10 Signs Your Personal Trainer Sucks

Personal Training 5 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Let’s face it. Not everyone is a winner. In fact, there are a lot of losers.

When you don’t know the ins and outs of an industry it’s hard to know who’s worth their weight in gold, and who’s a real dud.

Today you’re in luck. I’ve put together a list that will tell you if your personal trainer sucks. These are 10 red flags that are a sure sign of a lousy trainer.

Maybe you don’t have a personal trainer yet. In that case you can use this list to judge someone before hiring them. You should also check out our article about hiring a personal trainer.

1. They put you on a cardio machine

At no point during your training session should you ever be on a piece of cardio equipment. Cardio is what you do on your own because it doesn’t require supervision. If your personal trainer puts you on a treadmill for half of your session you can be sure they are mentally checked-out. The hard-earned money you fork over every month should buy you serious training, not a cheerleader or chat buddy while your on the elliptical. If the treadmill is part of your warm-up then it should be done in the 10 minutes prior to the start of your session.

2. They never or rarely use free weights

Free weights are the bee’s knees. The GOAT (greatest of all time). Nothing will develop your strength, coordination, and change your body like a barbell. If you aren’t using free weights during your session you are being cheated by a sub-par workout. Now you have to begin to wonder why you aren’t using free weights. Is it because your personal trainer doesn’t know how to use them? Do they lack the expertise to teach proper form? Do they think free weights are dangerous? In the end it doesn’t matter what the answer is. You are getting the short end of the stick.

3. They insist that you eat X meals a day

This is a myth that just will not die. Weight loss studies do not show a difference between 1 vs. 9 meals a day, 3 vs. 6, or a host of other different meal frequencies. The idea that frequent small meals keeps your metabolism ramped all day is an outdated myth. Yes, it’s true that your body has to use calories to process food. But no, it doesn’t matter how you split the day’s meals up. The food still takes the same amount of calories to process whether it is consumed all at once or broken up. If your trainer has ever said “metabolic fire”, your personal trainer is an idiot. The same applies for “muscle confusion”. Your trainer is just confused about how the body works.

4. They cancel appointments

Whether they are cancelling appointments or late (this might be worse), your personal trainer is not valuing your time and money. Don’t get me wrong: emergencies happen and unforeseen events occur, but if this happens more than once a month it’s a sign your personal trainer doesn’t prioritize you.

5. They have another job

There are only two reasons a personal trainer would need a second job. Either they are new to training(inexperienced) and haven’t built their clientele up, or they aren’t good enough to pay their bills with training alone. You don’t want to be with either of these people, because your money would be better spent on a professional. The world is full of amateurs masquerading as experts, and your trainer isn’t worth your money. This one extends to any professional. If they have more than one job they aren’t a professional. Don’t hire someone that does your work as a side gig.

6. They don’t keep a workout log

I just can’t understand this one. Just like a scientist keeps a meticulous journal in the lab your personal trainer should keep a record of everything you do in a workout. Why? First, this is a way to ensure your workouts are progressively harder. This is what keeps you growing and advancing. Second, it is a helpful way for them to remember what little tweaks to an exercise helped avoid aggravating your nagging shoulder pain, or that you absolutely LOVED that ab circuit on Tuesday. Any good trainer is going to work with 15-20 other clients each week, and no ones memory is perfect. A log helps a good personal trainer stay on top of your progress. Personal trainers that suck just wing it every session. Sure, you may leave feeling sore and winded, but your results aren’t as good as they could be.

7. They use a bosu ball with you

Bosu balls are bullshit. They have no place in anyone’s program, and they certainly don’t have a place in a strength training program. Doing exercises on a bosu ball will certainly make you better at, well, doing exercises on a bosu ball, but it does not translate to athletic performance. It also slows down your muscle building and strength gain. How? You can’t use as much weight or push it as hard when you’re worried about dropping a dumbbell on your head if you lose your balance. Yes, a bosu ball makes many exercises more challenging, but challenging isn’t always synonymous with effective.

8. They use words you don’t understand

Femoral Anterior Glide? Pronated grip? Amortization phase? Your personal trainer is speaking to you in industry jargon, and probably just learned those terms to pass their certification test. Do you know the hallmark of an expert? They can explain complex ideas to a five year old. If you find yourself scratching your head trying to understand what your “professional” is talking about, your personal trainer sucks.

9. They don’t explain things to you

One of a personal trainer’s jobs is to teach you. In fact, this is their primary job, because knowledge is power. Too many trainers want to “give you a fish” instead of “teaching you to fish”, because they are afraid you won’t need them anymore. Personal trainers that keep you dependent by keeping you ignorant suck.

10. They count reps for you

Sometimes it is helpful for your trainer to count each rep to get you through a particularly grueling set, but 95% of the time the counting should be your job. Your personal trainer’s job is to watch every aspect of your repetition, from different angles, constantly analyzing, assessing, and providing feedback. Don’t pay a professional counter. Pay a professional trainer.

Boom. Done. List complete. Take a minute and think if your current trainer fits the profile. If they don’t, congratulations! You’ve got yourself a winner.

If they do, run. Cite your reasons, and terminate your relationship with them.

Consider hiring the best personal trainers in Tallahassee.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.