A Rant on Personal Trainers


I’m sick of being referred to as a personal trainer. Whenever someone asks me what I do, I hesitate for a moment. I don’t want to call myself a personal trainer because that is a universal cue for them to bring up a personal trainer horror story. Their old trainer made them max out on squats their first day and they herniated a disc, or their grandma went to a personal trainer and he had her do broad jumps until she tore her meniscus. 

What do you think of when you think of a Personal Trainer? You may have had a great experience with a trainer and have nothing but good things to say. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for a lot of people.

There is a lot of bullshit being passed off as personal training. This has left many people, including myself, with a warped definition of personal training. It’s a shame because there are many personal trainers out there who are doing things right.

The low barrier of entry to personal training has left many people skeptical with a negative connotation about the profession

I’ll share with you what many people think. A personal trainer is a person that…

  • Meets with their client’s at the gym a few times a week and charges  50-100$ per hour.
  • Sees no need to include assessment, questionnaires, or screens as they plan to treat all of their clients the same. 
  • Brings all of their clients through the same cookie cutter training program.
  • Doesn’t help with nutrition – this happens to be the most important factor when it comes to body composition change. If they do coach nutrition, they do it with a strict, one size fits all approach. 
  • Makes their clients dependent. They need clients so they do their best to make them dependent by not providing any form of education.
  • Tells their clients what to do. They were hired to train so they expect their clients to do as they’re told and not ask questions.
  • Blames their clients for a lack of results. They refuse to take personal responsibility for their client’s results – what they are getting paid for. 
  • Questions their client’s willpower and dedication. They question their client’s toughness when they complain of pain. They don’t understand the source of the problem and their ego is too big to refer out, so they tell challenge their client’s to work through the pain.

I consider these types to be exercise overseers. While the upper echelon of fitness professionals is evolving and making great advancements on these points, there are still way too many exercise overseers out there.

It’s a shame that these types are grouped with the next generation of fitness professionals – for both clients and fitness pros. How is a client to recognize between the two? How is the professional to separate himself from exercise overseers without throwing his industry under the bus?

I would say that personal training is dead, but it’s not. As long as people value fitness, there will be a market for fitness professionals – those who can help their clients develop plans to reach their fitness and lifestyle goals.


The Next Generation of Fitness Clients

The market is changing with the times. We are entering the age of freedom through technology. With the click of a button, the world is at our fingertips. Why should fitness be any different? 

With this age, people demand autonomy over their fitness and lifestyle. The next generation seeks professional advice with practical application. They seek those who offer to help them become an improved version of themselves, not a knock off version of the person giving the advice. They know where they are going; they seek the tools to traverse the path. 


They Seek Consultants

Now I’m going to tell you about the next generation of fitness professionals. They’re here already, but I call them “next generation” because they are the ones that will last until the next generation.

If you’re a personal trainer and not doing the things in the following list, pick one and start now – if you want to last as fitness professional that is. If you have a personal trainer and he isn’t doing all or at least most of these, find a new one. A next generation fitness professional is someone that…

  • Begins every client’s journey with some combination of in-depth assessments, questionnaires, and movement screens. This is crucial because it is impossible to formulate an individualized plan if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the client.
  • Uses different exercise and nutrition programs for different clients based on their experience and goals. People are different; they have different bodies and different goals. Their exercise and nutrition plans should reflect these differences.
  • Understands the importance of change psychology.  The best plan in the world is worthless if your client doesn’t adhere to it. 
  • Provides education. They understand that continuing education is critical to creating and maintaining lifestyle change. They consider it a job well done if a client no longer needs them because they have accomplished their goals and understand how to maintain the results. If they help clients get results, their schedules will be filled with referrals. 
  • Consults with their clients. They recognize their client’s autonomy and seek to offer their expertise to help them reach their goals. 
  • Takes personal responsibility for their client getting results. If a client is adherent to the plan and doesn’t make progress, the pro will find out what is causing the lack of results and adjust the plan. If the client is not adherent to the plan, the pro will figure out why – maybe he needs to adjust his coaching style or the client needs an easier plan.+
  • Understands that clients have other priorities in life besides fitness. A busy mom with sick kids is going to have a hard time making it to the gym, but maybe she can squeeze in a couple 15 minute workouts at home. A pro can adjust the plan on the fly to account for unexpected changes and competing priorities.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the two is results. An exercise overseer gets results with “good” clients – in most cases the clients could have gotten the same results on their own. 

A next generation fitness professional will get results with any and all clients. They don’t believe in “bad” clients.

They are well educated but don’t carry ideology. This leaves them with numerous tools. Though they carry a hammer, they don’t try to build an entire house with it. In the same way, Olympic lifting, heavy deadlifts, and broad jumps are great tools in their arsenal, but they don’t work for every situation – or even most for that matter.

Those who offer expertise, support, and accountability are the next generation of fitness professionals. It will be interesting to see if the title of the profession changes. My bet is that it will. My official title is “Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant” - one of the cool things about owning your own business is that you get to give yourself titles. 


+ There is the rare occasion where a client signs up with no intentions of putting in effort, thinking that they can buy results, but a pro should recognize this during the initial assessment.