30 Lies Fitness Trainers Tell


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Your personal trainer is going to lie to you. They're going to tell you the types of lies that make you take that extra step, lift that extra weight, finish that extra rep, or, in the worst-case scenario, stop you from doing that exercise you haven't mastered before you hurt yourself. Unfortunately, some will also lie in an "I'm taking money from you for worthless nonsense" way, and it's up to you to figure out which is which while paying an average $60 to $75 per session.
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Promises of quick weight loss are just about the worst lies a personal trainer can tell, says Chris Ruden, an online personal trainer, author, model and motivational speaker from Florida. Whether through miracle supplements or a whole lot of work, the promise isn't realistic. "Bad personal trainers will sacrifice your health, time, and money to fake results by using starvation and dehydration methods — just to get a temporary change," Ruden says. "You will gain the weight back and they might gain more clients by using you as a false testimonial."
Personal trainer with two female clients
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While this claim often is just an exaggeration, it's also impossible, says Eric Troy, owner and founder of Ground Up Strength in Maryland. Trainers at large commercial gyms may consult with thousands of clients and guide them through workouts, but "to train someone means that there is a beginning and an end and a particular goal is reached, or at least is attempted," Troy says. "Supervising someone's workouts, counting reps, etc., for a few sessions until the client decides the fees aren't worth it is not 'training' someone."
Woman in pain exercising during a gym class
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Trainers are there to push you and help you meet your goals. If they're hurting you or pushing you beyond your limits, they're doing the job wrong, Ruden says. "Bad trainers think that by getting the client to profusely sweat while overexerting themselves makes them as a trainer look good," he says. "Not only will pushing client's past their limits increase risk of injury and decrease likelihood of results, it may even reduce adherence to their program, causing [clients] to quit before they reach their goal."
Woman speaking with a fitness trainer
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Diet and exercise are all most individuals need to achieve their fitness goals. That's especially true if the goal isn't to compete in or win an event, but to simply stay healthy and/or lose weight, Troy says. "A personal trainer is a luxury, not a necessity," he says. "The fitness industry creates demand for its products as if they are a necessity."
Fast food hamburger and French fries
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A cheat meal every so often is not going to wreck a diet or training regimen. One or two days of bad eating will. Adding an extra 2,000 calories or so to a diet to celebrate a great week of workouts will do little but erase your hard work. "The weekends are not rest days from diets," Ruden says. "A cheat meal here and there is completely fine but multiple cheat days, or days full of cheating from morning to night, present a problem."
Woman running on the treadmill at the gym
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The key to weight loss is diet and exercise, not one or the other. Gyms want you to buy memberships and will stress the exercise portion of the equation to those looking to lose weight. While a gym doesn't care if paying members ever come in again, personal trainers get paid only if people schedule sessions. "If they can make you believe that working out more often will result in more weight loss, it is in their interest to do so," Troy says. "For the truly overweight, any workout plan is doomed to ultimate failure unless the diet is in check — the true key to weight loss."
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The super-jacked dudes at a gym's deadlift bar will tell you that cardio kills their muscle gains. No. If cardio exercise is all you do, it might, but scattering 30 to 60 minutes of it amid weight training can actually help build muscle by adding oxygen and removing waste. "Your body could absolutely start to use muscle as fuel when you're doing cardio," Dean Somerset, an exercise physiologist from Edmonton, Alberta Canada, told Men's Health. "But only during extremely long bouts of it, like at the very end of a marathon, and only after you've used up all of your stored energy sources."
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If you want to lose weight fast, most trainers are going to recommend interval training to help you get results quicker. While it's true it will burn more calories, you could just as easily cut 300 to 500 calories out of your diet. Basically, going to an incredibly intense workout you don't like doing isn't sustainable. "Whether it's a long stroll or lifting until your face falls off," Somerset says, "any exercise that you do often and enjoy is the best kind of exercise."
People doing box jumps at the gym
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You aren't going to like the activity that lengthens muscles: "If you want to lengthen a muscle, you have to break a bone and increase the distance from where the muscle originates to where it inserts," Somerset says. "In other words, you can't 'lengthen' a muscle with an exercise." If you just don't want to look swollen with muscles and would rather have a runner's or cyclist's physique — the "long and lean" look — you'll have to diet properly, avoid the weights, and either do a running or cycling regimen or go heavy on yoga, Pilates and cardio.
Fitness trainer watching a client lift dumbbells
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"Working in the gym industry for awhile, I can personally tell you that the workout logs at these big box gyms are usually faked, made up right before you get there, or even someone else's," Ruden says. A good trainer will deviate from that program if it's no longer working or if they feel you need other exercise to continue your progress. Sometimes a program can become a rut if you feel yourself stalling and your trainer does nothing about it.
Fitness woman eating a bowl of salad
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Most states have laws governing dietary counseling and require that folks doling out that advice be certified nutritionists or registered dieticians. Your personal trainer, despite how in-shape they may be, are likely not experts in nutrition and diet and only have advice based on their experience or those of the people they've trained. That advice may not meet your needs and shouldn't extend to meal plans or nutritional counseling. "You'd be surprised at how easy it is to step over the line from advice to 'treating' or claiming to treat," Troy says.
Doctor's equipment and a red heart signifying blood pressure
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No. If a personal trainer and has no medical training or experience, they aren't a health expert. "Clever marketing and over-inflated egos have caused many personal trainers to not only imagine themselves to be health experts, but to dispense what amounts to medical advice to their clients, and as is much more common, via internet blog posts, etc." Troys says. "The knowledge of health and health conditions that the average personal trainer possesses is cursory at best, and often woefully inaccurate." This becomes particularly problematic when personal trainer tells a client how to "treat" high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other issues through exercise.
Woman doing crunches
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Crunches can make your abdominal area leaner and your tummy tighter, but they can't address fat on their own. Stomach fat can be stubborn, but Ruden warns that doing stomach crunches in excess can wreak havoc on your back and lead to bulging or herniated discs. "Spot reduction, or losing body fat from a specifically targeted area, is not a real thing," Ruden says. "Losing body fat requires that you are in a calorie deficit, burning more calories than you take in."
Woman's feet stepping onto a scale
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If a trainer tells you to ignore the scale because you're building muscle and losing fat, be cautious. Since weight loss comes from a combination of diet and exercise, unless something changes in one of those routines, weight loss shouldn't just slam to a halt. "If you are eating less than you are burning like you should, weight gain is not an option," Ruden says. "While a sudden increase in carb intake may cause fluid retention, if you are on a weight loss program not losing weight and not noticing changes in the mirror, chances are, your trainer is lying to you and doesn't care that his methods just aren't working."
Smiling personal trainer holding a clipboard
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If a personal trainer claims to be qualified to work with people with a specific medical condition, check immediately to see if they're qualified for anything. The IDEA Health and Fitness Association keeps track of certifications in its FitnessConnect directory. "Be very careful of anyone saying they are qualified to help you, from an exercise standpoint, with diabetes or any other serious medical condition," Troy says. "The 'qualification' the trainer has may not be worth the paper it is printed on, if they have any qualification whatsoever."
Man doing a benchpress
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You're going to see a lot of pyramids at gyms dictating the importance of fitness strategies. Even if you're looking to gain mass and get shredded, nutrition plays a vital role. To lose weight, it's even more important. "Simple workout programs combined with correct dieting strategies custom to your needs are enough to facilitate fat loss," Ruden says.
Personal trainer showing a senior woman his workout program
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If your huge, cut trainer says the program at a gym filled with modestly proportioned white-collar workers is the same they used to achieve their goals, they're selling you something. According to IDEA, the average trainer makes less than $30,000 a year, with only half getting benefits. Manufacturers pay them extra to sell vitamins, supplements, equipment, while some gyms offer incentives to trainers who bring in new members. If it sounds like a sales pitch, it probably is. "Chances are, the 'program' he gives you will be quite generic," Troy says. Go in with a goal in mind to avoid a hard sell.
Trainer talking to a man lifting dumbbells
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What does "advanced" mean? If it requires very specific training to maintain progress, most gym trainers won't be able to provide it. "Personal training usually deals with beginners," Troy says. Basically, if you've become fit enough to require "advanced" training, you may have advanced beyond the need for a trainer.
Female personal trainer giving a thumbs up
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IDEA puts the number of different certifications held by personal trainers at nearly 100. But those certifications can be all over the map — there is no national standard or minimal requirement — and according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association trade group, while more than 90 percent of health clubs offer training services, 12 percent of members are signed up for sessions. "Finding that your personal trainer has [a certification] is no guarantee they are right for you, or even that they know what they are doing," Troy says. "They may only have passed on online exam." Experts advise looking for certifications from American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Fitness trainer speaking with an older woman walking outside
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Nope. Your personal trainer is not a counselor or therapist, and "since 'life coach' is a not a recognized profession that has specific standards and education attached to it, what we have is completely unqualified lay people trying to give personal and even mental health counseling," Troy says. "A personal trainer should never counsel clients."
Bowl of pasta
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Filling up on pasta, bagels and even cookies in the days before a race left Denver-based running and fitness writer Amanda C. Brooks feeling "groggy, bloated, and lethargic." Brooks says runners load up on carbohydrates to prevent from hitting the wall and help them maintain pace for 2 percent to 3 percent longer. For a two-hour half marathon, that might shave 2.4 to 3.6 minutes off their time. But by skipping steps such as intensifying workouts and shunning carbs for seven to 10 days before carbo loading, performance can actually decrease by roughly 2 percent.
Unhappy man thinking on the edge of his bed with wife in the background
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Greek philosopher Plato told Olympians to avoid sexual activity before races, a myth that hung around through "Rocky." In 2016, the University of Florence analyzed hundreds of studies on the topic and found no evidence that sex is detrimental to athletic performance. "We clearly show that this topic has not been well investigated;" says Laura Stefani, of the University of Florence, Italy. "Unless it takes place less than two hours before, the evidence actually suggests sexual activity may have a beneficial effect."

Man drinking water in a gym
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More a fib than an outright lie, this is the kind of axiom that leads people to drink eight glasses of water a day when they don't need to. The American Council on Exercise has a better rule of thumb: Drink a glass of water (7 to 10 ounces) for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise.
Man stretching his leg before a run
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Yes and no. Most people will do "static" stretches before running, which the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research says weakens muscles and reduces performance temporarily. Instead of stretching, do a dynamic warmup with multiple different exercises.
Senior man lifting a barbell
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Roughly 35 percent of gym members are 55 and over, according to a 2013 survey by IDEA, and that's up 75 percent since 1987. While there are still some trainers out there who believe fitness wanes with age, physicians and trainers alike are pushing back to help older, novice gym users learn proper technique before working out.
Woman grabbing kettlebells
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The fitness industry changes rapidly, and it can be hard to tell which techniques are going to fade away as fads. Kettlebells, for instance, offer a broad array of benefits, but may not be the best equipment for everyone, says Aleks Salkin, a kettlebell instructor from Pennsylvania. "See a doctor before you begin kettlebell training," he says. "You must proceed slowly regardless of your age, physical condition, or injury history."
Personal trainer holding feet while a woman does sit ups
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Personal trainers like individual sessions because they can charge more for them. "Historically, training is the No. 1 source of non-dues revenue among health clubs," said Jay Ablondi, executive vice president of global products for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. But many will also offer small group sessions that cut the price nearly in half. Orangetheory Fitness built an empire on group training, and it's become increasingly popular. It helps members split the bill, but also helps bring in more cash for trainers and clubs.
Dumbbell on dollar bills
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The highest-priced personal trainer may not be the trainer who suits your needs. Shop personal trainer directories, take trial training sessions when you can, ask about other trainees, then make your decision. You would do a cost-benefit analysis for just about anything else. Why not assess the value of your personal trainer as well?
Man setting his timer on a watch before working out
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Nearly 80 percent of personal trainers schedule hourlong sessions, but around 40 percent will do a half-hour, and around 20 percent will do 45 minutes, squeezing in more clients at peak hours while saving them money. But Arizona State University researchers discovered that some people benefit more from three 10-minute sessions each day than from one 30-minute session. Few trainers will agree to that timetable — but you aren't locked into an hour, either.

Man measuring his waist
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Nope, you'll see results when you see them. But Matt Fitzgerald, an author, coach, and trainer, says it can be rapid, even though "I'm not telling you to lose weight quickly," he says. "I'm telling you to make big improvements in your diet and exercise habits instead of marginal improvements and to really commit yourself to them instead of going into the process halfheartedly."

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