Choosing a coach or a trainer can be a confusing matter for the beginner or intermediate athlete. Every trainer or strength coach I have met is usually only an expert in one or two particular areas of fitness. In my experience, Ive come across very few gurus that can tackle more than two or three styles of training. Trainers will be passionate about some specific areas, but you cannot expect them to have a background in every sport, or every aspect of fitness.
When choosing to put your body in the hands of a trainer, the first thing you need to do is find out what exactly his or her specialties are. Really grill this person and find out if they have walked the walk and are continuing to. More importantly, have they done what you wish to do? If you are looking to become a better football player you wouldn’t hire an IFBB pro bodybuilder to train you. Similarly if you were training for your first bodybuilding show, it would make little sense to go with a talented cross fit instructor.
As self-evident as this might seem, I see plenty of athletes under the guise of unqualified trainers. Trainers that just want to do everything, and in doing so providing meteocre services. While these trainers can be extremely knowledgeable in one particular area they often have limited experience/knowledge in other disciplines. It is extremely important that as a newbie, you match your goals up with the accomplishments and expertise of your coach.
Be weary of what i call the “general trainer.” Having a certificate in fitness training is a great start, but often a general trainer is no more experienced than the client! If you want to lift big numbers, go with a strength coach with a long history of Olympic lifting or power lifting. Conversely if you wish to compete in a triathlon go with an experienced triathlete with a solid training history. Remember, experience always trumps education.
On a final note, trainers who can achieve an extremely low bodyfat (4-5%) are sometimes more sought after by beginners as their promotional photos are often visually impressive. This may or may not be a deciding factor in your choice of trainer. If your goal is to drop below 7% bodyfat then their expertise may definitely help you with weightloss. If your goal is to improve your deadlift or become a better shot putter, this is a poor indicator of what this trainer can do. In sum, find yourself an experienced strength coach who has mastered applicable techniques. Don’t be fooled by the pictures, talk to previous clients, and discover if the trainer is right for you!