Shopping for a trainer-10 item list (or 10 improvements if you are a trainer)

Health, Fitness, and Performance is my profession, it is one of my many passions. I take pride in my work, I love my job. I currently own my own business, Spartan Fitness in Lenox, MA. where I am very picky about the type of trainer that we hire. I have a high standard for how I believe trainers should conduct business. I have met, observed, and worked with trainers of all different styles and dimensions. For me, there is a clear difference between a good trainer and a sub-par one. But for many, there is little difference between one trainer and the next. I’ve consulted many in this field on how to improve business and client base, through building a better reputation, and maintaining solid client retention. The answer starts with introspection and changing some of our bad habits. Below I’ve listed 10 of the top reasons on how a trainer can improve professionalism, but this can also be read as a shoppers guide to finding the right personal trainer for you. Therefore, if you are seeking a personal trainer, or currently have one, make sure that the money you are spending is going to a professional that is passionate about this industry and not just another meat-head that values your money more than your health.

#1 Certification

A trainer’s certification is his/her base, a foundation. A trainer with a 2-day workshop certification has built a business on quickly getting certified, as opposed to making it a process of studying and testing. It speaks volumes of a trainer and how he/she observes their profession. Do they take it seriously? Or just following the trend and trying to make a quick buck? Not all certifications are created equal. Some take a quick study guide and test online, some are weekend workshops, but the good ones, the ones you should only concern yourself with, are the ones that require a schooling, or a difficult test through intensive study. The good certs are nationally accredited. The others (there are a lot of them), are not accredited, and do not get you far in a good gym or studio. A facility that doesn’t care what its trainer’s have, is not a facility to train in. The service, knowledge, experience, and passion is typically inadequate. Would you trust a doctor with a weekend workshop license? Or one that spent years of education with required continual education?

High caliber facilities and trainers regard these certifications as the best ones to work with.

  • NSCA (National Sports and Conditioning Association)
  • CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)
  • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)
  • NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
  • PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist)
  • CES (Corrective Exercise Specialist)
  • ACE (American Council of Exercise)

If shopping for a trainer, this is a good place to start. Find a trainer with one of these certificates. Remember, the certification isn’t everything, but it is the foundation in which the house is built upon. I would also even go as far as verifying the certification through the certifying company. They often have online resources to search trainers, or a quick phone call can verify if a trainer is being honest about his/her certs. Sadly, I would not trust a trainers credentials. Always verify. There is a lot of false advertising with this industry as I’ve seen many lie about their certifications.

#2 Preparation

Your trainer should have your workout prepared for you. Remember, you are an individual with personal needs and goals. Your workout should reflect that. Having every client do the ‘Workout of the day’ is the lazy trainers way out of programming, its cookie cutter and demonstrates a lack of care, you deserve more. 5-15 minutes (per client) of preparation is plenty. When factoring in individual goals, needs, and weaknesses, program customization is key.

#3 Undivided Attention








You are paying good money for a service and that should be respected by the trainer. That means your trainer should start on time, not use a cell phone or text, chat with others only at a minimal level, and bathroom time limited. Your trainer should be able to adapt to his/her environment. Meaning, if someone is using a piece of equipment that you want to use, move on, there are thousands of different exercises, no need to waste time waiting in line.

#4 Salesman

This is a big one that is sweeping the fitness industry. You are seeking your trainer for his/her expertise, it is the service that you are seeking. It doesn’t matter if you are desire health benefits, looking better in a swimsuit, or functional strength, if your trainer is selling you products, duck and run for cover. This is disappointing on many levels. You would be skeptical if your lawyer or doctor (hired for a service) pushed for you to buy a product in which they made money on. It is simply unethical and I’ve seen way too much of it. Remember, fitness and health is about dedicating time and energy, it is not miracle cures in a bottle.

#5 Knowledge

Ask questions. Get a feel for how knowledgeable a trainer is. Where is this knowledge coming from? What influences the trainer? Trendy magazines and websites or studies and books from the best health professionals? We both know which is more credible. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Don’t fall for the trainer that always has the answer. It is okay not to have an answer, but to find the answer and point you in the right direction is whats more important. Trainers with good fitness and health knowledge have an easier time retaining clients. Does the trainer produce any intellectual content or does he/she just regurgitate other fitness and health articles?

#6 Practice what you preach

A trainer telling someone to lose weight when they need it themselves makes it difficult to take them seriously. Would you listen to a dentist with horrible teeth? A trainer that is aesthetically pleasing does not always mean they have the knowledge or understanding of the body to conduct serious training. A nice to look at body is good for a trainer to draw in business but it isn’t everything.

#7 Ethics

Be cautious of trainers that sneak into gyms that they don’t belong to to train. This undermines the professionals that are trying to make an honest career. This is a lack of professional respect. If a trainer is sleeping with his/her clients, they aren’t in it for the right reasons. I have black listed trainers that conduct business in this way.

#8 Sitting on the job

Your trainer should not be sitting on the job, it exudes tiredness and laziness. It displays a lack of attentiveness. Your trainer should be standing or kneeling beside you. I’ve done 15 hour days, without sitting once.

#9 Screening and Assessing









If you are not assessed and screened initially, you should be within the first few sessions. Assessments create a benchmark and tell both the client and the trainer a great deal of information. Above that, trainers need to be conducting some form of movement screen as well. The movement screen produces the most amount of information for the trainer. A trainer should be skilled in analyzing this information and presenting it to you in a useful way. Hands down, the best certification for this process is the Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES).

#10 Working out with clients

Because the trainer will be watching your movements and joints during exercises, you should have his/her undivided attention. Therefore, working out with a client does not give the trainer the best perspective for observing and correcting faulty movement patterns. A misconception about trainers is that we ‘get to workout all day’, not if we are conducting business at a high standard. If you are looking for a workout partner, grab a friend, or hire someone for half the cost. A trainer is there for his/her expertise, motivation, and watchful eye.