All trainers are created anything but equal. Sprinkled in gyms across the country, you’ll find amazing ones that really know their stuff and will go above and beyond to help you reach your fitness goals. And then you’ll find ones that, even if well intentioned, will leave you spinning your wheels and wasting your time, money, and body.
To help you spot and avoid the latter, we asked 10 of the country’s best trainers straight-up what irks them the most about other fitness “professionals.” Read on before you book your first training session.
“I hate it when trainers tell a client, ‘I'll give you a different workout every time.’ Many new trainers do this, and I’ll admit I used to be guilty of it, fearing if we don't offer clients different workouts all the time, they'll get bored. But experienced trainers know that every exercise is a movement and that movement is a skill that needs to be practiced. Changing exercises and workouts too frequently doesn't give clients the chance to learn and become skilled in the movement, which is essential for long-term success.” – Exercise Scientist Pete McCall, C.S.C.S.
“Trainers who get their clients to film them while they show off an exercise. I’ve seen it happen.” – Beverly Hills-based personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S
“I get incredibly aggravated when I see a trainer who is not prepared for a session. A client’s workout shouldn't be a ‘wing-it’ situation. It should be well thought out and tailored to the client’s abilities and goals, which you should know ahead of time. Anybody can take a client through a machine circuit or a cookie-cutter workout. Do better!” – Kourtney A. Thomas, C.S.C.S, owner of Lagniappe Fitness in St. Louis.
"I hate it when trainers don't have a scientific backing for why they prescribe the exercises they do. A good tip is to ask your trainer ‘why?’ You don’t want them to toss you a huge exercise physiology textbook, but they should have put some thoughts into why they are having you do a specific exercise or nutrition plan. If they can’t answer it or their answer is ‘because I said so,’ I would look elsewhere.” – Exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S.
“The thing that bugs me is when a coach spends a bunch of time and energy—or web real estate—touting their own accomplishments, as if that makes them a good coach of others. Your athletic ability (gift?) doesn’t make you a good coach. Your understanding of the physiology involved, your ability to empathize and motivate is what makes you a good coach. Just because you ran Boston X amount of times, or qualified for the Olympic trials doesn’t make you the best coach. It makes you a strong athlete for sure—and that is indeed something to be proud of—but it doesn’t make you a good coach. – Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., exercise physiologist with Running Strong in Atlanta.
“The two types of trainers I can’t stand are trainers that talk more to their clients than make them sweat, and trainers that just ‘yes’ their clients instead of kicking some ass and getting results.” – Brett Hoebel, creator of the 20 Minute Body.
“Instead of delivering truly personalized workouts, many trainers just have clients perform workouts that are similar to what they perform themselves. Clients’ workouts shouldn’t based on the trainer’s specialty or bias; they should be based on the clients’ individual goals and needs.” – Nick Tumminello, C.P.T., owner of Performance University in Fort Lauderdale and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss.
“Something that I see very frequently is trainers helping trainees finish up their last reps and helping them set the barbell or dumbbells back. It’s frustrating because at the end of a set or exercise is when you really want trainees to struggle with their last reps. Those are the reps that are really going to change their body.” – Exercise physiologist Marta Montenegro, C.S.C.S.
“I can’t handle it when trainers show up late for clients. If my rate is $99 or more per hour, every minute of a client's workout is worth at least $1.50. Showing up late is an insult to their choice to spend their discretionary income with you.” – Alexander VanHouten, C.P.T., regional education specialist at Life Time Athletic Centennial in Colorado.
“I can’t stand ‘fitness’ personalities on social media with huge followings who post nearly naked photos with no real fitness advice or content. Not to mention trainers who create ‘creative,’ whacky exercises that don't have any real purpose or intention.” – Strength coach Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S.