Here’s what you need to know…
- Beware the trainer who sees his ordinary clients only as the dog crap on his shoes on his way to training pro athletes.
- “Celebrity trainers” usually suck.
- The coaching biz is filled with crotchety old bastards who’ve been saying pretty much nothing but “stop being a wuss and squat” for 30 years.
- Trainers who spit out anatomy 24/7 are insecure idiots. Speak to your clients in English rather than trying to impress them.
1. The Entitled Newbie Coach
Coach Mike Boyle tells a story about a hotshot intern who, at the end of his first day, asked when he was going to be handed his first professional athlete to train.
Mike’s response was a combination of raucous laughter and the sound you make when a chicken bone gets lodged in your larynx.
Sadly, this isn’t a rare occurrence. The overwhelming sense of entitlement by some trainers/coaches in the fitness industry is off the charts.
This isn’t to say that your goal shouldn’t be to train pro athletes. More power to you if that’s what you want to do. What’s irritating is when 1) new trainers expect to be handed a million dollar arm on the first day as if it’s a normal occurrence and 2) it’s beneath them to slum it in the trenches and train “regular” people.
To put things into perspective, I didn’t train my first professional athlete until I was six years into my career, and it was never a goal of mine in the first place.
Up until I started training professional baseball players in 2007, I worked with many different people from many walks of life (and I still do) and considered it an honor that anyone would pay me to write their programs.
And who are you kidding? If you’re a young fitness professional with bills to pay, are you really going to play the uppity douche card and flip your nose up at the regular Joe who just wants to lose some fat?
What’s more, entitled trainers are more concerned with when they’re going to write the next great e-book, despite never having actually trained anyone… ever. Like in real life.
Worse still, many suffer from grand illusions of four-hour workweeks and six-figure salaries and feel they’re beyond putting in the work like everyone else.
We have trainers out there who, when asked to name the muscles of the rotator cuff, will stumble over their words (that’s like, in the shoulder, right?), yet feel they’re ready to grace the world with an e-book or that they’re owed a client roster of pro athletes because they have an Instagram account.
These guys are concerned with building a “brand,” not building a foundation of knowledge and skills.
And we can’t forget the coaches who are fervent readers with a wealth of book knowledge, yet have little or no experience putting what they read into action.
They’re analogous to the “financial wizard” who promises you the secrets to being a millionaire, yet has filed for bankruptcy twice. Or the “relationship expert” who’s memorized the Kama Sutra, yet has never gotten past second base.
I’ve seen interns come in with an impressive resume, but when asked to take a 14-year old client through some deadlift troubleshooting, collapse under the pressure.
Experience does matter.
2. The “Celebrity Trainer”
Let me let you in on a little secret: There’s no such thing as a “celebrity trainer.”
Sure, there are trainers out there who work with a number of celebrities, but they don’t often brag about it or use it for marketing.
Most of the ones who call themselves that are 1) the only ones who call themselves that or 2) maybe did work with a celebrity, like Kanye West’s chiropodists’ secretary, that one time, five years ago.
And just because a trainer happens to land a celeb client or two doesn’t necessarily mean she knows what she’s doing. Some of the worst, most backwards fitness advice out there is coming out of the mouths of “celebrity trainers.”
3. The Jaded Old-School Strength Coach
Part of me embraces this kind of coach. Many of the coaches I look up to most are guys (and girls) who have been doing this longer than some of us have been alive.
These are the guys who’ll be the first to say that the best coaches coach. They stress the basics and don’t rely on flashy gimmicks to make their clients and athletes better.
These are the same people who aren’t afraid to change and are the first to admit when they’ve been wrong or outdated with their approach.
When I was still working in commercial gyms as a personal trainer, I had a conversation with another trainer who, upon asking him what good training books he’d read lately, answered, “I don’t read anymore. I’ve learned all I need to know in this industry.”
What a dick.
Twenty minutes later I saw him training a client on a BOSU ball who had the worst squat technique I’d ever seen.
Then we have coaches like Dan John who have been coaching for 30+ years who consistently stress continuing education, have an insatiable desire to evolve, and are more than willing to admit their mistakes.
On the other hand, we have some trainers out there who think they’re Mel Siff because they read Supertraining… once.
This also feeds into the notion of how some old-school coaches think that, because what they did with their athletes 20 years ago worked and led to some success, means it’s still relevant today.
That may be the case — barbells still work after all — but the coach who thinks he knows everything and is unwilling to change his approach or try something new often comes across as nothing more than a jaded, mean sonofabitch.
Just telling someone to “stop being a pussy and squat” doesn’t really impress me, and it shouldn’t impress you, either.
4. The “I Know Big Words” Trainer
Trainer: “When I assessed you I found that you presented with retroverted hips and a left anterior-interior chain imbalance. We need to spend two weeks working on your breathing mechanics so that you can attain a better zone of apposition.”
Client: “Um, what? Are you speaking Elvish?”
Trainers who spit anatomy 24/7 are the worst. But this isn’t impressing anyone and will most likely turn clients off.
We get it already. You can name all the muscles that internally rotate the femur backwards. Now can you please talk to your clients like they’re human beings?
Then there are those trainers who overstep their scope of practice and turn into the rehab, diagnosing dysfunction guy or girl.
Listen, you’re a personal trainer, not a doctor. You should be able to assess movement and possibly address it with “corrective” exercise and appropriately progressed strength training.
However, you sure as shit shouldn’t be diagnosing anything or labeling yourself “rehab-anything” without the appropriate schooling or credentials.
Good luck with that if you do.
5. The “Expect Everything To Happen Overnight” Trainer
Young trainers and coaches often ask, “How do I become a top trainer in this field?”
Many expect the experienced coach to say, do “x” and “y” and “z” will happen. That would be the sexy answer.
The fact is, I’m approaching year fifteen of my career and it’s only just now I feel I’m getting the hang of it. Unsexy answer, but truthful answer.
Mike Boyle said that it took 20 years before anyone knew who he was. Twenty years of getting up early, training clients twelve hours per day, sometimes even working a second job, before he felt he’d “made it.”
Unfortunately, we live in an era where a person’s number of Twitter followers — or perceived popularity — carries more weight than their actual work. You can buy Twitter follows. You can’t buy experience.
So, to answer the question: Do your work, don’t expect things to happen overnight, and don’t be afraid to fail, oftentimes miserably. That’s how we get better.
That’s how you’ll succeed.