Shape Up: To Train Or Not To Train

The other day at the gym, I spotted a “personal trainer” working with a soccer mom type.  He had her locking out her knees on the leg press and arching her back on the bench press. It was awful.    For those of you who may not know this already, both of these techniques can […]

The other day at the gym, I

spotted a “personal trainer” working with a soccer mom type.  He had her locking out her knees on the leg

press and arching her back on the bench press. It was awful. 


For those of you who may

not know this already, both of these techniques can cause serious injury. What

made things even worse was that I later found out she was paying $80 per

session to workout with him! 


As it turns out, he had only been working out himself for

about three months and had no certification to train others. Yet she trusted

him with her time, money and even worse, her body. To an extent, that’s almost

as bad as letting a random stranger off the street pull your teeth or give you

open-heart surgery. You can’t just trust anyone with your physical well-being.


So how should one go about selecting a personal

trainer?  Well for starters, you’ll want

to make sure that your trainer has a certification to do so.  Some of the most well respected certification

organizations include ACE, NASM, ACSM, CIAR, ISSA, AFFA and NCSM. I know this

may look like alphabet soup to many of you – believe it or not, there are

actually more than what I listed.  Point

is, you should ask to see proof of your potential trainers certification and

make sure that it’s up to date and has not expired. 


If your potential trainer is not certified, you should

proceed with extreme caution. You can’t just take advice from any person in the

gym so you’ll need to at least weed out who you can trust. 


If the person is not a certified personal trainer, do they

at least have a degree that is related to fitness such as Exercise Science or

Physical Education? Are they in an apprentice program that will allow them to

gain a certification upon completion? Do they have any sports training or

military experience where they may have picked up a few training



If your answer was “no” to all of these questions, you may

not have made the best selection on who will lead you to your fitness goals.  Just because someone may have a six-pack and

has read a few fitness magazines, they still may be unqualified to design a

program that will also work for you.


I’ve seen about 50 episodes of The People’s Court and Judge

Mathis, but I would never try to represent someone’s case in court as their

lawyer. The same theory applies in the gym. If someone is just trying to help

you out for free, that’s one thing. However if they are calling themselves a

Personal Trainer and asking you for money, you should question why they haven’t

taken the steps necessary to gain a cortication to validate their knowledge


Your trainer should also be CPR/AED certified.  Hopefully they will never have an actual

reason to use this certification during your sessions but it’s comforting

knowing that they are capable of doing so in the event of an emergency.


Your next step should be to take the trainer’s physique and

lifestyle into consideration.  I know

that in general you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but this is one

situation where that rule may not necessarily apply. Your potential trainer

should actually look the part. If this person appears as though they spend more

time at Dairy Queen than they do on the treadmill, this may not be someone you

want to take fitness advice from. 


I’m not saying every trainer has to look like an Adonis –

however he or she should at least be in shape! You wouldn’t take advice from a

dentist who had yellow crooked teeth would you?


If you have the opportunity to watch your potential trainer

work with other clients, this could also play a key role in making your

decision. Has that client’s body transformed in a reasonable amount of time

since the trainer started working with them? Is the trainer attentive to the

client or looking off into the distance and bored with the process? You don’t

want to work with someone who’s going to be checking text messages and talking

to friends while you’re trying to focus on working out.


Finally, you should discuss your goals and see if they’re

the right person to help you reach them. Every workout should be personalized

and designed specifically to suit your needs, not just a general template that

works for some and not for others.  Every

trainer may not know how to help you complete a marathon or perfect power

lifting techniques for example. 


Find out what your trainer’s specialty and areas of

expertise are and see if they’re in line with your needs. Don’t be afraid to

ask them questions about their background and experience. If the trainer

appears defense or annoyed than save your money and move on.  You’ll be spending a lot of time with this

person, so take all of the time that you feel is necessary to figure out if

your personalities and goals for your body are a match.


Choosing a personal trainer should be a well thought out and

educated decision. If a trainer is pressuring you to work with them to the

point of harassment, they may only be looking out for their wallets and not

your best interests. Whoever you chose should genuinely be passionate about

fitness and care more about helping you than they care about taking your



Of course, this is how they make a living, so you also

shouldn’t expect for them to give you the world for free. Instead, you should

take your time to find the right match so that you’ll feel comforted in knowing

that your payments are being put to good use. A personal trainer is truly an

investment in your health, so take the steps necessary to ensure that the

services provided and end results will justify the means.


Until next time be good…or be good at it.



Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this edition’s



“Crazy Train (remix)” – Lil Jon, Trick Daddy & Twista

“The New Workout Plan” – Kanye West

“Night Train” – James Brown



Darrell W. Butler is a

certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on

Exercise (ACE). He is the founder of Industrial Strength & Performance

(I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at facilities throughout the nation. You can

find out more about his work at