Seems like personal trainers are a dime a dozen these days, doesn’t it? Is it a fad, just a passing fancy, to hire someone to tell you you’re doing a good job and count your reps out loud?
No actually, not at all! A trainer with a degree in exercise physiology, current certifications, and experience with many clients can help you in immeasurable ways. Just like the tax accountant you hire, and the doctor you consult, a professional trainer is a wealth of knowledge in his or her field.
Consider this: are you getting results the way you are training now? Are you satisfied with your physique and performance? We are long past New Year’s Resolutions, and spring break even sneaked past us. If you aren’t where you want to be for the rest of summer, consider consulting with a trainer.
Given the plethora of exercise options, workout gadgets, and get-fit-now! marketing out there, a personal trainer’s guidance is invaluable.
Of course, you know the obvious benefits of having a trainer: they help you be consistent, they motivate, they encourage. The less obvious benefits of a professional personal trainer are far more important though. Read on for the 6 most important ways an experienced personal trainer can help you.
A Personal Trainer Can Save You Time
Time is the only commodity we cannot gain more of. You can save money, ration goods, stockpile supplies but you cannot change time. How many people do you know that go to the gym regularly, work hard, sweat, but never seem to change? Many people do this! Why is that?
It is because they aren’t making a direct path between their present situation and their goals.
Why would you want to spend the time in the gym, the effort, the sweat, the time away from your family or other hobbies, if you aren’t making full use of it? Find a good trainer to help you establish the safest but fastest way to get the body and performance you want.
An Experienced Personal Trainer Has a Trained Eye for Movement
This is two-fold. First, your trainer will obviously have a different point of view. He or she can stand behind you, beside you, and see your joint angles, the bar path, and bar speed. Do you know exactly what your back is doing on your third deadlift rep? Most people don’t.
Do you know, objectively, how quickly the bar moved on that heavy set? Probably not. What you feel is extremely subjective, and isn’t always the best predictor of how to modify your next working set. This is why many people find videoing and replaying their lifts helpful.
I kid you not, this is exactly how my mind sees movement. Do you notice the angle of my back on the first squat? That green line? I want to maintain that as I squat. But, on my second squat, my hips shot up before my shoulders, changing the angle of that line. It is now illustrated in red. This video gave me pointers to work on, and I have improved tremendously in the months since.
A trainer will be even more beneficial than a video, because in addition to another visual angle, an experienced trainer will have a much fuller perspective. If you are not a personal trainer, it makes sense that you spend the vast majority of hours in your week becoming an expert in something else. A good trainer, on the other hand, is in the gym all those hours that you are not, becoming an expert on lifting and coaching.
In the 10 years that I have been a certified personal trainer, I have seen thousands and thousands of lifts. Many have been successful, many have been missed lifts. Others have been in the gray area between; a completed lift with ugly form, an easy PR, a grinder that was narrowly missed.
Because I have seen so many different lifters with a wide variety of experiences levels and technique, I can easily see the exhaustion near a maximal lift. I can see the body nearing a breaking point, or conversely, the body that can safely handle more, even if the lifter feels exhausted. Working out in a fatigued state is when it is most important to choose your next sets carefully, and a good trainer can be sure you don’t leave good work undone, or push unsafely.
A Personal Trainer Can Give You New Ideas and Breathe New Life Into Your Routine
Are you, like your gym acquaintances who seem to make no progress, spinning your wheels? There is a very fine line between a groove and a rut. You want to get into a groove. Changing workouts too frequently is not beneficial. Doing something different every week won’t let you master the exercises enough to earn results.
A well designed workout, which you take weeks to fine tune and perfect, will bring you the best results. Stay too long in that same exact workout, and it becomes a rut. The challenge is finding that well designed workout, committing to it for the right period of time, and knowing when to change.
Often, people know when it is time to change workouts. They feel bored and become uninterested in going through the same motions. Results taper off, and progress becomes rare. The issue is that while they are aware that they need a change, they might not know what to do next.
This is when a trainer’s input becomes valuable. A knowledgeable trainer will be able to introduce you to exercises which are the next step for your level of competence. These will be exercises that are specific to you and your goals, and not just busy work, or exercises that are just different for the sake of being different.
An Experienced Personal Trainer Can Help You See Through the BS
Fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. Check out America’s fitness related consumption in 2012.
Clearly, Americans are interested in fitness, wellness, and aesthetics. However, not all of these things are genuinely good products, or even honest efforts at providing a quality product to the consumer.
Shiny fitness fads blow through Instagram and other social media outlets like wildfire; everybody jumps on the bandwagon with the “in” move or product. Weird abductions on the yes/no machine, anyone? #belfies? Shake weights, sauna suits, squeems, and waist trainers.
Ack! Google “worst fitness trends” for some laughs, but don’t actually try these things. Many can be dangerous, and if you unknowingly jump on these trends, you could cause more harm than just embarrassment at being seen in public with the worst footwear ever (ahem, Skechers toning shoes endorsed by fitness icon, Kim Kardashian).
By the way, Skechers paid $40 million to consumers in a settlement because the shoes have caused injury and have no basis for the claim to improve fitness.
The Thighmaster does not spot reduce fat on the thighs, but it does contribute to a poor movement pattern which can cause knee pain and ACL injuries. Most people do not need to strengthen their adductors, but actually need the opposite. Knee valgus, which is collapse of the knees inward toward each other, is a common occurrence and is exacerbated when the adductors are stronger in proportion then the abductors. Squeezing the legs together with the Thighmaster reinforces this movement pattern.
Waist trainers compress internal organs and can damage ribs. Sauna suits can excessively dehydrate you. Both of these can even make you lose consciousness.
I digress. Rely on a professional personal trainer to help you find safe, effective exercises tailored toward your goals.
A Personal Trainer Can Solve Biomechanical Issues that are Unique to You
We are all the same, but we are all different. We all have the same muscular originations and insertions. The long head of my biceps originates on my supraglenoid tubercle, which is on the scapula. So does yours. But my scapula and yours are differently shaped, which is why some people have pain from heavy dips, and some don’t. And some people are more prone to impingement in the shoulder from upright rows than others.
How do you know how your bones are shaped, and what exercises to avoid? Without exploratory surgery, you probably don’t. Becoming adept at listening to your body can help you head off problems before they become severe. A competent personal trainer who understands anatomy can help you solve problems you don’t even know you have, saving you time and injury.
I, for example, am hyper curious, which is another way to spell “nosy”. Just kidding. But, I always wonder what works, what doesn’t. And, I ask! I ask people why they do the workouts they do, what their goals are, if their program has yielded results, and if they have had adverse effects like overuse injuries. I ask for tips that have helped their motivation, meal planning, and mindset. The collective knowledge and experience from the many individuals’ trial, error, and success is invaluable.
A Personal Trainer Can Help You Avoid Injury
Do you know what population is in danger from doing planks? Do you know simple tweaks to make dips less likely to cause joint pain?
Trainers can cause injuries that won’t manifest themselves for years down the road.
Most importantly, did you know there is no legal requirement, qualification or certification to be a personal trainer in the US? It is a completely unregulated industry with no barriers to entry. Your neighbor kid who dropped out of high school can be a personal trainer, and if he’s a good salesman, he might even collect money from people for his “services”.
Your esthetician who does your facials, hair cuts, and manicures require more certification for their services than any personal trainer out there. Scary, isn’t it?
To answer the above questions, high blood pressure is a contraindication for isometric exercises like planks. A better and safer option is to do pushups while breathing regularly. Max effort lifts become isometric when the lifter fails, so knowing when/if to max is a critical decision too. Retracting the shoulders minimizes stress on the front of the shoulder, so dips are less likely to cause pain or injury.
I do hope that all of you reading are happy with your present situation, but working toward your goals too. I love to see people succeed! If I can help you do that, or if you have questions, please contact me!
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.