Friday, April 17, 2015

Choose Your Fitness Role Models Carefully

The field of personal training started when gym patrons were asking the most fit and muscular gym goers for advice. While I'm grateful for those actions leading to the career that I've been apart of since 2001, taking the advice of such people is a real gamble. Fit people may know what works best for most people...or they can just be individual success stories with advice that isn't safe or effective for the majority.


I really understood this lesson several years ago when I had a unique opportunity: I worked as a personal trainer in a gym with a few active International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) and National Physique Committee (NPC) competitors. Out of respect, I will not mention names.

Over the 14 months that I trained clients at this location, I had many opportunities to watch these individuals with their clients. One of the figure competitors - let's call her "Patricia" - was wonderful to her clients. Patricia was very detailed when introducing clients to new exercises - the result of this was obvious with the excellent lifting techniques her clients had. Also, she worked around pre-existing client injuries and developed individualized dietary strategies with her clients who wanted nutritional help. Patricia was certainly not the only trainer I would hire out of the group but she was the best example.

Some gambles produce wins...and some don't. Another trainer was an IFBB professional and among the top 15 in several tournaments in the US and internationally. Let's call him "Ron." Ron struggled with several fundamentals of personal training. His clients generally had terrible form. Ron struggled with how to help clients with basic injuries and pain. Also, it was well-known around the gym that he took steroids, which, in my opinion, makes his training methods difficult to validate. New members were unaware of these things - I think they were consumed by his impressive physique. The same could be said for an NPC champion figure competitor at the gym: she was a poor trainer in several aspects but was able to attract clients due to her impressive physique and competition success.


To be clear, I'm not discouraging you from asking the muscular guys or the extraordinarily fit women in your gym for their thoughts. You don't need me to tell you it's wise to seek the advice of someone who's achieved what you want to achieve, whether it's bodybuilding, weight loss, or another training goal.

Examine your source with detail.
  • Does the person have experience coaching others or just oneself? (If yes, talk to some of those trainees)
  • Does the person have any formal training (certifications)?
  • Does the person have any formal education in the field?

By getting more information on your source, you develop a better understanding of your source's credibility. You also decrease the chances of taking advice that could lead to injury or wasted time spent with ineffective training habits.

We can never completely eliminate risk. However, a little research at the start will help you make decisions pay you back with profits.