How to choose a good personal trainer

Here at ATP Personal Training we’ve spent many years and thousands of hours observing personal trainers at work with their clients in commercial gyms.  We’ve noticed that all kinds of personal trainers are loved by their clients because of the potent combination of camaraderie and endorphins, but neither of these require the trainer being very good at their job, which is to train you safely and effectively to reach your fitness or body composition goals.

We’ve noticed that when people choose a PT, they often tend to look for the same qualities they would look for in a friend, and often end up with the trainer their friend has recommended, but would you trust your mate’s advice with something as important as your health without looking into it a bit more carefully?

Ask these 8 questions before making a decision that could change your life:

  1. Has the friend who’s referring you changed their body or lifestyle for the better?

    Have you noticed any positive changes in your friend since they started with their trainer, or do they talk about them as though a PT session is a social event? Have they started to eat better, are they drinking more water, have they lost any weight or do they tell you they feel fitter?

  2. Is the personal trainer accountable to anyone?

    Big commercial gyms or franchises pay their trainers based on the number of PT sessions sold, showing that they only care about sales, rather than client results. Independent trainers can make any kind of claim they like, (“I was the top trainer in Singapore in 2020!”), with nobody to hold them to account and often no evidence to back up their claims. That’s why we think your best choice is a professional gym that builds a reputation around 3 key areas; education & quality control of their employees, visible client results and improving client health.

  3. Does the personal trainer practice what they preach?

    Does the trainer look like a trainer? We aren’t saying you need to train with Mr Olympia or an Olympic athlete, but a PT should practice what they preach. To us, this means that they should be in good shape and in good health, not disappearing off for a cigarette break between sessions or eating fast food for lunch every day. They should be able to educate you about the importance of diet (and even suggest meals for you to cook) rather than relying on steroids and heavy gym sessions so that they can get away with eating rubbish. It is a good sign to see them eating a home prepared meal from a Tupperware container!

  4. Does the personal trainer listen to you?

    Do they take into account your goals, history and preferences (workouts and diet)? Of course it is unlikely that you will be able to eat absolutely everything that you want in large quantities if your goals involve any kind of fat loss, but the trainer should be able to design a gym and food programme for you that you can implement and fit into your lifestyle. You may have to compromise in certain areas, but the point is that your trainer should make the time to sit down with you and discuss everything on an ongoing basis.

  5. Does the personal trainer have results from previous clients to show you?

    A good personal trainer should be able to point to successes they’ve had working with other clients. You should be able to read testimonials from happy clients and you might even be able to reach out to other clients to ask about their experience.

  6. Does the personal trainer appear to use gimmicks?

    A lot of trainers like to implement the latest fad, or whatever course they’ve recently taken. But this is for their benefit, not yours, to keep their job interesting. Often the most effective exercise is the least exciting for them to teach, especially over 8 or more sessions every day.
    Many trainers will have you do ridiculous exercises just to make a workout seem complicated or to make you feel that you wouldn’t be able to do it without them. This is not beneficial to you. Your trainer should add value by providing safety and motivation during your workout, as well as designing a sensible program that doesn’t require any special skills for you to perform. Learning to balance on one leg on an exercise ball will not improve your body much at all.

  7. Is the personal trainer certified and audited under supervision?

    These days some of the better personal trainer qualifications are very comprehensive, but they are mostly taken online. But in Singapore and Hong Kong there is no governing body, and anyone can call themselves a personal trainer even with zero qualifications. Make sure that your trainer has worked in person under an experienced mentor and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their experience.

  8. Do you have special needs?

    If you have special needs or any kind of injury, your potential trainer should consider them carefully. Too many will flippantly dismiss your needs as easy to deal with, even if they are not trained or don’t have experience with them, so that you will sign up and they can get their commission.
    Ask them if they have worked with this type of injury or condition before – if they haven’t it is not necessarily a red flag, but they should be open about it and prepared to do their research before training you.

  9. Is the personal trainer insured?

    Especially in Asia, a lot of freelance trainers don’t have any kind of insurance at all. Unlike in the US and UK it’s difficult even for large gym companies to arrange, so it’s next to impossible for independent trainers working alone to obtain proper insurance. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

A good personal training gym does this vetting for you.

Each Coach at ATP Personal Training is carefully vetted before they start work with us. They are trained comprehensively by our dedicated in-house education team, and they gain practical experience with ‘practice clients’ before they are allowed to work with paying clients. Even after that they participate in ongoing education and work closely with a mentor for several years until graduating to Senior Coach status.

*Results will vary from individual to individual
**Results are based on each client’s circumstances.