Hiring a Quality Personal Trainer: Take Your Workout to the Next Level

Establish criteria to help you find a good personal trainer

By Michael Ormsbee, PhDFlorida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

Knowing that exercise can maintain and improve muscle mass, you might consider hiring a personal coach to help you design a workout program. Professor Ormsbee explains what criteria you should look for.

Older man with his personal trainer
When deciding on hiring a personal trainer, you just need to find out what suits your lifestyle, personality, goals, and budget. Photo By LightField Studios / Shutterstock

Hiring a Personal Trainer

“Considering that most of the very best athletes on Earth hire a coach or trainer, you might want to consider hiring a personal trainer, too,” Professor Ormsbee said. “If you are an elite athlete or a brand-new person to exercise, hiring a personal trainer or coach is a great way to start or work on a new goal or to prepare for a race or competition.” 

Doing so will enable you to try new exercises, avoid injury, learn about your exercise and lifting options, and figure out how to lift safely while also working around past injuries. How do you even begin the process of choosing a personal trainer, though? 

The first step is to figure out if you want to work out in a gym setting or have a personal trainer come to your house. Both are valid options, and you just need to find what suits your lifestyle, personality, goals, and budget. 

Some trainers offer gentle encouragement while other trainers have an in-your-face style for trying to motivate you. The last thing you want is someone giving you mild-mannered instruction when you know that does nothing to motivate you. Likewise, you don’t want a drill sergeant type of personal trainer if you respond best to gentle and persistent encouragement.

Certifications and Other Criteria

Personal trainers should also be held to educational and certification standards. “Some good certifications to look for are from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, or NSCA, and include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists and Certified Personal Trainers,” Professor Ormsbee said. “Other excellent certifications include those from the American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM; The National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM; the American Council on Exercise, or ACE; and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, or AFAA.”

Just like any skilled profession, referrals help you decide, too. Personal trainers should provide you with the contact information of references for people who have had similar training goals. 

Besides asking about what certifications they have, or if they have advanced education in exercise physiology or a related field, you can ask how they measure your success and how they progress clients. Observe them with another client and see how they behave. 

“One of my all-time pet peeves is watching a trainer ignore a client and mindlessly count repetitions while busily texting or talking on the phone,” Professor Ormsbee said. “Do not hire this type of trainer. Training sessions should be about you, your safety, and your goals.”

Your Unique Fitness Needs

If you have any special needs—for example, surgeries, sore joints, or known muscle imbalances—be sure to ask if he or she has credentials and experience with these situations. Of course, you also want to ask about the payment structure and make sure that suits your needs, as well. 

“In the end, a good trainer should be extremely transparent so that the client-trainer relationship works for everyone,” Professor Ormsbee said. “I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds, once you ask the right questions.” 

Realize, too, that you don’t need a personal trainer forever. It’s a great tool to have, but if you just want some instruction from time to time, personal trainers can assist with that, too. 

“With or without a trainer, you need to develop an exercise program,” Professor Ormsbee said. “The most important thing to keep in mind is that every program should be individualized.” 

Everyone’s goals are different. A person new to exercise will have a different plan than an elite collegiate athlete, a weekend warrior, or a powerlifter. As research into the science and application of sports science grows, new insights will emerge.

Tomorrow’s article will delve into the process of developing an exercise program.

Dr. Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for Wondrium Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for Wondrium Daily.