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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Martin

What makes a good Personal Trainer?

What makes a good Personal Trainer?

Firstly this is obviously a matter of opinion and what follows is my opinion and therefore may have some bias towards the technical.

Personal Trainer

Above: Technically good.

Right: Technically bad (unless you want rotator cuff problems)

The next thing is that it is always going to be a matter of opinion it’s a bit like ‘horses for courses’ or ‘one shoe doesn’t fit all’. The type of Personal Trainer that suits one person won’t necessarily suit the next person.

We all have different –

  • Goals

  • Needs

  • Wants

  • Starting points

  • Ways of learning

  • And personalities.

Therefore lots of factors may influence your decision when choosing to work with a Personal Trainer. My advice is be aware that many successful personal trainers are successful because they are very good at selling themselves. They may or may not be technically good as a Personal Trainer. Anyone can get someone to lose weight and get fitter by making them exercise hard. The issues are around the effect of the exercise on risk of injury, effect on posture and on long term health. That is why Personal Trainers should be qualified with REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals) recognised qualifications to Level 3 as a minimum.

The other issue which I have often seen arise is whether the Personal Trainer is training the client (you) to actually achieve their (your) goals. Have they actually listened to what you want and taken the time to think about that and design a programme to specifically meet your goals and needs or are they just getting you to train the way they like to train. And when I talk about needs this is where the Personal Trainer should in their role be frank with you if they recognise that you need to address other areas in your training such as postural correction either before or as part of your overall program.

We have 2 eyes and 2 ears but only one mouth, there is a reason for this. We should observe and listen more and talk less. The more you listen and watch the more you learn and the more you understand!

Yes as a PT if you are counting reps and encouraging your client to work harder that is good but is your PT also using appropriate technique Cues? ‘Sit tall’, ‘Stand Tall’, ‘Shoulders back’, ‘knees above feet’, ‘neutral spine’, that sort of thing.

If you are looking to employ a personal trainer do they have good posture? Do they look fit and healthy for their age?

Ask yourself will this PT help me achieve my goals? Firstly obviously you need to know what your goals are. So what are they?

  • Lose weight and tone up

  • Bulk up

  • Get stronger

  • Get fitter

Non-specific goals. Or are they more specific goals like?

  • Training for a sport, competition or event.

  • Recovery from an injury

  • Management of a medical condition

Is there a specific measurable goal you want to achieve?

There is a degree of overlap in many of the goals listed, largely because non-specific goals can be made more specific with target amounts of improvement and time schedules. However I don’t personally tend to be too interested in clients whose goals are not very specific.

With specific goals there are usually clear numbers involved; time, strength, speed, distance etc. Technique is usually a key element in achieving these goals. You can be very fit and very strong but may not be any good at a sport even if it is a strength specific sport, because technique is such an important element. Factors such as mobility, flexibility, balance, strength through range of movement, power and speed are all relevant when considering both sport specific training and injury rehabilitation.

Am I (Jonathan Martin) a good personal trainer?

I guess the best way to answer this is with a few case studies.

Case Study 1

A current client originally started seeing me having been working with a different PT as he was struggling with a shoulder rotator cuff problem. So we worked together and I coached him through the appropriate exercises and techniques to rectify his postural issues whilst continuing to build his general strength and fitness. Not only is his shoulder now better but his improved posture has helped with self-confidence, he has also now decided to get back into Judo. So now we have new goals and we are working on sports specific strength work and higher intensity bouts of exercise. We now have him using a technique called super-setting and doing sports specific exercises such as rotational push pull exercises on a cable cross over machine.

Case Study 2

A client I used to see a few years ago asked for help because he had back problems that were affecting him in most aspects of his life but he found he could exercise through swimming without pain. So we discussed also trying to improve his swim technique in the pool, but also in the gym building aspects of his strength to help his swimming. He continued to work with me for a year by which time his back problems were long gone. He learnt that he could do things he thought he could no longer do because of his previous back problems such as running. So he decided that he wanted to do triathlons with some of his friends and he achieved that a year after first coming to me. Through the training we did together and the training plan I put together for him.

Case Study 3

This client is the wife of case study 2 and a very highly qualified medical professional and as a result of the work I did with her husband she then chose to pay for PT with me to rehabilitate her ankle after she fractured it. Instead of using NHS physios which would have been convenient given her work. Within 3 months of coming out of plaster we had her running pain free and working towards improving her general fitness and running ability.

So am I a good personal trainer?

When it comes to the technical coaching side of PT definitely, possibly one of the best but I am not one of the most successful because I am not a sales man, I am a coach. If you have specific goals I can get you those results. I am not the most entertaining PT out there I am too busy listening, observing and thinking about how to get you to achieve your goals quicker and more effectively to spend the whole session chatting with you or shouting at you.

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