”Who would pay somebody to torture them for an hour? I know how to jog and lift a weight, why would I pay somebody?!”
These are rhetorical questions I have heard people posit for years, both before I was a qualified personal trainer & fitness specialist (yes that latter is a qualification, not something I just made up) and after I had completed my Diploma. In order to answer these questions I’m going to take a half dozen steps backward…
Exercise. Everybody has goals and an ideal body type, even if they have no idea when or how to achieve it. On the one hand it seems intuitive: eat less, exercise more – do this for long enough, and with enough intensity, and you will achieve your goals. On the other hand there is chronic illness, acute exercise injuries, lack of motivation, lack of time, lack of skill and knowledge, lack of equipment access.
There is an over-abundance of information on the internet, but only a fraction of that information is reliable or what I like to call “reality based”. In other words, some people just like to make stuff up, to hell with all of that science stuff (after all, what does some middle aged, white-coated scientist know about what’s going on in the real world?).
I’m a science kinda guy, I think that the techniques and methodology which I use to train my clients should be solidly reality/science based, and I like to think that *most* of you out there are also reality (and science) based, whether you realise this or not. In short, we want what works, and what we know works. That is where science comes in. It gives us the most reliable, testable, repeatable, falsifiable, and best controlled technique for evaluating what works and what doesn’t. It’s by no means perfect, it by no means provides all of the answers (nor does it pretend to), it *is* however self-correcting, peer-reviewed, and more reliable than any other reality-testing methodology we know of.
All very well and good, but how does a *client* know that their PT is implementing training methodology that works or is evidence/reality/science based? How do we know the difference between a PT who even has a methodology vs one who is simply regurgitating the routines they learnt from a 4 week online course provided by a questionable means and questionable testing criteria? (and does that even matter if they are actually training clients and getting results?).
As a holiday project for my end of year break I decided to sign up with the local gym – (although it’s been contrary to my personal ethos for the past 7 years to step foot into a gym in the role of client/member). It’s obvious to me that a large majority of the clients at this gym who engage in resistance training, and I would wager at any gym, fall into three distinct categories:
- Having no real idea what they’re doing, but knowing that they don’t know (the majority of the weight machine users)
- Having no real idea what they’re doing, but thinking they do (the majority of the free weights users)
- Knowing what they’re doing, and doing it quietly and methodically (an extreme minority)
You might argue that another PT has a different opinion from me, that I think (and write) one thing, they think another. So who’s right?
It comes back to the science – who is more up to date with the latest research? And how relevant and applicable is that to the field of exercise? Is the PT even *aware* of the scientific research, or at least somehow tapping into the results that the latest scientific research is discovering, perhaps through reputable online journals or other official channels (ie Fitness Australia newsletter and updates).
There are many biomechanical reasons why exercise technique exists, why the shoulders, knees and hips should not be placed in certain positions in high risk exercises which make them more vulnerable to injury. This is an important example where a PT is valuable, directing a client in the appropriate technique and execution of an exercise so as to avoid injury and gain maximum benefit from their exercise routine. Of course many other reasons exist, such as motivation, exercise programming, fitness testing and goal assessment.
Who needs a PT? Most people, if not for technique correction and injury prevention, then for motivational direction and goal achievement. A good PT will help you to discern truth from nonsense, after all – there’s a lot of information out there, and most of it’s worth the amount you’ve paid for it.
What are your experiences with personal trainers? If you’ve never hired one, would you consider doing so? Comment below!