physician or another healthcare practitioner. Once you have a diagnosis, your trainer can work with you through the issue and, if they’re really good, they may even offer to connect with the diagnosing practitioner to ensure that your program is in alignment with what they want you to work on.

They avoid these bad habits

Finally, a great personal trainer will avoid a host of cringe-worthy bad habits that we see all too often in the fitness industry. They will not: show up late to your sessions, sit or casually lean on the job, text during a session, eat during your workout, excessively look at themselves in the mirror or do their own workout while they’re training you.

The take-away

The goal of improving your physical health and fitness is a very personal one and it’s important to find the right person to help guide you through that journey. A great trainer does not need to have 100,000 Instagram followers, be a high-level athlete or have undergone the exact transformation you’re hoping to go through; but they do need to be empathetic, well-educated, understand your goals and challenges and be committed to creating a positive and individualized experience for you.