3 signs you should ditch your personal trainer, according to experts

An athletic performing a barbell deadlift in a gym
  • A personal trainer can be a great resource for improving your fitness, but not all are helpful.
  • Avoid trainers that focus too much on weight loss or don’t modify exercises, experts said.
  • Also steer clear of gimmicky programs that don’t teach the basics of good form.

Picking a personal trainer can be intimidating, particularly if you’re a fitness beginner. Not every fitness expert is going to be the right fit for your goals.

But a good coach can give you the tools you need to progress on your unique fitness journey, and can make a difference in whether you sustain a workout program, or get frustrated. In contrast, unhelpful coaches may not listen to your goals and needs, or have a very limited view of what fitness should look like, according to Dr. Lady Velez, head coach and owner of Red Hook Strengthworks.

To avoid trainers that will waste your time, be wary of those that are inflexible about exercise options, fixate on weight loss above all else, or tell you there’s only one “right” way to do a workout, Velez said.

They don’t have modified exercise options for different fitness levels

If a gym only offers one version of a workout, and doesn’t provide ways for people to adjust the exercise for their unique needs, that’s a bad sign, Velez said.

Scaling, or modifying exercises based on skill, experience, and physical capability is crucial for helping athletes learn and progress at their own pace and for preventing injury or burnout.

“If you feel comfortable somewhere, you’ll feel comfortable doing things that are hard and challenging. You’re gonna get stronger because you want to go back to a space that makes you feel good,” Velez said.

Similarly, trainers should avoid assuming what level of exercise might be appropriate for each athlete based solely on how they look or other stereotypes.

“No matter what someone’s fitness level or appearance, I’m not going to make assumptions,” Velez said.

Strong weight lifting woman

They assume you want to lose weight

Velez said it’s a major warning sign if a personal trainer seems overly focused on weight loss or fat burning, particularly if that’s not something you’re interested in.

References to earning or burning calories are a huge red flag, she said. While weight loss is a goal for some, there are a myriad of reasons for working out, including to get stronger, improve health, build confidence, or just have fun. A good trainer should listen to and support your goals, not what they think your goals should be, according to Velez.

Relatedly, steer clear of trainers who give unsolicited advice about not looking “bulky,” Velez said, a concern often aimed at women who lift. It’s a myth that getting strong will make you look bulky. But also, Velez said, it’s not anyone’s business if you do want to bulk up.

“This is your body, you do whatever you want with it. Who am I to make assumptions about how you want to look?” she said.

They claim their program is the only effective way to meet your goals

Trainers with flashy, unusual exercise styles or grueling intensity may seem effective, but be wary if they don’t focus on the basics of good form and foundational movements, according to Dominick Fortino, owner of Dutch Kills Fitness.

“A coach should be explaining the reasons behind movement patterns instead of ‘do what I say,’ he told Insider.

A good trainer should also give you the tools to success beyond their gym or sessions.

“If you love the concept of strength training, you should be giving people the autonomy to know what they’re doing, take it, and go to any gym,” Velez said.