Every industry has it's cowboys and personal training is no exception.  In this post we're going to share how to spot a bad personal trainer.  Beyond that, you'll also get some some tips on what to ask your new potential trainer before you give them any money.

Firstly, to be clear, the purpose of this post is not to put a downer on the industry, nor is it to discredit the hard working trainer.  There are plenty of great trainers out there, you just have to find them.  Also note that the wrong trainer for you could be the perfect trainer for somebody else.  So don't mistake a mismatch for bad training.  

The primary objective here is to help you avoid wasting your time and money on personal training that isn't in your best interest.

It's no secret that unsuspecting newbies are prey to personal trainers scouring the gym floor for new clients. 

With little to no gym experience it’s easy to fall into the hands of somebody who doesn’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.

Ultimately, that’s what you want – a personal trainer who will prioritise your best interests.  Below are some red flags to help you identify the good from the bad. 

Telltale signs you're working with a bad personal trainer

They try to baffle you with science early on

Above all else, don’t let anyone make you feel stupid, you’re an intelligent human being and the basics of working out are actually pretty simple. 

As a rule of thumb, if they can’t explain it to a 5 year old, they don’t understand it themselves. 

A bad personal trainer will assume your goal

Newsflash!  Not everybody wants to lose weight (regardless of how much they weigh).  And not everybody wants a bodybuilders physique. 

People train for all different reasons.  A good trainer will know and respect that.

On the other hand, a bad personal trainer will assume you want what they want.

They don’t ask you what your goals are

If they're not interested in what you want to achieve, they're not interested in you.  Period. 

No initial consultation

A good trainer will need to see where you are at physically in order to help progress you.  If they don’t review this from the very start with you then they’re not interested in your progress.

A bad personal trainer will talk more than they train

If you see a trainer who talks to their clients more than they are training them, don’t waste your time or money.

They put down other people and their methods

A good trainer doesn’t have time to pick holes in other people.  Regardless of whether they deem their methods safe or not.  They’re too busy focusing on their own clients.  As they should be!

A bad personal trainer will push supplements or unsolicited diet advice on you

Most personal trainers are not nutritionists and therefore shouldn’t be pushing diet advice on anyone.  Fair enough if you ask for their opinion and make your own choice.  But they shouldn’t be dishing out unsolicited advice.

They don’t look the part

Personal trainers are human like the rest of us.  They they don't have to have the ‘perfect’ physique.  But they must practice (or have practiced) what they preach.

If they’re promoting physique they should have, or have had it.  Likewise, if they’re promoting strength they should be strong or have a history of strength.  If they’re promoting wellness they should be well.

Don't judge a book by its cover.  Look at their background and experience.  Equally, don't assume the trainer with the great physique knows how to train other people to meet their own standard. 

A bad personal trainer will leave you on the treadmill, bike or elliptical while they go off and do something else

It’s not personal training if they’re not there to train you personally.  This approach is lazy and is a clear indication of their disinterest. 

They’re not planning your workouts or keeping track of your progress

A good personal trainer has a proven track record, and you can’t have a track record if you don’t track anything.

They push you too hard or not hard enough

Admittedly, there is a balance that may take time to find.  But if your trainer is repeatedly setting plans that are way beyond your level.  Or not challenging enough for you.  It is a clear indication that they are not adjusting to your current ability and needs.  And they should be. 

A bad personal trainer will patronise you

You may not be as clued up as they are when it comes to training, but you’re not stupid either.  There is absolutely zero reason for your trainer to talk down to you.

They bring their personal issues into the session

You’re paying for their time to train you.  Not for your time to absorb their issues.

They have little or no interest in their own personal development

A good trainer will want to be the best, therefore they will constantly be striving to achieve more. 

Anyone just going through in the motions is just in it to pay the bills.  And while we all have bills to pay, it is unethical to do this at the direct expense of another persons goals and aspirations. 

A bad personal trainer won't open their mind to other methods

A bad trainer will assume they know everything and discredit anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, a good trainer knows that.

They’re not watching you perform each exercise and making tweaks to your form

It is commonly known that even the most experienced lifters are constantly tweaking their form to boost their performance. 

Your trainer should be watching you perform every move and adjusting your performance accordingly.  It may seem insignificant, but these little things compound over time and therefore should be addressed. 

They show no interest in you outside of your sessions

Yes they have other clients and you shouldn't expect free training between sessions. 

However, a good trainer will want you to continue to perform on your own between sessions.  Therefore they will take a personal interest in helping make sure you do that wherever they can.

If they refuse to engage in any interactions with you outside of sessions, they’re likely only interested in your money – go give it to somebody who cares.  

A bad personal trainer will fail to teach you independence

A good personal trainer will want what's best for you.  Therefore you will need to be working to maximum potential between sessions.  In order to do this, they will need to (in time) teach you how to train well alone.

Things to ask your new potential trainer – before you give them any money


Personal training doesn’t come cheap, but with the right trainer you can’t put a price on the outcome.

Also bear in mind that the wrong trainer for you, could be the perfect trainer for somebody else.  So if you do conclude somebody isn't for you, don't go bad mouthing them to others. 

Here are some questions to ask your new potential trainer

  1. What qualifications and experience do you have?
  2. Do you have a specialist area?  What is that?
  3. Can you share any recent client success stories?
  4. How do you like to work with your clients?
  5. *These* are my goals and *this* is how much time I have to train on *these* days every week.  Do you think you can help me achieve what I want? – How?
  6. I have *this* physical issue, are you able to help me work with or around it?
  7. How will you help me stay on track between sessions?
  8. When can I expect to start seeing results?
  9. How are we going to measure my progress?
  10. What's the cost? – This should be your last question.  Don't make decisions on price.  The cost is irrelevant if you’re not satisfied with everything else.  And if you are satisfied you should be willing to invest in yourself.

Ultimately you need to feel confident that they will help you to achieve your goals.  If you have any doubts, move on and find another trainer. 

As a final note; if you would love a personal trainer but can't afford the additional expense at this time.  Check out our workout plans and online portal.  Our objective is to help you teach yourself independence, so that you can smash your goals on your own. 

If reading this has made you feel like it might be time to fire your personal trainer, check out these 10 Reasons To Fire Your Personal Trainer.