On Personal Trainers – Know these tips before you hire one!

Most Personal Trainers are clowns. There, I said it.

I realize that saying this is not going to be making me any new friends but, meh, I already have enough friends on World of Warcraft, thank you.

In fact, the aforementioned clown-like Personal Trainers (PTs) can be neatly categorized into two sub-sets:

1)  The tanned PT stud: Young guy in his 20’s, has done a few heavy steroid cycles, doesn’t have a clue about training but looks good as his steroids abuse masks his training and nutritional ignorance. He thinks he is the best thing since sliced bread, spends more time in the tanning salon than in the weight room, got a haircut which costed more than your annual gym membership and rolls his sleeves up to show his tribal tattoos as he walks with his chest expanded in front of the gym’s cardiovascular area (where all the women happen to congregate). Your 5 year old son has a stronger hand shake than him and he designs you a training program that consists of bicep curls, hammer curls, Arnold presses, Gironda presses, Weider presses, bench presses, tricep kickbacks and cable chest flies. Perhaps he adds some leg work in the form of leg extensions and leg curls, perhaps.

 

If your PT looks like the cast of Jersey Shore, you know for sure he has been mocked at Manly Curls!

 

2) The armchair smiling PT: He has the fresh smile of 100 Colgate ads. Commonly in his 30’s or 40’s, he actually goes to the dentist to have his teeth whitened, forget about all of that toothpaste whitening nonsense. He is soft-spoken, always greets you with a nice big white smile and, during the PT session, he likes to impress you by throwing around words such as “hyper compensation”, “dynamic stabilization” and “aggregated conditioning”. In reality, he went online on his shiny Iphone 10 minutes before your PT appointment and read a few pages of Mel Siff’s Supertraining, which he illegally downloaded because charging you $120 an hour is not enough for him to go and buy the damn book. He claims to be an expert in everything despite he doesn’t even look like he lifts. He has the word “COACH” printed in big letters on the back of his polo T-shirt.

 

It must be said that the depicted armchair PT could not smile at that precise moment because he was too focused perversely placing that stick on top of his client

 

Of course, there are some good PTs around. They are a minority but they are there if you search around enough. Unfortunately, the fitness industry is as regulated as Moscow’s strip club scene hence anyone these days can pay for a certificate and become a Personal Trainer, without even having had any weight training or sports training experience whatsoever. Would you hire someone to give you business advice if he didn’t have experience in managerial roles or setting up companies and all he did was read books? Of course not, so why would you allow the same concept to happen when it comes to your body?

At Manly Curls, we want to make sure you weed out the PT wannabes and fakes and actually shop around for a worthy PT. At anywhere from $60 to $500 an hour, you better know your stuff before you decide to hire a PT so read and memorize the following 5 points to ensure you get the most bang for your buck:

1) A good PT always trains himself:

Walk the walk before talking the talk. I am amazed at the amount of wannabe PTs out there that either don’t train or don’t have relevant training experience. Your PT should be a man (or woman) that has built a solid training foundation on himself and frequently does squats, deadlifts, presses of all forms, power cleans, rows and other multi-joint exercises. He should be strong in these lifts (can honestly squat over 350lbs, deadlift over 450lbs, put over his head more than 200lbs – apply 60% of these poundages if your PT is a woman) and have a physique that inspires you to get yourself in similar shape. Avoid at all costs PTs that either don’t train or go to the gym and do half-assed isolation exercises. Do not be afraid to ask him if he lifts and if you can go to the gym at the same time as he does so that you can see how he trains himself.

2) A good PT has relevant qualifications:

Relevant qualifications won’t ensure that he is good but at least they will ensure that he is not crap. Reputable organizations to obtain PT qualifications are:

– NSCA: National Strength and Conditioning Association

– NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine

– ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine

– ACE: American Council on Exercise

Remember qualifications don’t mean squat if they are not paired with what has been said in Point 1. Moreover, some PTs may have qualifications from less relevant organizations but their training history is so solid that they make up for their lack of quality certifications with their honest hard training. Flashy qualifications just mean a flashy CV.

3) A good PT delivers results:

Many PTs fool around with pointless exercises and nutritional advice so that you become dependent on them. A good PT will listen to your needs and wants and come back to you with a strong plan and approach to go about satisfying those needs and wants. He should be honest in what you should expect and should tell you right from the start that obtaining results will mean you will have to work hard for them. You should never use a PT to give you small talk as you casually exercise, he is there to make sure you progress accordingly.

As a rule of thumb, you should be able to see some progress after 3 months of his services and you should certainly be seeing results after 6 months of paying him, whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, becoming fitter, getting in shape or training for a specific date/event. If you ain’t seeing results by these timelines, ditch him as he is taking you for a fool.

4) A good PT doesn’t push supplements:

You don’t need supplements to make progress, they are solely the icing on the cake to a solid plan that your PT should have designed, as outlined in Point 3. Many PTs sell supplements on the side, which is a perfectly acceptable method of earning more income. What is not acceptable is if he constantly pushes and pitches supplements to you so that you end up taking 10 different supplements per day that you don’t even know what they do. If he/she spends more time trying to sell you supplements than actively training you, ditch him.

It must be said that there is a small but growing portion of PTs who will not think twice about offering you illegal supplements. Steroids, clenbuterol or magic weight loss pills (which commonly contain ephedrine or fenfluramine and can react dangerously with medications) are the trend in what dishonest PTs will offer to their clients. NEVER accept any supplements that he may offer that are either not branded or don’t come from a trusted source. If you follow the rest of my points you will not have to worry about choosing a PT that does these sorts of things but it is worth the mention as these PTs are starting to be of concern to the industry.

5) A good PT has you doing relevant exercises:

I thought I’d leave this point till the end. It ties closely with Point 3 but deserves a mention of its own. A good PT will not have you doing stupid, dangerous or useless exercises no matter what your goals are. If you are healthy and your PT doesn’t include full range multi-joint exercises in your training program, he is simply taking the piss out of you. He should be teaching you and having you doing at least two of the following exercises, regardless of what your goals are:

– Full range squats

– Deadlifts of any form

– Shoulder presses of any form

Power cleans

– Rowing exercises of any form

– Pull ups (you should be able to do a few consecutive pull ups after some months of training with him)

 

If instead of the above, he has you doing at least two of the following, he is laughing at you while taking your money:

– Body weight circuit training, including body weight squats (which are useless except for warming up)

– Any kettlebell exercises except for one hand snatches, swings or presses.

– He has you doing exercises on the Smith machine when free weights are available

– Half of your training time is spent on a Swill ball or Bosu ball.

– That silly exercise where you hold a dumbbell in each hand and punch the air (this one automatically disqualifies him from ever being a good PT).

 

Don’t pay someone 80 bucks to have you doing stupid stuff

 

As you can see, these 5 points are easy to memorize and to take into account when shopping around for a good PT. Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you want before hiring him, he should be able to answer them all on the spot. The PT industry is very competitive and you will be able to find a worthy PT if you take the time to search for him/her and apply the advice given here at Manly Curls!

All the best,

Rogelio

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Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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10 comments for “On Personal Trainers – Know these tips before you hire one!

  1. Alex
    October 25, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    I’m working on becoming a PT, and my big concern is becoming a legitimately good trainer, exactly like your article talked about. I do lift and also train and teach MMA, so I’m not an armchair fatty. I’m glad I found your site to help me become the best damn trainer I can be, so there’ll be at least one more competent PT out there.

  2. Mike
    September 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Rogelio,

    I just discoverd your website today while I was researching GVT routines and started reading different articles. I really enjoyed this article for a few reasons.

    First, anyone who will insult the Jersey Shore cast is a winner in my book.

    Second, I really agree with what you said about being certified doesn’t mean qualified. I am the perfect example of that. I did 10 years in military spec ops and my last post was Camp Liberty pushing papers because of a medical issue so I descided to get certified through NASM. Up to that point, I hadn’t lifted a weight (except for any type of training for work) since High School football but I received the information from NASM, studied and passed the exam. I am a CPT but only recently (since March) really started concentrating my workout routines around weight and cardio training instead of just endurance and resitance training for spec ops. That is a very good point and I have to tell people that all the time, just because they are wearing a shirt that says ‘Trainer’ and have a piece of paper hanging on their wall, doesn’t mean they can train you.

    I just wanted to say I really enjoy your site thus far and will continue to explore.

    • Rogelio
      September 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Mike,

      I’m glad you enjoy my site! That’s how I like my fitness, no bullshizzle like the rest of fitness websites.

      Feel free to browse on the right sidebar the “Get Strong” and “Get Sexy” sections, as they contain all the weight training stuff that I write.

      Anything, feel free to let me know.

      All the best.

  3. Vincent
    July 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Great post. I laughed as I began to recall all of the stupid routines I’ve seen PT’s put people on.

    The only thing I didn’t agree on was when you said that a PT should be able to squat 350 lbs, deadlift 450 lbs, and put 200 lbs over his head. Those numbers are very unfair for potential PT’s my size (I’m 5’5″) to be held to, and I don’t see how my failure to lift as heavy as the bigger guys at a lower body weight would inhibit my ability to train a client. Would be more reasonable if you based strength standards on bodyweight (i.e. squat 2xBW).

    • Rogelio
      July 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I agree, if you read my other fitness articles, I prefer to go with bodyweight lifting targets. The numbers I posted in the article are an average and take into account an average 175lbs person, which works to about the bodyweight numbers you posted.

      For smaller lifters like your case, indeed, the numbers posted may be a bit high. The bodyweight standards I like to use are:

      – Full squat (full, not parallel): 1.75x
      – Deadlift: 2x
      – Powerclean: at least bodyweight
      – Press: 0.75x bodyweight
      – Bench Press: 1.25 bodyweight

      All the best.

  4. Gemma V
    January 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you so much! I have decided to join a gym and I am thinking of hiring a personal trainer so I will remember these tips when I see them (my gym has 4 personal trainers to choose from). Thanks again!!

  5. Rogelio
    December 16, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the replies gents. I have received a few emails all with positive comments too so, needless to say, the PT industry needs to make some changes to ensure better quality of those who claim to be Personal Trainers.

    All the best.

  6. Martin
    December 10, 2011 at 1:55 am

    LOL This article made my evening. Informative and useful yet hilarious, keep it up Rogelio.

  7. PT
    December 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I am a PT and I have to admit that there is a lot of bullshit going on in the industry. Finding a honest PT who actually cares about his client’s results is difficult, most (PTs) just care about getting over the session and taking the money from the client. Have the client doing stupid exercises to make him think he is working out, take his money, repeat again.

  8. Chuck Norris double
    December 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Not only is this a useful guide but it is hilarious. Thanks for advising us in such entertaining manner Mr.

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