Personal Trainers...

First off, the majority of personal trainers are the most unintelligible contributors to the job market today. The whole industry is vaguely monitored and therefore monopolized by appearance, when blatant common sense should point out the difference between contours of the bicep, and the capacity for knowledge of the human body. The certification tests add no validity to the situation. Most of them you can take in your house by yourself (afta, nasm, ect) and they primarily cover how to avoid being sued. I know this because I've taken a bunch of them. It's unspeakably tedious and requires no knowledge of the human body. So what qualifies these people to train you? Nothing. Exciting huh?

It's funny I would come to this conclusion, being that my occupation is technically a certified personal trainer, so we'll get into my reasoning. Just please don't tell anyone I'm a trainer. It's that embarrassing. Okay, so lets start with the obvious: an honest trainer is a dying breed. This is not from diminishing ethics, but rather a narrowing industry. There are two types of trainers. Those who are successful, and those who are honest. Success in this case can be interchangeable with both "unethical" and "unintelligible". The reason honest trainers are becoming such an endangered species is due to financial issues and coercion.

It all starts with the claims. If you're going to be paying somebody $60 an hour, you're going to put a lot of trust in what they tell you. In this case, given the option of five different trainers, you're paying a lot of money, you're going to go with the one who promises you the best results. That would also probably be the worst choice, but you wouldn't know that because the honest trainer who made lesser claims has never seen a client. So guess what happens- either he's out of a job, or he's coerced into making unrealistic claims in order to attract clientele.

So all the "benefits" of unrealistic claims even out, and advertisements become a heavy motivation. Now, deceit is the simplest and most effective form of advertisement. This again strips away the success of any honest trainer left. So coercion then brings every trainer's advertising into the realm of garbage, and you couldn't necessarily tell just by looking at it because of how these advertisements are constructed.

The most common advertisements you'll see are personal success stories. These seem to add a layer of believability to any claim, because "if they can do it, then so can I." So the first type of these personal success stories, is a qualitative reflection. This is where the client writes a little paragraph with some potent vocab to talk up the trainer. "In just six weeks, my trainer helped me to lose bodyfat, gain muscle, tone up, look better than I ever have, and feel great doing it." One of those disgusting things. But that doesn't quantify anything. And being a logically based society, we want numbers. So that takes us to the ever-popular quantitative analysis.

This analysis is a simple assessment of numerical figures and values. This is what we take to heart because raw numbers and pure statistics don't lie. Okay, that was a joke. I hope you understand that. We're all taught to believe in numbers being valid. It's one of the more significant flaws in our methods of critical reflection. When the internal validity of any test is sacrificed, all validity of the numbers is virtually inexistent.

In the case of personal trainers, generally the sacrificing of validity is a product of instrumentation. Bodyweight, bodyfat percent, and lean body mass. These are three of the more common key measurements quantified for the sake of advertisement by any personal trainer. You'll read about somebody losing 10lb off their total bodyweight, dropping 7% bodyfat, and increasing lean body mass by 6lb. None of these numbers are valid. They seem relatively concrete, but the validity isn't there.

Your bodyweight can naturally fluctuate as much as 10lb per month in pure water weight, and bodyfat percent is calculated in relation to total bodyweight, and lean body mass is simply an equation of the product of the first two. But the calibration of the instruments is also utilized more commonly than you think to make alterations in both bodyweight and bodyfat percent. But bodyfat tests rely less on the calibration of the instrument and more on "physical error" of the administrator of the test. This administrator, or rather "personal trainer with an agenda", has complete control over the bodyfat percentage obtained simply by how much they grab for a pinch. I promise you on your pre-training test, they'll nab a bit more of you. It just makes your success story better through a greater change in the numbers, and this then makes the trainer look that much better.

These numerical changes aren't necessarily derived from instrumentation alone however. Maturation, the practice effect, or statistical regression can all lend a hand in furthering this utilized margin of error.

Maturation is slightly less common as it only accounts for the younger population of athletes. Parents love their children, and therefore naturally love their children to have every available opportunity to succeed. It becomes an easy decision for them when a trainer advertises his younger client's phenomenal gains. But if the child is a 12 year old football player, he's going to be significantly bigger, stronger, faster, and more talented when he's 13 anyway, regardless of any form of training. His age is a confounding variable in the validity of quantifying the results of his training program. But this variable is utilized every time it's available because regardless of the trainer's ignorance of the issue, it exudes the idea that the results were obtained strictly from the particular training regimen.

The practice effect generally represents an athlete's performance or physical capability in a specific test. The first time they perform this test, it's unfamiliar, and their performance reflects that. Regardless of what the training does to them, becoming accustomed to the test drastically improves their performance. Do trainers eliminate this variable when quantifying their progress? No. Rather, they include it as if those results were a product of the training program alone. This gives the impression that the athlete's speed, quickness, strength, stamina, or any other athletic ability was drastically improved, when this improvement was primarily derived from gaining familiarity with the particular test.

Lastly, statistical regression to the genetic mean states that you have a set point where your body should naturally be. It's the reason why your metabolism slows down when you eat less. If you're above or below your body's set genetic point of normality, your body tries to correct that with a regression to the mean. Changes in the data reflecting this issue is then representative of more of a correcting factor, which will always occur much faster. If you're below your set mean on strength and muscular development, your body makes quick significant gains until it reaches that point. If your bodyfat is above that mean, you will lose pounds rapidly until you reach it. This has very little to do with the actual method of intervention.

So even if the data presented were an accurate portrayal of the individual's progress and not a measure of instrumentation, such as the calibration of the equipment, there's too many factors it could be outside of the training regimen, that numbers end up completely invalid as a form of measurement. So summed up, numbers mean nothing. Total bodyweight, lean body mass, total bodyfat percent, strength, speed, or quickness test improvements. These are all just a bunch of garbage.

It gets a little difficult to select a personal trainer doesn't it? Awesome. Don't pick one. But if you're extremely insecure and feel you need one anyway, I'll do you a favor and tell you who not to select. Don't pick the guy who puts on a tank top and does chest 4 times per week, performs obscure exercises, or lifts three times his bodyweight through a restricted range of motion. These are useless advertisements in themselves. I'm not saying they're financially unproductive, just physically useless. These obscure movements confuse people, making them believe that there's something they don't know. That maybe this odd, somewhat intriguing looking exercise is exceptionally valuable and it, as well as others like it, should be incorporated into their own routine. Sounds reasonable. If nothing else, curiosity is great at attracting attention. Attention is great at attracting clients. So here's another attention grabber. Rack 1,000 pounds onto some machine and work through a six inch stroke. This works the laws of physics, not the muscle. When you're only moving the weight through the upper six inches of the range of motion, you can fundamentally triple the amount of weight you can handle. So, people routinely come up and ask "how is it that you're able to do that much weight?" Instead of being honest and saying 'well actually I can't', it becomes a great opportunity for the trainer to attract new clientele and say "I can show you" while pulling out a price sheet. This is what to avoid. It usually accompanies a general arrogance. I don't quite understand why they're so proud of themselves, but it's really no matter. I just avoid them, as should you.

Granted, there's a couple good personal trainers out there. But please don't be the moron who thinks "oh yeah I know mine's good" because I guarantee he/she is awful. Good trainers are very rare, and advertisements show you nothing beyond who's putting out the most effort on promotion. And this is foreign to me, because irrelevant to advertising, if you're good, people know, and you probably don't work at a gym. Honestly, off the top of my head I can think of one good trainer in the united states. Jesse Ward in Seattle. Not one other human being comes to mind. But if you go to a gym, the advertising seems to indicate otherwise. So just be selective, because $60 per hour is a lot to pay for someone with minimal knowledge and a certification.