13 Things Personal Trainers Are Getting Wrong Right Now – Part 1

Here's our guide to spotting a terrible personal trainer

When you’ve been in the Manchester personal training scene over 10 years, not to mention having interviewed, hired and fired more than a few personal trainers over that time, you get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of personal trainers.

The number 13 is unlucky for some, and for more than a few personal trainers who fall foul of the basic errors below, it most certainly is.

From the plain outlandish and batshit crazy, to consistent and persistent themes, the lack of decent barriers to entry in becoming a personal trainer (6 week personal trainer qualification courses anyone?!) means that we’ve often found it difficult to find the best and the brightest in the industry for the team here at Optimised.

There simply isn’t a wealth of true professionals knocking it out of the park out there. And some of things you hear some personal trainers are getting their clients to do are next level batshit crazy.

Everyone’s personal trainer is the best personal trainer though right?

For every client who has come to us from elsewhere due to dissatisfaction with their results or the service, the conversation always starts with “he/she is a great person but…”. That’s not a slight on the many great personal trainers around Manchester but…

…there’s a temptation in the absence of being able to judge a personal trainer on anything else to judge them on personality and substitute that for being a skilled practitioner.

That, and also the fact that everyone likes to back their own judgement, so because a person picks a particular personal trainer often means that they automatically like to tell everyone that they’re the best – it backs up their personal judgement.

To an suspecting public who often don’t know how to spot the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly, it can be hard to pick the right personal training solution.

So without further ado, and in no particular order of preference, here are the 13 things I’ve seen over the past 10 years that personal trainers continue to get wrong:

1/ One direction

Many personal trainers I’ve come across in Manchester make the grave mistake of developing a particular training philosophy and way of training their clients. 

And sticking to it even in the face incontrovertible evidence that such an approach doesn’t work if you want to get results and build an effective business.

Many of those people turn around when they’ve got a ridiculously high client turnover and cry about how things are so tough and they’re struggling to make ends meet.

That’s simply an incompatible position to hold while at the same time maintaining a rigid, inflexible attitude to training clients. What those trainers tend to find out really quickly is that if a client is buying ‘getting lean’ and you deliver 3 months of postural correction, that client will take their precious time, money, and effort elsewhere. In a hurry.

Simple, and yet so many develop a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to personal training.

What clients want is a depth of knowledge that applies to their goals and delivers results.

2/ No direction

I’ve come across so many personal trainers that have no clue what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and have even less motivation to sit down and think about it.

Instead they muddle through following every latest fad and trend that the fickle health and industry throws up, all the while looking around wondering why they’re still training clients at a commercial gym at 6am for not much financial return.

Even worse, a lot of trainers I’ve come across simply look around the gym and copy what other personal trainers are doing, without knowing why and how it’s being done and how that applies in the context of the client in front of them.

These are the same trainers who you’ll often see checking their phone during sessions, and appearing roundly disinterested in their client, their form, and so on.

Paying such a trainer for their services is as mad as a big bag of badgers if you ask me, but what do I know.

3/ Too many directions

There’s a saying I love – “He who chases two rabbits catches neither”.

This is never more true than in the personal training industry. 

I see so many trainers who are distracted from doing what they’re paid to do – getting results for their client – because while at the same as they’re not being a very good trainer, they’re focusing on 10 other projects they’re trying to get off the ground.

When looking for great personal trainers for the team at Optimised, I’m looking for those who want to be career personal trainers. 

Not those simply marking time until one of their other projects takes off (which they never do due to them giving so little energy to one thing).

These trainers tend to end up:

a) not getting very good results with their clients as they never study enough, or pay enough attention to learn what gets results with specific clients and what doesn’t


b) bouncing around the industry as they struggle to work out why they’re not very successful despite trying so hard

Take home point: of you want to be a personal trainer, commit to being a personal trainer. Put the time in. Put the effort in. Be dedicated to your clients. Read the science.

Don’t look at your contemporaries and those who have made progress in the industry with jealousy and wonder why they’re moving forward and you’re not – this fundamental flaw could be holding you back.

4/ Fixated on their own game

It’s always seemed to me that a lot of personal trainers are too focused on their own game rather than putting in the hours to learn how to get their clients better results.

Even worse, some trainers prioritise this ‘me first’ attitude to the detriment of their clients.  

Not only to the point that they’re particularly ineffective in getting results, but they also never develop the skills, knowledge, and experience required to be a great trainer, and damage their own career.

These trainers also tend to prioritise themselves and their own objectives, such as competing or other pastimes, to the point that they often struggle to schedule their clients in when their clients want to train.

Again, trainers with this unfortunate attitude tend to have a high client turnover and wonder why they have a failing personal training business. Don’t wonder – put your clients first.

5/ Too cool for school

I come across a lot of personal trainers who are far too focused on how cool they are.

They’re just far too into what look they’re rocking, who they know (when most likely they don’t), and posting pictures of their new Nike rides.

That’s great if you’re also knocking your research and session delivery out of the park too, but that’s not often the case with type of individual either. 

You can roll on down to any of your commercial gyms any day of the week and see trainers who are rocking their fitness industry style in the gym and on Instagram while churning out poor quality sessions and few results.

These trainers tend to mistake focusing on rocking a great style, with highly stylised but ultimately meaningless action shots staged in great Manchester locations, for being a great and successful personal trainer.

Most of the time, this misappropriation of focus and effort doesn’t work out well for clients and their results.

This ‘all style and little substance’ approach looks great and might suck a few clients in, but substance (actually, you know, knowing what you’re doing and delivering results) is what builds a successful long term personal training business.

Well, there’s the first 5 of the 13 things I’ve seen personal trainers in Manchester getting horribly wrong over the past 10 years or so.

Next up we’ll take a look at arrogance, entertaining rather than training, rampant laziness, listening to the wrong people, and focusing on money rather than results.

To your future success,

Matt & the personal training team

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