Do You Need a Coach, Trainer, or Partner?

Should you train alone or with someone else?

Tommy Kono Olympic Lifting Coaching

While you do not need a coach, a personal trainer, or a training partner to make progress, some will do better with their help. This depends on both the trainer and the trainee. Since most coaches and trainers only teach what is popular though, such as functional training, you may get hurt or disappointed.

You can gain most of the real advantages on your own, with the right mindset and the proper use of your tools.

Many seemingly ambitious people today seek mentors. They want a shortcut toward becoming great themselves. Though logical, this has some problems when applied to fitness and athletics.

Your genes and willingness to use drugs will make a tremendous difference in your results. Unfortunately, it seems these factors are just as if not more important than how you train. A good coach, trainer, or partner cannot fix a deficiency here. Those with fewer advantages will have to get more things right in an attempt to keep up.

They also can only function as guides, trying to lead you in the right direction without doing the work for you.

Personal trainers and athletic coaches each have various certifications that most gyms and organizations require. Nonetheless, the industry is not regulated. This is not as bad as it may sound; standards are inappropriate to enforce in a field more like an art than a science.

The famous trainers and coaches have to appear on the cutting-edge. They need to present a mystique and sense of confidence to attract more high-profile clients. It is rare to find someone at the top of this field that avoids using complicated programs and countless gadgets.

It appears then that their business needs could influence their methods. While they probably believe that these serve a genuine purpose, there are at least some reasons to doubt the value of this complexity. Hard work on the basics is not attractive.

You can examine the clients and athletes that they work with, but this provides no guarantee that their program will succeed for you. The gifted often do fine in spite of their training. This does not discount their effort, but they do seem to have more flexibility than their less-endowed peers.

Nonetheless, they can bring out the best in you under the right circumstances. Consider these factors in determining if you need someone.


It would be interesting to know just how much of the results are produced by the machines and how much by Jones’ pushing.

– Dr. Ellington Darden

  • They can keep you accountable.

Many do not possess the self-motivation to move toward their goals each and every day. No one should feel ashamed admitting this; it affects us all. Even the dedicated realize that accountability to others can keep them focused.

Devotion seems to increase just from getting more attention. Someone else cares about your progress. Beyond training, you may find yourself taking nutrition and sleep more seriously as well.

They can help you set goals, but no one really knows what you can achieve. There are too many variables involved. Still, moving in the right direction is essential.

A good trainer, coach, or partner can remove your self-delusion. We all cannot see ourselves accurately, perhaps needing to lose fat or take your strength training more seriously. They can make you realistic about your results and how to get there.

Many trainees on their own will make tweaks that worsen their program, so they may prevent self-destruction.

  • They can motivate you.

They encourage you to get that last grueling rep.  You strive through the discomfort of relentless intervals. They may foster your competitiveness, even with just yourself. Those with strong, encouraging personalities force more hard work out of you than you thought possible. They may serve as a good example of what you wish to approach.

Through determination and persistence though, there seems no reason you cannot motivate yourself. Understand that the ability to work hard is a skill that improves over time. Keep a progress log, seeking to beat your best numbers. A powerful mindset will come in time.

  • They may design your program.

No one will train you exactly the same, and the worth of each program can vary greatly. As a rule, the best programs should work just as well for the average person as for the elite, though the rate and extent of progress will differ.

Many say that we all have different capabilities, and they use this to justify everything out there. This is not true. Humans evolved to expect certain movements done in certain ways, and to ignore this truth is dangerous.

Functional training, periodization, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and many other systems are suspicious. Since these are widespread, you will likely encounter them should you work with someone else.

People seek coaches and trainers for many reasons. They often want to lose weight, build muscle, become faster, improve endurance, feel happier, and often a combination of these benefits. A good program though addresses them all equally, unlike what many would have you believe.

The test to evaluate them is simple. Does their program work for you? Not someone else. Are you moving toward your goals? Are you injury-free? If not, change who you train with or learn to thrive on your own.

  • They can monitor your form.

They can end a set if it gets too sloppy or make a quick correction in the moment to improve it. They can spot you as well. Most have the knowledge to prevent something truly bad from occurring.

Good form is subjective though. Someone with a powerlifting background may have you adopt a position to lift more weight, yet this stresses the joints and works the muscles unevenly. This would not make sense for the typical person.

You can check your own form as well. Just by avoiding too much range of motion, using medium grips and stances, and choosing the right exercises, you will go a long way toward improving your form.

Have good posture too. Have a cue list for each exercise to review before the lift. Use a power rack with the right settings for you. Use video to self-monitor. Stay disciplined.

  • They can apply advanced techniques.

A partner, trainer, or coach can assist you with forced reps, negatives, drop sets, and other advanced techniques that are impossible alone. They can help you with PNF stretching. They can use bands and manual resistance to test you in creative ways.

These methods may do more harm than good though. They are non-progressive since they cannot be quantified well. How much intensity you require for progress is too complex of a question, but it can become excessive with these techniques.

A single tough set taken to positive failure achieves the utmost for many trainees. They can be unsafe as well.

Never assume you need someone else’s help to get the most out of your workout.

  • They can distract you.

Especially with personal trainers and training partners, you can develop or have already formed a good relationship. They are a friend, serving as an outlet to chat about your life instead of keeping you focused on hard work.

They can slow down your workout, causing you to lose the benefits of a warm-up while using your time less efficiently.

Do you Need a Coach, Personal Trainer, or Training Partner?

Many will at least get you heading in the right direction, more so if you lack experience.

Relativism is dangerous though. This is the idea that all programs, exercises, and methods have their place for the right individual. Since many coaches and trainers share their audiences with each other to make more money, they are obligated to support this stance. This is false, with some being much safer and more effective.

I assume here that you choose one-on-one training, a costly approach. Many coaches and trainers now offer group training only. This allows them to make more money per session while charging each person less. They often provide cheap functional training tools such as kettlebells, boxes, and free weights without power racks. Form deteriorates in this environment. They keep things fun and varied at the expense of careful but less appealing workouts.

The coaches at the pinnacle work with drugged, elite athletes. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking they can teach you something unique that will unleash your latent abilities. The best path for those in sports is to train simply and practice your sport diligently.

Many willing to do some research themselves will gain most of the value overtime by training alone or with a partner. Special populations such as the elderly may want to work with a trainer if only to feel safer.

If you feel unsatisfied with your results, try pushing yourself harder. Train smart though. Eat wellget enough sleep, and rest. None of this depends on working with someone else. You know yourself best. Working with another person brings in someone that will never have your intimate level of awareness.

There are countless points of view out there on training. In the end, the decision can be simplified just by being honest. Do you make better progress with or without someone else by your side? Trainees have succeeded both ways.

Consider these factors in determining if you need a coach, a personal trainer, or a training partner.

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