How to Pick A Great Personal Trainer Instead of A Bad One! Featured Image

How to Choose a Great Personal Trainer Instead of a Bad One!

An educational guide to making a self-empowering decision to better your health and fitness.


First, I want to congratulate you on making that huge step in deciding it’s time to improve your health and fitness! The second step is find a gym or fitness facility that meets your needs (see my blog post on Finding the Best Gym). Then the third step is finding professional assistance through either a coach, trainer, nutritionist, or someone qualified to help you. Not all trainers are created equal. There are some great ones, some average ones, and some that are just plain dangerous and should never have gotten into personal training!

But personal trainers aren’t reserved for the wealthy in-shape goers anymore. Personal trainers are especially beneficial for beginners, or even anyone who wants to prepare for a competition, a race, overcome a plateau, or even break up the boredom of their routine.

If you want to do it right and assuming you do since you’re going to invest your time, money, and trust in your trainer, then you need to be prepared to make the most educated decision. Signing up with the hottest trainer may not be as beneficial as you think. Sure, you have some extra motivation but what happens when you find out they are all body and no brains?

So how do you find the right personal trainer for YOU? Use these guidelines below to help you navigate the personal trainers and seek the ones that are most deserving of your hard-earned money!

1. They must be certified by a nationally accredited institution or hold at minimum a 4-year degree in a health/fitness field.

The gold standards for certification agencies are the American Council on Exercise, National Strength and Conditioning Association, National Academy of Sport Medicine, and American College of Sports Medicine.

A qualified trainer should at minimum have a certification with one of these agencies. But that just means they’ve passed the “baseline of standards” to call themselves a personal trainer. It does not mean they are good at what they do or can deliver a specific result. There is a big difference between a “trainer” and a “fitness professional”. It’s all too common now for someone to call themselves a trainer but in all actuality, they have little to no expertise in the field at all.

2. They must possess a current CPR/AED certification.

Ensure your trainer knows CPR, how to use an AED, and first aid. Feel free to ask to see proof of certification. Your life is potentially in their hands, don’t you think that’s the minimum they can do?

3. They should do more than just “take you through a workout”.

A top-quality fitness professional does more than just “take you through a workout”. Anyone can count to 15 and hold a clipboard or stopwatch.

Look for a coach who will educate you about all the components necessary to achieve optimal health and a fitness result. Your trainer should review nutrition education with you, educate you about proper supplementation, review resistance training (whether that be balance training, core work, stability balls, medicine balls, etc.) and cardiovascular exercise to maximize fat burning, improve your flexibility to avoid injury and speed recovery, and really walk you through all the steps that encompass the “mental development” side.


Goal setting, putting together a plan of action, and then holding you accountable and supporting you through the entire process is critical to your success.

4. Ask for proof of results.

A top fitness pro should be able to do more than just talk about results. They should be able to prove they deliver. Ask for proof of clients’ results. Do they have before and after photos of clients, testimonials, references? Can you speak with a client to inquire about their experience working with them? If a fitness pro can’t offer this kind of concrete proof, be careful.

5. Ask for a guarantee.

Per a Consumer Reports study, there is more dissatisfaction in the diet industry than any other industry. That’s crazy. Think about it: if you took your car to a mechanic, you’d expect it to be fixed, not come back with two or three pings and a loose belt!

Working with a fitness professional should be the same as any other industry. If they aren’t willing to guarantee your results, find someone who will. Spending your time and energy without a guarantee of results is like going to that terrible mechanic!

Don’t waste your money – or more importantly your time – working with someone who can’t offer an iron-clad guarantee of your success.

6. Look for someone who will empower you for life!

A great fitness coach does more than just help you achieve your goals. A true professional teaches you the foundation of knowledge so you will no longer be lost in the “sea of confusion” when it comes to all the diet and exercise hype.

The foundation of knowledge and correct technique you’ll learn will allow you to maintain your results for life!

  1. Do you have experience, expertise, and the specializations needed to address my goals and health conditions?
  2. Do you have liability insurance?
  3. Do you offer a free consultation that includes a fitness assessment?
  4. What are your rates, session lengths, and cancellation policies?
  5. What are my options for payment?
  6. What’s your schedule? Is it compatible with mine?


He’s/she’s not taking notes during sessions or following a program on hand with a client. 

A good trainer has a structured and custom program for each client so be sure to watch if he appears professional or just thinking on the fly and pulling exercises from his butt.

He/she doesn’t look and dress the part.

I am not saying they should walk around with veins and -pack abs but they should appear healthy, not overweight, and professionally dressed for the position. If a trainer is in cutoff sweats, blue jeans, flip flops they obviously do not take their position serious so, why should you?

He/she talks and talks and talks.

Yes, you want someone who is friendly and can build rapport and have common ground with you. However, if they specialize in only training the jaw muscles and not the rest of the body you will not get results and it will be a waste of your hard-earned money.

He/she loves the meathead/rock head/powerlifting ways of shouting, screaming, and adding more weight and more weight and more weight.

It is only a matter of time before you get hurt training with these guys. Yes, there are bodybuilder coaches and they specialize in this but the “real” bodybuilder coaches are highly educated and some of the most in demand coaches in the fitness industry. The difference is that these guys understand that an injury is simply not worth the risk of “showing off” simply to lift an insane amount of weight. Bodybuilding coaches train for appealing aesthetics and this is done through constantly varied training from heavy to light, high intensity to low and everything in between. Plus, they are walking role models of self-control and extremely healthy nutrition where as the “rock head” trainer usually isn’t smart enough to create a custom meal plan for and they will likely give you a regenerated template they have given to every other client: male, female, large, small, etc. The easiest way to find this out is to ask for 3 or 4 adjustments and if they can’t seem to come up with something for you or you never actually get an updated meal plan back then you know they are obviously uneducated in this field.

He/she doesn’t evaluate, assess, test, measure and re-evaluate, re-asses, re-test, re-measure.

Would you trust a doctor to do surgery if he hasn’t done any lab work or screening like x-rays, mri’s, etc.? Probably not. Then you should never allow a trainer to teach you how to exercise without first having screened you in several ways. From personal experience in my 10+ years I have seen far too many “bad trainers” begin to train someone on an exercise that I knew they should immediately not be doing simply because I was educated enough to look at the person and immediately assess a muscular imbalance and what needed to be done to correct it. A bad trainer will immediately put you on a machine or hand you some free weights and then once you are uncomfortable or in pain then they will ask questions. A big NO-NO.

He/she is not certified in nutrition or have a degree.

Nutrition is just as important as exercise is to your success. A good trainer will at minimum have a 4-year degree in a health or fitness related field which gives them a substantial amount of nutritional education or they will possess a current nutrition certification. If your trainer does not have either of these then that means that they do not take their career seriously enough to invest in their own education in nutrition to provide you with better results!

Supplements/MLM before REAL nutrition

If your trainer tries to sell you a bunch of supplements before recommending REAL nutrition advice and nutritional programming, then this is a HUGE red flag! You should RUN AWAY FAST! These types of multi-level marketing sales are rampant in gyms right now and in most cases, they are decent but entirely way overpriced and you can get the same thing at your local nutrition shop for half price.

In my opinion, experience Is the best teacher for a trainer. You only have 1 body and when you are about to put your body and life in the hands of someone you want to ensure that person is a well-educated professional who knows what he/she is doing and will not injure/hurt you.

What a good trainer possesses: 

  • Lots of Experience: Find a trainer who has done several certifications, specialties, and trained at several locations with different methods. These trainers tend to be more well-rounded, highly skilled, open minded, and have much better-quality service to offer.
  • Solid Track Record, Good Reviews, & Proof of Results: Any good trainer will have before and after pictures and success testimonies from past and current clients. This along with good reviews/comments online and a well-known credible presence in the community or club they work at.
  • Education & Credentials: Ask your trainers all the questions you can come up with like “what is the difference in this curl and that one? Or why do we do it this way instead of that? Or what is the purpose of this?” A good trainer will educate their clients in a way that you can not only understand but also use in the future. Bad trainers will either spill a bunch of jargon that they typically don’t understand themselves in hope of looking credible to you or hoping you won’t ask again or they won’t be able to answer all your questions in an intelligent manner. If you are doubting the answers then most likely he/she is not someone you should invest your money with.
  • Caring & Personable: Look for a trainer who truly cares about you as a person and you feel as if they enjoy training you. If you feel like you are a nuisance or they appear mad/disgusted with you during your sessions, then you should fire them immediately. A great trainer with bond with you because they DO truly care and want you to get results even if that means sitting down and having heart to heart conversations to get to the root of the problem.
  • Structured Pricing & Professional Training Materials: If your trainer starts writing prices on a blank sheet of paper or a post it notes without any pricing guides anywhere, you should once again RUN! These guys have no idea how to run a successful training business and I have seen too many of these “Joe Schmoes” take people’s money and then disappear from the gym or the park they used to hang out at. I am biased but a great personal trainer is priceless. The problem is great personal trainers are hard to find or hard to get in with. Personal training prices are like food prices for lack of a better analogy. You want high quality, nontoxic, organic you will pay more but if you don’t care about quality and just want the cheapest thing around then you will get what I call a dollar store trainer. They are a dime a dozen and you can find them anywhere. However, you won’t get anything quality, likely they won’t last, and everything will be generic in terms of cookie cutter workouts and nutritional programs simply because they lack the education to create anything custom client centric of high value.
  • You can also find a good trainer by looking at who has internships, mentorships, or personal training schools. You can even potentially find one of their interns that can deliver just as quality service as the Head Fitness Pro but at a lower rate if the intern is still working with the mentor. Too often you will see internees learn a few tricks and then their heads get as wide as the door and they think are all set to venture out on their own. Beware of these guys! These bad trainers typically turn into the “Joe Schmoes” at the park or gym that will take your money and disappear after a few sessions.


– Medical history and training history, pain, injuries, etc.?

– Movement Screens?

-Fitness or performance tests?

-Keep a workout program log and show you how to access it?

-Keep a client file/files and have professionally setup personal training paperwork and documents?

– Do they ask you how you feel during the workout?

-Do they ask you how you feel doing certain exercises?

-Do you have any pain doing that?

– Do they cue you on how to correct movements?

–  Can they show, explain, and train you on how to properly progress/regress exercises?

– Does your workout get boring or repetitive or can they find ways to freshen it up and keep if fun?

–  Can they answer your questions in a way that you can understand them?

-Are you getting results and feeling better?


I hope this article gives clarity to you in your search of a great personal trainer. May all your fitness dreams come true this year! For more great articles and great reads like this check out our blog at: WWW.BEFITKILLEEN.COM

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