To be a personal trainer you need to purchase a textbook that goes through the bare bones basics of anatomy, physiology, exercise technique, and behaviour change; the textbook takes two weeks to read at most.  Then you go to the nearest testing facility to take a multiple choice exam with no practical or written component. The passing score is a measly 70%, and the invigilator is half-asleep in another room browsing Reddit.  Oh and at any point in the exam you’re allowed to go to the washroom with your phone.

It is very concerning how low the barrier to entry is in the fitness industry.  The process I described above is all you need to do to receive a personal trainer certificate and be able to charge well over $100/hour for your services.  The cost is not the issue – several of my colleagues in the Vancouver personal training scene deserve that kind of pay for their technical knowledge, communication skills, and vast experience level, among other things – the issue is that most personal trainers are professionally retarded (in the truest sense of the word: “delayed in terms of development”, from the dictionary).  And if you, dear reader, are looking to find a personal trainer, it would be best to steer clear from professionally retarded quasi-experts.  The results could be disastrous… You may be misinformed about training and nutrition at best, and severely injured at worst. So below I’ve outlined some of the red flags you might look out for if you decide to hire a guy or gal to lead you on the path to better health.


Shitty trainers force their training style on you, regardless of your training age, fitness level, or injury history.  They try to fit square pegs into round holes, especially as it pertains to exercise.  As an example, grandmothers don’t need to be maxing out on their squat, bench press, or deadlift every session unless their goal is to compete in powerlifting.  But a dumb trainer who loves powerlifting will have their 90-year old post-menopausal client do just that. Dumb trainers will also disproportionately favour training for a specific component of fitness.  To keep with the powerlifting example, a strength-loving trainer might make their marathon-running client believe that max-effort deadlifts are the missing component to breaking a sub-3 hour marathon. The truth is that all aspects of fitness should be focused on equally.  Finding the right balance between power, strength, endurance, and mobility, is absolutely essential to optimizing health and wellness. A good trainer will take your personal goals into consideration, and find the right exercises that lead you to your goals in the quickest and safest way possible.  


There are several red flags to look out for when it comes to a personal trainer’s communication style.  Frustration is a huge red flag. As an example, a trainer who becomes flustered and frustrated when you just can’t get the technique right on an exercise is a limited trainer.  Limited in their ability to communicate proper technique, limited in their ability to problem solve, and limited in their ability to take ownership. Lack of education is another bad sign.  If you leave each session having learned nothing, your trainer is setting you up to be dependent on them for your physical well-being; on the flipside a good trainer is one who makes it their goal to educate you as much as possible so that one day you might be able to go out on your own to make your own workout routines and trouble-shoot your own physical problems.  Finally – and this one is very obvious – a personal trainer who is monotone and unenthusiastic will do nothing but transfer that same level of unhealthy apathy about fitness into your life… exactly the opposite of what you hired them to do in the first place.


As always, if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.  

Patrick Koo – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer at Crux Fitness Richmond