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Dangerous fitness: Beware of bad personal trainers

Hiring a personal trainer can be great for your health. But there are no state or federal safety regulations someone must meet before he or she can claim they are qualified in the health and fitness field.

Woman with personal trainer

What’s worse, at some gyms — big-name health clubs included — all you need is a high school diploma to get hired. As a consumer, it’s important to know how to hire a personal trainer and avoid the ones that are potentially hazardous to your health.

What to look for in a personal trainer

To make sure your personal trainer is on the up-and-up, here’s what you should look for.


Ask your personal trainer where he or she went to school or what certification training program he or she completed. Did he take proper safety and technique training courses? Is she knowledgeable in training protocols for your particular fitness goals? Don’t assume that a trainer without a degree in kinesiology or exercise science isn’t for you, however. There are several quality certifying personal training programs in the US — choose a trainer who has been certified from the most reputable. These include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

first aid kitSafety

All personal trainers should be certified in CPR. They should also know how (and when) to use the most basic medical tools, like a puffer, as well as what to do in cases of injury or medical conditions, such as low blood sugar, fainting, heart palpitations, etc. If you have a medical condition, be sure to partner with a fitness expert who knows how to respond to your particular condition.


The first thing you should ask a personal trainer is how long he or she has been practicing. How many clients does she have? How long have clients stayed with him and why did some stop working with him? Has she won any awards or been recognized for outstanding work? This will give you a better idea of your potential trainer’s background and whether he or she is passionate about the job.


When you work with a personal trainer you should feel confident and comfortable. A good trainer will encourage you, help you meet your goals and work with you to overcome any obstacles you may face — while taking your limitations and health into account.


When you’re training, you’re going to want to work with someone who is knowledgeable in the areas you want to focus on. For example, if you’re a bodybuilder, you should look for a personal trainer who knows weights and specialized workouts. If you’re really into rock climbing, you’re going to want to work with a fitness professional who’s been a rock climber. The same applies to other sports or activities.

Track progress

From day one, a good personal trainer will keep track of the progress you’re making and will keep you informed on how you can improve. Qualified trainers recognize your successes and are a positive force in helping you boost your fitness and reasonably reach your goals.

Up next: How to find a qualified personal trainer >>

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