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Personal Trainers

A personal trainer is a health and fitness professional who is hired for private instruction. Generally thought to be a commodity afforded only to the rich and famous, personal trainers are now widely available for a variety of people with a variety of goals (and with a variety of budgets). A personal trainer will help his or her client develop and maintain exquisite physical condition by designing a specialized exercise regimen for said client.

The emphasis on personal training should come from the personal trainer's understanding of what works best for their client. It is not just about pushing someone hard, but more about working out at an effective level to achieve their goals. Many people need only one session to get them on the right track, ensure their program is balanced, and answer their questions.

Personal training is fast moving away from the image of having a personal trainer stand next to the athlete shouting at him/her to work faster/harder, without consideration of the wealth of variables that can be tweaked to ensure quick results.

There are many personal trainers who offer their clients a range of services from exercise testing to postural exercises to helping with habitual behavior change.

Typical personal training session

Health and fitness screening

Any reputable personal trainer will first do a health screen to make sure the client is clear for exercise. If necessary, a doctor's consent may be obtained. A waiver is typically signed to release the personal trainer of legal obligations. If a personal trainer skips this step, be extremely wary.

Personal trainers will usually proceed through an intake evaluation, either verbal or written, to identify goals and concerns. Fitness testing may follow, usually measuring indicators of physical fitness. These tests may include tests of strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and postural abnormalities. In addition, body composition (body fat) is often evaluated. Specific numerical measurements of body fat and cardiovascular health can help clients to set new goals.

Completing a session

A complete routine will include a warm up, cardiovascular or strength exercises, stretching and a cool down. A personal trainer may add coordination exercises, such as balancing on a wobble board.

Not every personal trainer will match perfectly with every client, so it is important not to judge the profession based on one individual. Personal trainers have different styles, some more aggressive, some more supportive. It is therefore important for clients to "shop around".

Muscular exercises

Personal trainers will teach clients a regime, emphasizing proper form and posture to prevent injury. Good personal trainers will show clients which exercises are helpful and which are dangerous or a waste of time (such as outdated abdominal routines). They will also help the client figure out how much weight the client should be using. Be wary of a personal trainer who uses only machines. Most machines are appropriate for rehabilitation or auxiliary purposes, and only in rare cases should a program be centered strictly around machines.

Legitimate personal trainers will emphasize compound, functional exercises. Certain compound exercises are considered basic and primary in everyday life, replicating functional movements.

These include:

* Squats, correctly performed deadlifts and lunges for legs;
* A balance of safe abdominal and lower back exercises;

Functional pushing and pulling with the arms:

* Pushes: up (military press), forward (bench press), and down (dip);
* Pulls: down (lat pull), back (rhomboid row). The "shrug" or upward pull is another exercise, however it is not recommended for beginners as it may exacerbate existing imbalances.

Auxiliary/isolation exercises can be added once a base of muscle is developed. It is impossible to see if these exercises are even advisable for at least three to six months. Functional exercises work all these body parts and significant development will be seen with functional exercises in proportion with the rest of the body. Isolation exercises may not be necessary. Still, some people naturally will find one part of their body lagging behind the rest aesthetically. Isolation exercises may include:

* Calf exercises. Bent-knee and straight-knee lift.
* Anterior and posterior deltoid exercises (shoulders)
* Biceps/triceps exercises.
* Exercises for the glutes.
* Grip/Forearm exercises
* Others


Exercises which are inadvisable:

High Risk:

* Any movement that causes frank pain - see a trained professional to identify muscular imbalances, soft tissue issues in need of release, or other issues.
* Lat pulldowns behind the head – pulldowns should stay in front of the face. Can cause shoulder damage.
* Upward Row - one of the worst exercises for the shoulders.
* Deadlifts performed with a rounded back. (Gradual damage to spine, resulting in chronic injury).
* Allowing the lower back and hips to tilt forward in all exercises where weight on the body is transferred to the lower extremity (deadlifts, squats). Always push the hips back as far as possible.

Medium Risk:

* Squats performed with the knee pointing in a different direction than the toe. Squats, performed correctly, are a very safe exercise which is excellent for training the body both therapeutically and aesthetically.
* Some Yoga positions: plow pose, "bow" or “wheel”, headstand. There is a strong movement in the yoga community to stop teaching such dangerous poses, especially given the injuries that teachers have sustained.
* Standing toe touch – do a seated stretch instead. While acute injury is unlikely, this will, overtime, create chronic injury.
* Bouncing or jerking into stretches. Any kind of dynamic stretch is safe only when supervised by trained personnel (which does not include martial arts instructors). Can cause sprains, strains, joint strain, loss of flexibility due to muscle strain, and build up of soft tissue damage.

Low Risk:

* Hyperextension (arching) of the lower back during bench press - during a bench press, the shoulder blades should be pulled together and down. The back may curve slightly, but the back should not be curving as a result of using an inappropriately heavy weight.
* Knee extensions: Thorough training of biomechanics, such as a degree in physical therapy is advisable before pursuing this exercise. May create a dangerous muscular imbalance if used without proper education. These exercises are therapeutic exercises for rehabilitation or imbalance. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts should be the core exercises for the legs. Using a knee extension may simply cause overly tight and overdeveloped muscle.
* Hamstring curls: simply a warning - an ineffective manner of developing the hamstring. First, the hamstrings are often ignored except for this machine. However, leg curls only work the muscle from the knee flexion standpoint, and doesn't do that effectively. A better exercise would be glute-ham raises. Hip Extention is almost universally ignored, and can be trained with romanian deadlifts, good mornings, deadlifts, rack pulls, and reverse hypers.

When in doubt, visiting a personal trainer is the simplest way to design a program and answer questions.

Fees in the United States

Most personal trainers charge either a flat per-session fee or an hourly fee. However some may charge a monthly, or even yearly fee.

It is rare to find personal training services for under $20 per hour except in rural areas. Although celebrity personal trainers charge thousands of dollars, typically charges are closer to the range of $60 to $100 an hour per session. Many fitness centers offer promotions that include a series of diet and exercise routines, typically involving a few sessions with a personal trainer, and often personalized workout programs.

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