These Signs Mean Your Personal Trainer Is Completely Unqualified

If you’re someone who takes an interest in your personal health and fitness, investing in a personal trainer is never a bad decision. Maybe you simply need someone to help you tone up or you have specific health issues or old injuries that require special treatment. But just like you would when choosing any other professional service, you should take caution when selecting a personal trainer. Here are 12 signs that your personal trainer is completely unqualified.

1. They’re not certified

Man wearing a personal trainer shirt

Don’t be afraid to ask about certifications. | iStock.com

Unfortunately, an undergraduate degree in exercise and sports science doesn’t cut it, nor does acquiring additional certifications that do not include the Certified Personal Trainer stamp of approval. “Be wary of the ‘eternal student’ with dozens of certifications, but doesn’t know how to train or connect with [their] clients,” Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet. Certifications and degrees are in place to reassure you, the client, that you’re dealing with a highly qualified individual.

2. They don’t look the part

Does your trainer look like they workout?

If your trainer doesn’t look the part, be skeptical. | iStock.com

There’s a reason you hardly ever see personal trainers who are considerably overweight or wearing jeans during sessions. He or she is likely not a full-time trainer. “Your trainer doesn’t need to have a six-pack or pecs of steel, but [they] should be fit and should know a thing or two about health and fitness from personal experience,” said Ryan. “[They] also shouldn’t smell or have just completed a hard workout and dripping in sweat a minute before you walk in.” A person who is clean, fit, and wears appropriate clothing are sure signs you’re dealing with a professional.

3. They don’t explain training with detail

Their directions should be clean

You should fully understand their rationale. | Thinkstock

Your trainer should give you more guidance other than which leg to lift and at what time. “Explaining exercises and training methodologies with detail is of utmost importance to safely train clients and also build proper programming,” Ryan explained. If your trainer doesn’t explain things in detail, chances are they actually don’t know the details themselves. Ryan added, “Stick with a trainer who is confident in their training approach and welcomes questions so you can learn during your sessions; not just aimlessly do as you are told.”

4. They have the cheapest rates in the neighborhood

If it's cheap, you don't want it.

You never want to feel like you got a steal of a deal on a personal trainer. | iStock.com

Like any other treatment, be it a massage or a hair cut, you get what you pay for. So, if you’re selecting your personal trainer based on her ridiculously low prices, you’re most likely going to get less-than-quality treatment. “Having the lowest price may not mean your trainer is unqualified, but it definitely means he or she is not confident in his or her training abilities,” Roger E. Adams, Ph.D. and founder of eatrightfitness, told us.

5. They’re willing to train you under the table

banking and people concept

If they expect to be paid in cash, you should be suspicious. | iStock.com/dolgachov

There’s a reason your personal trainer prefers to be paid in cash — they may try to forego paying taxes. It could also mean that they’re not qualified to train in the gym or are too cheap to pay training fees required by law. “If you notice your personal trainer is constantly looking out for gym managers who knows he isn’t supposed to be training in their facility, that’s a bad sign,” said Adams. “Be on the lookout when a trainer says they will ‘work out with you;’ this is usually a less-than-clever way of disguising a training session in a gym they aren’t supposed to be training in.”

6. They have you follow workouts on a smartphone

Woman holding in the hand iPhone6S Rose Gold in cafe

We’re guessing you can just as easily find an app by scrolling through your phone during lunch. | iStock.com/Prykhodov

There are hundreds of apps available that help you get in better shape, either providing you with personal training guidelines or workouts that fit your lifestyle. In other words, there’s no reason for you to pay a living, breathing human to guide you through something he or she didn’t customize for you. “Don’t fall for anyone using these tools for anything other than a way to show you what’s available when you aren’t training with them,” Adams said. “A trainer’s best tools are their own skills, a pad, and a pencil; that’s why it’s called PERSONAL training; not impersonal training.”

7. They put you in danger

Your trainer should be at your side at all times

No good trainer is going to overload the bar. | iStock.com

It’s your personal trainer’s job to push you to your limit or motivate you when all you want to do is plop down on the couch and catch up on your Netflix queue, but within reason. “Every trainer likes to see how much she can get out of her clients, but this should never involve unsafe exercises, experimenting on them with a new move she isn’t even sure how to do, or having them do something unsafe just to draw attention,” said Adams. If you feel unprepared for a particular exercise or piece of equipment, don’t be afraid to voice your concern..

8. They have a high client turnover

Fitness instructor exercising with his client at the gym

An instructor who always has different clients isn’t a trainer you want to work with. | iStock.com/SolisImages

Ever wonder why it’s hard to book sessions with a gym’s top trainers? It’s typically because they only increase their number of clients and not decrease. “As with any successful business, good service and a good product are a must, so when people find a good trainer they usually keep him or her,” said Ryan. If you find yourself with a trainer who is always looking for new clients, you might want to ask someone they’ve worked with why they’re dealing with an empty nest.

9. They use their cell phone during client sessions

female athlete with a sports bag listening to music on her mobile phone

Is your trainer paying more attention to their phone than you? | iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

Both Ryan and Adams agree using a phone during a training session is just flat out unprofessional. The only exception is when you’re videotaping a client to provide feedback. Even in this case, Ryan says simply looking at programming or using a timer can cause a trainer to lose focus on the client. This also subjects the trainer to texts, emails, social media updates, etc. “Get an iPad and a wristwatch and your clients (as well as potential clients and other trainers) will think more professionally of you,” he said.

10. They’re only training you until something better rolls around

You want a dedicated trainer

Go for someone who’s truly dedicated to a career in fitness. | Phil Walter/Getty Images

Personal training is a well respected career path — not just a job for someone to score some extra pocket money. For this reason, you should seek out someone who takes it seriously. “Many trainers use the flexible hours to have a job until they’re ready to move on to something else,” said Adams. Whether it’s because they’re finishing up their degree in a completely unrelated field or are simply filling a gap between jobs, it’s not your problem. Adams recommends looking for trainers who have a degree or are in school for a health-oriented degree, have several years of experience, or have even spent extra time and money obtaining advanced degrees or certifications.

11. They’re unmotivated

You trainer should care about you and your goals

If your trainer doesn’t seem to care, it’s time to look elsewhere. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Your personal trainer shouldn’t be putting you to sleep during sessions with his boring repertoire or life stories that have nothing to do with your fitness goals. “Trainers come with all sorts of different energies for different clientele, but the best trainers connect with each client and motivate him or her,” Ryan noted. “Some people respond to tough love while others need soft compassion, but each one is getting the motivation they need and deserve.” A smart move would be to find a trainer who can deliver the best you possible — and avoid anyone who has you yawning!

12. They constantly reschedule sessions at short notice

If they miss session, you should find a new trainer.

Do they constantly make you update your schedule? | iStock

Everyone has scheduling issues now and then, but Adams says good trainers will do their best to accommodate clients. However, if you are getting rescheduled quite a bit or placed with other trainers because you’re hired trainer couldn’t make the session, then you need to get another trainer. “These are signs the trainer would rather work with someone else or do something besides helping you achieve your health goals.” Look for a trainer than can guarantee you the time you need or can be consistent with the time of your training sessions.

[Editor’s note: This story was originally published June 5, 2017.]

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