Trainer or Cheerleader?

With the rise of group fitness and boutique studios, it’s quite easy to assume the instructor leading you through myriad exercises is a fully certified, knowledgeable expert. But putting that knowledge to use when you have a lot of different people to guide can be a daunting task for even the most experienced trainer. And often, the fallback to not being sure how to efficiently train a large group of people is to simply motivate through encouragement, inspiring words and lively support. Athletes with a strong grasp of form and function may thrive in these situations, taking advantage of the motivation a cheerleader brings without suffering injury or performance.  But what if you are new to training? How do you know if you are in the class of a trainer or a cheerleader?

If your form is decent, it takes an experienced trainer to take it to exceptional. Good trainers notice whether you drop your hips too much during a deadlift and whether you have the right wrist position in a bicep curl. You can also tell a good trainer by watching how they demonstrate exercises. They always have impeccable form because even the smallest error like foot position can throw an entire class into a state of disarray.

Oftentimes, trainers get the bad reputation of being too demanding or not as inspiring as cheerleaders. This may be very true. But here’s the difference, a good trainer will be your biggest advocate when it matters. If your goal is to increase muscle and lose body fat, a good trainer will push you to train with weights and perform the correct types of cardio. In the presence of a cheerleader, you will likely receive huge accolades for any extra effort you put forth.

If you’re still not sure whether the class you are in is taught by a trainer or a cheerleader, check out how they behave during class. Trainers are constantly moving around, watching, observing and making hands-on adjustments. Since they know how and when to safely push, they may walk by, assess your form and then suggest you increase weight on the next set. You’ll often see them making small and detailed tweaks that could be easily missed.

Here’s another thing about legitimate trainers: we are always learning. In my own practice, I make it a routine to train with other fitness professionals so I can fine tune a technique or master a new exercise.  And trust me when I say we are the worst at micro-managing each others’ form. It’s a constant lesson in self-improvement.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the inspirational cheerleader method of coaching. Many boutique studios thrive with members who crave this inspirational and uplifting push. If you find yourself in a setting that offers a cheerleading model, make sure you are fully aware of the exercises, proper form and how and when to push yourself. If you need more correction, focused direction or guidance on how to reach specific goals, look for a trainer-led environment.