What did your personal trainer teach you about getting fit?
April 24, 2011 9:57 PM   Subscribe

What did your personal trainer teach you about getting fit?

What tips and tricks have you learned from your trainer and what sort of exercise and eating plan did he or she put you on? For example, what muscle groups did you work on which days and how much cardio? How often would you add weight or increase reps? How many different machines or exercises would you do per muscle group (e.g. biceps). Etc.
posted by mintchip to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Not sure if this will seem like "chat." I'm basically looking to learn what personal trainers teach you. Specifics or general principles of how to exercise effectively. Thanks.
posted by mintchip at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2011

I haven't consulted one myself, but isn't the whole point of a personal trainer that the service is personal? If you want semi-personal training advice from MeFi, you should at least explain what your goals are (building muscle, weight loss, athletic performance, general maintenance, etc).
posted by domnit at 10:31 PM on April 24, 2011

I've never had a trainer, but some of my friends do, and there are two big things they get out of it:

1) It's personal training, geared to their specific needs, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. For example, one friend is a runner training for marathons, and while her workouts include other things, they're biased toward improving her running speed and endurance, and not - for example - her weightlifting, or the muscle groups she uses on her bike.

2) A lot of it is there to have someone to force them to push farther than they would on their own, to tackle the difficult and unpleasant, to have someone looking over their shoulder saying "no, you can't stop yet," and generally to keep them honest; and at the same time, to provide encouragement, reinforcement, and expert reassurance that a difficult process will have real results.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:48 PM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

(I should say: Two big things they talk about getting out of it.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:49 PM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best thing my trainer taught me was that there is no substitute for meeting with or talking to someone who can ask you about your goals and current routine and help you develop something that is feasible for you, individually. I could outline exactly what I discussed with my trainer, but all it will be is random training advice, not anything that has been tailored to you and your situation. Many gyms or trainers offer a "first session" free deal, if you are interested in working with a trainer.
posted by kro at 10:49 PM on April 24, 2011

Maybe you should clarify - are you trying to get information that may work as a substitute for a real trainer, or are you trying to get information to help inform whether you should (or if it's 'worth it' to) get a trainer?
posted by Kololo at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2011

What he taught my friend was to eat a lot more protein.
posted by salvia at 12:16 AM on April 25, 2011

That you should eat at least a little before you train because when you haven't eaten, overdo it and feel ill, you're not allowed to vomit into the gym's potted plants.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:08 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm currently working with a trainer to build muscle -- I'm at my target weight, but trying to adjust my body composition by adding some muscle and removing some fat.

I made a ton of progress with my fitness without ever consulting with a trainer, but recently I hit a plateau, and got bored with my routine. I've just started working with a trainer last month, and the biggest benefit is that I'm spending less time in the gym but working a lot harder when I'm in. This is tied to having someone to force me to do those extra reps -- spotting me if necessary.

Without a trainer I was spending an hour in the gym per session, doing a general full-body workout (hit every major group once) by myself. I now spend 30 minutes doing highly focused sessions. For instance, on chest day we might do a normal bench press, followed by incline flies, followed by pushups with my feet on a balance ball, followed by cable flies, with a bit of tricep or core work tacked on at the end.

As for weight and reps, for most exercises we do a set of 12 reps at a weight that is challenging but I can handle without any help. We then do two sets of 8 reps at a weight where I might need help on the final two. We then do a set of 6 reps, at a weight where I'm struggling pretty bad the entire time. Weight gets added once I don't need the trainer's help anymore.

It sucks while doing it, and I feel DEAD afterwards, but it is AWESOME. I'm not sure I could push myself that hard without a trainer or serious workout buddy. I have no problem forcing myself to run 10Ks and eat super healthy, but I need a shove when it comes to actually lifting weights.
posted by adamk at 1:16 AM on April 25, 2011

on 2 seperate occasions i worked with personal trainers, years ago. They each taught me a number of excercies I use to this day, especially for gearing up to ski season.
When you think about all the purchases you make that are sort of 1 and done (groceries,restaurants,travel, even shelf-life goods like clothing), to be able to hire someone that can give you repeatable stuff to do for years, it was well worth the money.

Many people also hire PTs to help with motivation. You have an appt you have to be at, and you have someone there skilled at pushing you but also encouraging you. I personally did not need this part of the equation.
posted by alkupe at 6:55 AM on April 25, 2011

Response by poster: To clarify, I am trying to get information that may work as a substitute for a real trainer. Thanks!
posted by mintchip at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2011

That my old combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility spent way too much time on cardio, and interval training can be far more efficient.

To eat 15-30g of carbs within an hour before my workouts, and to have a post workout snack (usually chocolate milk) directly afterward.
posted by ldthomps at 8:00 AM on April 25, 2011

My trainer rarely had me working on machines. He had me jumping rope, doing walking lunges, burpees, squats (so many squats), push-ups, and balance exercises on the BOSU ball. Most of the lunges and squats were done with hand weights. I would do bicep curls and flys and all kinds of other exercises. He was there to make sure I was doing the exercises correctly because if you aren't using the correct form, you can injure yourself. Also, if you don't use the correct form, you may not challenge your muscles adequately.

Other things we did: planks, sit-ups (especially the bicycling ones), exercises with yoga balls. Some exercise on a "machine" where I would hold up my body weight with my arms, legs dangling, and then have to raise my knees up while still dangling. Lots of stretching. Stepping up and jumping up and then off benches.

My trainer was into functional fitness, so if you are trying to body build, this might not be right for you. A trainer will be able to target your goals with specific exercises.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2011

One of the most important things that a trainer can do for you, and that you can't really get from reading, is making sure you're using proper form. Even if you're absolutely sure you're doing something the right way, there might be a small adjustment you're not aware you need to make, or you may be getting sloppy as you progress. Poor form will make your workout less effective, and it can be dangerous.

You really want that second pair of eyes every now and then. If you don't want to pay a trainer, find a friend who's knowledgeable enough to give you feedback, or videotape yourself. But the more expert the person watching, the better off you'll be.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:05 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing mine taught me that I didn't do before she called "super sets". Which are three iterations of two exercises inter spliced. E.g. 10 rowy-things, 10 pushups, repeat 3x. I think the groupings matter and are not random.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:11 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Show up.
posted by acheekymonkey at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2011

OP: To clarify, I am trying to get information that may work as a substitute for a real trainer. Thanks!

Ah! Then what you want is a self-guided exercise plan, preferably combined with sound dietary advice.

There are others out there, many are good, some are simpler, but I find exrx.com to be one of the best resources simply because there's so much information, clearly and concisely presented, for when I have questions (Am I doing these squats correctly? What about my old ankle injury? Can't I just do situps and skip the rest?).
posted by IAmBroom at 9:27 AM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Plus: the exercise pages I linked to provide animated gifs of people doing them with proper form. Additionally, some common "poor form" mistakes are covered in links under some exercises as well. Not as good as a trainer, but far better than a mere book with pictures.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2011

To eat like a king at breakfast (Biggest meal), a queen at lunch (Medium meal), and a prince at dinner (smallest Meal). This technique has really worked for me and gives me much more energy throughout the day. I've lost almost 30 lbs since Jan. Also, he had me eliminate sugar from my diet as much as possible and eat more protein.
posted by white_devil at 10:48 AM on April 25, 2011

If lifting weights: Do compound exercises like pull-ups, dips, lunges, and squats to work many body parts at once, minimizing your time in the gym. Isolation exercises like curls and tricep kickbacks are for bodybuilders and experienced lifters, who've already maxed out on compound exercises.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2011

I learned from my trainer that my trainer is only interested in getting paid to train me.

Since leaving my trainer, I learned that I am quite adept at listening to my own body and working out accordingly.

I learned from my trainer that muscle-isolation machines are great, and thats why the gym is full of them.

Since leaving my trainer, I learned this is hogwash, and the best exercises to create strength are: Squats, Dead Lifts, Bench Press, and Iron Cross.

Now, whenever I hear someone has a trainer, I think a little bit less of them. A trainer is a security blanket; they're there to tell you what to do so you don't have to listen to your own body. The problem is, your fitness is not in their best interest. Your money is.
posted by Alcibiades. at 12:30 PM on April 25, 2011

Mod note: comments removed - this is not "let's get into a fight about personal trainers" this is "what have you learned" Please don't doom the thread, take offtopic remarks to the OP and answer the question being asked. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:37 PM on April 25, 2011

What is your primary goal? (Weight loss, strength gain, general physical preparedness, look good naked.)

Weight loss = low carb, zone or paleo

Strength Gain = buy Starting Strength or Wendler's 5-3-1 book

GPP = Crossfit.com

Look good naked = marksdailyapple.com
posted by Paalen at 2:59 PM on April 25, 2011

Mixing it up. Don't fall into a routine. Be open to finding different exercises about every 90 to 120 days. Use a trainer once a year.
To tell you the truth, I got a lot out of a stint with P90X. The trainer, Tony Horton, does a pretty good job of keeping you motivated. Barring this, I would say start looking around on YouTube for different routines and be open to Yoga. It really changed my life while doing my regular stuff. Good question!
posted by bkeene12 at 8:06 PM on April 25, 2011

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