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20 Signs Your Personal Trainer Sucks

20 Signs Your Personal Trainer Sucks

So, you’ve finally taken the plunge.

You’re sick of being mediocre, overweight and worrying about your health. You bought a new pair of running shoes and went to the gym, but as a lot of us do, you felt you needed a little extra help. It takes a big person to ask for it, so, well done!

You went to a free taster session, absolutely loved it, and signed up to a personal trainer. But 10 weeks down the line — and a couple of hundred dollars later — you don’t look much different, or feel much different, and you’re sore as hell the day after.

What gives?

It could be that you haven’t got your diet down to a tee. It could be that you haven’t tried quite hard enough in the sessions away from your personal trainer. Or, it could be that your personal trainer absolutely sucks!

Here are 20 signs your personal trainer is wasting your time, money and energy:

1. They Overcomplicate Everything

A sure sign your personal trainer sucks is that they can’t explain anything simply. Everything that comes out of their mouth seems to be some form of other-worldly language. Your personal trainer should be working hard to make sure they can explain things you as easily as possibly. They should not be using elongated Latin terms to explain that pull-ups make you stronger than lat pulldowns.

2. They Don’t Give You Work to Do Outside of Sessions

Your personal trainer sucks if they don’t give you work to do outside of your sessions together. If they charge you by the hour but don’t try to help you in the other 167 hours in the week, you need to fire them — straight away.

What you do in your one-hour session should help you to achieve your goals outside of your session. Good personal trainers give you homework, with a reason.

3. There Is No Sign of Programming

Does your personal trainer carry a clipboard around, marking today’s session? Do they have a log of all your sessions, past and present? The weights you lifted, for how many reps, and general comments on your sessions. A log that you can see?

Do they also show you where your training is heading, and where you’ll be in a couple of weeks or months?

If not. Guess what? Your personal trainer sucks.

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A personal trainer worth their salt puts an extreme emphasis on creating a program that works and adapts to you. It should progress, change and adapt in accordance with your results.

4. They Do Tabata for Everything

A sure sign your personal trainer sucks is if all of your sessions involve Tabata Protocol.

If you’re not sure what Tabata is, it’s 20 seconds of all-out work, with a 10-second rest, repeated over a four-minute time period.

Tabata used sparingly can be great for increasing your cardio fitness, and for shedding a few extra pounds. But, used all the time it can become an excellent way to get injured, overtrain (which makes you ill) and pass out.

This protocol has become a way for sucky personal trainers to switch off and not think about conditioning exercises. If you’re doing it all the time, there’s a good chance your personal trainer sucks.

5. They Look at Their Phone While You’re Training

Nothing infuriates me more than this point right here. If your personal trainer is taking (non-emergency) texts and phone calls, or checking social media in the middle of your session, they suck. There are no two ways about it.

You pay them good money to pay attention to what it is you’re doing. It’s not safe, it’s not professional and it’s a complete waste of your time and money.

6. They Only Count Your Reps

Your personal trainer sucks if they’re more bothered about counting reps than checking your technique. Counting reps is your job, it’s your trainer’s job to make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly, safely and to pull you up on bad technique.

A good personal trainer gets involved in the exercise, checks your technique from all angles and coaches you through it. They don’t just count to 10.

7. They Teach ‘Kipping Dips’

Your personal trainer sucks, if they teach you to do moronic exercises like this:

If you can’t do an exercise, build up the strength to do it. Good personal trainers recognize this. Bad ones teach you to do exercises like that.

8. They Talk More Than You Train

Your personal trainer sucks if your jaw hurts more than your muscles after a workout. Has your one-minute rest ever become a five-minute cool down while they talk about their latest escapades?

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All trainers talk, it’s what we do, but if you are having more conversations than sets, they suck and they’re wasting your time.

9. They Don’t Educate You

Your personal trainer sucks if they don’t try to teach you how to do things for yourself. If they don’t recommend books or blogs, or simply don’t teach you why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time.

There are a lot of personal trainers in the world who live by the mantra, “Make your client need you, not want you.” Don’t let yours be one of them.

10. It All Seems a Bit ‘On the Fly’

Does your trainer seem to do anything a little bit off the cuff? No session plan, no layout and no idea what they’re doing today? Do they umm and ahh about what exercise to choose, and become a little flustered?

Chances are, they suck!

If they aren’t planning out your sessions and adhering to your programming, then they’re setting you up for failure from the start. Don’t waste your money on an unprepared schmuck.

11. You Only Seem to Do Cardio

If your personal trainer spends your hour watching you on a piece of stationary equipment, they suck. Big time.

Your sessions are for being coached, strengthening your body and learning new techniques. Not to be stood and watched for a complete hour.

Your cardio is for the other hours in the week.

12. They Get a Kick Out of How Sore You Are

Your personal trainer sucks if they get a real buzz out of the fact you can’t make it up the stairs or sit on the toilet for the week following your last session. When their sole purpose is to make you sore and they tell you that “It’s an essential part of training,” they’re leading you on.

Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) — also known as that after-training pain — is a normal part of training. But it isn’t essential. You’ll feel it after you do something new, or you push yourself to your limit. Which shouldn’t be every week or every session.

Any idiot can make you sore – only a good trainer can make you better.

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13. They Don’t Practice What They Preach

This doesn’t mean your personal trainer sucks if they don’t have a six pack. That doesn’t reflect on them in the slightest — not everyone wants, or can get a six pack that’s sustainable.

But, it does mean your personal trainer sucks if they don’t train at all, if they don’t eat well, if they don’t look after themself and if they don’t try to expand their own training knowledge.

A good personal trainer doesn’t have to be an Adonis. But they should venture in to the weights room occasionally.

14. There Is No Emphasis on Nutrition

If your personal trainer doesn’t put any focus on nutrition, they suck. “I train so I can eat,” is not the answer you’re looking for when you’re trying to get results.

Nutrition, sleep and training are the most important things when it comes to getting your results. And they don’t break down to 33.3% of the job each. They’re all 100% of it in their own right.

If your trainer isn’t focusing on getting you to do the right work outside of the gym, you won’t achieve anything whilst you’re in the gym.

15. They Say, “No Pain, No Gain”

If your personal trainer has ever said this to you, they suck. Fire them. On the spot. Non-negotiable.

Pain is not the enemy, it is your friend. It’s your body’s alarm to alert you that something is wrong: that you should, in fact, stop doing what you’re doing and figure out the problem. There is a distinct difference between pain and the soreness you get when you exercise. But if your trainer asks you to fight through the pain, they aren’t worth your time or money.

16. They Speak in Absolutes

If your personal trainer believes there is only one way to do things, then they suck.

Your life, your needs and your body type are all different from those of their other clients. As are their needs from yours. But if your trainer wants to tar you all with the same brush and give you a ‘cookie cutter’ workout, then they need to be shown the door.

CrossFit isn’t the only way to burn fat. Deadlifts aren’t the only way to build strong hamstrings. Throwing up isn’t the only indication you’re working hard.

If your personal trainer can’t adapt and change, they can’t be worth your money.

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17. They Complain (a Lot)

Your personal trainer’s complaints should never enter the session. If they do, they suck. This hour is about you and only you.

Trainers who complain a lot are usually more invested in themselves than they are in you. Don’t work with someone who doesn’t make you their focus.

18. They Don’t Take Measurements

If your personal trainer doesn’t take any measurements beyond standing you on the scales for your first session, they suck. Hard. 

An effective trainer takes measurements monthly, if not weekly, so you can see your progress. It helps you carry momentum week to week, shows you when something isn’t working and allows you to see how far you’ve come.

If your personal trainer can’t show you where you’ve come from, they have no hope of taking you where you want to go. If there are no measurements, they’re not worth your time.

19. They Never Take Courses

If your personal trainer isn’t invested in their own development, they suck.

Now, they don’t need to be on a course or attending a seminar every week. But what they do need to be doing is constantly learning. They should be attending something relevant at least quarterly, or, you know, reading a book from time to time.

A good personal trainer wants to find the newest, most effective way to take you from point A to point B.

20. You’re Not Getting Results

If your personal trainer isn’t getting you results, they suck. That’s the be all and end all. This is the biggest metric that matters. At the very least, they should be trying to find out why you’re not getting results. You should be feeling stronger, leaner and healthier within a matter of sessions. And if you’re not, it’s time to change up.

Although, of course, if you’re pounding a double cheeseburger a couple of times a week, it could be your fault!

Featured photo credit: istolethetv via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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