SIGHTS & SOUNDS from THE GYM- “My shoulder hurts…” & What makes a good trainer.


Yet again I was witness to a so called professional not being a professional.  The fitness industry as a whole has progressed so fast in the past 20 years that the money being made from gadgets, fitness and nutrition books, advances in equipment and the latest supplements is just eye popping.  Some of these products are well worth the money but the majority of them are gimmicks.  Seeking out the help of a Personal trainer as well has become a hot commodity and I do encourage hiring a trainer or consultant to help with reaching your goals effectively and efficiently.  After all, we seek out professionals when we have a tooth ache, get physical examinations, when the car breaks down among many others so why should it be any different when trying to change the current state of our fitness level?  Just like the late night infomercials that are showcasing a tanned, well groomed, glistening ripped fitness model who is informing you about the benefits of their product, a high number of personal trainers are just this, a gimmick!  I will give you a few tips at the conclusion on what to look for when hiring a qualified trainer but first let me kick off the SIGHTS & SOUNDS segment with a little something I heard last night at the gym.

It was 5pm and the gym was starting to get busy.  This is usually the prime time to check out what not to do in all Big Box gyms around the U.S. and Canada.  I am fortunate enough to rent space in a smaller boutique facility here in Toronto, that being said it has its share of brainless trainers as well.  I glanced over at a trainer that has previously given me some Blog posting inspiration but to date this event takes the cake.  This trainer was trying to teach an Olympic lift called the Hang Clean (see video below) to what looked to me was a new client of his.  Remember the facility is small so I know who is a regular and who is new to the gym.   In any case, at the moment I took notice the client had upright rowed the barbell to his chin but one elbow was pointing up and out at a 45 degree angle while the other was horizontal to the barbell.  He was holding the barbell at his chin while the trainer was instructing on how to “shrug and drop under the bar,” for the record, I have never once heard him cue his clients to use triple extension (extension in the ankles, knees & hips) or the term “Scoop” which are two descriptive words that almost all Olympic coaches use.

This is when the client winces and says “My shoulder hurts”.  The trainer steps in front of the client to examine his shoulders at which point the client mentions he has shoulder issues because he has been in a car accident.  Thankfully, the trainer instructed his client to carefully place the barbell on the ground but not before he tried to comfort his client by trying to gather information about his shoulder injury and other injuries he may have.  This practice of asking questions is reccommended to be done before any training commences, even a fitness test.

This story leads into one of the most important aspects your trainer or a potential future trainer should have you complete before starting any exercise program; a consultation.   Either a Health History and Lifestyle Information form, a fitness test or a movement screen  would have given our World Class trainer from above the necessary information about his new clients’ past shoulder injury.
In the past year or so I have been desperately trying to make trainers, gym owners and people in general aware of the importance of a movement screen as I feel this tool should be mandatory in all gyms, Big Box or not, all around the world.  Not for a second did I think trainers still took on clients and started training them with out going over health history and other information gathering forms.  My apologies for thinking trainers as a whole have grown at least that much in the past 20 years.   I hope that the client in mention was okay and no serious harm was done.  I pray for him though and his safety if he continues training with this negligent trainer.

So how do you know if the trainer you have hired or looking to hire is a professional or just another high priced gimmick.
Below is a list of qualities to consider!

  • Does your trainer have references?
  • Does your trainer have a valid education? BSc or any health science related degree is always a good start.  NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) & ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) are very respectable certifying agencies as well.  A valid CPR certification and training insurance is also a must.
  • Does your trainer conduct consultations where the most basic but highly important information is shared?
  • Does your trainer have you complete initial fitness tests and follow up fitness tests as a way to measure progress?
  • Does your trainer conduct a movement screen?  This tool is extremely important from the average gym member to high level elite athletes.  (An entire  future blog will be dedicated to this tool and it’s importance)
  • Does your trainer live the lifestyle they preach?   “Google” search is a good detective, and affordable to.
  • Does your trainer have a circle of professionals that he/she works with?  i.e.- Chiropractors, athletic therapists, massage therapists, registered nutritionists etc

    Left Shoulder Mobility
    Left Shoulder Mobility Test (Movement Screen)

If your trainer possesses the above qualities then at this point you have ensured that, at the very least, the trainer is trying to make a difference and cares about your progress.  They have positioned themselves as a business and are operating in a professional manner.  Once you have been attending sessions regularly or in my case with my Online Consulting business, and have been adhering to the given routine, here are a few questions to ask your self.

  • Does my trainer continue to be professional?  This could mean arriving on time for appointments, following through with what was outlined in your consultation, are they available and reply promptly to e-mails etc.
  • Are your workout routines altered every four to six weeks?
  • Does your trainer educate and share knowledge with you?
  • Does your trainer take part in workshops, clinics or courses to continue his/her own education?
  • Do you get along with your trainer?  This can also mean, do you work well with your trainer and don’t spend more time chatting than physically moving.
  • Does your trainer inspire or motivate you?
  • DO YOU SEE RESULTS?  (Providing you have followed the routine as laid out of course)

There you have it, a complete guide to help you select your next trainer or to gauge the level of your current trainer.  Please do not be afraid to ask questions as it is just as important for you as it is with the trainer to learn as much about the other as possible.

Train Mind, Body & Spirit

Nathane L. Jackson cscs & kbts
WBFF Pro & VEGA Ambassador


For more information about Nathane Jackson Fitness’ Online Training Consulting, please visit

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