June 03, 2020 10 min read

Whether you’re more of an introvert or extrovert, having another person to bounce ideas off usually helps when working towards something. Just like two brains are better than one, introducing another person into even the most personal of your goals can help with accountability, keeping up standards, and some level of mentorship.

This is no less true in the gym, where you’ll have a number of people either working out together or alone. And even if you’re one of those gym warriors who have their eye on the prize and hate the distraction of working out with another person, you too can benefit from having personal training sessions.

Nevertheless, it can be a daunting task to find a good personal trainer for you. You might have asked yourself in the past, “How do I even know what a great personal trainer looks like?” or you might’ve wondered how you can ever afford a service that was originally just for top-tier athletes and stars. Is the price for a personal trainer even worth getting some gains a little faster?

We’ve answered those questions, and more, in order to help you be a smart shopper when it comes to finding a personal trainer. But first, what even are the benefits of having one? 

Why You Should Consider Having a Personal Trainer

So, why would anyone pay to be told to do an exercise that they can already do for free? Well, there’s a lot of benefits in this sort of scheme—some of which you’ll vibe with and others you might not care for. As we touched on above, probably the most universal and helpful aspect of having a personal trainer is that there’s a level of motivation and responsibility to someone that’s not yourself.

Furthermore, the cost of having your own personal trainer is also a great motivator. Even if we’re not conscious of it, most people are extremely averse to losing money. If you’re making excuses to not reach your fitness goals, shifting that mindset away from general fitness and onto a fixed monetary amount can help in quantifying your progress—or lack of it.

Having an accountability partner in the form of a professional trainer is also a way to really tailor your goals and your path towards those goals. Especially if you’re new to working out, or if you’ve had issues with sticking to workout regimes in the past, a personal trainer can get you over some of those initial humps and help you stick to the plan.

The fact that a good personal trainer is also an expert in human physiology adds to this point. Each one of us is different—some more, and some less so. Therefore, it follows that each body has different nuances and idiosyncrasies that affect how it reacts to different actions, programs, and nutrients. While there are good baselines to follow, a personal trainer can turbocharge your progress by tailoring your fitness journey to you specifically.

Not only will this help you reach your milestones faster—helping in terms of motivation—but you’ll also have a better grasp on where you want to get to, and what you need to do to get there. Whether that’s strength training, hypertrophy, weight loss, or endurance, a personal trainer should be able to understand your goals and come up with a solid plan to reach them.

Plus, the benefit of speed will be compounded by the fact that you’ll also be avoiding injuries. While there’s always the risk of injury, that risk will be severely slashed if there’s someone knowledgeable around to help you through the movements step by step. And this doesn’t just stop at the movements—a personal trainer can help you in understanding how far you should go in an exercise regime. It’s obviously not good in terms of gains to over-train yourself without proper rest, but it’s also just as bad to not go hard enough and end up not progressing at all.

This fact becomes even more prominent if you have any underlying health conditions or specific concerns and risks. An educated and experienced personal trainer can help you work around, and through, the various issues that you have to deal with. Essentially, the burden of having to modify existing one-size-fits-all workout plans and exercises won’t fall on you anymore. With someone to share the burden with, you won’t be left alone to your own devices. A personal trainer can help you find things that work for you, even if you might’ve been avoiding them. Whether it’s obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or a prior injury, there are ways to tailor general-guideline exercises and plans in order to get the proper fit.

Sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because it might be if you don’t actually find a great personal trainer. There are, of course, hundreds of options to choose from in any decently sized city. So how do you choose the right personal trainer? What even is a good personal trainer?

A girl doing squats.

What Makes a Great Personal Trainer?

So, you’ve decided to get a personal trainer. You’ve seen the benefits and they spoke to you. Plus, you can afford it in your monthly budget and it’s something you want to take seriously. The next step is choosing out of the dozens if not hundreds of personal trainers available. In order to find what you’re looking for like a smart shopper, you need to know what makes a great personal trainer, great. 

Certifications are Key

One of the best ways to check the credibility of a personal trainer is by their certifications. The more traditional path, a degree in kinesiology or exercise science, can be a good marker. However, it doesn’t show that the trainer has experience training in real-world circumstances. 

There’s also a number of different acronyms that might come up beside the trainer’s name. While it’s not necessary to memorize what this alphabet soup stands for, it’s good to look up what organization or governing body gives out the accreditation. Once you find this, it’s easy to see their legitimate and they have a track record of success

The gold standard for any organization is being accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA). The NCAA is a reliable way to see whether the organization that your trainer was accredited from is in line with the general expectations of these institutions. This is a list of some of the most popular personal trainer certifications:

  • National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Personal Training Institute (NPTI)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • CrossFit

Of these, the NSCA is the gold standard. You’ll often find the acronym CPT along with the above acronyms, which stands for “certified personal trainer”. Along with the NSCA, the NPTI is also a good one to look for. It signifies that the trainer went to a full school on personal training. And while there are very good CrossFit personal trainers out there, the certification process is much less rigorous. 

Experience and Specialization

Nevertheless, accreditation never makes or breaks the quality of a personal trainer. There’s obviously a lot of very bad trainers who do have a fancy acronym beside their name, and there’s plenty of amazing personal trainers who’ve never been officially accredited by a governing body. Therefore, it’s necessary to not only look at their education but also their experience and their specializations.

While a jack-of-all-trades is definitely possible, finding a trainer who’s in line with your own goals will have a much greater effect on your fitness. If you’re looking to bulk up or to do strength training, you don’t necessarily want a trainer who focuses on people struggling with joint pain or elderly clients. On the other hand, if your trainer builds their workout routines around HIIT and other extremely taxing workouts, then it’s probably not a good idea to hire them as a trainer if you struggle with knee pain.

A good personal trainer should ask you before taking you on what your goals are, but it’s also up to you to understand the goals of their previous clientele and whether that’s something you’re interested in. 

In-Line with your Goals and Idiosyncrasies

Drawing on the point above, your personal trainer should be asking you a lot of questions—at least at the start, or before you take them on. A great personal trainer will always ask you a number of questions to get to know you better and what your goals are. This means asking you about your diet, previous workout routine, if you’re on any medications, or if you have any injuries or chronic illnesses or pains.

All of these questions are essential in building a program that works well for you. Because remember, a personal trainer works for you, and should, therefore, build a program that works for you and gets you closer to your goals. This means adjusting the workout to your specific needs rather than giving you a one-size-fits-all kind of plan. They should be listening to you and encouraging you throughout the process, instead of only giving you half of their attention.

Most importantly, they should be focused on giving you results. If you’re not seeing results, yet your trainer is still sticking with the same workouts and mainly focused on having you book another appointment, that might be a sign to find a different personal trainer. If you have some type of pre-existing condition that might get in the way of working out, this becomes especially important since your health and safety become a risk. 

Passing the Vibe Check

Much like choosing a therapist, for example, finding an excellent personal trainer means finding someone you get along with. If you’re more of a laid back type, and your trainer has a very warrior-like mentality and training regime, then you guys might not be a good fit. Finding someone that is in sync with both your physiological needs and your character traits is important for sticking to your fitness regime and reaching your goals. 

On the other hand, you might be tempted to find someone who’s rigid and reminds you of a boot camp. Even if you’re a laid back person, having someone like that can keep you more accountable and less likely to give excuses. If someone calls you out consistently, then you’re going to give up on excuses and focus on working harder and being more devoted. 

Similarly, you don’t want to get along too well with your trainer. Or rather, you can get along well but keep in mind that they’re supposed to be training you during your slot, and not chatting. A trainer who’s fun to be around can obviously help in motivating you, but it’s just as important they push you to your limits and guarantee that you’re achieving your goals.

Where to Find a Great Personal Trainer

Naturally, the next question is where you can find one of these great trainers. If you’re already part of a gym, chances are that there are trainers available for people who work out there. It’s worth asking and being quoted a price and the options available.

There’s also the option of private trainers. These can be a cheaper option since part of their hourly cost doesn’t go towards any gym they’re affiliated with. It’d help to do a quick google search in your area, or ask around in your fitness circle. Chances are someone in your gym who knows someone who’s a personal trainer not affiliated with a particular gym. The point is to shop around—not just to get a good price, but also to find a trainer that works well for your specific needs.

Lastly, online personal trainers are becoming increasingly popular. Especially useful during times when gyms might be closed, an online trainer can help motivate you from anywhere. Furthermore, these apps and programs have excellent integration into tracking your progress. By being online, it’s easy to have your goal, progress, strengths, and weaknesses, all quantified in a single place. With a   pre-workout supplement starter pack, you can workout from home or the gym.

A girl and man working out in a gym.

How Much Does a Great Personal Trainer Cost?

Looking at the nation overall, personal trainers cost $40 to $90 on average for one workout session. This means that some can go slightly cheaper, and others can be a lot more expensive. Like we mentioned above, prices can be subject to whether that trainer has to give part of their income to the gym they’re part of. Furthermore, gyms have different price ranges for their trainers. Not only is it a good idea to shop around between gyms, but individual gyms also have different prices for different trainers. This depends on specialty, education, and experience. 

Keep in mind that an expensive personal trainer isn’t necessarily better. The price depends on a lot of different aspects. For example, if you’re in a bigger city then expect to dish out significantly more money than someone living in a rural area or the suburbs. There are, however, good ways to save money, even if you think you’re going to have to pay out the big bucks. 

Saving Money on Personal Trainers

The most important point to remember when trying to save money is to make a budget and stick to it. If you go into trainer-searching without a clear-cut budget, then you’ll probably end up spending more than you were looking to spend. Especially if someone tries to sell you on their program or their specialty.

Also remember to shop around—not just between gyms, but also between individual trainers within gyms. Look at trainers not affiliated with a gym, and check their prices compared to the gym trainers. You might be able to get a better deal this way. But if you already have a gym membership, it’s probably not worth switching gyms just for a personal trainer. It’s also worth it to look into taking a half-hour class instead of a full hour. If you come in a half-hour before your class to warm up and then spend a half-hour after your class to do other exercises, you can spend your time with a trainer working on the meat and potatoes part of your workout. 

Additionally, look into doing group classes. These are significantly cheaper, and you can even try to make a group with a bunch of your friends. Doing group training sessions along with buying a number of them upfront, you’ll see the price-per-session of your personal trainer drop like a rock.

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

The best way to save your money is to get your money’s worth. Setting goals with your trainer, warming up before your session, coming on time, and listening to your trainer, will all help you maximize the benefits of paying for this service.

But perhaps most importantly, know the limits.Your diet makes or breaks a fitness plan, so even if you have a personal trainer every day for an hour, that still leaves 161 hours in a week for you to mess up the plan. And while a personal trainer is excellent motivation, in the end, it’s going to come down to you and your own actions and decisions. 

Listen to your trainer but understand that they can’t give you everything and that sometimes you’ll hear things you don’t necessarily want to hear. Stick to a clean diet, rest well, listen to the experts, and you’ll be flying past milestones. 


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