What makes a great personal trainer?
Is it looks and having an amazing physique? Popularity? “Celebrity Trainer” status and a huge social media following? Being a high energy cheerleader or drill sergeant type?
Some of these might help, but just because someone looks great, knows how to workout, or yells a lot doesn’t mean they will be good at teaching others.
I’ve worked alongside trainers who looked amazing, had high-profile clients, and played the “hardcore” role well but were terrible professionals. On the other hand, I’ve been lucky enough to work with very smart and successful trainers didn’t fit the stereotype at all.
So what actually matters? What qualities does a good personal trainer have?
This isn’t a full list, but here are three of the most important qualities I feel every good personal trainer needs to be successful.
While many feel jealous of personal trainers’ ability to wear comfy sweats and workout clothes to work, there are still responsibilities and a job to do. Whether working in a big gym, private studio, or traveling to clients’ homes, all good personal trainers conduct themselves in a professional manner.
This means showing up to appointments on time, being prepared, coaching clients, respecting boundaries, handling other job responsibilities, and following up or through with any requests or questions.
If they are constantly late, regularly miss appointments, more focused on their workouts than the client, or spend most of the time on their phone instead of coaching and instructing, that’s a pretty good indication that they don’t take their job seriously and don’t care. Does that sound like the kind of person you’d want to work with?
I know I wouldn’t want to.
Good personal trainers also know to “stay in their lane”, meaning that they don’t give advice or opinions in areas other than fitness. A trainer isn’t a physical therapist, physician, psychiatrist, or anything else. When clients ask questions or need advice in other areas, a good personal trainer knows to step back and refer the client to the appropriate professional.
I would also add that “practicing what you preach” falls under professionalism. In order to coach others on how to live a healthy lifestyle, get fit, strong, build muscle, or any other fitness goal, a trainer needs to live that life. They don’t have to be a fitness model or the world’s strongest man or woman, but they need to understand the process and all that comes with it.
Fitness is confusing and intimidating for many. The ability to communicate and help people figure it out in a way that makes sense for them is an absolute must.
Do they speak to impress or confuse you with terms you’ve never heard, or do they speak about fitness and nutrition in a way that you can easily understand?
Are they able to instruct you on how to perform an exercise or manage your week better? Do they yell at your for making mistakes or for not doing what they said?
Coaching is a large part of personal training, and involves communicating to help someone understand and figure out the best approach for them.
Many believe personal trainers are supposed to be “hardcore” drill instructor types that yell and belittle people. I’ve actually had people come in asking for this treatment!
This looks good on television, but it isn’t helpful at all.
A good trainer won’t talk over someone’s head or belittle them. At the very least look for someone that listens to what you have to say and makes an effort to help you figure it out.
Whether they’re brand new to the industry or have been training people for 10+ years, are they still educating themselves? Do they look for opportunities to expand their knowledge base and improve the training experience for their clients?
Are they willing to admit they don’t have all the answers and continue learning and growing as a professional? Do they attend seminars, workshops to learn from others in the industry? Do they apply what they learn to help clients achieve better results?
The answer to all of the above should be YES.
As the saying goes, if you aren’t growing you’re dying. If a trainer isn’t growing and evolving they’re going to have a difficult time keeping up in this industry. The most successful trainers and coaches in the industry are always looking for opportunities to expand their knowledge to improve their approach or understanding to better serve their clients.
There’s no excuse for anyone that doesn’t do the same.
Of course there are other factors to consider when looking for a personal trainer. But when you find one that has these qualities, you’ve found yourself a rock star and will most likely be in good hands!