Ok, so you have come to a place where you want to make a change. Maybe you have tried going to a gym by yourself but the self motivation factor wanes after a few days. You find you just need more accountability.

Or maybe you attend the gym regularly but just are not seeing the results you want.

In the past you may have tried the group fitness route but it just did not work for you.

Your situation may also be that you have a pre-existing injury. You may also lack the knowledge of proper movement and just need an expert to teach you proper form and mechanics.

Unfortunately, like many other professions, there are many private fitness trainers that are not up to par. It is not by intention. Maybe some are just filling the void between careers. Some may just be personal training while in school and will be gone soon. 

We want to give you a guide on how to avoid some bad private trainers. But more important, we want to give you some great tips on how to find a great one. (Hint #4 is the most important)!


In this post we provide you with a 5 step guide when it comes to finding a personal trainer that best fits you.

Step 1: Is a Personal Trainer Worth It?

Is A Personal Trainer Worth It?

Let’s face it, a private fitness trainer can be expensive. After all you are paying for someone’s attention, service and expertise. If you have been in the service industry in the past you understand.

According to Dr. Sal Arria, president of NBFE, personal trainers can run anywhere from $25 per session to as much as several thousand dollars over a six week period!

If you are someone that tends to be a price shopper some of your best options may be an online personal trainer. More on that later.

But keep in mind you lose some of the personal attention. I equate it to having a virtual general practitioner. Yes they are knowledgeable but it just doesnt replace the one-on-one attention. 

And if you are someone with a prior existing injury or special situation you may find that you need more.

Bronson Dant at Ellicott City Health & Fitness states a personal trainer “has done all the brain work for you. They are your supplemental source of knowledge. You don’t have to spend years learning about the human body, movement, exercise, and everything else. They’ve done it for you.”

While price is a factor, be careful putting too much weight behind it as you will likely end up getting what you pay for.

A personal trainer takes all the guess work out of achieving your goals. They are able to come up with an exercise plan that takes into account your limitations and tailor movements, reps, weights & scales to match your current abilities. 

It can be easy to just get comfortable doing the same routine in the gym because that is all you know. 

A great personal trainer will be able to create new workouts to make sure there is a constant variety of not only movements but also different modal and time domains. What does this mean?

Constant variety in your workout routine is how you get results. Doing the same thing over and over works for only a certain period until the body adapts. 

A great trainer comes up with varying workout routines to get you to your goals. They need to be compensated for their time both in front of you but offsite coming up with your custom program.

Step 2: Does the one-on-one private trainer REALLY know your goals?

Goal Setting

Be on the lookout here! If you walk in the door and the trainer has you hit the gym floor without a thorough understanding of your goals. Walk right out!

It is like walking into a doctor’s office and going straight to the the operating table. He or she does not know your real issue/problem.

Every personal trainer should know the unique goals of ALL of their clients.

Not everyone’s goal is to lose weight. Not everyone’s goal is to gain muscle mass. Some goals are performance based while other goals are health based.

A good personal trainer will start with an intro or consultation session.

During this intro there should be a discussion of why you are looking for a personal trainer?

Sure we all give the same blanket response of wanting to lose weight and feel better

But a great fitness trainer should be able to understand YOUR WHY

Why do you need to lose that weight?

Or why do you feel you need to get stronger?

Is it affecting your lifestyle outside the gym?

Are you noticing such ailments at work?

When do you want to accomplish these goals by?

Did something recently happen to a family member that is causing you to take action?

How will reaching your goals change your life? What will you now be able to accomplish?

Some trainers may want to move you through a movement screening process. It could involve balancing a ball on your head while performing a one legged squat with a bicep curl.

But a great personal trainer will take the time to understand your why.

A great private trainer will step back from “need to lose 20 pounds” to the bigger picture of what’s going on in your life.

At the end of the day, exercise is just a means to an ends. A great personal trainer must understand the bigger picture to get you to your goal.

That being said you also want to find a personal trainer that has similar experience to your goals . 

  • If you are looking for  a powerlifting coach to get you hell-a-strong find a personal trainer with a plethora of powerlifting training. 
  • Are you looking to improve on your olympic lifts? Then find a personal trainer who knows the nuances of such movements. They can be very technical!
  • Are you looking to compete in your first bodybuilding or physique oriented competition? There are trainers that specialize in those arenas.
  • At Signum CrossFit, our personal trainers specialize in weight loss, strength building as well as just overall longevity of our clientele. We don’t specialize in bodybuilding and have pointed prospects to people that do. 

Not every doctor practices in the same field. Some are foot specialists, some are pediatrics and some are general practitioners. The same can be said about personal trainers. 

Step 3: Does the best personal trainer for you have EMPATHY & AUTHORITY

Great Personal Trainer

A personal trainer is not the hero in the story here. YOU ARE. A great personal trainer is merely a guide.

They are the Obi-wan to your Luke Skywalker. Or the Haymitch to your Katniss Everdeen.

As the guide, they need to have two important characteristics that can not be taught in a book or in school.

A great personal trainer needs to have empathy. And they need to have authority.


As consumers, we only like to do business with people that we know, like, and trust.

Personal training clients trust those that understand them. This ties into Step 2 above. Before and during your initial consultation did the trainer display empathy?

 Empathetic statements include things like “I understand how it feels to…” or “Just like you, I am frustrated by…” as well as “Nobody should have to experience…”

 And it’s genuine not just boilerplate. They understand it because they have helped others like you that were in a similar situation.

 All the personal training accreditations in the world don’t matter. As Teddy Roosevelt, Dale Carnegie, and John Maxwell have stated, “People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care.”

 True empathy for your situation shows that your private trainer is authentic.

 Why Authority matters as well for the best personal trainers.

 Authority can come in many forms, but beware.

 When we think of authority often times we look at titles and accreditations. Often times when I see someone, in any profession, with a list of titles and accreditations after their name I know two things.

 First, they studied a lot. Second, they are good at tests.

 There are many people that have passed the Bar Exam. There are also a lot of not so great lawyers.

 I know this because I did this. In my former life, I spent 9 years studying for some of the hardest tests in the financial industry. CFA, CPA, Series 7, 66 & 67, blah, blah blah.

 Guess what people wanted to know? “Could my stock picks make them money.” That’s it. No one cared, except for myself, about the letters after my name. That’s the truth.

  I don’t mean to discredit anyone that has worked hard for any training certification. For a full analysis on them check out this article.

Authority for a personal trainer is best displayed via their clients’ success storeis.

Who has a private trainer helped before? Did they have similar issues and goals to yours? What was the outcome?

 As for any high value service, do your research. If you scour their website and learn more about the personal trainer’s story rather than the clients’ stories I would caution you to look elsewhere.

A great personal trainer is merely a guide. You are the hero in this story.

 A great personal trainer’s social media and website will be littered with stories of successful clients. A poor one’s will be littered with selfies of themselves working out.

Step 4: Can they be your personal trainer AND nutrition coach?

Nutrition Coach

When it comes to fitness and health, proper nutrition is going to play the BIGGEST part in achieving your goals. And in fact this is the most important factor when it comes to choosing one, in my opinion.

As Greg Glassman states, “Nutrition is just as—if not more—important than movement.

At Signum CrossFit, we believe your personal trainer needs to have an understanding of proper nutrition to help you achieve your goals.

There are a lot of fad diets and ideas out there. You could be working out 1-on-1 with The Rock, but If you are making poor choices outside the gym, you just aren’t going to see great results.

At Signum CrossFit our personal trainers are also our clients’ nutrition coaches. This way they get a one stop shop.


Does a great personal trainer need to also be a Registered Dietician? No, but they should at least be able to partner with or refer you to one that they trust.

 In fact, many of our personal training clients saw the best results when they combined exercise with a proper nutrition plan that aligned with their goals.

 If you want more information on our nutrition program CLICK HERE to download you Nutrition E-Book.

Step 5: The best personal trainer for your will revisit your goals regularly!

Goal Setting

Ok so you found a great fitness trainer. You are seeing progress! And maybe you hit your goal of losing 20 pounds? What’s next?

Well goals do change and you are ready to move onto bigger and better ones!

And your trainer needs to help you set SMART goals.

Maybe you want to get your first pullup. Or run a marathon. Or compete in a local strongwoman competition.

The possibilities are endless but you need a plan of attack. This is where formal goal setting sessions come into play.

SMART Goals are the following:

  • Specific – “I want to lose weight” is great but “I want to lose 20 pounds of fat” is better
  • Measurable – “I want more energy” is great. But “I want to be able to run a 5K” is better. See what I mean? Having “more energy” is something that we notice and feel but can’t quite measure tangibly. How else are you going to know if you are making progress if you and your trainer are not able to measure it?
  • Attainable – Is your goal attainable? Losing 20lbs is doable and our clients have done it. But losing 20 lbs in a week is not.
  • Realistic – Can be interchangeable with Attainable.
  • Time Sensitive – Setting a deadline is the best way to achieve a goal because you are working towards something. For example, Jackie had a goal of being wedding ready. There was the important date on her calendar. And guess what?!?! She did it

Because the same plan that got you here may not be the same one that will get you there!

A great personal trainer will have a regular goal setting session with their clients to discuss what the next few months will look like and how they will get there.

If you are in the Bel Air and or Harford County, Maryland area and still looking for a personal trainer. We would encourage you to click the button below to schedule a consultation.

If you aren’t, feel free to reach out. We know a ton of gyms and can point you in the right direction!