What To Expect From A Personal Trainer

Hiring a professional for anything can be an expensive thing to do, so, before jumping into the deep end, it’s a good idea to find out exactly what to expect from a personal trainer, to make sure you are getting your full monies worth.

In this article, I’ll be diving into what you should expect from a personal trainer at the bare minimum, but also discussing the many other factors that a good personal trainer should be providing to you as their customer.

This will help you to know what to look out for if you’re looking to hire a trainer, or it will help you assess your current trainer to see if they’re up to scratch.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this article

  • Goal and realistic time frame setting
  • Dietary advice/ nutrition plans
  • Strength and cardiovascular training programs
  • Fitness assessments

This is just a small part of what you should expect from a personal trainer, if you’re paying top dollar, you should be expecting this as a minimum, but there are also several other factors that every decent trainer should be providing, read on to find out what they are!

what to expect personal trainer

What to expect from a personal trainer

Goal and realistic time frame setting

One of the most important aspects a personal trainer can provide is realistic goal and time frame settings. Without a thorough goal-setting discussion, your trainer will not be able to prescribe a training program that caters to your needs and help you to achieve what you want out of hiring them.

They will also help you to be realistic about the time frames these goals can be achieved, in order to reduce or eliminate unrealistic expectations.

For example, if a client were to come to me and explain that they have a wedding to attend in two months, and they will need to lose two stone (28lbs) in order to fit into their favorite dress, I would make it clear that whilst this goal is currently a little unrealistic, we would certainly be able to get them close to their ideal weight before the event.

A personal trainer should not simply tell you what you want to hear, if it’s not achievable in the timeframes you are looking for, they should clearly state this.

Once your goals have been discussed and agreed upon, a trainer should then talk you through the processes they will use to help you achieve them, whilst explaining in detail what will be your requirements outside of the training sessions.

A full movement and start point assessment

Whilst, not every trainer does starting point assessments, they really should be something you should expect of a personal trainer.

Upon agreeing to train with a PT, they should (with your permission) begin fitness assessments such as body fat, flexibility, circumference, strength, and endurance testing. This should be done to establish exactly where you are starting out before your training begins, and the results can be used for reference at a later date when being tested again to measure progress.

Without taking measurements, there really is no way to tell if what you are doing in your training and diet changes are having a positive effect. If they are found not to be, then they can be altered, but a baseline must be established.

Even better, is to have a full movement assessment before you begin training. This type of assessment will look at how you move and will highlight any postural or muscular imbalances that will need to be addressed during your sessions. This is important, as without looking at muscular imbalances (for example), strength training could worsen pre-existing conditions.

Dietary advice/ nutrition plans

We need to be a little bit careful with this point because I need to make it very clear that despite nearly all personal training certification programs having nutritional and dietary sections in them, trainers are often still not qualified enough to advise specific meal plans to their clients. If they want to be able to offer this kind of advice, they will need to acquire a certification that allows them to do so.

Having said that, giving basic advice on what to eat and how much in order to either lose or gain weight is something that trainers certainly can do, and in fact, it’s something they certainly should do, as diet is one of the biggest factors when it comes to clients achieving their goals.

Strength and cardiovascular training programs

The nuts and bolts of any training program are the strength and conditioning programs that trainers take their clients through.

A lot of the exercises and concepts taught in strength and conditioning programs will be new to most gym-goers, so what you can also expect here, is thorough exercise instruction to ensure that each exercise is not only being completed safely but also as effective as possible.

The way in which you complete each exercise may also be new concepts to people new to a gym routine, so things like sets, reps, time under tension, and rest periods should also be explained in detail.

Not only will the client understand how to complete each exercise after this instruction, but they will also understand how the body is being challenged and why that results in helping them achieve their goals. An understanding of this will help them to train themselves more effectively without the assistance of a trainer in the future.

Continued re-programming

In order for progress to be continuous, the body needs to be challenged again and again, or it will quickly adapt to what is being asked of it and progress will stop.

To combat this, a trainer will set a training program and will reassess on a frequent basis, (usually after four to six weeks). Often, a new program will be created to work the body in different ways or to make use of different training styles, such as strength, hypertrophy, endurance, and power routines.

Switching between these training methods allows the body to continuously progress and break through plateaus, allowing goals to be attained in a more controllable and expected manner.

Fitness assessments

Once every four to six weeks before a new style of training or new program is created, a personal trainer should take the same measurements that were taken before training began.

Doing so will make it possible to compare these results to the originals to see if progress is being made at the expected rate. If needs be, the program can be altered to speed up the results, for instance, if progress is too slow to achieve the desired goal in the timeframes required, the intensity of training may be increased, or additional sessions may be recommended.

Without regular assessments being taken, you would be in the situation where assumptions are being made as to the efficacy of the current training program, which is a fast track to a lack of results and a disappointed client.

Record keeping of session progress

In the same way that fitness assessments are kept and updated to monitor progress, the same should be done for individual sessions, and the exercises performed within them.

An example of this would be a trainer keeping a record of the weights being used by their client over a four-week period. Both trainer and client are looking for progress in the amount of weight being lifted over these four weeks, otherwise, the body is not being pushed to its limits, and again, progress will halt.

This is why it is important for a trainer to keep records of the weights that are being used in each session, as it will allow them to modify and increase the weights when appropriate to ensure the clients are always working to their full potential and making as much progress as possible.


A personal trainer, is just that, a trainer. It is part of their duty to educate their clients as much as possible during sessions, not only to watch and correct exercise execution.

When you hire a trainer, you are paying for the advice of a professional with a thorough understanding of exercise and physical fitness. This means you will be able to ask them any questions or address any concerns you might have regarding your training.

One of the keys to long-term progress is that a client should be able to come away with the knowledge to train themselves without the need for a trainer to be at their sides at all times. The education a trainer can provide will allow the client to train alone and still continue to make progress.

Support and advice

At every point in a training program, a person will come up against hurdles and may even start to doubt themselves or their potential to achieve their goals.

A trainer is on hand to help you through these tough times, as no doubt, at some point in their lives, they have probably been through the same difficult patches and will know how to help you get past them.

Exercise is tough, and sometimes it even hurts a little bit, it’s the responsibility of the trainer to help you see past the difficulty of training and to look towards the benefits you will get from achieving the goals you outlined at the start of your training.

A trainer is there to be by your side when you need them for moral and emotional support through your training.

Their full attention at all times

It’s a shame that I need to write this, but this does come up as an issue that is sometimes seen with trainers. Something that you should absolutely expect and even demand is a personal trainer’s undivided attention at all times throughout your sessions.

Unless they are using it to time rest periods or to track your progress, a personal trainer should not be looking at their phone or any other device. You are paying a substantial amount of money to train with a personal trainer, and so they should respect this by giving you every second you have paid for.

It goes without saying that they should also be paying full attention when you are exercising to make sure you are performing the movements safely at all times. This is part of their duty, as you are under their care during the session, so you should expect nothing less.

Great communication

Personal trainers should be great communicators, you should feel that you are in a safe and comfortable place to easily communicate with your trainer at all times whilst working with them.

Not only does this mean that you should be able to discuss elements of the training that you may feel uncomfortable with, or question the progress (or lack of if that’s the case), with them, but you should also expect a clear line of communication in other areas, such as being able to contact your trainer to arrange sessions or make changes to previously agreed session times.

Miscommunication happens, and this is ok once in a while, but what you should not have to put up with, are frequently missed sessions or double bookings. Should a session need to be re-arranged or have the time changed, your trainer should clearly communicate this to you with plenty of notice to make sure no sessions are missed.

Proven results

When you are hiring a personal trainer, you are doing so because they are saying they have the knowledge to get you the results you are looking for.

Something that you should be able to expect from your trainer, is a proven track record of getting their clients the results they wanted and have paid for. This can come in the form of client testimonials or word-of-mouth recommendations, but somewhere along the line, they should at least be someone saying the trainer you’re looking to work with has helped them.

Even trainers new to the industry will have had opportunities to help people get results, as they could have helped friends or family reach their fitness goals. A trainer without any kind of proof that they can help you is to be avoided.

Energy and enthusiasm

In the times that you are struggling with your training, (as mentioned previously), there is a high chance that you are going to lose motivation. There may even be points in your training that you are making great progress and you’re seeing progress happening, but your motivation and enthusiasm are for whatever reason, starting to fade.

This is where your trainer will step in and help you find that motivation again by showing energy and enthusiasm throughout your training sessions. It’s often said that energy can be infectious, and the trainers are well aware of this, as training psychology is part of their training certifications, so they should be fully equipped to help you maintain the energy and enthusiasm you need.

Something to be aware of here is for trainers that look disinterested or aloof, if you see trainers that behave this way, they are certainly not going to be able to keep your motivation up, so they are also to be avoided.


A personal trainer should obviously teach you how to exercise safely and effectively, this is a given, but as you have seen today, there are also many other aspects that I think you should consider as absolute bare minimums before you consider hiring a PT to help with your training.

The sad reality is that many people aren’t aware of these factors, and can pick a trainer that doesn’t offer the points discussed today as standard. When you hire a trainer like this, the results you will get will be minimal, which is why I believe there are people out there that have been left disappointed with the results they saw from hiring a PT.

If you are looking for help with your fitness goals, I really hope this article will help you understand exactly what it is you should expect from a personal trainer.

Have a great day, and I hope you achieve your fitness goals and have a great time doing so!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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