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4 Personal Trainer Red Flags

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

As a quality PT I often get clients that have defected their old PT's for the reasons that are about to follow. At Armoured Muscle I'm backed up by years of military service discipline and professionalism and also make sure not to do these things to give you the best quality Personal Training in Watton I can provide. There's always exceptions to the rule and this isn't an exhaustive list however, here are 4 Red Flags you should look out for when watching a PT in the gym you are considering using or pay attention to the PT you currently have if you feel you are being taken on a goose chase for results.

If your chosen PT does any of the following, give them feedback and a chance to clean up their act before hitting a self-employed small business with one less customer;

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Red Warning Flag for Personal Trainers

PT Red Flag #1 - Warm ups on cardio equipment

First and foremost, if you get shoved on a treadmill, exercise bike for any other cardiovascular equipment for a warm up that isn't immediately followed by some sort CV training on said equipment or similar...alarm bells should be ringing. Doubly so if they send you on it and leave you to find them 5 mins later. It screams that they haven't got your session ready and are getting you out of the way to hash out a quick plan or circuit. Too often when I worked in a commercial gym, doing the 6 & 12 week programme reviews for programmes set by inexperienced trainers, I'd see a fellow colleague has told the client to do 5 mins on a treadmill before an upper body workout as their warm up.

Questions needed to be asked if that trainer knew the purpose of a warm up. It's not just to raise your heart rate and body temperature. The warm up is to facilitate joint specific mobility, lubrication and nervous system activation. In simple terms a little bit of movement practice and a slight test to check for warning signals with pain. Thus, some of the better warm ups look more like mobility routines.

If this happens to you, challenge your trainer by asking what the purpose of your warm up is and why you're not moving the joints you're about to place under load. Some exceptions include the Cross Trainer as it does a good job of moving a lot of joints but shouldn't be the only thing you use and you certainly shouldn't be left alone. Even if you are on a CV machine, a good trainer will ask about any injuries, explain the workout today or just generally have a chat to build rapport whilst you're warming up.

PT Red Flag #2 - Unable to progress your exercise beyond weight or reps

This one can be tricky to spot especially as it is a valid progression technique and harder to spot being a bystander. However, nobody is the same and some exercises suit certain body types and experience levels. If you're new to exercising and you go straight onto an advanced exercise like a power lifting movement or even something mid-tier like a barbell back squat, I'd have concerns if your PT is using a cookie cutter programme. Has your PT developed the knowledge and experience to build your movement patterns, strength and confidence?

If you came to me as a new exerciser, we'd be starting with some movement screening and bodyweight exercises then over time, progress you onward to using weights and more sophisticated patterns. You're paying for a premium, often customised, service so why settle for a plan every Tom, Dick and Harry is using with this PT. They might be cutting corners to be more time-efficient but doing so by compromising your quality isn't the way. If you want a cookie cutter plan there's plenty out around on the internet for free.

Rowing machine

Kind of a flag 2.5 is if the exercises are too intense, can the PT regress your workload to an easier progression or do they just say to stick with it until you get stronger? I've had a client come to me because on their very first session their PT blasted them by having her try to do push ups when the exercise was way too intense for her. That was her first and last PT session with him. We however, took things back a notch to make the workout manageable and personalised to her ability by using simpler movement patterns. She's now gone from struggling to row a minute to rowing 30 km a week for charity and repping out a few push ups from time to time. All from starting at the right intensity.

PT Red Flag #3 - Disinterested body language

The exact numbers vary on whom you consult but around 93% of language is unspoken. During my military leadership training we spent weeks learning to communicate. What you say makes up so little of how information comes across. Ever pissed of off a foreign language speaker? You certainly know about it without understanding a single word they are saying.

Now the PT could be having a bad day so if their body language, tone, pitch and so on seems unwelcoming on one occasion, read no more into it. If it keeps happening, at very least ask them if they are OK? They may be going through a rough time but if they don't admit it should you suffer too? Another thing brought up in my mental health first aid training is that you can't let someone else's burdens become your burdens. As much as you want to help and shoulder the weight you only get dragged down too (and you're paying for this). Either way, they are lacking motivation or having their own troubles, your quality of health and fitness training will be impacted.

Tired or boredom yawn

Assuming there are no background issues, you need to make a choice. Do you stick with someone that's not interested in you or your goals or do you muscle on through because they can write you a programme? I'm biased but finding a PT that you get on with will make a world of difference. You'll enjoy coming to sessions rather than dreading the necessary burden. You'll be receptive to more information and probably work harder than you realise.

You may have noticed I've not mentioned what signals to look out for exactly. You'll know! You'll have a gut feeling they don't want to give you the time of day. Even if they are technically doing the right things but you don't feel inspired and motivated, it could just be a personality clash.

"The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken."

PT Red Flag #4 - On their phone when with a client

The ultimate red flag! If you see a PT do this or have it happen to you, first, challenge them to do better, then if they fail, drop them like a sack of unmentionables. Unless it's an emergency, changing songs, videoing you (with permission) or getting a timer ready, the PT has little to no reason to be on their smartphone scrolling social media, texting other clients or taking calls. The 'personal' part in Personal Training is that you get the professional's time dedicated to you. if they're on the phone, are they paying attention? Are they interested in your development? Do they give a crap about developing evidence to support their own business through your results?

PT on smartphone during workout

I've seen this a little too often in younger PT's that haven't held a job anywhere other than in a gym. This isn't to say that if the PT is young they're bad nor is it that if they've never had a mortgage or common job they're bad. Be wary though, as its not all about exercise. Being a PT is partly being a life coach, with little life experience do they have much authority to coach you on yours? A big give away to this character is, as above, being glued to their phone. Even an older PT giving more time to their mobile than you is simply impolite and unprofessional. If you're thinking about using a PT in your gym, watch them for this, it's easy to see and you may even catch them sneaking in a quick text.

Let the PT know you've seen a flag.

If you see or experience any of the red flags above, do give the PT feedback. I can say from my end, any feedback, even negative, is invaluable. If they don't act on your constructive criticism, perhaps consider sourcing another professional.

If you've given your PT the warning and not seen an improvement, you may want to consider using an Armoured Muscle Personal Trainer in Watton or try some online training. Take a look at our packages on offer here.


Armoured Muscle Personal Training champions beginners to go from under-confident to unstoppable both mentally and physically using proven functional fitness and worthwhile nutrition in as little as 3 weeks.

Download the 'Fit by Wix' app - Apple - Android - Invite Code: XCJTBX



Thompson J (2011) Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game? [online] Available at - (cited Jan 22)

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