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Do I need a Personal Trainer?

Personal Trainer, do I need one?

I hear so many people stereotype Personal Trainers as people that just count reps and load the weights for their clients. Now if you are lucky and have a good PT, you would know a worthy one is way more than that. For starters, I don’t believe in loading the weights for my clients while they stand there and wait, unless they are injured or are physical inept to do so.

Why?

Going to a personal training session should be more than just doing the list of exercises your trainer has put together for you. It should be about getting you moving, getting you into the routine of training through a structured and progressive programme tailored to your goals, ability and equipment at hand, and should teach and enable you to train independently too, which involves putting weights away!

No matter the ability of my client and how long we’ve worked together, I try to educate them in our sessions and help them understand why we do what we do, because I am very against purely copying a movement by imitation. If that is what you’re getting, you may as well go to a Zumba class and copy the dance teacher… I want my clients to learn to engage their muscles, to retract/extend/flex/abduct/etc. their joints, to understand macronutrients better, and to be able to make informed and educated food and drink choices.

I won’t want anyone to be dependent on me just to get themselves in the gym, but at the same time I wouldn’t want them to feel like they don’t need me anymore because they can’t gain more out of working with me, whether that’s in person or remotely. I wouldn’t want any of my clients to go “all out” on the weekends or at a meal out then feel guilty, because they have been so restricted on a diet plan, but at the same time, I don’t want them to feel like the only way they will see results is if they only ate chicken, broccoli, and brown rice.

When I left a commercial gym my PT sessions were reduced by up to 75%. The feedback I got from this lot was that the sessions weren’t the same without me, as they couldn’t push themselves as hard, the exercises felt more difficult, it was harder to motivate themselves to get to the gym, etc.

I think this is a great test to see how much you really need your PT. Or maybe it’s a reflection on how much of a difference your specific PT makes to your training and life.

Other reasons why you may need a PT:

You are a complete beginner – definitely invest in a few sessions in learning the basic lifts (at least).

You have been a regular gym-goer for a while, have been following a decent training programme but haven’t noticed any changes – chances are you are not doing the exercises correctly.

You are recovering from an injury – just because you’ve been given a list of exercises from your physiotherapist, there is still a lot you can do to achieve your goals. I’m working with a client recovering from a broken wrist and within the first 4 weeks of training with me, using practically no free weights whatsoever and no cardio, he still achieved a loss of 2% body-fat.

You have no guidance on nutrition – find a PT who has the knowledge, experience and education to guide you in the right direction. It’s best to work with the same person who writes your training and diet plans as the two are intricately linked. Also, if you’re not seeing results despite sticking to a good training programme with decent technique, chances are your diet isn’t right.

Make sure you find a coach who actually knows what they’re doing and has experience working with complete beginners. I have had a lot of clients who have worked with other Personal Trainers before me and come to me with bad postures, injuries from incorrect or over-training, have had no guidance on nutrition so have seen little progress over the time, effort and money spent working with previous trainers.

A good trainer will (and should) assess your body from head to toe – from your stress levels, relationships with loved ones, relationships with food, posture, muscular and strength imbalances, ability to move, how strong you are, how fit you are – because all of this affect your health, fitness, happiness, and ability to commit and progress.

I tend to send my clients over to a local therapist if they have any injuries or niggles, even of the slightest. This ensures they are functioning at their optimal ability. On all cases of these clients we’re working with, they have seen an increase in overall strength, improvement in flexibility, and even accelerated fat loss, perhaps due to their ability to move better hence increased performance in sessions.

So to conclude, yes get yourself a PT. But one that will enrich your overall quality of health, life, mental and physical performance, flexibility, strength, and happiness in the long term, and can do so consistently and sustainably, using methods that are backed by science rather than the latest fitness fads. Hopefully your trainer will look at you as a whole, rather than “let’s smash some HIIT circuits this session because you want to lose weight” or put you on a bodybuilding programme because that is what he does and knows. And if the sole purpose of your trainer is there to pass you the weights, count the reps and chat with you, then you may want to reassess…

– Coach SLF.