Tired of moving from trainer to trainer only to find that your workout results pay the price? With very little agreement between different trainers even within the same gym, it's difficult to decide which trainer has your best interests in mind, and which trainer just plain doesn't. Strength and conditioning coach Arnav Sarkar breaks it down for us and tells us how to find a good trainer. Listen up!
How can an average gym-goer ensure that the advice he/she gets from a trainer is authentic and accurate?
Word of mouth is a good way to estimate a trainer’s competence. If his clients speak about the positive experiences that they have had training under him, then chances are that he is worth listening to. This however is not always possible, especially if the trainer is new. In this case taking a few sessions under him would be the best way to go. A good trainer will listen to you and not try to kill you during the workout, and neither will he ask you to follow extremes in your dietary habits. If he is asking you to make extreme changes like give up a particular food group, or asking you to train 2 hours from day 1, then he is likely to be incompetent at his work, and best if avoided.
My friend Sean Casey wrote a very definitive article on how to choose a trainer, and one that I recommend all should read to make a better choice when selecting a trainer.
Many trainers recommend protein and fiber/vitamin supplementation without checking their clients' current food intake or even body type. Is this correct? Are all trainers qualified to give dietary advice, or do only a few courses cover dietary theory as well?
Why only protein and vitamin supplements, they also try to sell anything from Creatine, fat burners to dangerous drugs and steroids too. The reason is simple, to make extra cash by selling you costly and overpriced supplements. You see, most of these supplements offer a large percentage of profit to the trainer if he can sell them to you, and most of the times people who buy them, think or are brainwashed to believe that these supplements are the key to physique transformation and thus become regular users, and become a monthly source of income for the trainer.
On the other hand a good trainer is not a supplement salesman! He will first try to know about the client’s food intake, physical demands, etc before advising a diet and/or supplements. Plus good trainers will often avoid suggesting a supplement for most unless they are not at an advance stage. As far as whether trainers should give dietary advice is concerned, I think that a well read trainer can give dietary suggestions to healthy and normal individuals, but if the client is facing any medical problem like high BP, high blood sugar, etc then he should suggest the client to meet a nutritionist or some medical authority who works with patients of the same medical problem.
Are all “certified” gym trainers at the same plane? There is very little knowledge about the hierarchy or credibility of trainer certifications. Could you briefly, explain this to us.
As much as trainer’s these days love to brag that they are “certified” to impress prospective clients, the fact remains that being certified does not guarantee much. For eg there are some very well known and respected courses out there which conduct open book examination, meaning that the trainer can sit at home, look for the answers in the book and give the exam. So when someone passes such an exam, there is no way to guess how good he or she is actually.
Plus even with the courses that take exams in a regular manner, often times the course itself involves things that are more theoretical and less practical. For eg most courses teach a ton about physiology, but very little about the specifics of program design, exercise progression, and very little to nothing is tested in a real practical gym to see if the trainer is really able to apply what he has learned in class. Having said that I would still suggest that between a non certified and certified trainer, your best chances of improvements are still probably by working with the certified trainer, but overall I would suggest that looking at the trainer’s track record and how well you feel working out with him might be a better indicator when choosing a trainer.
How can we tell if a trainer is good?
Here are some indicators that can be used:
- If his or her clients look healthy, strong, and feel great working with him/her, then that trainer is likely to be good
- If he is known to be a thorough professional, who does not cancel sessions all the time without reason and shows up on time, then he is worth trying. Also beware of trainers who spend a lot of your training time talking on their cell
- Continuously keeps educating himself
- Pays attention to how you workout and points out to what you are doing wrong when you make any mistakes
- Enquires about what you ate, and at times shows displeasure if you make dietary slips
On the other hand here are some ways not to judge if a trainer is good:
- Has a great physique- often they can be genetically blessed or use steroids, so this by itself is not a complete criteria to choose
- Has results with clients that are too good to be true- if a trainer brags about how most of his clients lose 30 pounds in 2 months or gain 30 pounds of muscles in 2 months, then he is most likely using steroids and drugs to achieve such results. A good trainer will often focus on the process of training regularly, eating well rather than make out of the world guarantees
- Is young and has too many certifications- a master trainer who has been in the profession for 2 decades or more can collect a lot of certifications over such a long period of time, but if someone who has been in the profession for a few years and brags about 10 or more certifications that he has, then chances are that he is a fake
Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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