6 Things to Ask a Personal Trainer Before Hiring Them

By Mark Barroso

Whether it’s your first day in the gym or you just signed up for a fitness competition, a personal trainer or coach can help you reach your goals.

Hiring a professional is often the missing link between achieving a desired result and going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym. Investing in the programming, motivation and accountability that a coach can provide is key towards taking your health and physique to the next level.

Here are six things to uncover about your future trainer before you commit:


This is standard for all fitness professionals to obtain employment as an instructor/personal trainer/strength coach. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) set up the National Committee for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to serve as a third-party for providing professional certifications an accreditation. Examples of NCCA-accredited personal training certifications include NSCA, ACE, NASM and ACSM. Ask your potential trainer about their credentials and search the ICE site to confirm. 

Also, ask if their certification is valid. In order to keep a valid and current certification, a fitness professional must complete continuing education units (CEUs), which consist of anything from quizzes, article writing, attending conferences, etc. Make sure the trainer is certified with a “Personal Training,” “Performance Enhancement Specialist,” “Strength & Conditioning Specialist,” or a similar credential. A group fitness certification from an accredited organization doesn’t mean the person knows how to train people one-on-one.


Many people obtain a fitness certification just to add letters next to their names. They don’t actually train people. While everyone starts somewhere, advanced athletes may want to inquire about the amount of time a coach has been actually coaching–not just how long they’ve been certified. 

A trainer’s previous clientele will give you a sense of their overall style. Does the trainer prefer to work with injured people? Does the trainer prefer athletes, programming workouts for improving sports performance? Or, maybe the trainer has competed in bodybuilding and can help you get shredded. Some trainers have worked with so many clients, making them generalists–meaning they can help anyone reach their goals. Those trainers are the ones who typically have a combination of higher education in exercise science and 5+ years of practical coaching experience.


Hiring a trainer shouldn’t come down to the money but it often does. Many people think it’s not a “necessity” so they don’t even consider the possibility. Truth is, even trainers don’t know every exercise or training technique. Everyone can learn more about fitness, so the door is always open. Depending on your health, exercise may be a life or death choice at this very moment. If heart health is a real issue, consider a long-term program. Ask the trainer for the per session rate if you trained for 3-6 months. And ask if the rate goes up after the initial purchase.

Gyms often offer an awesome introductory rate–let’s say $50 for a 1-hour session–but then the rate goes up after you’ve used all of your sessions under that package. Ideally, a long-term client would lock in a low rate for several months. This is why finding the right trainer is key. More sessions typically cost less per session, but people often see this as a marketing tool. Since the trainer will actually be paid less per session, buying more sessions is actually in your favor.


Personal trainers are not registered dietitians. It’s not their job, nor is it legal in some states, for trainers to provide meal plans or medical nutrition therapy. What trainers can do is look over a food diary that a client writes and give them nutritional advice or “homework.” A food diary is a notebook, app, or spreadsheet used to log everything you eat or drink over the course of several days. 

A trainer can look over the food log and provide recommendations on macronutrient ratios, eating more vegetables/proteins/healthy fats, cutting out sugar, and other healthy tips.


Ask your trainer how he/she will provide advice, guidance or actual workouts to you outside of the gym setting. A quality trainer will hold you accountable not just during your sessions, but outside of the session too. Whether it’s via Google Drive, e-mail, text, Skype, etc., your trainer should be willing to provide workouts or general direction on days you’re not scheduled to train together. If a trainer says that they don’t design out of gym programs and that they are being paid to show up for the hour, they are not trying hard enough to help you reach your goals.

Expect your trainer to design an effective program for you, so you know how to reach the ultimate goal efficiently.


Some personal trainers work part-time, meaning they have another job or two as well. Other personal trainers work full-time, either as an employee or the owner of a studio/gym. Regardless of whether they work part-time or full-time, ask the trainer what their future professional goals are. Do they want to advance their education and obtain a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or higher degree? If they own the gym, are they looking to open other locations or just build their current one? Or maybe the trainer wants nothing more than to wake up and train others all day for coming years, which is cool too.

Find out what drives your trainer to succeed and you’ll likely find the perfect match for you. Remember, there are levels to the fitness game and some trainers are at higher levels than others.

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