Written by Alex Zakrzewski
Hiring a personal trainer can be an amazing investment in your health and fitness. A good trainer teaches you proper form, keeps you accountable, and makes sure you’re working your butt off during your hour. But not all trainers are cut from the same cloth, and if yours is uttering any of this advice, it may be time to end the relationship.
1. “It worked for all my other clients, so it will definitely work for you.”
Human bodies are like snowflakes in that no two are the same. For this reason, there’s no guessing exactly how one’s body is going to respond to a particular training or nutrition regimen. “Buying a cookie cutter program from some random online coach won’t get you the results you want,” says Alicia Bell, Online Personal Trainer and Track & Field Coach. “Because results will vary, a really solid program needs to be specific to the individual.” If your trainer is basing their advice purely on their own results, or worse yet, if you notice the exact same advice being given to other clients, it’s time to start shopping around.
2. “To lose fat on your arms, just train them more often.”
“You can’t dictate where on your body you’d like to lose fat, nor can you predict from which areas of your body you’ll lose fat first or by how much,” says Britney Rand, Certified Athletic Trainer and owner of BestLifeResults.com. Strength training, coupled with a solid nutrition plan is the surest way to reduce fat—not just in one spot, but across your entire body. What you can do, explains Rand, is “bring up” lagging body parts through targeted exercises and give the impression of spot reduction. “Consider what a set of dominating delts or a juicier, stronger booty will add to your overall appearance.”
3. “Lift your legs while bench pressing to hit your core muscles.”
Trainers often suggest this technique on the basis that it supposedly adds a core-training element to the mother of all chest-builders. Unfortunately, what you may or may not gain in core engagement, you definitely lose in safety. “Proper bench pressing consists of having the feet on the floor to get you stable while lifting—especially if you’re lifting heavy weight,” explains Dan Delic, CPT, Certified Nutrition Specialist and Physique Competitor. An unstable setup not only increases risk of injury, it limits the effectiveness of the lift by compromising your balance and strength. If you really want to hit the chest and core at the same time, try adding some push-up variations or suspension training to your routine.
4. “If you’re not squatting my way, you’re doing it wrong.”
Proper form is crucial when squatting, but what constitutes proper form will often vary from person to person, says Brittany Yard, CPT and Fitness Competitor. “Squat form should depend on one’s body mechanics,” she says. “Some people have long femurs, enhanced mobility, or just prefer high-bar or low-bar squats.” There’s also nothing wrong with incorporating different squat variations into your routine. Each type of squat packs its own unique benefits, and only by changing it up can you ensure overall development in strength and physique. As with all other aspects of training, first learn the fundamentals, then listen to your body.
5. “If you want to lose weight you have to up the cardio.”
In recent years, a slew of studies have disproven the old notion that long, tedious bouts of steady-state cardio is the best way to lose weight. “Resistance training such as weightlifting, bodyweight training, or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) are all more effective at scorching fat than traditional cardio alone,” says Justin D’Olimpio, owner and head coach at Just Train Fitness. And don’t forget Tabata, a form of interval training that emphasizes explosive bursts of energy with minimal rest in between sets. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with long jogs or scenic bike rides. But if you really want to kickstart your fat-burning motor, it’s time to change it up.
6. “You can eat whatever you want as long as it’s healthy.”
Sorry to break it to you, but overeating is overeating regardless of what food is actually being consumed. “The notion that no one ever got fat from eating fruits and vegetables isn’t entirely true,” warns Rand. “Unlimited quantities of any type of food have the ability to cause weight gain and stall progress.” While weight loss and body-fat composition is certainly dependent on the quality of food you’re eating, just as, and if not more important a factor, is the quantity being consumed. If you’re eating more calories than you’re expending through consistent training and active lifestyle, don’t count on seeing those love handles disappear anytime soon.
7. “Let’s see how much you can deadlift.”
If you want to get stronger, you have to lift heavy weight—there’s no two ways about it. However, heavy, no-holds-barred training is also something that should be eased into only after considerable instruction and preparation, cautions Yard. Without the proper programming ahead of time, going too heavy too quickly can lead to serious injury and stymied progress. Testing your one-rep max is definitely an integral part of strength training and powerlifting programming. But if your new trainer has you banging out one extremely heavy set after another instead of focusing on mechanics and fundamentals, don’t book another session.
8. “Bosu ball squats are the way to go.”
Somewhere along the line, Bosu squats became all the rage, but don’t buy into the hype. As with lifting your legs when bench pressing, Delic explains that any possible benefits are completely offset by a lack of proper stability and coordination. “This practice can be dangerous and seriously harm the individual performing the exercise,” he says. “It can also limit the strength required to properly power up through your legs, thereby precluding an effective lift.” If you really want to emphasize a core-training element in your lower body routine, try the much safer (and much more effective) goblet squat.
9. “Grab a protein shake and you’re done.”
Protein is essential after a workout as it’s the nutrient your muscles most need in order to recover and grow. But that’s not all your body needs. “Carbohydrates, namely high-glycemic carbs, should also be added to your post-workout nutrition” says Yard. These carbohydrates restore glycogen to the muscles, replenishing the nutrients and energy you expended during the workout. Post-workout nutrition is something you and your trainer should be acutely conscious of, and it should be tailored to your needs. If you’re looking for ideas, give this nutrient-packed protein smoothie a try!
10. “Eating before bed will lead to weight gain.”
Having a nosh before hitting the hay isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Delic. It all depends on what you’re eating and what your goals are. Anything fatty or caffeinated is an obvious no-no, unless you enjoy lying awake feeling bloated. However, a small serving of turkey or a banana, both of which contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, might be just what the sandman ordered. If muscle gain is your main objective, consider a shake made with casein protein, whey protein’s slower-digesting cousin. Because casein takes longer to hit the bloodstream, it can help stave off catabolism (muscle breakdown) while you snooze.