So you've decided to hire a Personal Trainer to get off this annoying plateau once and for all. Or perhaps it is an injury that prompted you to seek some professional assistance. Either way, you know how to weed out the wannabes from the real McCoy. Right?
Let's recap: Your PT should be certified by a reputable organization (no watch-five-tapes-at-home-and-start-working deals). He should have a few years of experience under his belt. When asked for referrals, coming up with a list of happy clients should be a breeze. Last but not least, your trainer should have proper insurance and otherwise have his business in order. Piece of cake, can't go wrong.
Unless...What if you're out of luck, and the PT in question is the kind who forgets quickly and becomes sloppy with his training advice? What if the referrals consist of bored housewives more interested in his biceps than the actual advice they receive, and therefore sing his praises for other reasons than you may have?
Most likely, this is not the case, of course. In all likelihood, anyone who passes the previously mentioned tests will do a good job. But just to be sure, why not spring a little quiz on your trainer before handing him your check? A good, professional PT won't mind and may even appreciate the opportunity to build confidence and trust in his expertise.
Here are some suggestions for questions to ask. Five or six questions should be sufficient. The red flags you should be looking out for is baloney to conceal ignorance, a lot of "uhhs", and of course drawing a total blank on all questions. It's not realistic to expect your PT to know everything off the top of his head, but in those cases the correct response is: "I don't know, but I'll look it up for you!" not "I dunno, who cares?" or "That's because _____ (made-up response to cover the fact that he doesn't know)".
Questions To Ask Your PT!
[ Q ] I want to gain 40 lbs of muscle in a year. Can you help me?
Wrong answer: "Sure! Just gimme your money and you'll be there in no-time!"
Right answer: "Gaining 40 lbs of muscle in a year is unrealistic, but I can help you gain as much as possible in that time."
[ Q ] What is the latin name for the crease where the pectoralis minor ties into the humerus (upper arm bone)?
It's a trick question. The pec minor doesn't tie into humerus, which your trainer should know.
[ Q ] How does Guggulsterones work?
Guggulsterones stimulates the thyroid to release more thyroid hormones, which in turn puts the metabolism in overdrive. This is to see if your PT is up to speed on more obscure supplements.
[ Q ] How do you stretch medial (middle) delts?
A tough one! If he can demonstrate a way that actually works, be impressed! If not, don't worry about it.
[ Q ] How many water-soluble vs. fat-soluble vitamins are there?
Right answer: 10 water-soluble (including retinol), 4 fat-soluble. If your PT knows this level of detail, he has a firm grasp of nutrition basics and does more than just skim the "nutrition" section of Flex every month.
[ Q ] Rhomboideus is a synergist to what muscles?
Trapezius should be an obvious answer, but watch what else he says. If he continues rattling off muscles like posterior delts and lats, he doesn't know his anatomy. Rhomboideus doesn't connect to the humerus (upper arm bone) and therefore can't help delts or lats at all.
[ Q ] My calfs won't grow. Should I hit'em every day?
The answer should be no, and no more than 3 times per week if you're a beginner, twice a week - at most - if you're intermediate or advanced.
[ Q ] Is ketosis a good thing?
No; it's a bodily emergency mode caused by prolonged carbohydrate deprivation that cannibalizes muscle mass. It's good to know whether your trainer recognizes that this type of extreme dieting is bad or not.
Another trick question; they're all toxic if overdosed.
[ Q ] What is the antagonist of biceps femoris?
Don't point to your leg when you ask this question - if he starts pointing at his triceps, he just goofed, big-time. Biceps femoris is a part of the hamstrings, which makes the antagonist quadriceps.
[ Q ] How does Chrysin work?
Chrysin is an isoflavone chemically extracted from plants with the potential to increase testosterone levels in athletes. As opposed to DHEA, andro and other prehormones, chrysin works by preventing the conversion (aromatization) of testosterone into estrogen. Another obscure-supplement question to check how current his information is.
[ Q ] What has a higher GI (Glycemic Index) value, bran flakes or oatmeal cookies?
Oatmeal cookies have a GI in the neighborhood of 50-60, while bran flakes come in around 70 or above. This means the cookies, largely thanks to the oatmeal fiber, most likely take longer to digest and produce less of an insulin response than the bran flakes.
If your PT doesn't know this off the top of his head, don't worry - what you're looking for is honesty ("I don't know") and familiarity with the GI scale. If he DOES know, he obviously knows his nutrition very well!
NOTE: Specific brands vary, of course. This is a somewhat generalized example, hence the rough estimates used. For more specific GI info, click here.
[ Q ] What is Adenosine Triphosphate?
Also known as ATP - the biochemically stored instant energy you use to work out. You take creatine supplements to indirectly boost this supply, and if your PT continues by explaining the phosphagen system, that's a good sign.
[ Q ] How do you train tibialis anterior?
This is the small but important muscle on the outer/front part of your shins, flexing the foot upwards. There are machines for this (Hammer Strength makes an excellent one) or, the simplest version, just stand with your heel on an elevated surface and raise the foot as far up as you can.
How is not that important, you just want to know that your PT knows where the muscle is and has a basic idea of how to train it.
These were just some of the question you can ask. You can also look up specific muscles and ask where they tie into the bone, grill him about HIT training philosophy, or read up on prohormones and ask him to explain the differences. Again, the point is not to "nail" him for not knowing, it's about how he handles the situation.
On the other hand, if he can answer everything you throw at him, you can rest assured you're dealing with a seasoned professional. Hand over that check with confidence and get ready for some serious lifting!
Personal Trainers: Do You Even Need One?