IS YOUR PT RIPPING YOU OFF?HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM THEM!
Do you actually know what you should receive from your Personal Trainer?
If you do, then great. If not, then you’re certainly not alone. It’s not uncommon for someone to receive a PT service that just isn’t up to scratch for what a trainer should provide. It’s also not uncommon for one person to be paying a price with a PT that, if it was spent elsewhere with another, would provide them with considerably more value for money, alongside a service that would trump the majority of PTs.
Now, if you’re a “client” reading this then you’re about to hear my views on the bare minimum a PT should provide for their services when coaching clients regularly. This should then help you gain an understanding of what criteria a PT should meet when searching for the right one to coach you. If you’re a personal trainer reading this, you’re about to hear what you should be providing as a bare minimum to your clients. If you’re not already meeting this standard, then you can step up your game and begin to offer a higher quality service that will inevitably benefit both you and your clients.
In my years of personal training, mentoring, managing and much more, I’ve had many conversations with clients, friends, family and colleagues about their experiences with personal trainers. Sadly, many of these conversations end up with me being shocked at different aspects of the service they received. I’ve heard stories about PTs being unbelievably rude and aggressive, stories of complete unresponsiveness, ghosting and passive aggression, stories of ridiculous training sessions that have harmed or had the potential to harm the client, stories of considerable over pricing, no health checks, and confusion with payment; The stories go on and on. However, that’s not to say that every conversation went along those lines. There are often times (although these are far and few between) when a client describes a service to me that brings a huge smile to my face. A service that sets the bar high for PTs and truly shows care, commitment and specificity to the client and their wants/needs. When I hear these types of stories, my faith in personal trainers is restored. Well, at least until the next horror story comes along.
THE COMMON ISSUE WITH PERSONAL TRAINERS
It’s too quick and easy! Becoming a personal trainer isn’t exactly the hardest thing in the world. A level 3 personal training qualification is relatively simple and doesn’t take that long to complete, especially on fast track courses where people can literally have zero experience with health and fitness and then 6 weeks later become a qualified personal trainer. Actually, when I put it that way, it’s quite scary that someone can become a PT so quickly, even without any prior passion or experience in health and fitness. Part of me likes the fact that someone can become a PT so quickly because it’s very convenient and perfect for people who have a genuine passion, wanting to help improve people’s lives through health and fitness. But then there’s the people who might literally be doing it because they think it may be good money, or they do it just because they enjoy training.
There’s a lack of further education. Just because a PT has their qualification doesn’t mean they are actually going to be a good coach. Most PT courses only scratch the surface of how to run a PT business and provide a quality service. There’s a huge deficit in education on what PT should do in order to create and provide a quality service for both client and PT alike. Most PTs don’t know how to properly brand themselves, market themselves, provide a duty of care to clients, design a specific programme, check up on a client, charge appropriate pricing, motivate and inspire clients, communicate effectively, set their terms and conditions, create a business plan and much more. They just have a qualification and an understanding on how to provide a session based on generic goals. Now, this is understandable if you’re a brand spanking new personal trainer. I mean, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? HOWEVER, this is not understandable when you’ve been in the game for several years and you still sit on your phone whilst your client does burpees for 45 minutes (extreme example I know, but you get my point).
Seeing as a PT course only scratches the surface, in my opinion it’s a PT’s duty of care to then further their education and gain a better understanding of nutrition and training, to a point where they can easily cater for their target market, whether that be the general public, athletes, busy working parents or young teenagers. A trainer should become familiar with their field and aspire to combine knowledge with experience to help transform people’s lives for the better. Also, if you’re wondering what I mean by furthering education, I basically mean things along the lines of getting a mentor, attending seminars, reading studies and articles, pursuing specific nutrition and training courses, doing their own research, getting in the trenches and learning more from coaching people etc. These are just some examples of how a PT should be developing their skills and knowledge regularly. Often when a PT pursues higher education and conversates with other motivated and educated trainers, they naturally evolve into what would be considered a reputable coach in their field and can comfortably provide solutions to almost all of the problems their clients face.
THE BIG FIVE
To keep this blog simple and still provide plenty of value, I decided to break it up into 5 things a PT should provide as a bare minimum to their clients. Is there more than five that I could elaborate on? Yes, there certainly is! However, I’d be surprised if the majority of people made it this far through the blog, never mind if I turned it into a full-blown eBook… These five things or even rules should certainly suffice for now though, but if you want to know more just let me know and I can elaborate more a different time. Anyway, moving onto the big five:
Have you received a consultation from your PT? I pray the answer is yes! I also pray that they at least provided the bare minimum in consultation forms (something that is surprisingly uncommon). For example, your PT should provide you with a PAR-Q form (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire), a Client Profile form and finally a T&C’s form. These aren’t the only forms a PT may provide, but they should definitely cover these basics as a bare minimum.
A PAR-Q is basically a health screening questionnaire that covers the fundamentals for an individual to take part in physical activity. It consists of questions like “do you feel chest pain when performing physical activity?” or “do you lose balance or experience dizziness when performing physical activity?” etc,. These are simple questions that a PT should ask and get signed off to make sure that you are suitable to train. If you do have any issues that may cause harm or stop you from partaking in physical activity, then you should be referred to your GP who will make the decision on whether you are ok to train with your PT or not (99% of the time you will be fine to train). This form not only covers you, but also the PT as they have clearly taken the time to make sure you are in a suitable condition to train.
A Client Profile form can vary considerably in content; However, it should always follow the structure that consists of a series of questions that gather enough information for a PT to figure out a) if they can help the client achieve their goal, and b) to formulate some type plan specific to the client’s needs. It will include questions like “describe your short-term goal (a goal you want to achieve in 4 weeks)”, “how many times are you willing to train per week?”, “are there any potential restrictions or issues that may stop you from training?”, “have you ever followed a training/nutrition programme before?” etc,. The questions depend on the PT and their field of work as this will determine the types of questions they ask, but those are some basic examples so you can get the gist.
T&C’s are a PT’s terms and conditions. This is where a trainer can clearly layout all the terms of their service which will include things like trainer agreements, client agreements, payment conditions, expectations, their cancellation policy, their refund policy etc. It will give you a clear understanding of how the trainer works and what is expected of you as a client, and them as a coach.
If a PT doesn’t provide something as basic as this then you are taking a huge risk as the trainer hasn’t even checked if you’re in a suitable condition to train, gathered important information to formulate a plan and finally, helped you understand exactly how things work with their service.
The consultation process gives the PT an idea of your medical history, your goals, your exercise experience, etc. but this is still not sufficient enough to create a specific programme or session tailored to you. They need to take into account that not all of the information may be valid. For example, your view and understanding of yourself may not be as accurate as you believe. This basically means that you might think your squat technique is great, but when you’re assessed you have excessive knee valgus (knees caving in) and anterior pelvic tilt (bum sticks out due to spine curvature) which would be two considerable factors that increase risk of injury whilst squatting. In terms of nutrition, you might think you don’t eat enough calories and struggle with your protein intake, but then your nutritional intake is actually assessed and shows that you easily hit your calorie target for a calorie surplus and you hit your protein intake daily, which in terms of the calories would be the reason why you’re struggling to lose weight (remember these are just random examples).
There are also certain factors that a PT just simply cannot understand via a consultation; They have to specifically assesses these factors themselves in order to gather appropriate information so that they can truly help you. Here are some simple assessments that your PT could use to gather information to tailor a programme or session to you:
This can be something as simple as a blood pressure reading, resting heart rate reading, blood sugar reading etc. These are simple checks that are very easy to perform but will help the PT to monitor your progress as well as helping to design your programme. For example, you might have said your blood pressure is perfectly fine, but when it comes to your assessment your blood pressure is in the category of hypertension. This will affect how a coach would design your programme and, to be honest, could potentially be saving your life. Imagine you had hypertension without knowing and then your coach had you doing a HIIT workout for 30 minutes or a maximal lift. You’re basically banging on trouble’s door scream “HEY, COME F*** ME UP!”
There are many movement assessments a trainer could perform, but some simple ones would be for basic movement patterns that are used frequently in a training programme e.g. squat, hinge, bridge/thrust, lunge, horizontal/vertical press and pull, rotation etc. This style of assessment is there to help a coach figure out how you move and if you have any mobility or movement issues that need to be catered for in your training programme. If your PT gets you performing jump squats and box jumps on session one and has never seen you move before, then you’re experiencing a big red flag! Remember, a PT should have your health in their best interests, not just the results you want to achieve. Therefore, if you’re not moving correctly then this should be catered for or alternatively you should be referred to someone who can cater for it.
I think people often misinterpret what performance assessments are. They can literally be as simple as the time it takes you to walk 400m or as intense as a 1 rep max deadlift! Some people will need assessments that cover maximal power output such as a maximal clean and jerk or broad jump, others will need assessments that cover endurance such as a 10km run. Everyone’s different and the performance assessments your trainer implements should be specific to you and your goals. Some examples of basic performance assessments would categorise into the following: a) strength e.g. 1-5 rep max bench press, b) power e.g. maximal vertical jump, c) speed e.g. 100m sprint time, d) acceleration e.g. 10m sprint time, e) muscular endurance e.g. as many push ups as possible, f) CV endurance e.g. 10km run etc.
If your goal is to get as strong as possible and your coach hasn’t tested your current strength output, then how on earth are you meant to see how much you’ve progressed and improved throughout your programme? Also, how is that trainer going to understand where you’re currently at and how to programme for you. There’s also the scenario where the coach does a completely unrelated assessment to your goal e.g. making you do a 1000m row for X amount of time when you want to squat 200kg… Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of stories like this.
This is one that should be very common if you’re looking to improve how you look. Body assessments are things like circumference measurements or progress pictures. They provide the coach with initial information on your starting point for body composition, and then over the course of the programme, the coach can compare your stats to see if you’re making progress with your body composition goal. If you’re not, then it’s time to change something to create a stimulus for progress; if you are, then there are no changes necessary, just keep cracking on and smashing your results!
This can be something as simple as a food diary for a week, a nutritional habit log or even a full week of tracking on the My Fitness Pal app. This is where your PT can assess what you’re eating and check the validity of your logging. Personally, the large majority of people I’ve assessed track their nutrition incorrectly. I’ve had so many people tell me they only eat 1200 calories a day and then after an initial assessment I’ve tallied them up well above 2500 calories. I’ve also had it on the opposite end of the spectrum where people tell me they easily eat 5000 calories per day, then I’ve assessed them, and they actually only consume 2000-3000 calories daily. Nutrition assessments are just essential for a PT to understand you as a client and give you appropriate advice and guidance to help you achieve your goals.
Now, they don’t have to be the exact above assessments, but my point here is that your PT should assess you prior to starting in order to create a suitable programme and tailor their services to your needs.
If you’re training regularly with your PT then this should come as part of the package, without a shadow of a doubt. I personally think it’s the very least a trainer can do for their client when coaching them as it encourages independence for the client by having programmes to follow where they can monitor their performance and develop an understanding of how to structure a session specific to their needs. It’s naturally the next step in the PT process after the coach has consulted and assessed you, as it’s now time to put all that information to good use and develop a programme specific to your needs and then educate you on the whats, whys and hows of the programme.
What should a programme include?
In terms of a nutrition programme, there should be some type of log specific to your needs and preferences e.g. a weekly food diary that includes calories and macros, a weekly nutritional habit log that includes what you’re eating, the frequency that you’re eating, and the amounts, or even in some cases a series of example days of eating for you to follow with a log to track your daily eating and whether you’re following the plan.
In terms of training, you’re going to want to see the number of weeks, number of sessions, exercises, reps, sets, rest times, a log for the weights you lift or the times you achieve, along with some type of log to track your initial assessments and future ones to monitor your progress. There’s plenty more that can be included in a training programme, but this is just a simple example and the bare minimum that should be included.
If you’re a PT reading this and you might worry that your programmes don’t look the part, don’t worry; the main thing is that your producing something of quality that will genuinely help your client. Presentation most certainly does help with user friendliness but it’s not the be all and end all.
Again, this is another area I’ve heard many coaches slack on over the years. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this process. It’s a vital part for you as a client as it helps educate, empower, and motivate you to make further progress. Let me put it this way, if I gave you a programme and then left you to it and didn’t review your progress, you’d likely be lost within a few days. You NEED to be educated on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If I make a change you NEED to understand why I’ve made that change, otherwise you won’t stick to it. If the PT explains things to you, checks in with you weekly, helps to trouble shoot any problems and provide you with solutions, you’ll feel a lot more confident and are more likely to stick to your plans and achieve your goals.
When receiving a review from your coach, they should be asking you questions that prompt you to elaborate on your experiences, problems, wins, confusions and much more. Then, the coach should give you constructive feedback and provide you with ways to apply the feedback you’ve been given. You as a client are entitled to receive feedback on your progress!
Finally, monitoring progress and comparing progress. This links with point number 4, however, in this section I’m referring to a less frequent method of monitoring/comparison. This might be a form of progress monitoring that is done every 4, 6 or 12 weeks. Maybe it’s progress pictures, circumference measurements, performance assessments, movement assessments, health checks etc. It’s basically a part of the process where the coach takes a look at your overall progress and you both come to a decision on whether it is adequate progress or not. This part helps to show you what you have achieved so far and can give you a better understanding of the bigger picture in terms of your journey towards your end goal. For example, if your goal is a certain body composition then your coach will take progress pictures and compare them within a timeframe such as 4 weeks. They will be able to tell you where you’ve made the most progress on your body and where you’ve made the least. You can then discuss whether you would like to make further progress or not, and if so, your coach will potentially make appropriate changes to your programme (if necessary) to further your progress. If not, your coach will make sure you’re in a suitable position to leave the programme and advise you appropriately, ensuring that you are equipped with the knowledge you may need in order to continue your progress on your own or elsewhere, instead of just abandoning you once you’ve finished using their services.
Again, it’s such a simple thing, but you’d be surprised how many coaches forget to monitor their clients progress over a moderate period of time.
Now, I know this was a little bit of a long one (I’ve actually cut a fair bit out of this blog in an attempt to prevent it from being too long!). If you’ve made it this far, the general message of this blog is that your PT should be providing you with the “big five” as a bare minimum in order for you to successfully achieve the results you want and independence with your nutrition and training routine. This is not to say that everyone should reach a point where they don’t need a coach; That’s far from realistic as people need to be accountable to others in order to maintain their results and to keep making progress. However, you should be in a position where you can confidently understand the basics of nutrition and training because your trainer has provided you with a sufficient service and has been able to coach, educate and empower you to achieve and sustain your results.
Also, remember that if you’re a “client” or “coach” reading this and want help with receiving or developing any of the above, I’m more than happy to help! I’m extremely passionate about personal training and providing a high-quality service that improves people’s lives on a very in-depth and personal level.
Thank you for reading and if you need to contact me, my information is listed below.