The Fit 5: Choosing a Personal Trainer


For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen.

This week, Sean Hyson C.S.C.S., Group Training Director for Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Fitness magazines, answers questions about hot to pick a personal trainer. Be sure to read up on all of Sean’s articles here on or in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines each month. You can also catch Sean on Twitter.

1) What to Talk About— asked by Robert Hall:

What items should I absolutely always discuss during my consultation and evaluation?

“The trainer should look at how you move to assess your mobility and potential to do various exercises safely. If your goal is to lose body fat, your body composition should be measured. The trainer should also ask you about any past injuries you may have and get you to keep a food journal. He or she should also try to get a sense of your lifestyle and how much stress you’re typically under—this can be a big factor in programming workouts.”

2) Certification Clarification — asked by Russell Moon: 

What’s the best certification?

“It depends what kind of clients you want to train. The C.S.C.S. (offered through the NSCA) is geared mainly toward training athletes and most colleges require their trainers to have it. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a widely respected certifying organization that offers education in training all kinds of clients. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is one of the easier certifications to obtain and is good for general population clients, but it won’t give you the same depth of education as the other two.”

3) Spotting a Fake — asked by Thomas Rigs:

Are there any telltale signs of a bad personal trainer?

“Any trainer who isn’t invested in his/her client’s goals or insists on only one way of doing things is wasting your time. More important than certifications or having the right ‘look’ is being able to coach and program exercise properly so that you see steady results and avoid injury. Someone who’s passionate and open-minded will learn along with you and keep you motivated so you see continued success.”

4) Taking Responsibility — asked by Casey Jobson:

How do I know if a lack of progress is my fault, or the trainer’s?

“Ask yourself if you’ve done everything the trainer told you to. If you followed your diet to a T, got enough sleep and gave your all to your workouts and still aren’t seeing results, then your trainer may be to blame. But you’ll probably know this instinctively. If the trainer doesn’t seem as animated about your progress as you are, he or she probably doesn’t care enough. Also, remember to give programs time to work. Expectations need to be realistic.”

5) Trainer Tally — asked by Justin Chapman:

How many different types of personal trainers/specialists are there?  

“Too many to count. Generally speaking, you have general fitness trainers (the kind you see walking the floor in your average health club), strength and conditioning specialists who work with a variety of athletes, and special population trainers, who specialize in one area such as older trainees, pre/post natal women, people with injuries, etc.”


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