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Dangerous Personal Trainers March 24, 2009

Filed under: Physical Wellness — aprasek @ 11:03 pm

Dangerous Personal Trainers

Yikes. I’ll be honest, the personal training industry is pretty messed up. I wrote an earlier post about this and suggested a few things to consider before hiring a personal trainer. 

Unfortunately, this topic is not discussed enough. I know this because, whenever I go to the gym, I literally cringe when I see some of the exercises trainers are instructing their clients to do. So, I must applaud Women’s Health Mag for a rare and quality article on the topic (btw, the article is applicable to men as well). 

Some key points from the article:

Outside, she stepped off the curb and her knees buckled for the second time. If it’s this bad now, she wondered, how would she feel tomorrow? After a night of painful tossing and turning, she doped up on Aleve, put analgesic patches on her legs, and lay in bed most of the weekend. On Monday, two days after her workout, Miguez baby-stepped around the office. “I couldn’t even sit,” she says. Later that morning, she gingerly lowered herself onto the toilet–only to stand up and see that her urine was the color of Dr Pepper.

Read the full article for Miguez’s nightmare training story. Know that her story is rare though- this isn’t something that usually happens after a training session. However, it does speak to the potential injuries from training (read earlier post on ways to prevent this) and it also brings up a sales technique that absolutely infuriates me- more commonly known as the “orientation” session.

Let me give you some insider info about the “orientation” session… 

I had just been hired as a trainer at a popular big-box gym. I sat down with my training supervisor for a talk about my new position. I was eager for the discussion; I hoped he would share with me some wisdom on how to increase client motivation or maybe a few tips on form or spotting. I had my pen in hand and was ready to take notes.

He started the conversation, “Let me tell you about the orientation…”   

Basically, as a trainer, it was my job to use the orientation as an emotional and physical assault- “for their own good” as my supervisor said. The exercises should be as difficult and complex as possible. The goal is to make the individual feel weak, out of shape and uncoordinated. I should tell them these exercises are not that difficult (even if I can’t do them) and are essential if they wish to reach their goals. Hopefully, if I am successful, the individual will leave the orientation feeling dreadfully depressed, grossly overweight and totally helpless. In our post-orientation discussion, I will hope that my attack on their muscles and emotions will leave the individual vulnerable enough to drop $2,500 to work out with me twice per week for three months.

I’m not exaggerating. This is an accurate summary of what I was told that day. I then “shadowed” my supervisor on an orientation with an older couple. They were in their mid 70’s. I literally thought the husband was going to have a heart attack while my supervisor worked them out. 

Well, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. So, after our session, I told my supervisor what I thought of the “orientation” session, his philosophy and a company that supports this kind of crap. Needless to say, that was my last day of work for that gym. 

Moral of the story:  Unfortunately, the orientation is just a sales tool. If you do use an orientation session, listen to your body and don’t let the trainer push you too hard. Also, this is a good time to ask basic questions on the form for particular exercises. If the trainer is any good, they will be able to answer these questions clearly.  

Which raises the main issue that the Women’s Health article discussed:      

Trainers don’t need to meet any federal or state requirements. Even the woman who waxes your upper lip may have had more training–and she is certainly subject to more legal oversight–than the one who pushes your cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous systems; jacks up your heart rate and blood pressure; and strains your joints and ligaments. “Others who hold themselves out to be experts need to be licensed,” says Mark B. Bullman, an Atlanta lawyer, “yet somebody who wields heavy weights and guides your personal health needs nothing.” No college degree. No professional certification. Nada.


Yup. It’s true. You don’t need to know anything special to be called a “trainer”.

This is important info for anyone considering working with a trainer. If you have any questions about the industry, comment here or feel free to send me an email.  🙂


3 Responses to “Dangerous Personal Trainers”

  1. Caitlin Says:

    I think it is wonderful that you posted this. Most people don’t think to ask about credentials when it comes to personal trainers. Great post!

  2. Before hiring a personal trainer you must do your research.

  3. candace Says:

    People! Come on, do your own research! If you are truly out of shape or it has been so long since your last workout, know your limits. Period. It is that simple. You hire someone to help lead and guide you into a new routine, so find out their experience and credentials first. If you do not, you only have yourself to blame.

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