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How to Choose a Personal Trainer

How to Get a Good One


Updated January 11, 2013

Leg Extension

Leg Extension

(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Gym

Effective and experienced personal trainers (PT) are essential if you want the best value and results for your money, whether you're fit and want to get fitter, or just starting out.

For one thing, you might come across a trainer with all the qualifications and experience on paper, but yet lacks 'people' skills and fine judgment. Personal training is much like sports coaching: you have to have a good mix of skills to be successful, and that means technical training, sports and exercise experience, and excellent psychological skills. Here's what to look for and what questions to ask a prospective personal trainer.


Formal personal trainer qualifications vary in different countries, and the education qualification that designates a personal trainer can vary from certificate level in fitness to a doctorate (PhD) in sports and exercise.

It makes sense to ask about qualifications, and most certified trainers should have a card that they can show you. If you need more, you could ask where they trained, the qualifications of their teachers and so on, but this might be getting a little extreme. Even so, cheap, online qualifications can be obtained with little stringency, so it's worth being aware of this.

Questions to Ask

  • What qualifications do you have?
  • Where did you train (learn)?
  • Did your course include practical training of clients or was it only theoretical?
  • Did your training include personal management and health and safety considerations?
  • Is your qualification current and up to date?
  • What is your own personal practical exercise experience and training level?
  • Can you provide references from clients?

Remember that the word 'personal' is important in this discipline, and you might expect more than you would from a team sports coach.

Next, if you have a medical condition you may need to seek out a trainer who is qualified to train individuals with such complications. Exercise physiologists are generally trained and qualified to attend to people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and other chronic conditions. However, this does not mean that personal trainers with lesser formal qualifications and considerable experience and short-course training in this area would not also be competent trainers for you.


Experience refers to more than the number of clients the personal trainer has trained, although this may be useful for understanding how to manage clients of varying ages, gender and fitness circumstances. Even so, the best personal trainers are likely to have this background plus wide experience in sports and exercise in various disciplines over time. This background is important in knowing how hard to push individual clients according to their needs and circumstances, and how to vary training modalities according to situation. Trainers who have made the mistakes, suffered the injuries or exhaustion and learned how progressive exercise training works across varying disciplines are more likely to be attuned to the needs of individual clients.

Venue and Accessibility

Where will your personal trainer train you? Some PTs work from within established gyms, some have their own small, personal gyms, while others specialize in bootcamps in outdoor settings or utilize streets and parks for training. Some PTs even visit your place and work from from there. Be sure you select the right place for you.

Summing Up

There are exceptions to these general rules, naturally, and personal trainers, like doctors or lawyers or builders, tend to range widely in competence and ability. Ask around and shop around, and don't be afraid to change up.

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