My book…Cut Thru The Crap of Exercise and Fat-Loss Nutrition…can put you on the right track to creating a stronger, healthier and shapelier body, but no book, DVD or video can ever replace the advice of a qualified and competent personal trainer.
The CTTC Exercise and Nutrition Programs will bring you to a very high level of fitness and well-being, and the CTTC book will provide you with the knowledge you need to ask intelligent questions and make better choices concerning health, exercise, and nutrition.
However, when you reach a level where you feel that the desired shape of your body (or any other fitness goal) has been mostly achieved, you will probably want to specialize even more.
This is where exercise really becomes interesting. You may want a little more roundness to your deltoids (shoulder muscles), or your calves could be a little shapelier. This is when you begin to really sculpt your body the way you want to have it…within reason, of course.
The Next Step
I will be writing follow-up CTTC Exercise Programs which will bring you even further along specializing on specific body parts and different goals. If you want to progress even more than this, you will occasionally need the services of a qualified and competent personal trainer. He or she can ensure that you enjoy results exceeding those you will have already achieved with the CTTC Exercise and Nutrition Programs.
This is comparable to taking responsibility for all aspects of your health. You can (and should) learn as much as possible about taking care of your own health…from books, the internet, and other sources…but if you needed something more specific done…such as an operation…would you read a book about it and then try to operate on yourself?
If you answered yes to this question, I would love to meet you in person. The rest of us would seek out someone more qualified to do the procedure…like a surgeon. Do the same with your fitness needs. Seek out someone who is qualified and competent.
Where Are They?
The problem is finding a qualified and competent personal trainer out of the thousands on the market. This chapter will help you to make an educated, informed choice if you do decide to go the personal trainer route. It will also help you to better evaluate the advice you may be getting from the instructors at your gym, or from anyone else for that matter.
Basically, there are five categories of trainers:
- Unqualified, uncertified, and incompetent: Need I say more?
- Certified…but unqualified: This person has completed a certification program…or more than one…but lacks some of the attributes…such as experience (extremely necessary…see Testimonials), or the ability to accurately analyze exercises and problems…which are necessary to be truly qualified for what they are doing. For instance, some gyms still have aerobics teachers giving instruction in the weight room…even when they do not exercise with weights themselves.Just spending a lot of time in the gym doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is qualified either. I have driven trucks, buses, vans, cars, and motorcycles for hundreds of thousands of miles on 5 continents, but I assure you that you do not want me working on your car. I have spent thousands of hours driving these vehicles over the past 50+ years…but I know absolutely nothing about fixing them…so I leave that to people who are qualified.
- Qualified (whether certified or not), but not really competent: They have the knowledge and the experience, but they may be unorganized, always show up late for their appointments, or not be able to motivate you. They may not be able to effectively adapt their methods or their personalities to their clients. In other words, they just may not be effective as teachers.
- Qualified and competent, but not certified: This category does actually exist. In fact, some of those in this category are the ones who set up the present certification programs. Of course they are now certified…at least by their own organizations. I have nothing against certification. It helps to insure minimum standards in any profession. But fitness certification is like any other type of schooling. It should teach you that there are things that you don’t even know that you don’t know about the subject…and where you need to go to continue to learn more.Passing the test for a driver’s license does not instantly make the person a good driver. Some get better with experience…and some remain bad drivers for their entire lives. Even doctors have to spend years as interns and residents because they just can’t learn it all from the books and courses in medical school. They also need years of hands-on experience. Remember too that if you have a class of 100 medical students and 20 of them fail…student number 80 still gets exactly the same diploma as the best student. They are now both certified, but which one do you think is more qualified?
- Qualified, competent, and certified: You can’t go wrong with one of these.
Don’t choose a trainer simply because of his/her certifications.
Choose him/her for the MEASURABLE RESULTS he/she has achieved with clients.
Those are some of the reasons why good, competent, qualified trainers are difficult to find. I have exercised in gyms…big and small…all over the world and could write another book just of horror stories I have personally witnessed.
I saw an older man seriously injure his knees on the very first exercise of his very first day in the gym. The instructor was certified, but certainly not qualified or competent.
I saw a 350-pound man doing one-arm triceps extensions, with a couple of minutes rest between sets. The instructor who set up this “fat-loss” exercise program was not only certified but was also a licensed physiotherapist. However, he himself does not exercise with weights, so he has zero experience, which is why he had this man doing an exercise that is totally worthless for someone who is morbidly obese and attempting to lose excess body fat…and had him doing it incorrectly as well.
Of course, after only a few weeks this well-meaning man gave up. He stopped coming to the gym because he saw absolutely no results from his “certified” fat-loss exercise program. What a shame.
I see not only clients, but also some instructors performing exercises with such bad form that it is difficult to see exactly which exercise they are actually attempting to do. I once saw a certified instructor whose triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arms) got sore from doing a basic exercise…for his back muscles.
The really sad thing about this story is that the idea that the wrong muscles were getting sore never even entered this trainer’s mind!
Being able to accurately analyze exercise movements is an absolute prerequisite to being a competent trainer.
Gymnastics to the Rescue
Both as a gymnast and later as a gymnastics coach, I was always fascinated with analyzing the various tricks. I was not just interested in doing them, but also in knowing the exact how and why of the tricks. That way, I could not only learn them better myself, but also better teach them to others. It was a pleasure for me to spend hours carefully figuring out all the angles and the tiniest movements of each trick.
My knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics was not only indispensable for doing this, but I also got a giant dose of practical application from the experience. This training also carried over to exercise, enabling me to much more easily and precisely analyze the many different movements involved in moving a weight…and I still love doing it!
The answers to most exercise questions…or problems…have come from hands-on experience, not from doctors, dietitians or exercise physiologists sitting at their computers at some university. Their input is extremely valuable, but without practical experience, their information cannot be put to its best use.
In addition to having the knowledge, a qualified and competent personal trainer should have the ability to clearly and effectively transfer that knowledge to you. Choose a trainer who not only guides you through your program, but also teaches you.
A competent personal trainer’s goal should be to eventually make himself obsolete by teaching his clients enough that they can continue to successfully exercise, without his constant guidance.
For a control session, new or specialized programs or to solve special problems, of course you should always ask for your qualified personal trainer’s expert advice again.
A good, qualified, and competent personal trainer should possess the following qualities:
- A passion for knowledge and learning
- A positive attitude
- He or she should preferably also be a happy person, with a good sense of humor. I sincerely believe that a person with no sense of humor can have no real understanding of life.
He/she should also possess the following traits of excellent leadership:
If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular trainer, then he or she is probably not the best trainer for you!
Here is another thing to consider when evaluating a trainer. The biggest guy or the thinnest girl in the gym is not necessarily the best trainer. In many cases that 6’2”, 200 lb., twenty-five-year-old Adonis was once a 6’, 180 lb., eighteen-year-old Adonis.
That not-an-ounce-of-fat-on-her-body aerobics instructor may have been fat-free long before she ever took her first aerobics class. She might have initially begun taking aerobics classes just because it was fun or fashionable, for her health, or even just because her aerobics instructor was cute, and then later she decided to become an instructor too. Or she might have been an out-of-work dancer who needed a job.
Of course, this is not always the case. It is just another point to consider in your search for a qualified and competent trainer.
In Your Shoes
There are others who have had to study and work really hard in order to change and shape their bodies the way they wanted them. That is why, generally speaking, these may be the better trainers.
They have themselves successfully done what you are attempting to do.
A trainer who has him/herself lost 20, 30, 40, or more pounds of excess body fat through Quality Exercise and an intelligent nutrition plan…and has kept it off…knows something about losing excess body fat. A skinny aerobics instructor whose pre-workout meals consist of candy bars and energy drinks may not be able to empathize with your problem very well.
Likewise, a naturally muscular guy may not understand that building muscle can be difficult for others, because it is so easy for him.
And I really don’t understand (especially guys) asking a skinny trainer for advice on how to build muscle. If he has produced muscular clients…fine…but otherwise, forget it man!!!
Arnold Whatzizname was a great bodybuilder, but he was never a 97 pound weakling. He can just look at a weight and he grows. OK, I exaggerate here slightly. Of course he worked incredibly hard (and intelligently) to get where he did, but he is also so naturally gifted that most of us mere mortals, even after years of exercise, cannot hope to even reach the point where he started out.
There is, however, another bodybuilder by the name of Frank Zane (Google him.) who had to struggle for every ounce of muscle he gained. He learned everything he could about nutrition and building shapely muscle, and became one of the most knowledgeable people in the sport on these subjects.
He never became massive, but he did sculpt such an aesthetically beautiful body that he won the coveted Mr. Olympia title three consecutive times, defeating competitors fifty pounds bigger than himself. In fact, he is one of the very few persons to ever defeat Arnold Whatzizname in competition. Frank Zane knows the difference between quantity and quality.
Half a Man
Another bodybuilder by the name of Bruce Randall (Google him too.) more than halved his body-weight, from 401 pounds (182 kg) to 189 pounds (86 kg) in only eight months…and subsequently won the Mr. Universe contest.
Now, which of these three great athletes do you think would better understand your particular problems and could better help you to shape and sculpt your body?
If you ask your instructor a reasonable question and he or she can’t give you a logical and satisfactory answer, or is too unsure of him/herself to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” I would start having my doubts about him or her.
No one has all the answers and with better and better research, the answers keep changing. So if someone claims to “know it all,” then that is exactly what he or she is – a know-it-all. Seek your information elsewhere!
Your Friend’s Instructor
Of course you should also ask other exercisers if they are satisfied with their instructors/trainers. But keep in mind that, if your friends know little or nothing about exercise technique, workout planning, and all the other variables involved in designing a Quality Exercise Program, then they are not qualified to make a reliable evaluation.
What they can do is tell you what measurable results they have had, and how long it took them to attain those results.
If they have not seen major measurable results after 8-12 weeks, then either they are not putting in the work they need to…or their instructor/trainer doesn’t know what he is doing…or both of the above. Be skeptical of other people’s recommendations.
The Bottom Line
A qualified and competent personal trainer can save you years of wasted time and effort. They are “worth their weight in fat”…your fat…so when you do find a good one, listen, learn, and treat him or her well.
One of the differences between a wise person and a fool is that a wise person learns from other people’s mistakes!
That lesson also took me a lot longer to learn than it should have.
Knowledge + Experience = Success…YOUR Success!