Choosing the right personal trainer for you can be a difficult task. In your average city there are a myriad of options. Most of them will be a waste of your money. As a personal trainer, I hate to admit this but it is true. Your average personal trainer has no education, little experience and a 1 hour, $200 certification. They have not even had a basic anatomy or physiology class. The human body is the most adaptable organism on the planet, and thus is also one of the most complex. Anyone that is overseeing your health should have a thorough understanding of how it works. This requires an education focused on the human body to provide a foundation. I would highly recommend at least a B.S. in exercise science (Physical Education is not Exercise Science), certainly no less than an associates. Ideally, your trainer should have a M.S. in something exercise science related. Your average trainer cannot even identify half of the muscle in the human body, much less what they do or how to target them. This means that they are certainly inept at targeting them for a specific function, for example training the teres major and teres minor for throwing versus basic shoulder function. That being said, your average trainer can’t even target the rotator cuff properly for basic shoulder function and stabilization.
Next, your trainer should have an advanced certification, not a basic one. An advanced certification will not ensure that your trainer is a good trainer, but it will ensure that they understand the fundamentals. The NSCA and ACSM both have advanced certifications that are heads and shoulders above most others. The CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) is a 4 hour exam and a huge step above 95% of available certifications. In fact, there are only 3 certifications that offer improvements over the CSCS: Charles Poliquin, Paul Check and Tudor Bompa all offer upper level certifications, beyond their foundational levels, that go beyond the CSCS. In my oppinion, Charles Poliquin has the most to offer.
Next is experience. Anything less than 5 years of experience is useless. I recommend at least 10 years of experience, and at least 5 years in the area specific to your needs. For example, going to a trainer for weight loss that has specialized in rehab is not going to get you far. But, you could go to a trainer that has focused on athletes for 15 years for just about any goal as he or she has had to excel at everything from weight management to joint stabilization and performance. And It should go without saying that if you are an athlete you should be going to a trainer that has at least a decade of experience training athletes. This is for 2 main reasons, they will be better equipped to getting you the results you want, and they have demonstrated that they are equipped well enough to still be training athletes after 10 years.
Lastly, just remember as with most things, you get what you pay for. Typically, a dollar store priced trainer will get you dollar store results: either very little, or in 30 days you’ll be broken. That being said, keep in mind that your average “Box Gym” personal trainer is expensive but gets to keep less than 30% of what your paying. Typically, a studio or a gym that focuses on personal training with be your best fit as most quality trainers migrate in this direction to make better money for their time.
It is also not a bad idea to ask for references. If they can’t provide you with references, they probably are not very good at what they do.
Lastly, being the best looking guy or girl in the gym is not a qualification. Neither is it a disqualification. Sure they appear that they are in great shape, but there’s a fair chance that they are genetically advantaged to being lean or they have are using some “hormone treatment” to get those results. It is very, very hard to naturally achieve high levels of lean muscle mass, low body fat, high fitness and high strength and good athleticism.