Why a Personal Trainer can be counter-productive

Take a deep breath and relax. Imagine yourself walking through your high school gates, the crunch of autumn leaves on the path, the yells and shouts of kids in the playground, chug of the bus as it pulls away and the smell of diesel fumes it leaves behind.

As the school bell rings, and with the patter of feet kids head off to roll call, you chat with mates about the previous night’s homework and any issues with it. Fast forward 30 minutes, and you’re sitting in Mr Jones’ science class.

Well, you think its science. He drones on and on about some chemical property, reading the blurb from the textbook verbatim. Sure, he makes some attempt to engage the students, but invariably they just stare back blankly at him. As the bell mercifully goes, he tells the class to read pages 40-50 of the textbook for homework.

The next period is Economics with Mr Wilcox. You immediately perk up as you walk through the door, as he asks you whether you watched last night’s news report on how the stockmarket fell 2% due to the latest economic news from the US. This triggers debate in the class about why Australia is so economically linked to the US. Ideas are taken from the class and distilled by Mr Wilcox so that we all reach an understanding. Homework that night isn’t reading from a textbook, but instead we are tasked with finding an article outside of the major newspapers about the challenges the US economy is facing.


We’ve all had these types of teachers – those that TELL students what to do and how to do it, and those that EXPLAIN and ENGAGE students in the topic and make them take ownership. It’s the same with Personal Trainers.

Would you prefer;

  1. A trainer that counted reps. There would be proper technique cueing such as adjusting the foot position on the squat, or widening the grip on the benchpress but not much else, OR
  2. A trainer that explained the foot position is important to protect the knees whilst squatting, and that a wider grip targets the chest while benchpressing.


  1. A trainer that says you need more protein in your diet so prescribes protein shakes 3 times a day, OR
  2. A trainer that says you need more protein in your diet to promote muscle recovery so gives you some articles about healthy protein sources, and you get inspired to make a gourmet omelette for breakfast or eat fish a little bit more than you used to.


  1. A trainer that tells you that all junk food and alcohol needs to be immediately cut out, OR
  2. A trainer that explains the detriment of junk food and alcohol, and work out a plan together to reduce your consumption over a few weeks.


  1. A trainer that takes you through the prescribed program regardless of your physical and mental wellbeing, OR
  2. A trainer that adjusts the program if you’ve got a niggle or recovering from a cold, or had a crazy day at the office and feeling a bit off.

Most trainers will be a combination of these characteristics, but if you’ve got one that is all 1’s, that Personal Trainer will absolutely be counter-productive. Sure, you might get the results in the 8 week period, but are they sustainable or realistic? Without engaging and getting ownership from the client, ongoing success is rarely achievable.

I have been working with a client for over 6 months now. Her previous trainer was hardcore and she was working out up to 6 days a week. Each session smashed her and it’s hard enough at ground level to recover from that. With her job as a flight attendant it was near impossible at 40,000 feet for her body to sustain this intensity. When I first started with her, we cut down to 2/3 sessions a week and focused on boxing which would give her low impact cardio and full body workout. She eats really well and loves having a balanced lifestyle that she can sustain.

At Velocity we educate our clients throughout the relationship. Technique cueing is always associated with reasoning – eg. correct neck position in the plank protects the spine, shoulders tall on the squats to protect the lower back. We build a healthy relationship with food by promoting the 80/20 philosophy, where clients get educated on sources of nutrients and are allowed to indulge occasionally without guilt. Progression of exercises occurs when clients have mastered the basic technique so that they are confident in their body mechanics and neural connections to safely perform them. There are plenty of great Personal Trainers out there, make sure you find one that isn’t counter-productive!

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