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If you’re thinking about becoming a personal trainer, you need to know what one looks like. A bad trainer is a waste of money at best, and at worst someone who may cause their clients harm.
A good trainer is fine, but a great trainer is what you really want to be. The best trainers are passionate about what they do, they care about their clients, and they get results.
Here’s how to become one of the best:
You can be a good personal trainer without getting certified, but you may not ever achieve greatness. When working to become a trainer, this should be a top priority. Certification from a recognized, accredited institution tells clients a lot about you as a trainer right off the bat:
You’ve learned the foundational knowledge needed to train people.
You understand the human body and how it moves.
You have learned how to workout safely.
You know how to build training sessions on goals and how to help clients meet those goals.
You are keeping up to date with new fitness knowledge through continuing education.
Clients won’t settle for just any trainer. Certification doesn’t automatically make a trainer great, but it is the necessary foundation for becoming an excellent trainer.
Clients come to trainers with goals. They want to be healthier, lose weight, or gain muscle mass. A good trainer helps their clients refine those goals and make them more specific. A great trainer actually gets those clients to their goals.
The best trainers do this through assessment. A trainer should assess their clients before beginning any sessions and at regular intervals along the way. This helps them set the right short-term and long-term goals, measure progress, and adjust training plans so that the ultimate outcome is that the client meets their goal.
Fitness is not one-size-fits-all, far from it. The best way to meet a goal is with a plan that is unique and specific to the client. Great trainers get to know their clients, help them set goals, and assess them so that they can develop an individual training plan. Clients don’t want a trainer who just provides cookie-cutter workouts.
Assessments allow trainers to individualize plans for each client, but they also allow for adjustments. Great trainers recognize that they’re not perfect. They may create a plan that just doesn’t work for a client after all. They are not too arrogant to admit that a training plan failed and will make the necessary changes to help that client reach their fitness goal.
Proper form in workouts is essential, not just for results, but also for safety. A great trainer gets on the machines or down on the floor to demonstrate each and every move. They show clients before expecting them to be able to do the exercise on their own.
Great trainers go one step beyond simply demonstrating exercises. They pay attention throughout the entire workout. They watch their clients move so that they can correct form and make other necessary changes. They also do this to stay engaged and to motivate clients as they get tired or frustrated.
Great personal trainers know when to stop too. Check out this post about over-motivating clients and the risk of over-training.
You may be able to hit your goals with the same or very similar training sessions week after week, but great trainers mix it up. They provide a variety of workouts and exercises and come up with creative ideas to keep clients motivated and interested.
The best trainers know that a workout is just one part of the fitness and health equation. Nutrition is just as important, if not more so, when it comes to meeting a client’s goals. A personal trainer may not be a nutritionist or even a nutrition coach, but they don’t ignore food and diet.
A great trainer will push clients to make better food choices outside of the training session. While they cannot recommend actual diets or meal plans, they can provide tips and advice on how to eat well and fuel training sessions. They can also refer clients to a good nutrition coach if they struggle with diet.
The best trainers live by their own advice. How can you take someone seriously if they flout the standards they set for their clients? Great trainers lead by example and inspire their clients by showing them what a healthy lifestyle looks like in action.
A great fitness trainer takes the time to get to know their clients for several reasons. You need to know clients to make a targeted plan for their sessions, but you also need to understand how to motivate them. Some people like a tough-love approach, while others thrive on a gentle approach.
The trainer-client relationship is professional, but it is a relationship. A trainer should ask questions regularly and strive to build rapport. The best trainers develop a bond with their clients that is both professional and caring.
Use these signs to inspire you. If you’re a trainer or hoping to become one, recognize what it takes to be exceptional. These are the characteristics you can aspire to as you begin your career.
Want to be a great personal trainer one day? Know what it takes but also what to avoid. These are some of the common mistakes many trainers make.
While developing your career, it also helps to look at this issue from the other side. Can you recognize and avoid the signs of a bad trainer, or a just-okay trainer? Watch out for these warning signs:
Late for clients’ sessions. A client’s time is valuable. So is their money, and if they don’t get a full session because their trainer is late, they’re being cheated.
Inattentive during their client’s training session. They might get distracted by a conversation with another trainer or pull out their phone while they should be watching and interacting with the client.
No variety. They give clients the same workout all the time with no variety and no progression.
No progression tracking. They don’t keep track of clients’ workouts, progress, or assessment results.
No form corrections. There’s no way a client always has perfect form, so if they’re receiving no feedback, the trainer is being lazy or isn’t paying attention.
Lack of planning. They come up with sessions on the fly or only plan one training session at a time. They should be planning months of workouts to support long-term goals.
No education. They aren’t certified and they don’t take regular classes to learn more.
Lack of credibility. They can’t provide any client recommendations or success stories.
There’s no one big secret to what makes a great trainer. It’s lots of little things that largely boil down to caring. Great trainers care about their clients and take pride in what they do. They’re educated, certified, and always learning.
Do you dream of becoming a great personal trainer? The ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program can help you get there. Start with a certification, but never stop learning and growing to be truly great in this rewarding career.
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