Personal trainers – or PTs for short – have a mixed reputation. For every highly regarded, successful trainer, there’s another one with little to no experience and a huge ego. Listening to the advice of the former can help you get fit sooner, while the latter’s one-size-fits-all bro-science wisdom will stall your progress, or worse, get you injured.
Knowing all this, is it a good idea to get a PT, and how can they help you reach your fitness goals? Does it have to be expensive to hire a personal trainer? Where can you find good PTs? We’ll try to answer all your personal trainer questions in this article.
How to find the right PT, and what to look out for
"A great personal trainer will give you the tools you need to achieve your fitness goals, whether that's shaving seconds off your best sprint time, or learning how to deadlift”, says Charlotte Williams, personal trainer at Fit Kit (opens in new tab), “The benefits of having a personal trainer aren't just limited to physical changes either; PTs can work wonders on your confidence inside and outside the gym, too. If you want to feel like the best version of yourself, then investing in a PT is definitely something you should consider.”
Personal trainers come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s important to think through what you need them for. Most people will hire a PT to help them either build muscle or lose weight, but good trainers will be able to help you with more specific goals. Before you hire the first well-rated PT that comes your way, do a bit of research.
“It sounds silly, but make sure your PT is qualified”, suggests Keith Shaw (opens in new tab), head of personal training at Fitness First (opens in new tab). “Read through a PT’s bio and make sure their expertise and experience match your goals.”
It’s unlikely you will need a personal trainer on the spot so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing a little more reading before you hire a trainer. The extra effort at the beginning can pay off later when you achieve your goals using a PT you trust and coaches you well.
“There are many ways to find the right PT, whether that’s a selection of PTs at your gym, a PT that’s recommended to you by someone you know, or an online trainer that inspires and impresses you”, adds Alex Crockford (opens in new tab), fitness model, trainer and Bulk (opens in new tab) ambassador, “Either way, it’s essential to contact and ideally meet them to make sure you have a good rapport since you’ll be spending lots of time together.”
And indeed, having a good relationship with your PT is almost – if not more – as crucial as their excellent reputation. You’ll be spending hours with your trainer and if their mannerisms or tone of voice doesn’t sit well with you, it can have an effect on your performance. It doesn’t matter how well they train others, if you can’t vibe with them, they won’t be able to knock you into better shape.
How to make the most of your PT sessions
“It’s important to ask a lot of questions, absorb the information and then trust and listen to your PT”, Shaw recommends, “They are the experts, after all.” The old adage rings true: the only stupid question is the one not asked. Effective cooperation with a PT requires two-way communication: you tell the PT what you want to do and how you find the process while the PT adjusts the program to accommodate this feedback.
Timeliness is also crucial: “PTs often can't run over your time slot as they have other classes to teach and clients to train”, says Charlotte. To see results quickly, you should follow the advice of your personal trainer in-between sessions, too. “I used to remind all of my clients that the hour with me was critical, but the other 23 hours of the day they aren’t spending with me is even more important”, Alex chimes in, “This means taking on the PT’s advice about nutrition and lifestyle to make the most out of the training.”
How long do you need a PT for, and how much should you pay?
How long you use a personal trainer depends on your fitness goals. After the first meeting, a good PT should be able to tell you how long it will take them to help you achieve your goals, whether it’s losing 10 pounds of fat or gaining 10 pounds of lean muscle. An experienced PT should have a good idea about what work needs to be done and how many sessions this translates to.
“[PT sessions] could be an intensely short period to help people get back on track, or it could be a more long term commitment to help build and maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle”, Crockford suggests. Shaw agrees: “Losing a few pounds won’t take long, but any sort of rehabilitation work can take a very long time.”
As for the price, hiring a PT doesn’t have to cost the earth. The actual amount of money you pay for a PT varies from person to person, and it very much depends on the service you receive and the geographical location you’re in. A boutique studio will charge you more for a PT session than a trainer lingering around in a commercial gym. You can even find PTs online who aren’t affiliated with gyms and train people outdoors in parks and other public spaces.
“Most PTs sell their sessions in blocks, so start with that and see what progress you've made at the end of your block”, Williams explains, “Some people will feel this has given them enough knowledge to carry on without the help from their PT, other people will stick with their PT for years and years because they have a bond and work well together.”
Look at it this way: for the price of the two large pizzas you order every week, you can have weekly training sessions with a person who’s interested in getting you healthy as a successful client benefits PTs, too. Once you’re comfortable with your training, you might reduce the sessions to once every other week or even a month. But who knows, by then, you might look forward to your session with your personal trainer and wouldn’t change it, even if you could.
This article is part of TechRadar's Get Fit in 2022 series – a collection of ideas and guides to help get your new year's health goals off to the right start, whatever your current level of fitness.
- We've tested and ranked the best running watches