10 Characteristics of the Best (and Worst) Trainers and Nutrition Coaches

by John Berardi |   Date Released : 13 Sep 2010
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John Berardi

About the author: John Berardi

Dr. John Berardi has been recognized as one of the top exercise nutrition experts in the world. His work has been published in numerous textbooks, peer-reviewed academic journals, and in countless popular exercise and nutrition books and magazines.

Through his company, Precision Nutrition, Dr. Berardi has worked with over 60,000 clients in over 100 countries. These clients range from recreational exercisers all the way up to the athletic elite, including: The Cleveland Browns, The Toronto Maple Leafs, The Texas Longhorns, Canada’s Olympic Ski Teams, Canada’s Olympic Bobsleigh and Skeleton Racers, World Champion UFC Fighters, Canada’s Olympic Speed Skaters, and more.

Dr. Berardi has also created the highly acclaimed Precision Nutrition Certification program, a sport and exercise nutrition mentorship program designed exclusively for elite fitness professionals. To learn more, visit Dr. Berardi’s web site and take his free “Essentials of Nutrition Coaching” video course.

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Comments (26)

Windom, Christina | 27 Aug 2018, 00:33 AM

I found the Article valuable in provide the basic Training / Coaching methods for new trainers

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Barbaro, Vincenzo | 31 Aug 2012, 16:32 PM

Fantastic article! Sometimes, watching other trainers on the gym floor makes me wonder why I even went to college for this. Seeing people being robbed of their money makes my career look like a con. But to see that there are trainers out there who put in the effort brings me joy.

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Clarke, Lauren | 11 Jun 2012, 14:09 PM

Wow! Great article John. A real eye-opener. I'd like to think I'm a good trainer but after reading this article, there are some major improvements and changes I need to make if I really want to succeed as a GREAT trainer.

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Levinskaite, Laura | 09 Mar 2012, 15:03 PM

this article is so good, straight to he point!

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Berardi, John | 24 Jan 2011, 16:24 PM

To Robert - I actually have a lot of suggestions here. However, I'd have you first start by checking out this free 5-day course for fitness pros below. It'll provide you with way more than I can in this little text box here. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/course-for-fitness-professionals

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Knapp, Robert | 22 Jan 2011, 23:44 PM

This is more of a question than a comment - I have years of experience with group exercise, hold 2 PT certifications, little PT experience. I have difficulty obtaining clients due to inexperience. How does one begin to obtain clients and establish a history. I truly want to make a difference and am willing to work for almost nothing to develop a track record. However, by working for practically nothing, and no track record, folks are reluctant to sign with me. Inotherwords, between a rock and hard place looking for suggestions. Anyone have any?

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Berardi, John | 04 Nov 2010, 01:44 AM

To Antonio: being a fitness pro is no joke - it takes exercise phys competency, nutrition competency, and behavior change competency. My general suggestions for the "personal trainer" blueprint are as follows: 1) the first step is the personal training credential. I'd recommend getting credentialed through the NSCA or the ACSM as they're the most recognized. 2) Once you have that, you should probably get credentialed in a movement screening type certification - like FMS or Z-Health. 3) Then, you'll want to do a nutrition certification, like the Precision Nutrition Certification. 4) Finally, you'll want to do a fitness business program, like Alwyn Cosgrove's mentorship. This is the final piece of the puzzle. You see, fitness pros are, in every sense, entrepreneurs. And if they fail to understand this, and prepare for it, they're doomed. Once you have all of those credentials, it's time to get out there and to put into practice what you learned in the books through trial and error. You will try. You will err. And if you're smart, learn from mistakes, and remain resilient, you have a shot of doing well.

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Berardi, John | 04 Nov 2010, 01:39 AM

To Ivette: that's a great idea - but you don't need a course for that. Check out this article, called 7 Books for Becoming a Fitness Professional. Any one of them would be a big step in the right direction: http://www.ptonthenet.com/articles/top-7-books-for-becoming-a-better-personal-trainer-and-coach-3347

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thomas, antonio | 02 Nov 2010, 23:45 PM

To be honest, i've been training for a few years now and am just getting to the point where i realize I have to do better. I'm studying for ACE certification now and have to admit its a bit overwhelming. I have clients currently and sometimes feel like it will be foprever before i know enough to feel competent I have a variety of clients. Clubs ive worked for tell me that i have what they cant teach which is people skills and personality. However, i know i have to be more than my clients best friend/therapist. Any suggestions?

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Landino, Ivette | 23 Oct 2010, 19:59 PM

Point taken John! Perseverence should prevail! Perhaps a course on how to change client behaviour (including my own) should be my next move!

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Berardi, John | 20 Oct 2010, 16:28 PM

To Ivette: I know what you're saying. But that's where change behavior strategies come into play. I've learned that I was a really good exercise coaching. But a TERRIBLE coach when it came to helping clients see the world (or even just training and nutrition) in a different way. In fact, many of my own coaching strategies actually deepened my clients' resistance to change. And, all along, I thought I was doing my best to help them - they just weren't ready to change. So I not only studied nutrition, I also studied change behavior. And, as I learned and grew as a coach, I realized that almost ALL clients can be helped in really powerful ways. The key, however, was to first change myself. (Just like Gandhi said).

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Jacota, Zec | 20 Oct 2010, 07:56 AM

A valid point made, any Personal Trainer worth their weight would also have amassed a variety of transferable skills to deal with any clients that they undertake in achieving the best results.

We are to be taken seriously as exercise physiologists so that our credibility stays intact and that we all continuwe to do a valuable job.

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Radebe, Bongani | 13 Oct 2010, 09:46 AM

Thank you for the reminders John. I used to be one of those who didnt document client's workouts, and to my embarrassment, I would repeat some exercises with the same client the day after. I've also had a client coming back to me saying their back was sore & I could not remember which exercise we did which could have triggered the pain. That was the last straw, I now document everything & its so much easier than thumb-sucking on the gym floor. Thank you again for enlightening us.

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Landino, Ivette | 03 Oct 2010, 19:59 PM

Very good article. Its good to see those points in writing and I could not agree more but in my personal experience it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible.
I haven't personally been working in the industry for long. Although fitness has been my passion for a long time, I only became a PT l8 months ago. I do tend to go by the book (ie performing fitness and phsysical assessments on the first session and setting measurable goals before commencing a fitness programme, etc) and I have to admit it is the best way forward, specially when the goal is weight [fat] loss as this is so easy to measure. However, I have found that this does not apply to everyone. Some people just need to have somebody to motivate them or to help them do the exercise right. Others " just want to get fit" or "feel stronger" or "be able to go up the stairs without getting out of breath" or "to improve their posture". Its more about how they feel without the need of having figures on a piece of paper. A lot of them have no interest in any nutrition advise, refusing to believe that the magic lies in the kitchen and not in the gym particularly for weight loss. Also, for some the thought of going through periodical assessment to measure their progress (ie putting a HR monitor on) is a major palaver! no matter I encouraging I try to be. So, I have sadly resorted to become an ordinary [bad] trainer with those clients. I've forced myself to believe that at the end of the day, if they are happy with their training, I'm happy!

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Mungall, Robin | 28 Sep 2010, 17:18 PM

I think #10 is where the rest of the 9 points begin. Luckily most of these trainers who don't care don't last very long in the business.

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Berardi, John | 22 Sep 2010, 16:28 PM

TO MARJORIE: I agree. There are certainly cases where clients should be referred out to a sports dietitian. Just like there are cases where clients should be referred out to a physiotherapist, etc. However, there are also many, many clients that can/should be helped with things like basic nutrition, movement screening and corrective exercise "in-house". So it's critical for trainers to expand their toolboxes to understand a) how to help those that need it but don't need to be referred out, b) how to know when it's time to refer out.

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Berardi, John | 22 Sep 2010, 16:11 PM

TO PAUL: Oh, this topic will really get me started! Actually, I agree with you Paul. But I believe that it's the responsibility of the fitness professional to create an environment where compliance is almost automatic. This is a challenge for most fitness pros as they ever study change - specifically what actually causes successful change. In fact, the way most fitness pros encourage change is totally wrong and that's why you get the non-compliance and push-back from clients. But don't just take my word for it. For a great intro into this topic, check out the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. And for something much more applied to our field, again, check out the Precision Nutrition Certification.

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Berardi, John | 22 Sep 2010, 16:10 PM

TO JIM: Maybe you're right. The fitness manager should be fired too! Just kidding ;-). Actually, everyone needs to absorb some responsibility here. The trainers can only control their actions and experiences. So the onus is on them to get better, regardless of the environment they're in. And I know many outstanding trainers who work for really bad fitness managers. So, they're the bright spots that show us one can thrive even in a bad environment. Of course, the fitness managers are also responsible here since it's them who help shape the path to success by helping implement the correct systems. So, you're right. Both parties are necessary for creating an awesome environment. Yet, both parties can act independently to create personal excellence.

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Martin, Eric | 21 Sep 2010, 20:07 PM

#4 is a great one. Something about hiring a trainer who isn't physically in shape him/herself is just stupid. Yet, I see it all the time and it baffles me to this day.

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Geiser, Marjorie | 18 Sep 2010, 15:23 PM

Great article, except I'd like to make one comment. An excellent professional knows when they should find the experts in supportive fields. And so in order to take a trainer from great to excellent would be to refer his/her clients to a professional who specializes in sports nutrition. Every trainer should find a sports dietitian in their area who they can collaborate with.

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Smith, Derek | 17 Sep 2010, 20:50 PM

Great article! As a newby in the Fitness and Training business, I find this article very informative. It will certainly help me start on the right foot. Thanks

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mathieson, william | 17 Sep 2010, 20:43 PM

John, Great article, and you're right, there are a lot of trainers out there that don't care about their clients or their reputation, and there are very few that do. Fantastic point you have made here. Thank you.

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Demetrios, Jim | 17 Sep 2010, 19:00 PM

Firing a Personal Trainer for not performing what you describe may be a bit severe. It is the job of the Fitness Manager and Club to teach them the correct protocols. If we don't train them to do the right thing, perhaps we should fire ourselves.

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Udes, Tracie | 17 Sep 2010, 16:05 PM

thank you! very good article.

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Mcken, Paul | 16 Sep 2010, 17:57 PM

I'm with you completely John. I'm at a club which is as bad as some of the things you've mentioned. Unfortunately the compliance (or lack of) from gym members as well as their shocking ignorance regarding the fundemental basics of health are just as big a problem as an incompetant trainer. Infact, it's probably worse.
Over here in the UK stats show that we are becoming sicker and sicker and more obese by the year yet more and more people are going to gyms or health clubs deluding themselves into thinking they're becoming more "Healthy". The stats don't lie so clearly they can't be. A MASSIVE amount of work needs to be done on both sides to tackle the issues and raise the level of education.

We live in hope John.

Paul M.

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Buttel, Paula | 16 Sep 2010, 13:50 PM

Great perspective and lots of good reminders!

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