How to Find a Personal Trainer

People hire personal trainers for a number of reasons. Regardless of why, certain standards should be met to ensure you have a good experience while achieving your goals. Beyond having a certification, personal trainers should be professional in the way they look and conduct their business, have the ability to effectively communicate and coach, and always be learning.


There is no ‘typical’ educational background for a personal trainer. More often than not, people become trainers due to a peaked interest in fitness and the desire to help others. However, as with many professions the need to add integrity and credentials became a requirement. There are a number of organizations that offer personal training certifications. Labeling which are ‘best’ is extremely subjective but certifications that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) are reputable.

Getting a certification is the foundation for a trainer’s education. Additional certifications and/or continuing education make good trainers into great ones. The trainer who continually invests in their business and stays on top of industry trends is the one you should trust. The different types of certifications often resemble alphabet soup. Here is a list of the most common certification types:

  • CPT – Certified Personal Trainer
  • CFT – Certified Fitness Trainer
  • CSCS – Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
  • PES – Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • CES – Corrective Exercise Specialist or Clinical Exercise Specialist
  • HFS – Certified Health and Fitness Specialist

Ask your trainer about their credentials. A true professional has a clear explanation of their approach and description of any specialties. Additionally, inquire about testimonials. It doesn’t matter how many letters they have behind their name if they can’t produce results with their clients.

Getting Started

The primary focus of first few sessions with a trainer is the collection of information. Terms like ’assessment’ or ‘orientation’ are often used since these really aren’t personal training sessions. Most facilities offer one to two complimentary appointments with a trainer. These sessions acquaint you with a trainer, get you started with the guidance of a professional, and allow the trainer to collect the necessary data to develop an appropriate program. If this option is not available, the trainer should offer an assessment or complimentary session before recommending a program.

The Assessment

Most assessments last approximately an hour and will include a consultation, baseline measurements, and some type of movement screen or test. During the consultation, you will review medical history, workout background, and specific goals. Most trainers will inquire about lifestyle, diet, and occupation to better gage your overall activity level and how you take care of yourself.

Establishing your baseline of fitness is done through measurements and a movement assessment. It is important to take measurements prior to the start of your program so your trainer can measure progress and make sure the program is effective. Typical measurements include height, weight, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and girth measurements.

Finally, your trainer should perform a static postural assessment followed by one or more movement screens. Understanding how your posture changes during movement allows the trainer to identify any possible compensations, imbalances, or lack of strength or stability. This information is essential so the trainer can address any dysfunction and choose proper exercise progressions.

Purchasing a Program

Once the assessment is complete, the trainer should make a recommendation for the number of sessions or type of program you need to see results. The trainer’s recommendation should prescribe the most effective route to achieve your goal, which may include workouts you perform on your own as well. Before you purchase your program, sit with your trainer and identify not only the most effective route, but what is realistic for your lifestyle and budget.

Making the investment in a personal trainer should have a high return. Maximizing that investment requires compliance, not only to exercise recommendations, but in regards to introducing changes to your diet and lifestyle as well. Consider the following when discussing the best option for personal training:

  • Changes in the body take time – usually 4 to 6 weeks. When beginning an exercise program most of the adaptations will be occurring to your central nervous system first. Once your body recognizes this is part of your lifestyle you begin to see the results.
  • The key to learning is repetition and practice. Most trainers will recommend meeting at least twice a week so they can coach you on how best to perform those reps.
  • Your trainer should have a written program and be able to explain the purpose of the rep schemes and exercise selection. Exercises can vary but overall volume and design of the workout should be consistent.
  • Program length should be specified and the trainer will progress you as you become more adapted. Typical program length should be between 4-8 weeks.
  • More than one program may be needed to get you to your goal. Each phase will address skills and movements that you need to get you the results you are looking for.

Last but Not Least

The fitness industry has changed a great deal in the past 30 years and consequently, has had a large impact on the business of personal training. Beyond writing an effective program you are hiring a professional coach. Your trainer should, without any hesitation, have the ability to:

  • Motivate you to perform your best
  • Inspire you to lead a healthy lifestyle
  • Be on time and prepared for every session
  • Follow up and hold you accountable to your goals
  • Develop strategies to overcome obstacles (both inside and outside of your training sessions)
  • Instill confidence that you can workout on your own if you choose
  • Get results

Whether you are getting started, have hit a plateau, or simply need a new program – hiring a personal trainer is a great decision. There is no such thing as getting in shape to work with a trainer that is what they are there for. Remember this is an investment in you, and you should expect nothing but the best service and results.

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