Have you ever asked the question, what can a personal trainer do for me and why should I hire one? What do personal trainers do?

According to ACSM “Certified Personal Trainers® are fitness professionals who develop and implement personalized exercise programs for individuals across a diverse set of health and fitness backgrounds, from professional athletes to individuals only recently cleared to exercise.”

According to the NSCA “NSCA-Certified Personal Trainers® (NSCA-CPT)® are health/fitness professionals who use an individualized approach to train clients for the primary goal of improving their personal health and fitness.”

In this industry, we have many different types of trainers such as there are many types of doctors and lawyers who specialize in certain areas. In general, you should ask yourself what you want out of your training and do your research before hiring a trainer. I wrote an article about this so it can help save you time and money.

It’s No Secret That You Don’t Need A Trainer To Exercise.

So Why Do People Keep On Hiring Us?

  1. To keep you accountable. Believe it or not some people just work better with someone who can make them stay on track.

  2. If you have no idea what you are doing in the gym and don’t want to increase your chances of injury. Need some guidance on how to squat, deadlift, push or pull things for your body? Trainers can help with that

  3. Have specific goals in mind such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, training for a sport.

  4. Have previous injuries and want someone to make sure they are doing the exercises correctly.

  5. People who like to workout in group settings. Think crossfit or group training classes such as yoga, pilates, bootcamps.

  6. People who are too busy with other aspects of their lives to think of workout programs. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to think about creating an exercise routine and doing it safely.

  7. Making exercise fun and exciting for you.

There are many more examples of what we do and why you should consider hiring a trainer. I’m a fan of letting people know what to expect out of me as I want my profession to be taken seriously as any other profession in the health industry (technically we are in the fitness industry but some overlap). Being a consumer advocate and someone who believes in transparency, there are some trainers who do things when they shouldn’t be doing them. There are many times trainers over step what they can do legally (each state has different laws). If you are working with a trainer and you feel that they have over-stepped their boundaries, then you may have a legal case against them if you are injured due to the trainer performing a job that is outside their scope of practice. Here are some examples of jobs a trainer shouldn’t do

  • diagnose any medical condition

  • prescribe specific exercises for medical conditions

  • prescribe specific diets/meal plans or recommend specific supplements

  • treat an injury or disease

  • physical therapy/rehab for a specific injury

  • counseling

Here Is What A Trainer Can Do For You

  • screen for exercise limitations and identify potential risk factors before exercise

  • design exercise programs

  • general dietary information for better dietary habits

  • use exercise to improve overall health

  • refer out to appropriate professional above all else

Source: https://www.acefitness.org/academy/AcademyElitePDFs/ACE_PT4th_Manual_Ch1.pdf

Overall, trainers should be an integral part of a team of health professionals to make sure you receive the best outcomes for your goals. Being a trainer is an amazing job as we get to literally help “change lives” and bring people happiness. In some cases I think we can have an even bigger impact than health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, etc.) on a week to week basis because we see you more often which gives us more opportunities to help create change. This is part I of what we do. Part II is about the people! Opinions from everyday people on what they think trainers can do for them.

Thoughts On Personal Trainers And What They Do

For this blog post, I also wanted to get the opinions of the general public. What do people think a personal trainers job is? I asked my Facebook friends to answer this question and am very thankful for the time spent in helping me out with this project. Here is the question:

“What are your thoughts on personal trainers and what their job is? You can write as much or little as you like, thanks”

Public Perception Of Personal Trainers

I believe a personal trainer is a professional who does many things. They are there to help people who may never have learned how to properly work out to get a footing in exercise. They hold their clients accountable, not just financially. Letting your PT down could easily be something the client would want to avoid if they are inspiring and show they truly care for said client. They are there to show you new methods to achieve your goals, healthfully, at a comfortable pace. They're also an excellent source of positive energy - hyping up their client and getting them through the tough parts of the workout that they wouldn't normally push themselves through on their own.”

MY RESPONSE: Sounds accurate to me and in my opinion, this is what people should look for.

I think a personal trainers (PT) role has evolved from where it was 5-10 years ago. By nature, most humans are lazy and inconsistent when it comes to exercise and nutrition and PT's will always serve that purpose. In today's busier lifestyle due to our multi-tasking crazy life, kid’s sports, multi jobs etc., people need training that is more compressed, effective, interesting and flexible. They don't have as much "free time" and 2-4 hrs. to work out like they used to. Social media has effected how PT’s are viewed and gives greater exposure to their world thanks to Instagram and Facebook leading the way with selfies and videos etc. The old image of a PT was someone who was going to push you, be mean to you and be more vocal”

MY RESPONSE: I laughed out loud about humans being lazy and inconsistent when it comes to exercise and dietary habits. It is true based on our obesity rates and chronic disease related to inactivity and eating behaviors that we need to find a better way to fit exercise and better nutrition into our lives. So true that social media has created more exposure for trainers. I think it has helped and hurt consumers. Helped in a way that it may get some to move more. Hurt consumers in a way that deserves its own blog.

Personal trainers, are a great thing if they know what they are doing. I feel a lot of PTs now don't do enough research and aren't really giving their clients proper workout plans. A PT should be able to work a custom plan for each of their clients and not using the same thing for everyone. I’ve seen too many PTs at different gyms giving the same workout routine for all clients. Success for the client is achieved when both parties give it their all.”

MY RESPONSE: Totally agree that we should fit exercise programs to the needs of people and both parties should give 100%! Fun fact about being a personal trainer is it’s the wild wild west and buyer beware unfortunately. Interviewing the trainer should be part of a person’s process before working with a trainer.

Because of reality shows, and the typical stereotypes that trainers have had for several years, I have always had a fear of trainers. "What if they limit my eating?" They seem too pushy." Or "I wouldn't like being told what to do." However, due to the growth of social media, I have had the opportunity to see a lot of posts of the process and positive results, which makes the thought of getting a trainer very appealing. Then there is the fear of the dollar amount that comes along with it. After being exposed to more realistic views of what trainers do, I have a better understanding or at least I think I do, of what trainers can help with - customizing exercises that fit the individual's needs along with the understanding of food nutrition. With that said, I believe trainers would be very beneficial to have, if I was able to afford it.”

MY RESPONSE: Fears are warranted and there are trainers who do what is described. There are many trainers who do just the opposite also and understand it’s not just about getting from point A to B. Within the process is learning principles of what will work for the person so they may take away what we teach for the rest of their life. Hiring a trainer at first glance may seem expensive. I like to think of the benefits you get when purchasing anything. It’s the value put on the product being purchased. I like to think reducing chronic disease, increasing quality of life, more confidence physically and mentally, learning new movements for your body, and having a better appreciation for taking care of yourself justifies the cost. Although many trainers do understand human nutrition basics, many do not and end up scaring people about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, etc.

I like personal trainers. I'm an ex college athlete and only focused on certain areas of my body during my playing days. Personal trainers not only motivate you, they will evaluate your workout style and customize a plan that fits your end goal.”

MY RESPONSE: Sounds like the experience we all should give!

I think personal trainers are best suited for 2 types of people...people that have very little experience working out/nutrition and need the help and motivation to stay consistent to reach a goal....and the other are people that are at a very high level (athletes) and need that expertise to take their physicality to the next level. For the person in the middle, kind of like myself, I don’t necessarily think a personal trainer is necessary (unless free). Over the years I have done my own research and have gone to the gym enough to develop my own routine and I know my body well enough to plan what workouts at what frequency I want to reach my goal for that time being. I am kind of addicted to it so I probably spend more time than the average person reading articles on workouts and nutrition and implementing those things into my workouts/lifestyle. I think personal trainers are also beneficial for people that just need someone there with them to keep them honest...I personally love working out alone and music blasting in my headphones lol”

MY RESPONSE: I agree that trainers are valuable in helping people with very little experience, consistency, motivation. You are right in saying that not everyone needs a trainer also! I honestly wish a lot of Americans didn’t need us.

I believe personal trainers are needed because they not only inspire people to better themselves, but also to challenge themselves. They push people past their problems or comfort zone through working out. They know how to adjust their workout/nutrition plans according to the body type of the individual that is requiring help. However, I have heard stories of personal trainers overpricing and not really dedicating time to the trainee. Not sure if they are true and obviously not all personal trainers are that way.”

MY RESPONSE: I would say that over charging for the service provided can be an issue. As with purchasing anything, do your best to research before potentially buying training sessions. The cool thing is you can interview trainers to see if you’d like to work with them or not and to see if they are worth your time and money.

Accountability: I think having a personal trainer adds accountability to one’s exercise routine. A personal trainer is someone who you will have to report to from time to time and who will check on and measure your progress and meter your results. The process of having an independent 2nd party watching and measuring your current level of fitness and accessing if you are reaching your goals is good motivation.
Commitment: The fact that someone takes the time to hire a personal trainer demonstrates they have committed themselves to bettering their health by utilizing professional help.
Experience: When you hire a personal trainer, you are hiring them for their experience and knowledge. Your hope is that they will help you avoid any mistakes, blunders and pit-falls of trying to create a fitness regimen on your own; that they will guide you to the fastest and most efficient methods to achieve your fitness goals.
Investment: I don’t know how value is assessed in all world cultures, but in American culture, people tend not to put much value in things that are free. Hiring a personal trainer shows you are committed and placing value into bettering yourself. Also, since someone is investing their hard-earned money into a personal trainer, they are WAY more likely to utilize his or her services.
Knowledge: Experience and knowledge are close, but I listed them separately. The difference being, knowledge is the “book-smarts,” and experience is the ability to put the information into practice for varying personalities, people with different abilities, physiologies and varying fitness goals. In the internet age, people have instant access to TONS of conflicting fitness information. Someone with the appropriate knowledge can assist in weeding through all the varying opinions and set you on a clear path
Motivation: If you have a personal trainer, you know someone is watching you. Not every minute, but over time. Having someone measuring your progress and hopefully rooting you along is powerful motivation.
Navigation: Starting a new fitness program is hard. Navigating the gym even harder. Especially for a beginner or someone new to the gym scene. Choosing machines? Weights? Correct form on either? Gym etiquette? All this can be daunting! If you hire a personal trainer, hopefully that person will make you comfortable with the ENTIRE fitness process.
Role Model: A personal trainer wears lots of hats in addressing their client’s needs and role model is as important as any of them. A personal trainer has to practice what they preach and they have to set the example and understandingly, respectfully and gracefully give their clients something to aspire to.”

MY REPSONSE: All great responses! I’d have to say people mistaken what a trainer looks like and what knowledge and experience they have sometimes. Being in the industry I find that there are many different types of trainers. I’ll give 2 examples. There are trainers who are very fit (like fitness modelish) and I’ll assume they are the ones that many people look to. It makes sense this very fit looking person is someone you would want training from a body marketing perspective. They spend a lot of time in the gym working out and it shows. Then there are trainers that look like they don’t really workout but spend their time and money on learning. Then you have a combination of the two. The best way to know who is best for you is to interview the trainer and see if they fit your needs.

My quick thoughts are, truly qualified and passionate ones can make the difference in someone achieving goals and staying motivated. You also know I'm a very opinionated on them (and all professionals) staying within their scope of practice. Giving out nutrition advice without a degree or credentialing is a big no no in my book. Just as I would not give out exercise advice.”

MY RESPONSE: It is true that some of us get carried away and forgot we can’t do everything. I think what trainers can do best is to give non-specific dietary recommendations to clients who are coming to us to live a healthier life. I would suggest if you have a nutrition related disease, ask them if they can refer to a registered dietitian or equivalent.

“Since I am not a newbie to the gym - my ideas are probably different than someone who is just starting out. After having some good trainers and not so good ones - I have several things I'll focus on:

Know what the heck you are doing - proper form and safety always - I want to do this till I'm 90! No canned programs - if I say heavy weights are my passion - don't take me to the TRX to have me do the latest fad workout and NEVER patronize me. Listen to ME - if I say I won't squat lower than 90 (after you demonstrate butt to heels) - don't blink at me and say "ok - we'll just do a lighter wt." (I have a list of other dumbass things this guy did...) and I'm not here to "burn some calories" /get my heart rate up - I can do that on my own time! I am here to lift heavy and have you spot me - so I can PR on bench etc. - and teach me tweaks to get past my sticking point. Most of all be my cheerleader -challenge me - push me - don't let me wimp out - be my "you CAN do it" person - whatever I say my goal is - help me achieve it!”

MY RESPONSE: Sounds like you know what you want and I agree, trainers should always listen to what you want and do their best to help you achieve that goal. I also agree that programming your workouts should be geared towards your goals, and not our experiment to try the latest workout. I would say in the instance that a trainer thinks it’s not best during that session to squat lower than 90, they should give you a reason why. If they feel there is more risk than benefit at that time, they should let you know. Good points on being a positive influence and being encouraging!

“I think personal trainers serve an important purpose to help and assist the public with information and exercise expertise to avoid injury, meet fitness goals and help motivate individuals to reach a higher level of overall fitness. Most people in my opinion, could benefit from a personal trainer in much the same way most people can benefit from a financial advisor, nutritionist or even an auto mechanic to help provide a professional opinion and assistance on a topic. With that said, for individuals with the time, tenacity and motivation for learning, I also think it's possible to simply learn all the principles on your own, though, arguably motivating yourself to work out and stay in shape can often be one of the most difficult aspects for myself, regardless of how much I know about fitness and training. And then of course, there is the concept of staying up-to-date on all the new science and research emerging out of the world of fitness as well, which isn't easy to do without a knowledgeable professional. So, in my opinion, a fitness trainer is a great way to stay in shape and learn regimented, tested and progressive techniques for maintaining fitness. And I would certainly recommend Mr. Sun because that dude is the shit!”

MY RESPONSE: Good points and I agree about trainers teaching clients so they can understand how to work out for themselves and feel confident in doing so.

“It depends. The trainers at 24 hr. fitness are more into how they look than helping the client achieve their goals. I think a good trainer is very important. My husband is my trainer and without him I wouldn't be feeling as good as I do. I always though cardio was the most important. however, I was never losing weight and I still felt unwanted aches and pains. I suffered low back pain for 8 yrs. before I discovered the only treatment for my pain was strengthening my back muscles. Learning the muscle groups and about weight lifting has changed my body. I feel better, have less to no pain, and can lose weight easier. All those things are worth getting a trainer for. But it must be sustainable goals, not just a weight loss program.”

MY RESPONSE: It’s unfortunate that this is the perception (real or not) that we can give off sometimes. I’m glad you found something that has helped your back out, and being active is a great strategy that most professionals will agree on for a reduction for low back pain. I agree with goals being sustainable.

If you have any questions about how you can become healthier in a way that fits your lifestyle and improves you as a person, contact me. If you're in the Mission Valley area of San Diego, give me a call or email me! I'm a personal trainer, and I'd love to answer any question you have about fitness and dieting.