“Just because somebody looks the part doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good coach and able to articulate exactly how to get the same results,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Tony Gentilcore, cofounder of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. “You need to find someone who wants to make you your best asset.” Finding a personal trainer is kind of like dating: There’s a lot more to choosing the right partner than just going for the person with the best body.
There are tons of different factors that go into making somebody the ideal trainer for you, so it’s a good idea to look into as many of them as possible. “Bottom line, if someone has the ability to mess with your health, do your research,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Michelle Lovitt, a celeb trainer and Asics America conditioning coach. Here are seven questions you can ask a trainer before working out with them to avoid a mismatch.
1. What Certifications Do You Have?
Both Gentilcore and Lovitt agree you want to make sure your trainer is legit and has a good foundational knowledge of health and fitness. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) certification is a must, but a degree in exercise science or a related field is even better, says Lovitt.
2. What’s Motivated You to Become a Trainer?
Look for a trainer who chose his or her job in order to help others, to make the world a healthier place, or to motivate people to become their best selves—not someone who just likes to work out or wants to work with celebrities. Someone who’s training because it’s their passion will help you achieve better results.
3. Do You Have Experience Helping Clients Work Toward My Specific Goal?
Okay, first step here is to figure out what your specific goal is. Do you want to lose weight? Tone up? Increase your endurance? Here’s why that’s so important: Many trainers work with every single client the same way—the way that they themselves got in shape. No matter the individual goal (weight loss, fat loss, etc.), these trainers will have all of their clients practice bodybuilding or Crossfit or whatever got them to their current fitness level, says Gentilcore. “Hire someone who’s there for you and will work toward your goals.”
4. Can You Put Me in Touch With Any Former Clients?
Gentilcore and Lovitt both stress the importance of talking to former clients or reading their testimonials. “Make sure they’re not just motivational, that they actually know what they’re doing,” says Lovitt. Talking to a trainer’s other clients will help you learn what it’s like to work out with him or her before you fork over your hard-earned cash for your first session. Gentilcore recommends asking about the trainer’s general philosophy and how they treat their clients. You can also ask what they liked and disliked about the trainer, how the trainer helped them push through those tough final reps, whether the trainer explained the purpose of each move, and how quickly they started seeing results after starting to work out with the trainer.
5. What’s Your Training Personality Like?
You can ask this question directly or, at the very least, make sure you chat with the trainer enough before hiring them to make sure you’ll work well together and that their style is appealing to you. After all, says Lovitt, personality is everything. “Some people want a drill sergeant who can keep them motivated, but others don’t like having somebody in their face,” says Gentilcore.