5 Tips for the question: “Should I get a personal trainer?”

Should you hire a personal trainer for weightlifting? The answer is: yes, but be careful how you do it. If you are trying to decide whether to work out with a personal trainer, here are 5 tips that I want you to think about.

1) Even dentists go to dentists

I’ve been working out since I was 15 years old (about 25 years ago), and a lot of people are surprised that I work out with a personal trainer. Some variation of “Haven’t you learned everything already?” is always the question they ask.

There is a difference between knowing something, and being able to see it in yourself and have someone help you to do it.  There is an old saying: even dentists go to dentists, and therapists go to therapists.  There are some things that, no matter how much you know, you can’t do for yourself.

No matter how knowledgeable you are, you can’t always see your own form to give yourself the little corrections and adjustments you might need along the way. No matter how good you are at working out, you fall into natural habits and patterns that only an outside person can notice and say: “Hey! Let’s try this a little differently for a while.”  You can be a championship bodybuilder, or a the fittest 70 year old in the world who has worked out for half a century, and you should still use a personal trainer from time to time.

2) Don’t hire someone JUST because you think she or he is hot

Does this one even need to be said?

Apparently, the answer is “yes” because it’s the number 1 stupid thing I hear from people who are considering hiring a personal trainer.  “He looks really good, so I bet he knows what he’s doing!”

Look: there’s nothing wrong with hiring a personal trainer who is also attractive, if you find that motivating for you. But there are also a lot of attractive people who have no clue what they are doing.

So if it’s important to you that your personal trainer be attractive, that’s fine. While choosing a personal trainer, after he or she has passed that first test, make sure that he or she also passes the next test, which is….


3) If the personality isn’t a match, don’t do it

How often do you work out? Three days a week? Five days a week?  Is it for an hour a day? Maybe only half an hour a day?

Regardless, if you regularly work out with a trainer, there is a good chance  that you will be spending more time with this person on a weekly basis than you even spend with some of your friends.  The only person that I spend more time with in my life than my personal trainer is my romantic partner…. whom I live with.

Plus, hiring a trainer is a lot like hiring a psychotherapist:  There are different styles out there, and if the style that your trainer has is not one that meshes with your personality, then it will not help you.

Personal Trainer have different stylesSome personal trainers are very aggressive. They will yell and they will “get on yours case”.  There is nothing wrong with that, IF that is something that you respond positively to.  I know plenty of people who do: they get a little mad, but they turn that into motivation to push themselves harder.  Good for them.

But that’s not everyone.

Personally, I like a personal trainer who is a “teacher”.  I like him to explain to me why we are doing an exercise a particular way, what it accomplishes, and why it is different from other exercises. Some people don’t care, and get annoyed by that: they say, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”.  Again, you just need to find what works for you.

One more weird and personal example:  I’m gay, but I’ve always preferred working out with personal trainers who are straight guys. I think this is partly because I like keeping my social life separate, and I don’t feel like getting dragged into a conversation about what bars we each went to over the weekend.  However, I think there’s a little bit of psychological double-think, too, on my part: I push myself a little harder because I don’t want to “look like a wuss” in front of the straight guy. Feel free to psychoanalyze that however you want…. but the fact remains.

So whatever your triggers and style and motivations are, find them out and then make sure that you have a trainer who fits. Don’t be afraid to stop working out with a trainer after a couple of sessions if things aren’t working out.


4) Don’t use the same personal trainer for years and years

I’m going to get some flack from my friends who are personal trainers for this one.  But I have to be honest about my opinion.

To my trainer friends: this isn’t a criticism, guys. The simple fact is, you are a human being like everyone else. That means you have your own “favorite things” to focus on, favorite exercises that work for you, and your own habits.

The best thing for a person who is working out, though, is to “mix it up” from time to time. Just like trainers recommend changing what exercises you do on a regular basis, do the same thing with trainers.

Now bear in mind, I’m talking about long-term goals here:  You need to work out with a personal trainer for at least a year before you have any chance of learning everything he or she can teach you (assuming that he or she is any good).

However, after you’ve been working out with the same person for a couple of years, it might be time to just get a fresh perspective. Find someone else to train you for a while. Chances are they will see things the other person missed, or have new suggestions, simply because they have a different background or point of view.  You are giving yourself the best experience by exposing yourself to some variety.

A personal example on this:  The last trainer I worked out with was amazing in many ways, and really gave me a lot of improvements in my strength and size.  However, we never talked about posture.   I started working out with a new trainer, and one of his first comments was: “You roll your shoulders forward. We need to start doing exercises to pull them back more.”  Within a couple of weeks of doing his new routine, I noticed a dramatic difference:  my shoulders looked bigger, my back had a stronger V-shape to it, and I looked leaner!

Does this mean my previous trainer was wrong or bad in some way? No: he just didn’t have that perspective. It wasn’t in his background, and it wasn’t his focus.

So always keep yourself exposed to new things.


5) Part-time is better than nothing

If you are already disciplined and knowledgeable, you don’t need to work out with a trainer every single time you work out. If you’ve been working out for years and generally know what you are doing, and have good habits, then it’s probably overkill. It’s also probably spending more money than you need to.

However, you’ll still benefit from seeing a trainer once in a while.  I try to see a trainer once a week, and change my schedule so that I get to work out a different muscle group with him each time.  He trusts me to do well on my own, to ask for spots when I need to and he is not there, because I’ve been working out a long time and know what I’m doing.

But, on the days that he is there, he can remind me: “Hey!  You’re leaning too far forward on this exercise!” or “Hey! Keep your shoulders down and back!”

It’s these tiny things that, if they do not get corrected over time, build up and lead to even the most experienced bodybuilder having ineffective workouts.



Of course, there are other tips that you can find out there. There are plenty of places online to give you help with checking the more common and generic questions that people have: backgrounds and certification, or where to go or who to ask, pricing in different areas, and all of those things.

I wanted to mention this list of 5 tips, because these are things I do not see discussed all that often, even though they should be.


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