I’ve been a personal trainer in Singapore for a long time now (more than 20 years), and every year I see new fitness trainers join our ranks to help spread awareness about proper fitness and health. However, quite a few of the new personal trainers make some rather common mistakes for themselves and for their clients. I recognize these mistakes because I made them myself when I was just starting out, and learned my lessons the hard way.

They Think They Already Have Everything They Need

Many new personal trainers are armed with the latest thoughts and techniques, and they’re determined to “improve” on obsolete ideas regarding fitness and exercise. They’re so passionate about wanting to help their clients that they may not have enough time (or the inclination) to learn about new ideas discovered by experienced trainers and by new research.

This kind of passion and confidence is commendable, but it can lead to a narrow vision that may not be adaptable enough when change is required. Sadly, they can’t see the ‘myopicness’ of their thinking and what makes it worse is that they think senior and more experienced trainers are the ones with those thoughts.

Just to share: As for myself, I try to stay on top on the current trends and research conducted by universities and organisations internationally – by reading fitness and sports science journals. On top of this, I renew my fitness certifications (ACE, ACSM-EIM, NASM, etc) via continuing education credits every year, which ensures that my continued education in the areas of fitness, wellness and nutrition.

With new found technical knowledge attained, I do my best to educate my clients accordingly bearing in mind the stages of learning one goes through.

1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence

Knowing the stages and knowing when to teach what will help both client and coach in the process of learning and teaching/training.

Sometimes They Are Too Enamored of Everything New

Many people think that “new” is always “better”. They may jump quickly from one idea, tool, or workout, to another. This is a phenomenon that we “old timers” call program-hopping.

While change and improvements are required over time, they can’t be sudden. The mission of the personal trainer is to instill familiarity and habitual behavior in their clients, and that means reinforcing lessons again and again, while progressively teaching them new ideas and techniques as they level up.

They Don’t Know How to Interact with Clients Properly

This mistake is understandable. After all, the education of a personal trainer often requires interacting mostly with other fitness experts and reading books. Now a new trainer has to discover how to communicate effectively with people who don’t how much about training and fitness at all.

These mistakes include:

  • Not explaining the reasons for the instructions. “Do as I say” may work for some parents, but for most fitness clients the reasoning behind the instructions matters. And it should matter to the personal trainer too, because educating the client is part of the job.
  • Impatience. Sometimes trainers forget that solutions, especially for big problems, will take time. The focus must be on small changes and improvements, and in time this can solve the big problems as well. What trainers sometimes overlook is that their clients are not fitness experts. And they have to overcome a lifetime of ineffectual motor habits and patterns. These habits were developed over time, and it will also take time to overhaul them.
  • Over-complexity. This is also another problem caused by the tendency to forget that many clients are beginners. A trainer has to start with the basics. The trainer must also make sure that the client truly understands the instructions. And the trainer must always focus in the basic stuff like mobility, stability, and proper body positioning.
  • Ignoring the pain. Trainers are responsible for the fitness of their clients, and part of that responsibility is to ascertain the aches that clients feel. A trainer can’t just ignore any report of pain from the client, and neither should they just blame the client for the pain they feel. Instead, the trainer must make sure to discover the actual source of the pain and find out the solution, and as much as possible, prescribe and do exercises that would alleviate the pain. If they can’t solve it, they’d need to refer the client to an expert in rehab or doctors and specialists who could help.

So how will these new personal trainers recognize their mistakes and learn what’s right? One sure way is through continuing education and training. They need to read up on new ideas, and form relationships with other professionals in the industry who can provide thoughts and ideas they can use. They have to do their research properly, by questioning everything. They have to be objective regarding what they already think they know and what they read and hear about in the future. Only then will they properly learn, as I did myself.

These are some of the many observations that I see everyday. I’ve listed some solutions to how they can improve. If you’re a trainer and have thoughts on these, kindly email me and let me know. I’d like to learn from you too 🙂

Coach Sharm, MSc 


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