By: Matt Doherty, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
What is their Experience and Education? If you were hiring someone to work on your car, you’d want a good mechanic who’s worked on cars like yours before. Not somebody who just watched a YouTube video and bought his tools from Home Depot earlier that week. When hiring a trainer you want someone who can spot the things that you can’t, and make sound judgements on technique, exercise selection, and program design. I suggest you check out the trainer’s background. Ask the trainer where they went to school, and what their degree is. Ask if they played a sport, if they’ve done an internship or if they are certified through a nationally accredited institution. Ask who they’ve worked with in the past. Is this just a side job, or do they want to make a career out of being a trainer? These by themselves are not going to make or break a good trainer, but they certainly are a way of telling how committed that person is to being a good trainer. Find the answers to those questions, see how they match up to your fitness goals and I promise you’ll save yourself time when deciding who to hire.
Do they practice what they preach? I personally know plenty of other young trainers that have a hard time following this concept. They think that just because they have a certification, and have a good physique, they’ll be a great trainer. That is simply not always the case. Some people are blessed with excellent genetics and can maintain a great physique regardless of their habits. Look for someone who follows their own advice, or is at least willing to tell you that not everything they do applies directly to you.
Who do they look up to? A lot of trainers got started because they looked up to a celebrity, or coach that inspired them to want to help people change their lives. Find a trainer that has an interest in many different methods of training from many different sources. A good trainer will find the information that makes sense, and disregard the rest.
What training style do they hate, and why? Most trainers have an opinion about different training methods. Some trainers like to make fun of CrossFit, others absolutely refuse to do anything more than 5 reps, because “6 reps counts as cardio”. Some trainers have very good reasons for not liking a method of training. Others don’t. See how they defend their position. If they just say arbitrarily that an exercise or training method is superior, ask them to explain why, and then decide if their explanation is good enough for you.
How do they explain themselves and answer questions? A good trainer doesn’t define exercises as “good” or “bad.” Instead, they’ll say “this exercise doesn’t apply to you because of reasons a, b, and c.” and they should be able to offer an alternative; “I’m having you do this exercise instead because of reasons e, f, and g.” A good trainer's favorite phrase is “It depends,” followed by an explanation.