Is Your Personal Trainer Pro Science? Know For Sure

There’s a kind of personal trainer (“pseudo expert”) that’s out to exploit ignorance and waste your time and money. With a bit of research from your end, you can know the difference between the real deal and the bro-science buddy.

Signs of When You Need Science

You should be able to justify your training program using science. Rather, your personal trainer should be able to provide scientific evidence backing whatever training program he or she prescribes. It’s called exercise science for a reason, yes?

How else would you know if what you’re doing on the gym floor has any benefits, if at all. Why are you adding cardiorespiratory and resistance training on the same day? How do concentration curls give you that biceps peak? What function does a leg-extension machine serve for the legs (quadriceps)?

If high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is better than steady-state moderate-intensity training for fat loss, where’s the proof? How does one reach that conclusion? Or does it all depend on “I made all my clients lose weight that way?”

Your Knowledge Is Your Power: Bye Bye Bro Science

Truthfully, reading scientific literature may seem daunting at first, but if given a chance, your brain grasps quite a lot. Therefore, consider the time you spend validating the scientific facts as guaranteeing the safety of your investment in your personal trainer. Honestly, a personal trainer should do more than just look the part. Wouldn’t you agree?

Go From Google to Google Scholar

Google Scholar is the best friend you never knew you had. Simply, it’s your defence against “bro science.” It allows you to sift through scientific literature with ease.

You can start by structuring your searches (search strings). A few operators make it easy.

Boolean Search: Use AND, OR, or NOT to refine searches.

Let’s take my example. My search query was based around a common question: steady-state cardio or HIIT for fat loss? Therefore, my search string went along these lines, and I got the following results:

Once I found a paper, I wanted to know how to make sense of it. Here’s how you can begin screening scientific papers on your own.

The Basic Structure of a Scientific Paper: Abstract and IMRD

After surfing the web, I found a paper that had most of my keywords. Note that some papers might not give you free access to the study. However, the abstract will be accessible, and screening it would suffice. But first, what’s an abstract?


In a nutshell, a nutshell is what it actually is! An abstract is a summary of the entire paper. Not every study will have abstracts structured in the same manner—it depends on the type of paper, but more on that later. Regardless, abstracts will always summarize the paper. This is the common format:

  • Background places the study in a wider context
  • Objective tells you why the study was conducted
  • Methods tell you about how the study was conducted
  • Results tell you what was found
  • Conclusions tell you about what was made of the results
  • Keywords are the equivalents of tags for those searching for papers related to the keywords

Once you’re done reading the abstract, you can browse through the rest of the paper.

IMRD: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion

IMRD is an abbreviation for the format of the rest of the paper.

  • Introduction elaborates on the background, the research question, and clarifies why the study was undertaken
  • Methods details the manner in which the data were collected
  • Results display the findings of the study
  • Discussion interprets the the answer in light of the findings

The Order To Follow

  • Read the abstract first
  • Switch IMRD to DIRM: Read Discussion, Introduction, and Results, and then go through Methods

As laypeople, it’s ok if we can’t fully understand the methods used. Therefore, don’t worry if nothing makes sense here. However, screening a paper in the prescribed manner will give you a good idea about what the study found.

My Doubt: High-Intensity Interval Training or Steady-State Training for Fat Loss?

Coming back to my example: I heard athletes swear by HIIT and oppose it. Trainers disregard the idea and claim nothing works better than steady-state training. Naturally, I wanted conclusive answers or a scientifically backed argument instead of gym guff. Guess what? The research is all there.

While searching, I found a study on British Journal of Sports Medicine. This study sifted through 786 studies on the topic of HIIT vs moderate-intensity continuous training and included 41 studies based on certain criteria. Such a paper is know as a systematic review—we’ll talk about the paper types you need to look for in a later post.

I screened the abstract and navigated to the conclusion.


Now I’m certain that there is some rationale behind HIIT; it’s not something we do for the heck of it. However, making sense of the methods used and the data gathered is a matter for another post.

For now, know that all the knowledge is at your disposal. Go on, empower yourself.

Your feedback will always matter

Credit Where Credit’s Due!

Author Image Credit: Image by nugroho dwi hartawan from Pixabay

Author Image Credit: People vector created by macrovector_official –

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Is Your Personal Trainer Pro Science? Know For Sure
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Is Your Personal Trainer Pro Science? Know For Sure
Your research can save you from wasting time and money on a personal trainer who propagates bro science rather than exercise science. Read to know how.
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Rahul Chitrakar View All →

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