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25 June, 2011
To answer this question we first have to decide on what the role of a personal trainer is. This is surely to do one thing, help someone to get results. However results mean different things to different people. From just turning up, to stripping bodyfat to building muscle. However lets look at by the most common goal or result that most people want to achieve – Lose body fat (often this is what is talked about, but really it is the feelings that people gain from achieving body fat loss that people want – increased confidence, self esteem etc). However if fat loss is the goal then there has to be several things that your personal trainer has to be doing. Remember you are paying this person on an hourly basis (and therefore every minute counts) and so that hour has to maximised.
1. Does your personal trainer have a measurement process and do they use it regularly or is it just a token measurement at the beginning and then something that is forgotten about?
Unfortunately people do not like to be measured as it not only shows up success, but also failure. However I find this with personal trainers as well. If we measured someone progress we would find that a lot of the time we are not as successful quite as much as we think we are. It is always nice to remember the odd success and always talk about them and forget the large majority of clients that have dropped off over the years. At Studio41 personal training studio in Wellington we use the biosignature method of hormonal profiling to track and measure our clients. This allows us not only to understand some ones hormonal profiling and therefore steps that need to taken to undergo weight loss, but also to track some ones lean muscle gains and fat loss.I can say that it is one of the hardest things when someone does not improve between measurements. However, if you take this not as failure and only feedback we simply learn that what we are currently doing is not working and therefore we need to change. Therefore to find out something is not working is still incredibly helpful as it allows us to try new things eventually finding the things that do work.
2. Does your personal trainer record your sessions (all the details)?
Our job as trainers is to help someone to improve. In order to improve we need to apply slight overload in-order to get that response. It is not simply “doing exercise with you”. So assuming they are using a programme (if not please run away very quickly) I need to know how many reps were achieved last week on what exercises and with what weight. Then and only then can I make sure you make another rep or you lift a slightly heavier weight. If you as a client lift the same weight as last week I have let you down and just wasted your time, and at Studio41, we value your money and time too much to waste it.
3. Do they periodise your training plan?
Here at Studio41 personal training studio we use undulating periodisation protocols, this means we will always contrast as much as possible heavier weight with volume. Having high volume all the time is a quick way to become overtrained (which is one of the many criticisms I have of Crossfit). So contrasting this with heavier weight (the term heavy being relative, it maybe 12 – 15 reps for a female or down to 2 – 4 reps for a male) with high volume is a great way to get the body strong and then teach it to use that strength to build a lean strong body.
4. Do they do the same programme or give you something different each week?
One of the biggest mistakes trainer make is that they try to entertain the client (refer to http://bit.ly/kfQfOf for more on this) therefore they are always on the search for the new and wonderful exercises. However staying on the same programme for 4 – 6 weeks allows the client to get stronger at that programme. Every time your body does a new exercise there is an element of “learning” the exercise your body has to go through, therefore taking away the ability of the body to get stronger. Someone should be on a programme for 4 – 6 weeks before changing it. However if your trainer is keeping accurate records they will know precisely the moment you plateau and thus know when it is the right time for you to change.
5. Do they keep you to minimal rest periods?
Although you should be able to chat freely with your trainer, if your goal is fat loss, understand you are not at your personal training session for a social catch up. 30 – 60 sec rest should be utlised with the right choice of exercises. If your trainer is not using thier stop watch to time your rest periods it is all too easy to talk about the demise of the hurricanes and end up with a 90 sec or 2 min rest which will totally undermine what you are trying to do. One of the hardest things as a trainer is to keep someone to strict rest periods as you develop a friendship. However, the trainer has to appreciate that your money is not being spent so you can catch up socially. Even after 2 years of training, you still deserve a professional attitude and sessions that are maxmised.
Remember, your trainer is a chosen fitness professional, chosen to help you achieve a goal, not to make you laugh or have a social catch up with you in a gym environment (it is ok to have these things if they are a byproduct of moving forward towards your goal). So choose wisely and don’t get stuck with one trainer, shop around until you meet one with the above criteria, and if you have a great personality match with a trainer but they don’t meet the above criteria, take them out for lunch every now and then, but don’t pay them for a body transformation that wont happen.