7 Rules For Hiring a Personal Trainer

By Mike Howard

2802-hiring-good-personal-trainer.jpgA personal trainer can be a fantastic way to help guide you towards your fitness and/or weight loss goals.

The problem is that there are hundreds to choose from in some places.

Here are some things to look for when hiring a personal trainer.

Genuineness/Passion for Helping

Above knowledge and experience, a true desire to help others must be alive and well in your prospective trainer. This will be evident from the get-go and should permeate in the sessions. Like any other professional, you want somebody who is genuinely interested in helping you achieve your goals.

Baseline Education

Personal training is a largely unregulated industry. Virtually anybody can call themselves a “Personal Trainer” and not have to answer to any governing body as would a doctor, registered dietician or physiotherapist. Ask for qualifications. A degree/diploma in a health-related field such as kinesiology or exercise science is always a plus. Additionally, look for your trainer to be certified by a reputable organization such as ACSM, ACE, ISSA, NSCA, NASM or a recognized state or provincial (in Canada) body.

Continuing Education

This is what will separate a so-so trainer from an excellent trainer. While a University education and certifications are great, it should be merely the beginning of a never-ending educational journey. Be sure whomever you choose is well-versed in the latest research on exercise and nutrition. You want somebody who is dedicated to constant improvement – especially in an industry that is ever-changing.


Look for a trainer with a minimum of 1-2 year of training experience under their belt. More experience is better, but also look for someone whose experience is applicable to your circumstances. If you have injuries for example, be sure your prospective trainer is well-versed in post-rehab exercise.

Other Things to Ask

  • Do they offer a complementary session to meet/set goals?
  • Do they perform an assessment? Ask specifically if your trainer performs a postural assessment and movement screen as a minimum. The trainer should know to use the data to put together a program.
  • What will a typical session look like?
  • What kind of plan will I be on?
  • What is the cancellation policy?

A note on cost

Costs for personal training vary greatly. Look to spend anywhere from $50-$85/hr. If they charge less than this, you need to wonder why – it may be a red flag. Conversely, charging over $90/session is outrageous and in almost all cases unjustifiable. “Because that’s what people will pay” is not reason enough to charge that much.

A note on personality

This is important and can be overlooked. Even if your trainer is highly educated, experienced, and effective – some personalities simply do not mesh. Look for someone you connect well with and whose style works well with your personality. Some people like the task master/drill sergeant while others prefer a more gentle approach.


  1. Forge Fitness

    Great post, I couldn’t agree more with your rules, as I myself am a personal trainer and I find it is one of the most rewarding jobs out there, we get to help people achieve their goals and offer them advice which can save their life in some cases!

    I tend to offer a money back scheme, whereby if I can’t get a client to reach their goals I will refund everything. My reason behind this is that some people are untrainable, I can preach, teach and help with everything i’ve got but some people just don’t want to change and continue the bad habits at home!

  2. T. Kallmyer

    Come on now, lighten up a little, that picture was put in there as a farcical representation of a trainer based on how Jillian was on the tv show, which is over the top… Great job on your weight loss, that’s outstanding! 🙂

  3. anna

    EXACTLY. for example shows like “biggest loser” which is actually what the picture up there is from, do help the people yes, but being pushed that hard-is that GOOD? i definitely have to agree with you sara..and sara again..^ hahah..fore example, just take a look @ the shows title, “biggest loser”, real encouraging right!?.anyway, thanks for the help.
    -anna louisa

  4. sara again..^

    shows-meaning television shows

  5. sara

    i have had a personal trainer for 3 years now. i used to weigh a rough 280 pounds. this trainer had brought me to an amazing 130 lbs and i can’t even express how greatful i am towards her. she has helped me in a such a great way but i do have to say that the picture being expressed on this blog is not only insulting, but frightful for ppl interested in getting a trainer. my trainer has never pushed me as hard as being shown, & i used to weigh the same as the purple shirt girl. i never was a very athletic girl, & i still am not. yes, ive had a trainer for three years, but even in the first year my body changed immensily. she works me everyday but everyday i feel it getting easier. there is never been one day when i have been that hard pushed,& i just disagree with the representation of that picture ..& just as well shows that show obese ppl being practically killed alive.
    -helpfully concerned.

  6. J.D. Smith

    Great post. Here is my 2 cents…..

    Know what you want to accomplish (your goals)prior to searching for a trainer, and when you think you found the one make sure they have the expertise in the area you wanna work on. Their website should clue you in, if in doubt ask.

    Your trainer should also be your teacher. They should empower you with an understanding of what you need to do to reach your goals, and eventually you should know enough and be confident enough to workout on your own. If trainer has been working with multiple clients for multiple years, run before they suck you dry!!!

  7. RunEatRepeat

    Love this and totally agree with the points!

  8. Mike Howard

    It’s actually a good point, Maggie – it does depend on geographic location and price will therefore vary. In NYC or Hong Kong, etc. $90-100 should still be a ceiling though imo.
    I have to contend though that you could easily get by on 90K/year… anywhere. It’s all in how you choose to spend your money, me thinks..

    And although 20 hrs/wk for the profession is considered “full-time”, to put things into perspective…

    I’m supporting 2 kids, a mortgage and paying $800-1000 every 2 weeks in gym fees alone. All this charging a MAX of $70 in a city comparably expensive to NY.

    My point is that you should really question trainers who charges exorbitant fees for their services. There are some out there that are worth it, but they are very few and very far between.What are you getting from them that you wouldn’t from someone charging $65/hr?

    The city variance is a great point, all the same though : )

  9. Spectra

    Another tip to getting a good personal training experience–see if your trainer is willing to do small group sessions. If you and a friend want to work out together, you can split the cost so it won’t be so expensive.

  10. Maggie

    I think you need to keep in mind where you’re hiring a personal trainer. Someone working in NYC is going to charge a lot more than someone working in Kissimmee, FL. $90-100 an hour in NYC is very reasonable, not so much in FL. You also have to consider just how many hours a PT can actually train others in a week. While $90 an hour seems high, if they’re only able to book and train 20-hours a week, and do that 50-weeks a year, that’s $90,000 a year, which isn’t easy to live on in NYC.

  11. Lana

    In Canada look for CSEP= Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology.