There are plenty of telltale signs that a personal trainer isn’t up to par. If your trainer has you using equipment for a majority of your sessions this is a sign that he doesn’t know what he’s doing (or she doesn’t know what she’s doing).
Personal trainers do all kinds of bad things and you can tell a lot about a trainer by the amount of equipment they use in a session. If your trainer puts you on machines for just about everything, it’s an indication that you should find another trainer.
Regardless of fitness level, the majority of exercise should be done while standing. In the business we call them “ground-based, compound movements” (GBCM), and they are the most efficient and effective exercises that you can do.
Exercise in a machine does nothing to develop balance and stability, two vital skills, because the equipment is doing this work for you. There is no better way to train “the core” (which is much more then than the abdominal and lower back muscles) than to perform GBCMs;
- Standing military (overhead) presses
- Dead lift
- Explosive lifts
Take an exercise machine and there’s a free-weight/GBCM exercise equivalent that is superior. In effect, balance and stability gets worse from using machines. The older we get, the more our nervous system deteriorates thanks to the inevitable aging process, the more we need to stay away from machines and “get into” GBCMs.
Trainers defend their use of machines along the lines of, “Mrs. Jones’ balance is so bad/back is so weak/range of motion is so diminished that she needs to work in a machine so she can regain some function.” Incorrect!
Machines avoid strengthening the weaknesses by taking them out of the equation. The person with bad balance who uses a hamstring curl machine instead of modified split squats or lunges, uses the leg press instead of body weight squats or military press machine instead of performing the lift standing with dumbbells, is not addressing their needs.
Athletes who use machines can’t improve performance and are training in a manner that impedes progress. Athletes never compete in a seated position (except for rowers!) and work in all planes of movement; machines cannot provide the proper training environment for athletes or weekend warriors.
Your personal trainer doesn’t know what they’re doing if they have you using exercise machines.