Personal Training is Dead

I am ashamed to tell people what I do. And here’s why...

I once worked with a guy who tied a mini-band around a clients ankles and made him do Power Cleans while directing him to jump onto a box. Maybe he was into some kinky Franz Bosch training, but you cannot convince me this was relatively safe or even sound training. The bad part was this guy had a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from a great school. (◔_◔)

This guy had 4+ years of education about exercise physiology, strength training, biomechanics, etc., and the best thing he could come up with can basically be classified as circus training. Degrees and certifications aside, it seems ridiculous to me why people go to college to learn how to become Personal Trainers or Strength Coaches to begin with. The concept of learning from a professor, who isn’t in a gym or weight room producing results that inevitably you are going to want for your clients but instead reading out of a book is completely backwards. Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace education, but from reputable sources. For example, if you wanted to be the best carpenter in the world, would you rather go to carpentry school or apprentice with the top carpenters in the world? Given you had a choice to hire one or the other to craft the woodwork in your new house, who do you hire? My money would be on the guy who learned from the best people in the industry, not from a book or an online certification.

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When I was in college, the last week or so we were having a discussion about what we were grateful for and I remember one girl say she was “grateful that she wouldn’t have to read anymore.” The fuck?!? If aren’t reading like they are burning libraries down, then you don’t deserve to be in this industry. I don’t care what school you went to, you don’t know enough to stop learning. But let me be honest, after I got my Personal Training certification, I thought I was Einstein. I knew every-fucking-thing and was happy to hand out unsolicited advice to any and all gym goers. However, once the basic advice I learned stopped working and came across someone who knew the game better than me, I quickly begin to tumble down the Dunning-Kruger curve into a realization that I really know nothing. It is a necessary and humbling experience that all great coaches have had.

Perhaps that is why, no matter what gym you step into it seems like it is a revolving door for Personal Trainers. Every 6 months or so you have a whole new crew, using the same basic level of knowledge as the last. The ones that left, probably did so because they were facing challenges that Instagram didn’t prepare them for and thus had to further educated themselves. I think turnover is so high because knowledge is so low. Not everyone wants to put in extra work, however those that deliberately put in the time for continuing education and additional research make the best coaches. To be successful in this industry you have to have a desire to want to improve yourself everyday.

Another reason turnover is so high is that the pay is so low due to the highly competitive nature of the Personal Training/Gym business. Companies want to undercut the gym across the street so they slight the trainers pay so much that you need 40 clients to pay the bills which takes up all the time you have training, and leaves none for education. Yes, every certification has its requirements of continuing education but it’s all sponsored bullshit from the certifying body and besides, if you think that only completing the minimum amount of education to retain your cert is enough, you don’t deserve to be in this industry. Humblebrag, I did 64 hours of continuing education and read 57 books last year on everything from business, to sleep, strength training, anatomy, brain health, hormone imbalance, biomechanics, nutrition, to Alzheimer’s, all in hopes of expanding my base of knowledge on how to improve the health and performance of my clients.

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Unfortunately, companies do not value knowledgeable employees or good training, because they would have to pay them more, so again turnover is favorable. The devalue the profession by taking an obscene % of the training rate charged to the client. You are lucky to get half of what they charge the client for an hour of training. And some companies take as as much as 85% of the revenue coming from the sales of training, which is asinine. Once trainer’s build a client base and realize they can basically double their income by working for themselves, their out. Personally I think it behooves you — the corporation or the client — to pay more money so that I don’t have to run around all across the city to make money to eat. Instead, pay me what I’m worth, then I will have enough time on my hands to invest into learning more about how to help you optimally achieve your goal or, even better, how to improve myself as a coach. It makes more sense for me to charge $100 an hour and have 10 clients, with 30 hours to invest into education, than to charge $10 an hour and have 40 clients with no time to invest in education. Anyone who has studied the body substantially will tell you that there is a LOT going on in there (and no one is the same, just check out the book Biochemical Individuality). If you have 40 people, you can bet your ass that you will never be able to optimally impact the individual health or even handle a client base that high.

Speaking of not being stretched too thin, if you’re walking around with a cup of coffee or another stimulant drink in your hand during each session, what do you think that tells your client? Their workout bores you to sleep or that you aren’t fully prepared to give them your full attention. It gives off a terrible vibe. Maybe, if you went to sleep earlier or didn’t need to have 8 clients back-to-back to pay the bills, you wouldn’t need a stimulant and you’d have a free hand to actually write down the workout so that you can track the progress of your client, or better yet be awake enough to provide safe and sound training for your client.

Not too long ago, I was working out next to the Personal Training manager at a large gym chain who was “training” his client. He had this poor girl, who was obviously new to lifting, doing Split Squats at near maximal weight with poor technique. Needless to say it didn’t end well. She fell over and busted her ass and the trainer made it seem like it was her fault. Perhaps, if this guy wasn’t sitting on the nearest bench observing with a fucking Bang in his hand, he could have seen the faults in her execution and adjusted accordingly. The scary thing is this guy is a manager and suppose to set the example for the fleet of trainers he is in charge of.

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Here’s another thing, if you’re in charge of a Personal Training department, I would expect you to look like you workout. I don’t think that is asking too much. You don’t need to be jacked or ripped or flawless, just look like you practice what you preach. I say all that to say this… I once worked with a guy who was a Metabolic Specialist. He ran a national program that sought to improve the efficiency of people’s fat-burning through a “specialized” heart-rate training. He was obese. I feel that this is akin to taking advice from a overweight dietician. The program obviously had some flaws!

Now, I’m not perfect, but I feel that physical appearance should play a part in being the face of a company wide program about weight-loss. Powerlifting and Strongman aside, your physique should have some semblance of what your clients desire because after all the majority of Personal Training clients are simply looking to lose weight to look better naked. This just speaks to the fact that people really don’t know what they are doing, whether it be metabolic assessments, nutrition or even lifting, which leads me into my next gripe...

Last time I checked, no one cares how much you can Lat Pull, but that didn’t stop this one trainer from trying to impress a potential client by attempting to pull the whole weight stack. Obviously, it was too heavy, but fortunately for him he lifts like he’s having an epileptic fit. Even with him swinging, rocking, slamming and bouncing the weight, he only gets a few half-reps but does manage to make a complete fool of himself. I don’t understand how, as a trainer who is supposed to teach proper movement, this is acceptable. behavior.

It’s shit like that that has made me jaded. Terrible training is everywhere and people refuse to listen to common sense or learn simple biomechanics. Case in point; I had a trainer tell me that the best way to “isolate the hamstring” (like it’s one fucking muscle) is by doing an undulating single-leg half squat with a weight in the contralateral hand placed in the midline of the body. Last time, I checked, the Hamstrings either a primary knee flexor or assist in hip extension. Now you can argue for the Hamstrings being worked with the aforementioned movement, but by no means are they working hard as if you were to use an exercise that mirrors knee flexion or hip extension — a Leg Curl or an RDL, respectively. The funny part is, the trainer had the client holding onto the Leg Curl machine for balance while she was “isolating the hamstring” with this ridiculous movement.

Speaking of Hamstrings, I knew a trainer who had a 4-year degree in Kinesiology, along with multiple certifications on top of an internship who couldn’t tell me the muscles that make up the Hamstrings. I’m not an anatomy wiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that medially to laterally the muscles consist of Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris (Long head and Short head). And I know their actions. It is a major muscle group, so the lack of understanding is just baffling.

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To go further, if you aren’t well versed in the basic anatomy of a major muscle group, what makes you think you have any business helping people break up scar tissue or “release” a tight muscle? Because you bought a Hypervolt?!? Scar tissue probably wasn’t even on your radar before you saw the advertisement. Without a fundamental understanding of anatomy, using a tool such as a Hypervolt or a Theragun, is at best a shotgun approach to a more complicated problem. Your power to use this tool has successful educated you beyond your intellect. Your clients deserve a more informed approach and so does the industry.

Another thing plaguing the industry is professional athletes thinking they know how to train, when in fact they make the worst trainers. Due to their freakish genetics, pretty much anything they have been instructed to do in the weightroom, whether considered good or bad training, has worked for them. So when they retire from their sport or are forced out from injury, some of them revert to Personal Training because they are so “familiar” with the gym. I’ve worked with two NFL guys. One swore up and down that Speed Ladders were the key to his on-field success, which led me to write this: Ladder Drills DO NOT Increase Sport Performance. To my dismay, he refused to respond after I sent him the article. And as for the other guy, he had the bright idea to do Power Cleans… with chains on the bar. It wasn’t long before he realized why no one else was doing it when he smacked himself in the face. It may be surprising to hear but there are very few novel things in the world of strength training.

It’s not just the people within the industry, but the clients as well. The majority of people who hire Personal Trainers do not want to work hard. They just want to be babysat and talk. These are the worst clients because they not only get zero results but it’s your fault and their attitude toward training will drag you down with them. How can I, as a coach, improve my craft if all a client wants to do is sit and talk about the Bachelor? I got into this industry because I think the human body is fucking fascinating. I read and learn constantly so that I can get better at what I do. I am not a conversationalist, I am a coach. I haven’t watched TV in months, so I give zero shits about a reality show where you can vicariously live out your fantasies of being whisked away. You know what my fantasy is? Someone who wants to listen, work hard and get results. That is really the only way I can am able to get better, but maybe I’m selfish.

I’ve gone on far too long so I want to finish by saying that I no longer consider myself a Personal Trainer. That is not what I am because I am better. I have seen too much fuckery in this industry to allow myself to be associated with the halfass attempts, low paying jobs, lack of effort, disrespect and ignorance. I am henceforth known as a Health and Performance Coach. I am facilitator, not a motivator. I didn’t get into this industry to tell you you can do it, I got into this industry to show you how. I’m not a cheerleader, nor do I desire to be one. I am a coach. It’s simple; do the work, get results.