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I know this question isn't too good, but I just wanted some insight.

Many people often speak volumes regarding how excellent some personal trainers are. I assumed personal trainers/coaches/etc. were primarily for motivation, and didn't make nor break any potential or results. I've played minor league professional sports and always had a coach to train with, but typically preferred to "do it my own way." I know this doesn't always bode well, but what's the idea?

Do personal trainers/etc. really help break past barriers, or are they more for motivation?

If you are already perfectly self-motivated and disciplined, what can a trainer/coach offer?

Assume someone with a good workout plan, diet, motivation, etc. What do they have to gain by listening to someone telling them to do what they already know?

Wouldn't that be like a teacher being taught by ... another teacher? Sure, one can always learn, but if you already do your own thing, what's the benefit in being "trained" when you train yourself already?

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Personal trainers come in a wide variety of styles so some may not fit for you while others may produce wondrous results. A lot of personal trainers from commercial gyms may be best for beginners who need a good starting point. They want/need someone to teach them the basics and foundations and bring them up to a level to make progress on their own (ideally).

You sound like you're beyond that stage. So, for the crux of your question. What advantage can a personal trainer give for a more intermediate level person?

Experience and lots of it. A good personal trainer (assuming they haven't just started) will have quite a bit of years of experience in both themselves and their clients. They've seen it all. They know what works and what doesn't.

How good is your workout plan really? Are you missing anything vital that could help in the long run? Are you doing something risky that could set you back? Are you missing anything vital for your goals? Is there anything that you should be focusing on? What do you do when you come across something unexpected? Without any feedback you're basically going off your own knowledge. Because of that, you don't know what you don't know. Hiring a coach will give a second set of eyes on both your goals and your training to fill in gaps that you may be missing.

Having said that, do you need a personal trainer? Not really. It's entirely possible to get in good shape without one. Plenty of people do it. It may take longer since you'll be learning along the way, but that's also part of the fun (or maybe I have a distorted view of what's "fun").

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While training to be a teacher, I was trained by... you guessed it... another teacher. The difference was the experience level and qualification.

Once can split workout-types into two groups:

  • Competition-centric
  • Non-competition

Lets review the impact of a PT/Coach in both:

Competition-centric

This is your Olympic weightlifting coach, baseball coach, football coach, running coach, etc. You are working in a competitive environment. A common term for this kind of person is "athlete". A coach does not commonly receive direct payment from a athlete, they often are paid through club membership.

You have a coach for a few reasons:

  • Programming: No need to worry about planning around competitions, a good coach will carefully peak your training around competitions. They aren't At a national/international level an athlete will need a coach or be working on their programming full time.
  • Experience: Your coach should have a significant amount of experience in the sport they are coaching you in and/or have significant experience in coaching with examples of past students with good results.
  • 2nd Eye: With a coach you can get instant and balanced feedback on your movement during the exercise. It is extremely difficult to become a successful (medal winning) athlete without a coach.
  • Competition Support: They will be there with your towel, chalk, nice words, at the finish line. They will provide help with transport, nutrition and ensuring that you do the best you can while competing. It reflects on them as much as you.

Downsides to a coach is they ONLY care about you succeeding in the competition. They will get you to only movements that will make you better at the sport. A running coach wont make you lift weights, a baseball coach doesn't care about how much you can deadlift. Cross-training is very much a dirty word to a lot of coaches.

A experienced coach will know what will work best for you, what movements to practice and how to best get you to improve. You will probably have the same coach throughout your career as a developing athlete. They want you succeed as much as you do, everything is based around succeeding in competition. A coach isn't just a "fitness trainer" they are a part of your family/friendship circle. They will probably be at your wedding. I can't speak for all coaches but I have found this to be the majority.

Non-Competition

(With the exception of bodybuilding, where coaches aren't prevalent but competitions are)

If you have someone doing the job of personal training and you have no competition the goals become a little less wholesome. Even with the goal of losing weight a PT quickly learns that their clients cannot out-exercise a bad diet.

Some of the reasons people use PTs:

  • Physical restriction: Those with specific disorders or injuries can benefit from a knowledgeable person helping them athrough specific exercises. However, a physiotherapist would just tell you what to you and you could just follow that.
  • Laziness: To have successful programming there is some learning involved. Linear progression on weights will run out and progression slows. Periodization and other methods become more important if progression is still required. A PT can design a program for you to follow. PT's can also provide motivation through encouragement by having a 1 on 1 relationship with their client, this works well for a lot of people struggling with motivation to work hard at the gym.
  • Nervousness: A PT provides a safety barrier at a lot of gyms, you don't need to worry about asking to share equipment and you don't need to worry about integrating with the other gym-goers. It gives you a change to work out with the comfort of a "friend" supporting you.
  • Commitment: PT's aren't cheap. By committing to paying a PT for a session you are committing to completing that exercise. The simple act of putting money down on something can help a lot of people with gym-commitment issues. If you don't turn up you are letting down a person as well as your own wallet.
  • Second Eyes: Positively, they provide the same level of second-vision on the exercises you are doing. However, while coaches are masters in their sport PT's have a tendency to become jack-of-all-trades and their knowledge on the safety of movements can fall behind the times.

I see a lot of PT's at my local gyms just planning workouts off-the-cuff. I personally got a few free sessions and quickly learnt through talking to them that a lot of them don't bother doing detailed programming for their client. Truth is many they don't care if you lose weight or become stronger, they care that you pay them and continue to do so. I have seen a lot of scummy tactics used to keep clients signed up and paying. I can't speak for all PT's but I have found this to be the majority.

Summary

PT's are good for those with injuries or just getting into working out and need extra motivation or basic knowledge. Coaches are good at developing an athletes prowess at a specific sport for competition.

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TLDR: No, you don't need a personal trainer.

There is enough information out there to learn what you need to learn to get in shape. You simply need a lot more discipline when you're going to do everything on your own.

Are personal trainers redundant?

No they aren't. A lot of people need some extra motivation. Some people lack basic knowlegde to start working out and don't know where to begin. Some people are recovering from an injury. In these examples it can be very useful to have a personal trainer or coach to help you out.

Even for more advanced people, a personal trainer can spot what you're doing wrong in order to fix that.

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  • Even for more advanced people - who are advanced people by the way? – Prasanna May 2 '17 at 14:45
  • @Prasanna I'd say someone who's been training for a couple of years and has a stable diet and workout routine / regimen. – MJB May 3 '17 at 5:59

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