General Question

kevbo's avatar

How much personal training do I need? Is it worth it?

Asked by kevbo (24472 points ) August 6th, 2014 from iPhone

I just joined a gym, which I’ve pretty much never done although I have worked out in the past.

Naturally, the upsell is personal training. If I had the money, I’d do it, but nowadays I also have a decent credit card balance to pay down.

Even so, it seems worth it to get started training properly and effectively. I suppose the other option would be to research how to train online and put that to use.

My plan, by the way, is to go at lunch so I can get away from the desk, computer, and extended periods of sitting. Basically, my schedule is such that I can go every weekday. There’s a pool in addition to machines, weights, and cardio.

What would you recommend? Number of sessions? ½ hour vs full hour? Other resources?

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20 Answers

dxs's avatar

Check bodybuilding.com. They have tons of programs.
It’s good to know your goal before getting into a program, though.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Eh, if you’re looking for form tips on certain exercises, most of that can be found on youtube. Most PTs are not worth the money and I’ve pretty much learned from talking to other people/research.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Definitely don’t put yourself into financial trouble for a PT. Way too many of them are idiots, anyway. I taught myself everything I know through my own research, no personal trainer necessary. I could provide you with some tips, but I need more information from you first.

Knowing your goals is step 1. What are you looking to do? Lose fat? Gain muscle? Train for anything in particular? Build muscle and/or cardiovascular endurance? In short, where are you now and where do you want to be?

Second, what do you like and/or what are you interested in when it comes to workouts? You said you’ve worked out before. What have you done? Anything you really liked or really disliked? Have you heard of anything in particular you’d like to try or learn more about?

Thirdly, how much time are you willing to dedicate to your goal? ½ to 1 hour a day, how many days per week?

Finally, what’s your diet like? Nutrition is extremely important. Undereating or overeating can both be detrimental to fitness goals.

dxs's avatar

Yes, it’s worth reiterating: diet is just as important!

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Let me give you some resources and save you some money from a gym babysitter
Exrx for form tips and anatomy
Examine.com for information on supplements/nutrition
I also like Jonnie Candito’s youtube channel , Art of Manliness’s Fitness section , and my personal favorite Chaos and Pain (might be NSFW) for general awesomeness

jaytkay's avatar

Are there classes and are they cheaper than a personal trainer?

I joined a class last year for workouts and I simply worked much harder than I ever had alone.

janbb's avatar

You can probably can one session either for free or just pay for an intro session for them to show you how to do the machines and set the initial weights for you. Then do the work-out on your own.

dxs's avatar

I did what @janbb did. The gym I used to go to offered a free assessment when I joined. It’s also good to talk to a professional because he can explain form to you, which is also important.

kevbo's avatar

My diet is pretty solid when I have time to prep. I generally stick to produce, brown rice, milk and eggs with everything being organic. When I don’t have time to prep my choices are more disastrous. I lost 30 lbs last year through diet alone, but recently gained back 10 after starting my desk job and killing myself with theatre every evening for 10 weeks. My sense lately is that the diet alone isn’t enough compared to last time because my job is much more sedentary than it was before.

Mainly, I want to lose weight. Secondly, I want to gain flexibility. Thirdly, I want better definition. My first choice, in general, would be to do yoga instead of a gym, but I couldn’t find something that worked for me—among other factors I wanted a place to go to (away from the office) and to be able to shower before I came back to work.

I don’t have strong preferences for exercises other than doing what works. I’d be happy doing burpees on a mat or free weights or machines. I suppose I’d dislike a stationary bike session.

From the info I got today at my initial assessment (which was free), I could do as a plan one day of pushing (bench, leg press, triceps, etc), one day of pulling (rows, biceps, lats), and one day of legs and abs with 3–4 days rest for each group. (That part surprised me because I thought only one day of rest was needed.) The trainer pointed out a few of what he thought were relatively minor imbalances in my posture and movement, which he said were correctable by working complementary muscles or areas. In general, I thought he was a decent resource for information.

From what everyone has said, it sounds like I can easily do it for free, and thanks for the links. I guess it also matters how quickly I want to get things off the ground. It seems the value in sessions would be to have the information and techniques from the get go.

I also have a couple of workout plan books collecting dust, so I could go with those. Again, it seems to be a choice among fast, cheap and good.

Weighing all that, I’m guessing I’ll opt to do it myself. Thanks for the input, all, but please feel free to add more info and opinion.

dxs's avatar

Here are some tips that come to mind:
-Don’t rush through reps. Take time to feel your muscle contracting.
-When working your back, you shouldn’t really feel that much in your back. If you do, you’re probably straining it or something.
-That being said, I hope your trainer didn’t put deadlifts in your plan because those are very difficult to perform correctly (in my opinion).
-Keep movements even and flowing; don’t be spastic.
-Always maintain good posture. Don’t let your posture give in if you get fatigued.
-With bench press, don’t arch your back, put pressure on your feet when pushing. When pushing up, do it quickly and forcefully, taking a slight pause when you reach the top.

There’s more tips you can find online. On Bodybuilding.com, they have an instruction video for tons of exercises. Just use the search bar. Good luck!

Michael_Huntington's avatar

This is probably common sense, but there is no one “golden” source of information. It’s a good idea to be skeptical and what might work for some people might not work for you. Just keep researching and have fun.

osoraro's avatar

A lot of gyms will offer you a free introductory session. You can try that out.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Okay, here we go…

The whole “leg day,” “back day” is what we call the bro-split. For beginners, which is what you are, such a split is not advised. It’s too much isolation work. You should be focusing on full-body compound lifts. Compound movements include squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press, and bent-over barbell rows. If I were you, I’d look into StrongLifts 5×5 – it’s a fantastic program that is specifically designed for beginners to build strength quickly. You don’t need to spend any money, buy a book, etc. This has some information about it, but I have a pdf that I could send you somehow with everything you need to know. The best part of 5×5 is that it’s simple: it’s just the five moves I mentioned, three per day, three days per week. It’s a 12-week program, but you can do it until you stall out, at which time you can move into an intermediate program like Madcow or Wendler’s 5/3/1, which includes accessory lifts outside of the main compound lifts. Some isolation work here is perfectly fine, but compound lifts are paramount, always.

Stay away from weight machines! At least in the beginning. No leg extensions/curls/presses, no lat pull-down machine, no pec fly machine, no crunch machine, no curl machine, etc. Your body, a barbell, and weight plates are all you need. Of course, you’ll need the bench and rack to do bench presses and rack for squats, but you get my point. Cardio and/or yoga can be performed on non-lifting days if you wish.

Weight loss happens in the kitchen. The reason you gained the weight back when you started your job isn’t because you aren’t working out. It’s because your body is naturally burning less calories because you’re sitting on your tush all day. So, your new number of calories burned daily (TDEE) is less than the number of calories you’re consuming. Know this: lifting is not for calorie burn. Cardio burns more calories than lifting, but lifting is what makes your body look good (the “definition” you’re talking about, and avoiding the “skinny fat” look). Lifting will help you lose weight, but don’t expect a huge calorie burn out of it. Furthermore, you need to be eating a sufficient number of calories. If you happen to be one of those people that refuses to count calories, that’s your choice, but you’re asking for trouble. If you’re not logging your food, you have absolutely no idea how much you’re eating. Eat too little and your lifts will suffer. Eat too much and you’ll keep gaining weight. It’s just math. There are plenty of sites/apps that allow you to easily log your intake. You can use Scooby’s TDEE calculator to determine the number of calories you should be eating to achieve your goal. I’d also invest in a food scale, because measuring cups are very inaccurate for solids.

Please for the love of all that is holy don’t fall into any of these traps: low-carb diets, intermittent fasting (or any fasting), juicing, cleanses/detoxes, all-cardio workouts, low-fat diets. It’s all bullshit. All of it. It’s calories in vs. calories out. Carbs are not bad, they’re necessary. Fat is not bad, as it’s also necessary. A balanced diet is what you need – don’t cut anything out. Food is fuel, and your body needs it. Fuel your body properly and it will thank you. You do not need to eat vegetarian/vegan, “organic,” gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. You don’t need to eat “clean” (whatever that means). Look up IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and, if it seems interesting to you, I’ll explain it further. Protein is extremely important. The calculator I link will give you an estimated number of grams of protein to eat daily, but .75–1g per lb of body weight is pretty standard.

I’m going to be late for work if I keep typing, but here is my blog if you’re interested. There’s only two posts, but go down to the first one and read it, especially my tips at the end. I’m going to come back once I get to the office because I wanted to comment on another jelly’s response.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Alright, I’m back.

I didn’t make the decision to link my blog until the very end, but I see now that the 5×5 summary is linked in that first post at the bottom. The other links there are also really great sources for information.

As for form instruction, bodybuilding.com has plenty of good stuff. Here’s the page for bent over barbell row, for example, where you can find a video, an instructional guide, and a diagram showing which muscles are being worked. Mark Rippetoe is a fantastic trainer and you can find his form videos and correction videos on YouTube. For example, here is his introduction to the squat.

As for @dxs‘s response, I’m going to have to strongly disagree about deadlifts and at least partially disagree about the bench press.

The deadlift is one of the most natural moves you can do, and it works a ridiculous amount of muscles. It’s literally bending over, picking something up, and putting it back down. Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s not a difficult move and you won’t hurt yourself if you start with a light enough weight and use correct form. There are several forms of deadlifts (stiff/straight-legged, Romanian, sumo, etc), but the basic deadlift is this or this – back straight, legs bent, barbell on the ground in front of you, core tight as you lift, bar dragging your legs the whole time, pause at the top, and lower it down the same way. Here is a great page on deadlifts. My advice: do not avoid deadlifts, just make sure your form is tight.

Check your form often. Take a video of yourself on your phone if you’re not working out with someone that knows what they’re talking about. Critique your own form by watching the video and correcting any mistakes you see. Form above all. Correct form is more important than how heavy the weight is. If you can’t keep your form tight with a heavier weight, you need to deload.

Now, the back arch on the bench press is totally fine – that is, your lower back arching off the bench. Your entire back should not be arched and you should not be pushing out of the arch (aka “cheating”), but a slight arch in the lower back helps keep your core tight, which helps with the lift in an indirect way. You can get more out of your lift that way, but the majority of the lift needs to come from your chest. Correct form calls for bringing your chest forward and squeezing your shoulder blades together – if you do that, your lower back will naturally arch a bit. Your glutes should stay on the bench, though, as should your upper back. The most important thing about the bench press is hitting your chest on every rep. No hovering or only going halfway – if you can’t get it down to your chest and back up, you’re using too much weight.

kevbo's avatar

@livelaughlove21 (and others), thanks for all the great info. That seems like plenty to get started and gives a solid big picture. I appreciate the time and effort.

deni's avatar

You mention losing weight and gaining flexibility. Have you tried yoga? Many people rule it out thinking it isn’t for them but I feel it truly is the best whole body workout not only for your muscles but for your mind and soul. Maybe a place around you gives your first class free. Check it out, you might find that you love it. I went one time and since then have skipped about 5 days in 8 months. I’ve never felt or looked better and my metabolism RAGES all the time. Most people that do regular yoga have this experience and if you need to get away from your desk n stuff, it will help you clear your mind. :)

kevbo's avatar

Yoga is my first choice, but I’d mostly be doing it on my own there due to the schedule is like to keep.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I just remembered 70sbig, which isn’t only about strength training, but the dude also has excellent stuff on mobility/posture.

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