Is your personal trainer any good?

Personal trainers and strength coaches cost a lot of money per hour. They have to charge this because courses are not cheap, and neither is equipment or ground rent at the gym. Don’t forget no holiday/sickness pay or bonuses. However, you need to get your monies worth.

They use their phone to benefit the session and that is all

You are paying them for their expertise, knowledge and time, and to help you. You should have their undivided attention. You’re not paying them to upload their “amazing” workout prior to your session to Instabang, troll on Farcebook, or blow 140 characters of bird song from their own trumpet. The timer, camera/app for form, your programme should be the only things open on that device.

They do an initial assessment of your fitness/health

Getting fitter and healthier is a journey. For this journey you need to know two things. One is the destination, what you want out of it. The other is the origin. If you don’t know where you are, then you can’t work out the directions to get to where you are going.

They don’t use exercise as a punishment

I like to punish myself but if you are late for a session; or have missed a target; or maybe put on body fat or weight and they get you to do 20 burpees as penance; then this could give a negative image of exercise to some people, and can be demotivating. Unless you are one of those weirdos, like me, that enjoy it.

They don’t just count reps and sets or time you for an hour

You get to the gym. The PT warms you up and then puts you on the treadmill at a steady pace for 20 mins. There goes 15-20 quid on something you could probably easily do by yourself. Your trainer should give you something that you can’t do on your own. They should be correcting form, giving you cues and not just counting (your money).

They get you under the bar

A good coach will get you doing compound movements when they know you are ready because these and Olympic lift variations give you “more bang for your buck”, taxing the central nervous system and neuromuscular pathways as well as making you a beast in a shorter time.

The athlete earns the right to progress

Leading on from the last point, the trainer should only progress you when you are competent at a movement and not until. If it’s your second session and you’ve only trained in a gym for 3 months and they give you a barbell snatch, then I’d be a bit wary. The trainer should also be able to give you regressive exercises to take you back a few steps if you can’t do a certain movement or have been injured/had time off.

They share/teach how programming/periodisation works

It is my goal to make myself redundant to clients by imparting knowledge of programming on them, and my clients still come back because I’m always learning.

They have your health, safety and well-being at the heart of the session/programme

This is probably the most important. They care about you and what is happening in your life. They build a rapport and can change the session around your mood, fatigue, injuries. They know when you’re just being lazy and are trying to pull a fast one. Equally, they know when you need to be worked a little less and maybe what was 80% last week feels like 95% this week. 


By Rich Hudson

Rich is a Level 4 Strength and Conditioning Coach who has been in the fitness industry for 7 years. He runs his own business, New Heights Fitness, which is based at the Castle Climbing Centre, primarily trains climbers.



  • Posted by Jim on

    I’ve had problems with my hamstrings and employ a PT once a week. I’ve been with her now about 12 months and was thinking of breaking away to train on my own. She has been really good and has helped in my re-hab but it’s a lot of money to part with each month as well as paying my monthly fee to the gym and having to travel to her place and back. Was looking for some advice if possible, Thanks, Jim

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