You always hope that your surgeon, financial advisor and taxi driver is experienced and knows what they are doing, don't you? If they weren’t up to standards, hopefully it wouldn’t take too long before you changed and found a better option.
When it comes to your trainer - a person who has a great opportunity to influence your fitness and health - we strongly suggest that you use the same approach to quality control (for both personal training and group training).
Below you'll find 5 ways that you as a client/member/guest can use to quality control your trainer - making sure that you are working with a high quality, fitness industry professional.
1. EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
The level of education and experience is an obvious starting point of a quality control check of your trainer. They are no doubt important, but in reality, both factors can sometimes be misleading and easily manipulated.
To know your trainers education background you can usually find this information via the gym or website. Although the extent of the education background of your trainer isn’t everything, it surely means something. A university degree is great, but not essential. A personal trainer course of some kind should be a minimum. But be aware of a trainer who is over emphasising a laundry list of certifications. More is not always better. And since there is virtually no minimum standard to achieve certifications in the fitness industry, they shouldn’t be a focal point but a mere side note of credibility, if needed.
The level of experience your trainer possess is another tricky one that is often hard to validate. Longer experience is never a guarantee for higher quality, so rather than evaluating your trainers “experience” by the number of active years in the industry - you are probably better off by subjectively gauging your trainers confidence when they talk, how he/she moves on the gym floor and if you can sense that he or she has “done this before”, so to speak.
Similar to a trainer who is focusing on having a lot of certifications, warning lights should go off when your trainer is eager to highlight a long career in the fitness industry. Experience is great if needed for credibility, but what really matters is here and now, and how your trainer can help You.
If you want to take the quality control of your trainer one step further (and since education and experience can sometimes be deceiving), here are a few open ended questions that you can ask your trainer and that deserves some well thought out answers:
- What are you currently reading/researching/learning about?
- Where do you get your inspiration from in the fitness industry?
- Do you have a mentor that you follow?
These three questions are great supplementary questions to education background, certifications and previous experience. It really tells you something about the level of passion your trainers has for the profession and wether he/she is doing their “homework”.
By asking these questions you can also find out more of what style of training he/she gravitates towards and if it fits your own preferences and even goals.
2. WHY ARE WE DOING X?
You can ask this question for any exercise that is thrown at you, or any part of a training session; “why are we doing…(insert exercise/activity)?”. And your trainer should be able to answer you back with a logical reason to why.
No matter if your trainer works at a commercial gym or as a freelance, if he/she isn’t adhering to a training system of some kind, chances are you are following a cookie cutter program or your trainer is simply "winging it".
Remember, you are paying money for a professional service and this should include a well thought through program where things are done for a specific reason; taking you closer to your goal.
3. KNOWING YOUR MAIN WEAKNESS IN MOVEMENT
Even if it’s during your first meeting and you haven’t even started training together, your trainer should within one session be able to clearly pinpoint at least some of your main weaknesses in your fundamental movement patterns.
Note, obvious answers such as “you need to loose some weight” or “get in better shape” is not an acceptable answer from your trainer (and you probably knew about this already anyway).
Therefore, a great way to quality control your trainer is to check if they can go beyond simply looking at aesthetic appearance and fitness capacity, and if they have the ability to do a movement screen and evaluate your fundamental movement patterns. This is what quality trainers do, every session. every repetition, all the time.
4. REP COUNTER OR CHEERLEADER?
"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…" Not only is it repetitive and annoying to listen to the trainer who is constantly counting reps out loud, it’s also unnecessary. You didn’t hire your trainer to do simple math for you, and even though it could be seen as an “added service” to help you count, your trainer should be busy with other, way more important things. Such as; correcting technique, cueing, screening movement, spotting, reiterating or reinforcing good technique and perhaps even giving some words of motivation and encouragement.
Of course, sometimes even trainers of the highest quality counts reps but if counting reps is your trainers constant habit that never fails - you should be questioning if this really is the highest priority and why you hired her/him in the first place.
“Go, go, go…niiiiice…one more…faster!…goooood work!” Surely, everyone needs to hear some encouragement from time to time, especially when working on your fitness. But positive reinforcement should be earned. If all you hear from your trainer is motivational words and one-liners, we suggest that you question that for a moment. And then try to remember when was the last time your trainer stopped you half way in to a set to regress the weighs, correct your form or to completely scale down the movement.
Never happened? If your trainer hardly corrects, tweaks or isn’t actively coaching you when training you have the right to suspect that your trainer isn’t really a trainer but is in fact a cheerleader.
5. TAKING NOTES
As a final and very discrete way of quality controlling your trainer; observe if he/she is taking notes when you are training (to be fair to your trainer, this observation should only apply to personal training rather than group training due to the nature of individual training versus training in a group).
Unless the agreement between you and your trainer is that you don’t need any testing, progression or measurable results from your training, you have a strong reason to question the quality of your trainer if he/she is seldom or never taking any notes about your starting point, test results or training data. And doing biweekly or monthly body stats test as the only measurable doesn’t count (although some trainers probably think that’s enough).
Again, you are outsourcing your fitness and health to an expert - investing your time and money to get some kind of result and the least you can ask for is a record of your journey. It will be almost impossible for trainers to troubleshoot, improve, learn from and evaluate your training progress without taking some kind of notes. So if your trainer isn’t already doing it - question it.
As our final words of wisdom; it’s important that you maintain critical thinking when selecting a trainer and not fall in the trap of basing decisions or settling for below average because of emotions. This is very easy to do, especially since most trainers are likeable, friendly and nice people. Therefore, do you best to think critically to avoid getting attached to a trainer for other reasons (emotional) rather than the reasons you had when hiring him/her in the first place (professional).
We hope you enjoyed our advice in how to quality control your trainer. This post was not meant to talk bad about anyone particular in the industry, but rather to highlight some important things to consider before hiring a trainer, or even when evaluating your results from your current trainer. We believe that the fitness industry standards can improve locally, regionally and globally and the only way to do this is by asking for higher quality from your the ones who are working in the industry; the trainers.
At HAUS No3 we strive to bring the highest quality of custom design training to the fitness industry in Bangkok.
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