My Personal Trainer can't count! VIA: Kate Gorman AND

I think it’s fairly standard that anyone who has ever had personal training would say “my personal trainer can’t count”. Before I was a PT I was convinced my trainer couldn’t count. When I became a trainer, I too discovered my clients were telling me that I couldn’t count either.


“A 3 year old can do it so why can’t my trainer!”


It’s something I am acutely conscious of and I’m always trying to make sure I manage to correctly count to 10 or even that huge number of 15!! I’ve tried counting out loud, I’ve even counted fingers behind my back. (There was one occasion that I can think of that I counted reps 6,7,9… And got distracted but that was because 4 Firemen in uniform walked into the gym… And well my client kind of stopped training too!!) But seriously, I hate the thought that my clients think I’m disinterested or distracted whilst we are doing our one-on-one sessions. I’m sure all to often they think “surely it can’t be that hard… 1,2,3,4 all the way to 12… A 3 year old can do it so why can’t my trainer!”

I know we all like to have a joke and I think it’s ‘fair game’ to pay your PT out about counting but I want to explain a few things that might justify our dodgy counting from time to time and it’s not to do with being uninterested in our clients sessions. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

From the moment my client gets ready to do a set I am analysing everything. It starts with assessing correct set up and body positioning before the first rep is completed… are legs far enough apart? Is the bar positioned correctly or do they have the correct hand grip? All too often a client counts the setup i.e. getting the dumbbells into position for a ‘push’ exercise as their first rep–I don’t. I consider that setting up and so automatically I’m already one rep behind!

I’m then watching every rep to consider whether the client has the correct weight or their level of fatigue. I’m thinking about how to give appropriate cues for better technique or how I am going to explain the small changes that need to be made to perfect the movement in the next set. Remember, the whole time I am still also looking at posture, at wobbly knees, sticking out elbows and various extremes of lordosis. I am constantly reminding clients about head placement and switching on the core and honestly if I’m really focusing on you and all the finer details or verbally cue you, then there’s a fair chance counting reps has long left the building.

As a good trainer we are also thinking about what’s coming next, whether someone else is using the piece of equipment we’d ideally like to use and if so what a suitable alternative is. We have to keep a watch on the clock so we are on time for the next client (which might be you). If we’ve had to spend 10 minutes teaching technique or address a mobility issue we might need to adapt the remainder of the session to still achieve what needs to be done and that requires some thinking on the spot whilst you’re smashing out your 12 or 13 or 14 reps that you are nailing with perfect technique on the seated row.


“…if your PT cannot count your reps, it quite possibly mean you have a really awesome trainer…”


So, just for the record, if your PT cannot count your reps, it quite possibly mean you have a really awesome trainer who is so focused on you, that counting reps correctly is somewhere a little further down the list of importance. I’m sure you’d prefer to know that I am more concerned with reducing your chances of injury and maximising your potential for strength and muscle gains than exactly how many reps you have actually done. After all, you’re not going to die or lose muscle if you do an extra rep or two.

NOTE: Please note that if your Personal Trainer is talking to other people in the gym or on Facebook and can’t count reps then you need to sack them and come and train with one of the trainers at Lean Performance because I promise you that distraction or disinterest is not the reason I sometimes get my rep counting wrong!

This post was written by Kate Gorman from