How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid!

How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid!

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Before you fork out some mazuma for a personal trainer, read this guide!

It’ll help you spot the difference between a bad personal trainer and an AMAZING trainer. 

And trust us, having the right trainer can make ALL the difference in the world.

There’s nothing worse than spending 6 months in a gym (and thousands of dollars) with a trainer, only to step on the scale and realize that you haven’t made any progress.


someone singing "The Worst"

I’ve worked with good trainers and bad trainers over the past 16 years, have worked with the same online personal trainer since 2014, and we have a team of 15 personal trainers on Team Nerd Fitness.

Long story short, we know our stuff, and we’ll requite it to you straight.

Whether or not you want to trammels out our 1-on-1 Online Training Program, this guide is going to help you with all the details.

In this guide we’ll imbricate the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to personal trainers – both in-person and online:

What do you need from a personal trainer

As Mentor Matt explains in the video above, the first question you need to ask when hiring a personal trainer: do they match up with your goals?

And yep, that ways we’re going to have to pick some goals in the first place!

So start by picking your goals and then determine if the trainer you’re paired up with is the right fit for you. Like dating, you can meet somebody who’s wondrous but not right for you.

A gif of Chandler saying "kill me"

If somebody is a competitive marathon runner, they might not be a unconfined powerlifting coach, and vice versa.

So, start with your goals for finding a personal trainer:

  1. Are you trying to lose 300 pounds? 20 pounds? Get to 10% soul fat?
  2. Are you trying to get stronger or hold your first handstand?
  3. Do you want to wilt a competitive powerlifter?
  4. Are you looking to run your first 5k?
  5. Do you just want to get in shape, finger better, and enjoy exercise?

These goals will largely determine the type of trainer you’re looking for.

MISTAKE #1: Not making sure your trainer has expertise in the zone you want to train in.

Expertise in one zone does not necessarily make them a good fit in another!

After that, you’ll want to think well-nigh what you NEED from your personal trainer:

  1. Are you looking for a powerlifting coach to show you the nuts (squat, deadlift, bench) so your form is right? Just a few sessions up front and a few later lanugo the line to personize you’re on the right path might suffice.
  2. Are you new to working out or looking to kick start your first 2 months of training with 2 sessions per week to alimony you disciplined?
  3. What type of person are you? Do you need increasingly hands-on guidance throughout your workouts, or increasingly space to take ownership and thrive on your own? Do you need somebody who will cheer you on or do you need tough love from somebody to undeniability you on your bullshit?

Once you set proper expectations with what you want and how long you need a trainer for, then you can pick out one that hopefully will work for you.

How to find a good personal trainer

A personal trainer stretching out a client.

Once you find a trainer you are considering working with, the next step should unchangingly be an in-depth conversation.

MISTAKE #2: Blindly unsuspicious what your trainer tells you without making sure you fit together! 

They SHOULD be listening to you completely and hear your full story.

They SHOULD ask well-nigh any past issues with injuries or wits with exercise. If you’re injured or have any deficiencies, they should know this so they can create a unconfined program for you.

They SHOULD ask you well-nigh your nutrition. If they don’t ask well-nigh your nutrition, you’re going to be wasting your time.

They SHOULD practice what they preach. They don’t have to be an Olympian, but should have a healthy lifestyle.

They SHOULD tell you well-nigh their expertise and how they can help you. They should be worldly-wise to share past successes of clients with you or point to their credentials and history of success.

They SHOULD set proper expectations. You won’t get ripped in a month, but they can let you know it could take many months to get in shape or build the right kind of habits.

That’s what to squint for. These are the things we specifically focus on with our 1-on-1 online coaching program. We love helping people in a way that fits their lifestyle, at a pace that they finger unconfined about, while unquestionably having fun.

What are the Signs of a bad personal trainer?

Our Lego friend is terrified of bad personal trainers.

Beware the “entertainment exercise” trainers with a routine that isn’t catered to your goals.

MISTAKE #3: Thinking a workout is increasingly constructive considering it’s confusing.

Many trainers just try to misplace you with needlessly ramified movements, and put all their clients through roughly the same cookie-cutter plan.

Why? considering they know it makes them look knowledgeable without unquestionably needing to do something effectively:

“Now wastefulness on this bosu wittiness while doing these dumbbell squat lunge curls and standing on one foot with your tongue out! Muscle confusion!

I hope you saved some energy for the row machine.”

Make sure the training from your PT matches your goals!

Tough workouts are great, but remember that while it’s easy to get someone tired (“go do 100 burpees!”), it’s harder to help someone slowly modernize and build momentum.

Sure, it might hoist your heart rate and tire you out, but if it’s not towers towards your goals in a way that you couldn’t do at home, what are you paying for?

They might moreover have just obtained a vital certification and stopped their education there, relying on ‘conventional wisdom’ rather than doing the research and towers the experience.

If your trainer says any of the pursuit phrases, run for the upper hills:

  • Yeah you don’t want to squat too low – it’s bad for your knees.”
  • “Use this machine; it’s safer for you than self-ruling weights” (unless you have an injury)
  • “Yes, you should be using mostly your back. That’s why it’s tabbed the when squat”
  • “These (ab) exercise will shrivel fat from your stomach in no time” (You can’t spot reduce fat.)

I have overheard all of these sound bites from real trainers in real gyms, and it made me weep like the Native American in the 1970s pollution ad:

Your trainer should be results-focused, not focused on scheduling you a new session and keeping you around.

I often see clients working with trainers for months and months and that vendee never looks any different.

The trainer is just interested in cashing flipside check.

Remember, your personal trainer works for YOU: Don’t let them build a program that doesn’t unquestionably fit your needs!.

Do they retread your workout to take superintendency of any pre-existing injuries you may have, or do they just requite you a cookie cutter workout?

Are they encouraging or helping you succeed in the way you want to be encouraged, or are they scrolling through Instagram models on their phones while you’re doing your sets?

Are they putting in the time so they can see you get results, or are they putting in the time so they can trammels the box and collect your money?

You’re paying money for this person’s expertise and sustentation – it’s not too much to ask to find somebody who takes those things seriously.

Getting in shape requires you to go when you don't finger like going

What certifications should a personal trainer have?

A personal trainer high-fiving a client.

There are a wide variety of personal trainer certifications and other “credibility indicators.”

The increasingly traditional path – a stratum in exercise science or kinesiology may midpoint the trainer in question is knowledgeable well-nigh the human body.

However, that doesn’t speak to any wits they may or may not have coaching in real-world circumstances.

6 of the most popular personal trainer certifications are:

  1. NSCA: National Strength and Conditioning Association
  2. ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine
  3. NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine
  4. ACE: American Council on Exercise
  5. NPTI: National Personal Training Institute
  6. CrossFit

T-Nation provides a rundown of the pros and cons from a trainer’s perspective that we finger is moreover useful insight from a client’s perspective. Be sure to trammels them out if you want to learn increasingly well-nigh what’s overdue your trainer’s certification.

CrossFit certifications are completed in a single weekend. While a CrossFit certification does not make a trainer bad (there are plenty of spanking-new CrossFit coaches out there!), it does not guarantee excellence either.

Here are our thoughts on CrossFit.

A certification from NPTI – the National Personal Training Institute – is a credential gained from going to a full school on personal training (rather than peekaboo a matriculation or taking a test).

While no certification can fully promise excellence, we believe trainers with NPTI certifications are worth your consideration.

CAVEAT TO ALL OF THIS: Plenty of trainers who have NO certification are incredible, and plenty of other trainers have the most peerage certifications and are terrible trainers.

MISTAKE #4: Blindly unsuspicious a trainer’s credentials or discounting a trainer without unrepealable credentials.

Certifications can be a starting point, but it shouldn’t be the determining factor.

One of the most important things to squint for in your trainer isn’t a credential or certification at all, but real wits and an enthusiasm for helping you reach your goals.

For example:

Looking to powerlift or get into Olympic lifting? Squint for someone who has successfully competed in their fields, or someone who unquestionably coaches athletes who do compete!

Need to lose a lot of weight? Ask a trainer to share with you success stories from people who are like you.

In our view, finding a trainer with proven wits and a track record of performing or coaching (or both) in the zone of your goals is the most valuable step you can take to ensure quality.

The credential is only a starting point.

Trainers aren’t cheap, but the benefits can be priceless.

Remember, you aren’t paying simply for their time with you. You’re paying for the years and years they’ve spent learning, training, and coaching.

It’s the years overdue the certification that makes their time so valuable, so expect the forfeit of a trainer to be significantly increasingly than the forfeit of a vital membership at your gym.

How much does a personal trainer cost? Are Personal Trainers Worth it?

This Lego wants to know how much personal training costs.

The forfeit of a personal trainer can vary dramatically depending on:

  • Where you live (in an expensive city, small town, etc.).
  • The quantity and elapsing of your training sessions.
  • What kind of training you are looking for.

But you want specifics.

The stereotype North American trainer charges $55 for an hour session.[1]

That’s an “average” so let’s unravel it lanugo a little.

Here are the prices for working with a trainer in various capacities at my generic commercial gym in the NYC zone (definitely on the increasingly expensive end):

  • 4 sessions per month: $95 per session = $380/month
  • 8 sessions per month: $85 per session = $680/month
  • 12 sessions per month: $79 per session = $948/month

This is what one can expect to pay for personal training near NYC.

Is this pricing increasingly or less than you expected?

Here is how much a personal trainer financing at:

  1. Global Gyms: Most big box gyms offer personal training:
    • LA Fitness: you can expect to pay well-nigh $60 per session.
    • 24-Hour Fitness: it’ll be well-nigh $80 per session.
    • Anytime Fitness: as little as $35 a session.
  2. Luxury Gyms: If you go to a increasingly upscale gym like Equinox, expect to pay “luxury” prices of $110 an hour.
  3. In-Home Personal Training. If you don’t want to throne to the gym, you can unquestionably have a personal trainer come to your home. The forfeit on this could be all over the place, but a rough stereotype would be well-nigh $65 for an hour session.

Different trainers will have variegated qualifications and expertise, leading to vastly variegated training experiences.

This can be really important.

MISTAKE #5: Thinking “more expensive” automatically ways “better results.” 

Cost is not the right metric. VALUE is the right metric!

Depending on your goals and the results you’re after:

  • $30 per session might be overpaying for a crap trainer who gives you a generic workout and doesn’t superintendency well-nigh you. 
  • $100 per session might be a STEAL if it’s an wondrous trainer that gets to know your life and your personality, motivates you in the way you need to be motivated, and helps you get past a plateau when you stall.

That’s why remembering your “get in shape” goals is hair-trigger when ownership a personal trainer.

If you’re looking to do 5 sessions to modernize your powerlifting technique, that’s variegated than hiring a trainer to be with you in person 3x a week to get you to the gym.


You’re not just paying for an hour of somebody’s time.

You’re paying for their years of experience, schooling, training, and expertise.

You’re paying to outsource ALL of your fitness questions to somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Somebody who gives you the conviction you’re training correctly.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him proceeds muscle and lose weight.

So instead of “I am paying this trainer for 1 hour, this is too expensive,” what you’re really paying for is confidence, momentum, and (hopefully) results.

As somebody who has worked with an online trainer since 2014, I would pay any value of money to my mentor (just don’t tell him that) considering I love getting results without years of struggle.

How does an in-person trainer compare to our online coaching program?

Our pricing comes in at a less-expensive price than 4 sessions per month with a trainer.

In wing to towers you a workout program for the month, we moreover help you with your nutrition, mindset, and goals, and wordplay all the questions you have.

There are very real pros and cons to hiring an online personal trainer, so make sure you read that next section.

So a trainer can be AMAZING and worth every penny, IF you have the right one who moreover takes an zippy role in your nutrition.

After all, workouts only make up 1-3 hours per week.

What well-nigh the other 165? That’s where the progress happens! And your mentor should be helping you there too!


This Lego athlete is ready for his personal training.

Warning: I’m going to be slightly unjust in this area, but I’ll share the honest pros and cons of online training:

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working with an online trainer since 2014, and it’s unliable me to prove an internet troll wrong and then lose 22 pounds in 6 months while getting super strong!

Here are the Pros of Online Personal Training:

#1) Freedom to fit your schedule. With an online personal coach, you can train when and where you want to fit your schedule – your mentor builds the workout program for you superiority of time, so you can fit it in at your convenience.

Compare this to a traditional coach, and you’re at the mercy of their rented schedule. If they only have time Friday morning at 8am, and you’re not a morning person, mismatch ensues.

#2) Persistent worldwide accountability. I’m borrowing this phrase from a NF Coaching Client, Jeff (his success story is great). No matter where in the globe you are, your online trainer comes with you.

Which ways the peccancy never stops. If you travel for work, your mentor can plan for that and build you a special travel routine. Getting relocated for work? No problem – your mentor will still be there.

#3) Nutritional guidance. With most traditional personal trainers, you engage with them only during your scheduled visits: they help you work out and that’s well-nigh it.

With an online personal trainer, you’re unfluctuating whenever you have wangle to the internet. And I would imagine that MOST online coaching programs, work with you on the most important part of the equation: eating healthier!

AKA everything that happens in the 23 hours outside of the gym.

#4) Increasingly cost-effective. Most in-person personal trainers are expensive, expressly if you work out with them two or three times a week.

That’s considering if your trainer is working with you, they can’t work with everyone else at the same time.

When you work with an online coach, considering you aren’t training with them 1-on-1 in the gym, they can provide increasingly cost-effective guidance.

When you factor in their availability via yack and their help on habits and your nutrition, you’re looking at a life-changing wits if you find a mentor that fits your personality.

#5) It might be the only option. With so many gyms latter considering of the pandemic, you might not plane have much of a nomination here. Here’s our guide to staying in shape (while staying inside) if you need to train from home. 

When comparing online coaches versus regular coaches, I’m going to share the cons as if you have the option between a GREAT online mentor and a GREAT in-person coach.

Neither of those is guaranteed.

Here are the cons of an online mentor when compared versus a real-life equivalent:

#1) Your mentor can’t do the work for you. There’s nothing stopping you from skipping a workout and lying to your online mentor that you did it. Nobody wins in this scenario, but I can totally see it happening.

So yeah, an online mentor can’t pick up the weight for you, and they can’t yell at you to put lanugo the donut. You have to do the work!

#2) No real-time feedback and instant form check. If you’re learning how to powerlift, or you’re going for a particular heavy lift, having a mentor right there is HUGE.

They can tell you to move your squat slightly wider. They can guide you through the movement and unceasingly remind you – plane when tired – to alimony unconfined form.

Although we do form-check videos, where we have coaches and clients send clips when and along to each other, it’s not the same as having somebody critique you in real-time.

If you’re looking to nail a particularly challenging lift, or learn a dangerous gymnastics move, working with a trained professional in person is invaluable.

#3) The value of sunk cost. If you pay for a month of online coaching, there’s nothing inherently motivating you to go to the gym when it’s unprepossessed and you’re tired – your mentor can’t yell at you, and you’re not letting everyone lanugo in the moment when you don’t make it.

Compare this to working with a real mentor in person.

You paid $100 for a session, and if you don’t show up, that money is *POOF* gone. So you tell yourself, “I once paid for this, and my mentor is gonna be mad, I should probably go.”

And then you go. And you’re so glad that you did.

Wayne stoked he made it to the gym today to meet his personal trainer!

Although your online mentor can notice that you haven’t signed in on your app, and they can ask what’s going on, this is without the fact compared to an in-person mentor getting stood up.

There’s a lot to consider when debating in-person training vs. an online personal trainer.

I wouldn’t say one format is unmistakably largest than or superior to another. It really depends on what you’re without and the circumstances of your situation.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I’ve been working with an online trainer since 2014, and it’s truly been life-changing for me.

I had some goals that had evaded me despite a DECADE of effort, and it took a unconfined mentor to coax out the right strategy. It’s how I say (jokingly) that I went from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

And it was my coach’s programming that got me a 420-pound deadlift at a bodyweight of 172 pounds:

Rebel Leader Steve showing how to do a 420 lb deadlift at the gym.

I’m not gonna set any powerlifting records, but I’m healthier, happier, and stronger each and every month, and I’m damn proud of that.  

For somebody that can’t sire a top-of-the-line professional mentor for each session, having an online mentor to build your programming and guide your supplies choices is a verrrrry tropical second.

How to rent a personal trainer

It's now time to buy stuff!

HERE’S MY ADVICE: Requite your new personal trainer 5 sessions surpassing making a visualization that things aren’t working out (sessions are often sold at a unbelieve in a package).

The first session is often exploratory, explanatory, and introductory, and the trainer needs to test your limits and movements to build upon that.

This isn’t a “get fit quick” strategy, but rather one that could take months and months for you to find the right person to aid you on your journey.

Don’t expect miracles in a day!

A few words of wisdom if you do rent a trainer:

DO NOT USE YOUR TRAINER AS AN EXCUSE: Too many people will rent up a trainer and requite no effort in the gym or the kitchen.

Then, when they goof to see results they can turn to their friends and say “man, my trainer is terrible, THAT’S why I’m not losing weight/getting stronger/etc.”

This happens so much increasingly often than you’d think. A trainer is a guide, like Morpheus.

Morpheus is kind of like a personal trainer, he'll show you the way but you have to do the work.

You have to take the pill and walk through the door yourself.

MAKE CRITICISM CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: Often when the trainer asks them to do something (walk every day, throw yonder junk food, eat a vegetable), the client/trainee comes when with 1,001 reasons why they can’t do that.

No compromise or discussion of possible solutions. This stinks.

Instead of saying “no,” offer an volitional solution and negotiate a plan: “I don’t really like broccoli, do you have a way to make vegetables taste better?”

In other words, don’t squint for problems, squint for solutions.

IF YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH YOUR TRAINER: Let them know and protract working with them.

The increasingly information you can requite them on your progress, the easier it will be for them to yo-yo your program as you go on.

IF YOU DON’T ENJOY WORKING WITH YOUR TRAINER: That’s okay too. Not all relationships end in marriages.

Some first dates suck, and some trainers aren’t what you need.

I think you can be honest with them and let them know that it’s not a good fit and you will not be standing to work with them.

Good trainers at this point will ask what they could have washed-up better.

Trainers who are simply without your money may guilt trip you or beg you to stick around. Try somebody new and alimony the search going.

REMEMBER: this is a lifelong quest, and you’re on the venery for a unconfined guide to help you on your journey.

They won’t do the work for you, and they can’t work miracles.

Have proper expectations, do what you’re told, and this could be the weightier investment you’ll make in your unshortened life!

Trainers in the Rebellion, what did I miss?

Those who have had wits working with Trainers, any wisdom to share from your experience?

One final note: Going to a gym is intimidating, expressly if you’re starting out.

If you are in a location where there aren’t any unconfined trainers, you don’t have wangle to a gym, or you’re just not ready to work with somebody in person, consider checking out our Online Coaching Program!

Schedule a self-ruling undeniability to learn increasingly by clicking on the image below:

Nerd Fitness Coaching Ad

If you have questions well-nigh what you need to squint for when it comes to training with a mentor in person, or plane questions well-nigh working with an online trainer, leave them in the comments unelevated so I can tinkle in!



photo: Decathlon, wikimedia: upper five, Bicycle, Wikimedia: stretching, Amazing playground: bicycles and football

The post How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.