Essential Questions to Ask When Hiring a Personal Trainer

By DuBose Fitness

Congratulations on your decision to hire a personal trainer! Working with someone to individualize your fitness program carries many benefits, including safer workouts and faster results. Of course, your relationship with your personal trainer will be long-term, so you want to ensure you choose a professional you can work with.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 there were almost 300,000 personal trainers in the United States alone. That number is only expected to grow, so it’s natural for you to feel a little overwhelmed as you search for your instructor.

Rest assured: there are questions you can ask as you interview your fitness expert to guide you as you make your decision. Here are 8 essential questions you should ask when hiring a personal trainer.


1. What certifications do you have?

First and foremost, it’s imperative that your personal trainer hold at least one certification. There are many certifying organizations that provide comprehensive education and hands-on experience to trainers in the learning stage. These organizations include, to name a few, The American Council on Exercise (ACE), The International Association of Fitness Sciences (IAFS) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

Regardless of the certifying organization your trainer has chosen, he or she will have learned valuable – even life-saving – information through the coursework. They’ll learn anatomy and physiology, nutrition and how to work with different body types and age populations, for example.

After successful completion of a personal training course and after passing a comprehensive exam, your trainer will become certified. Additionally, he or she may choose to specialize in a particular area of fitness. Special populations, youth fitness and weight loss are a few examples of this.

In addition to holding a personal training certification, it’s important that your personal trainer also be CPR and First Aid certified. These classes are usually mandatory for employees and contractors within health club settings, but check just to be sure!


2. What motivated you to become a personal trainer?

Does your personal trainer love to work out? Is she in top physical shape? Unfortunately, that’s not always enough. As you interview your personal trainer, try to find out what motivated them to seek certification in the first place.

It’s always best to work with a trainer who wishes to help others. Whether a client wishes to lose weight, get diabetes under control or just fit into a smaller swimsuit, a professional trainer should have one goal: to help you meet yours.

Of course, it also helps if your personal trainer is passionate about fitness. Those who truly love what they do will be more motivational and easier to work with. They’re also more likely to keep abreast of medical news and industry trends.


3. What is your coaching style?

Five hundred different health club members will have five hundred different workout styles. Some may prefer to stay in the darkened cardio theater, some may prefer to work out with a friend and still others may crave constant guidance from a more experienced athlete.

As you interview your personal trainer, ask him, “What is your coaching style?” Some trainers are gentle and hands-on, while others may take a more direct, “military-style” approach. Once your personal trainer has specified his preferred training approach, determine if it suits your needs.

If you’ve never worked with a personal trainer before, it’s possible you don’t know what approach you prefer. That’s okay! Just holding a conversation during the interview process can tell you a great deal about whether you and your coach are a good fit.


4. What experience do you have training clients with similar goals to mine?

Before you interview a personal trainer, take inventory of your personal fitness goals. What would you like to accomplish? Do you want to lose weight? Bulk up? Do you intend to run a marathon? Bring these fitness goals to your interview, and ask your trainer about his experience in the area you wish to master.

As mentioned, many personal trainers choose to specialize, whether it be in flexibility training or sports conditioning. However, holding a specialized certificate is just the first step. Get more in-depth information about clients with goals similar to yours before hiring a personal trainer.

This question is essential to ask prior to hiring a personal trainer. You want to know that your trainer doesn’t employ a “cookie cutter” program for every client, and that he understands your personal fitness goals. New to the field? That’s okay! Ask your trainer to tell you about his own journey to fitness.

Please don’t hesitate to ask for specifics. While your personal trainer should conduct ongoing fitness assessments on the floor, he should still have an idea of exactly how he can help you reach your goal.


5. How will we measure my progress?

Once your personal trainer explains the program he initially recommends, ask him how he intends to track your progress. As a personal trainer, your coach’s job isn’t simply to spot you in the weight room. His job also entails keeping track of what is and isn’t working for you, to guide you through fitness plateaus and to note the results you’ve achieved.

There are several ways your trainer can help you track your progress. Body measurements could be tracked, as could body mass index. Before and after photos are an option some trainers use. Nutrition logs and exercise journals are common. Of course, your trainer will also track your weight.

As you interview your personal trainer, consider which progress tracking methods are important to you. For instance, if you’re within a healthy BMI range, you may simply be interested in trimming your belly or bulking up your arms. Body mass index may be unimportant while body measurements could be vital.

Talk these methods through before hiring a personal trainer; you’ll likely find solutions that work for both of you. Be sure, also, to ask how quickly you can expect to see results. While no professional trainer will tell you you’ll see results immediately, your trainer should be able to provide a rough timeline of health improvements.


6. Do you have references I could contact?

Most experienced personal trainers will keep a list of previous clients who have agreed to act as references. Ask to see that list! Speaking to past clients will give you worlds of insight into your personal trainer – more than you could glean from simply interviewing her.

When you get in touch with these previous clients, there are a few questions you should ask. First, ask them about what their goals were, so that you can determine whether they’re similar to yours. If they’re not, that’s okay, but it’s certainly helpful if that is the case.

Second, ask how long it took to reach those goals. Were they happy with the result? Are they still maintaining that achieved level of health, fitness or weight loss?

Finally, ask about the personal trainer himself. What did the client like about his coaching style? What did they dislike? Ask if there’s anything else they’d like to share about their experience.

In some cases, you can search the internet for reviews and testimonials. Bear in mind, of course, that the trainer’s website will only host the positive reviews. Be sure to check review sites like Yelp!, Google and social media for the most accurate representation.


7. Can you show me a sample program? Can I sit in on a session?

Remember: a good, professional personal trainer will custom-fit your training program to your specific needs and goals. With that understanding, it’s perfectly fine to ask a trainer if you can look over a sample program.

Most trainers will have, at the very least, a bare-bones example of a personal training program. Many trainers will have more specific, comprehensive programs for you to look at. As you check out these programs, be sure to note anything you may feel uncomfortable with. Not a fan of free weights? Ask your trainer if you can use the single-station machines instead.

You may also choose to ask your trainer if an observation is possible. In an observation, you’ll be allowed to watch the trainer at work. Note that this may not happen the day of your interview, as your personal trainer will have to request permission from the client.


8. Do we get along?

Okay, this isn’t a question you’ll likely ask a personal trainer aloud. But it’s one you should ask yourself throughout the interview process. Remember that personal training is, well, personal.

You’ll be spending a lot of time in close proximity to your trainer, so it’s best that you feel comfortable with him or her before you sign the paperwork.

All in all, trust your gut. These are the 8 essential questions to ask before hiring a personal trainer, but if you feel a disconnect or otherwise just don’t feel comfortable, it’s time to move on to the next candidate.

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