Updated: Feb 27, 2020
How To Hire a Personal Trainer
The fitness industry is an unregulated industry and you'll find that trainers have extremely varied levels of education, knowledge, and experience. This can often make it confusing to know what qualifications to look for when hiring a professional to help design you a personalized fitness program. What your current level of fitness is, your affordability, as well as your health history, can also be important deciding factors.
As the previous Director of Training at a large downtown luxury fitness club, it was my job to hire the best possible trainers in the industry. Here are my expert tips for what to look out for in order to hire the most best, most qualified personal trainer.
6 Tips on How To Hire a Personal Fitness Coach
1. Education and Certifications
Many Trainers may have a formal university education receiving a BA in exercise science, or in kinesiology, or they may have an associates degree specific to personal training. For other trainers, much of their education comes from certifications, courses, self-study, or through mentorship.
I've seen top notch trainers educated by all of the above categories, however, I would say that the best most well rounded trainers are the ones who keep up to date with their education and who have a wide variety of certifications and courses under their belts. The thing with exercise science is that it is always changing - there are always new methodologies to learn, and old ones ready to be discarded.
Well rounded trainers have solid knowledge about different training protocols and methodologies and know how to apply them. They understand biomechanics, fitness psychology , special populations (pregnancy, medical conditions, elderly), and are comfortable working with injuries - even better, they have training in nutrition as well.
Be sure to ask what education and training your potential trainer has and don't be afraid to ask to see their credentials. Most certifying bodies require trainers to complete 20 Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) every 2 years in order to keep their certifications valid, so make sure you check the date on their credentials as well.
If you are someone of a special population (pregnancy, medical condition etc.), or looking for a specific style of training (bodybuilding, power lifting, running, etc), or training for a specific sport, check to make sure that their specialization certificates match your specific needs.
For example, if you are pregnant, you may want to choose a trainer who has taken courses in pre and postnatal exercise design instead of hiring a trainer who specializes in power lifting let's say! Many trainers end up focusing on a specific niche type of training so always have a read of their bio first to see if they'd be a good match to your goals.
2. Years of Experience
How many years a trainer has been working in the fitness industry can be an important deciding factor. Most of the gyms I have worked at in the past required trainers to have a minimum of 2 years of experience - this isn't an uncommon requirement at many fitness facilities.
I personally have been in the fitness industry for 16 years now, and 100%, I am a much better trainer now than when I first began. When I first became a trainer I knew nothing about injuries, I didn't feel as comfortable or as knowledgeable working with special populations, I was dusty when it came to biomechanics, and my programs were far less creative as I didn't know as many exercise variations, or training methodologies to be able to explore with.
But the catch 22 here is that experienced trainers, are also much more expensive. If you're looking for a more affordable training option, you may have to scale back when it comes to the experience level of your trainer.
I don't recommend this if you fall under a special population, have a lot of health issues or injuries, or if you're looking for help with more specific and advanced lifting techniques & training methodologies. If your situation isn't overly complicated however, don't hesitate to hire someone with less experience - you absolutely can find awesome novice trainers who are highly knowledgeable.
If you're not comfortable scaling back on the experience level of your potential trainer, you may want to opt for semi-private training which can make fitness training with a highly experienced trainer a much more affordable option.
One of the things I see often see gyms do very wrong is that they set up a new trainee with a trainer whose personality type just doesn't match. This happened to me one of the first times I ever hired a trainer for myself.