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Never Hire The Fittest Trainer In The Gym

Why using the eye test is a terrible way to pick a coach and how you should actually vet fitness professionals before working with them.

Here’s how I learned this lesson the hard way…

After I graduated from college I entertained the idea of getting into bodybuilding and sought out a trainer to help put on some muscle.

There was a trainer at the gym I was going to at the time who was in amazing shape and had competed before so I sought him out for help.

I figured based on how he looked and what he had done he was the right person to help me.

I should have been wary of the fact he had few clients and had been rude to me before I approached him for help, but I figured if the guy was in that kind of shape he must know a thing or two.

Boy was I wrong.

Right off the bat things fell apart.

I had been clear with him that I was looking for a specific plan to follow because I already knew how to eat and train. 

He gave me some generic plan off the internet and simply told me to eat more.

Coming from an athletic background I had also wanted to learn how to change up my exercise style to build muscle so agreed to do one on one sessions with him a couple times a week.

During our first session he simply counted my reps (I may have gone to public school but I know how to count)

During the second session he spent half the time counting and half the time talking with his buddies around the gym.

It didn’t get better from there.

After a month of working with him I hadn’t learned a single thing about the transition to bodybuilding and had spent money I didn’t have at the time for the effort.

When I told him I’d be going in a different direction moving forward, he stayed true to form and told me I had no chance of getting anywhere because I didn’t work hard.

I later came to find out that he had a terrible reputation with former clients, had been taking steroids for years to build his physique and had worked at basically every gym around because he kept getting fired.

Luckily I later found a great trainer who listened to what I wanted and helped me decide to pursue powerlifting instead which became a hobby for years.

The main lesson in all this?

Just because someone looks the part doesn’t mean they have the skills or care to coach you to do the same.

In sports the best players rarely make the best coaches.

The same is true in fitness.

Self discipline to achieve fitness goals and the care and skill to coach others are vastly different skill sets.

Those that spend so much time on personal achievement rarely have the time to devote to developing the empathy, knowledge and skill to help others.

That’s not to mention the fact that many of the impressive physiques you see on social media or in your local gym are the results of amazing genetics, “special supplements” or the super power known as being in your early 20’s. 

So if finding the right coach for you isn’t about picking the fittest person in the room, how should you find them?

First, let’s identify what makes a great coach. 

A great coach listens to their clients and helps them identify not only the goal they want to achieve but helps them connect to the deeper “why” behind that goal.

A great coach creates a structured plan for clients to follow rather than giving them random workouts.

A great coach sets clear expectations, checks in when they say they will and adjusts accordingly.

A great coach always makes the client feel they are in trusted hands and gives them a clear understanding of where they are and where they are going.

A great coach makes the process about the client not themselves. Great coaches win through their client’s success. 

A great coach shows up early, acts like a professional and exceeds expectations.

A great coach is passionate about the subject matter and pursues education and understanding about health and fitness on their own time.

Simply put, a coach is only as good as the results they get you…period!

That’s how great coaches are measured.

So how do you find a great coach?

If you already go to a gym that has coaches, start by speaking with their clients. 

Ask questions like;

How long have you been working with {trainer} and what type of results have you gotten?

Long term relationships and life changing results are a great clue. 

Does {trainer} have you on a program and what goal are you focused on right now? How long have you been working on that?

If the client doesn’t have a sense of the overall program or where they are headed that’s a major red flag.

Would you recommend your trainer to your (husband / mother / child etc.)

This is a big one. People would never stake their reputation on someone they don’t believe in. If they wouldn’t refer, run away.

If you don’t go to a big gym and need to find a coach, try asking your friends who are fit if they work with anyone to get references.

Yelp and Google searches can also be helpful.

Read all the reviews you can.

Make sure to ask the coach if you can interview some of their current clients, ask them to show you results they obtained for clients with your goal in the past and have them lay out in exact detail the process they would use to help you reach your goal.

Make sure that the coach has some skin in the game. Their reputation should be on the line, so ask for some type of service quality guarantee.

For example at Virtuo we make this commitment to all our clients. “If you follow every part of our plan to a T and for some reason don’t hit your goal by the agreed upon date then we will coach you for free until you do.”

Don’t forget the relationship piece

The relationship between client and coach is integral to reaching goals.

You have to like and trust the person you’re working with.

The best coaches aren’t necessarily your friend (Bill Belichick anyone), but you trust that they want the best for you.

At Virtuo we train our coaches to lead with relationship, meaning that they focus on building trust with clients to ensure they will adhere to their program.

To us that means knowing our client’s lives outside the gym, remembering their birthday and celebrating their job promotion as much as their deadlift PR.

Maybe that’s why our clients tend to stick around for years instead of months. 

Hiring a great coach is the surest way to speed up and all but guarantee hitting your goals.

The problem is that while people calling themselves coaches and trainers are plentiful, truly great ones are rare.

Use the steps outlined above to vet anyone you’d consider hiring.

And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, come pay us a visit for a no sweat consultation with one of our master coaches.

After a complimentary training session and nutrition consultation one of our coaches will help you identify your exact goal, the why behind it and the 3 main steps you need to take to achieve it whether you decided to work with us or not. 

If you’re interested in meeting with a coach click here to book your no sweat consultation:

As always, thanks for your valuable time and support for our content.

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Until next time, keep moving!




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