Are There Personal Trainers that Specialize in Obese, Morbidly Obese, or Plus-Sized Clients?

Are There Personal Trainers that Specialize in Obese, Morbidly Obese, or Plus-Sized Clients_.png

Are There Personal Trainers that Specialize in Obese, Morbidly Obese, or Plus-Sized Clients?


Everyone in my family knows me as the “fitness guy” so whenever any of my relatives have a question about food, supplements or workouts. I get the call.

Like many people in the South, a lot of my relatives are on the bigger side and don’t always have the healthiest habits. Recently, one of my family members decides to get healthier and start a workout program. Thanks to the interwebs I am able to help them with pretty easily via my training apps. But in conversation, they asked, “ Are There Personal Trainers that Specialize in Obese, Morbidly Obese, or Plus-Sized Clients?”

This relatively straightforward question actually has a fairly complicated answer. The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is yes but most are poorly trained at coaching very overweight clients. The trainer-client relationship is an intimate one, so finding the right fit is absolutely essential for success

So if you are very overweight but aren’t related to a sexy, super smart personal trainer with slight delusions of grandeur, how do you find a good size, friendly personal trainer?

 The key is getting the trainer that works best for you, for instance, you may be wondering are there personal trainers that specialize in obese or plus size clients.

Working with a trainer that is specially trained or well versed in training obese clients and has a size friendly training mindset can make a huge difference in your training experience.

The Longer Answer. The idea of specializing in obese clients is a recent creation of the fitness industry. So you may get a fresh new inexperienced trainer just starting out or a seasoned trainer more accustomed to training fitter more athletic clients that is trying to diversify their business.

I’ve been around the fitness business since 1983( got the leg warmers and Flashdance sweatshirt scars to prove it)  and the industry as a whole is still pretty bad at training the obese, very overweight and plus-sized after all these years.

There really is a weight bias against the very overweight. A lot of equipment doesn’t fit you (pun discovered in editing but left in to show how adorably dorky I am), training programs often aren’t easily modifiable for size or joint restrictions and most training certifications only offer a few pages of information about how to train a plus-sized person.

So how do you find a place where you fit in, literally and figuratively.

How to Pick a Size-Friendly Fitness Trainer.

A size-friendly trainer won’t be focused on weight reduction and won’t measure performance and success solely by a scale. He or she will be more focused on strength and fitness performance and will use other markers for success.

In my two decades of being in the fitness, it has been my experience that many trainers think obese clients are fat, dumb and lazy. Fitness culture isn’t always welcoming. That needs to change.

“Can’t they just stop eating too much, get off their butts and workout.” is a pretty common sentiment among a large portion of the fitness industry. Gyms and trainers, for the most part, are setup for the fit and the almost very fit. Most really don’t do a good job of being welcoming or understanding the journey to fitter. If you’re reading this you may be the first one but clearly not the last two.

To be completely honest there are a lot of dumb lazy fit people in the gym.

You don’t have to train under people who believe that health and fitness can look only a certain way. It has been my experience that a key to success with a trainer, isn’t a credential or certification, but real experience and an enthusiasm for helping you reach your goals.

I think finding a trainer with proven experience and a track record of helping obese, very overweight people is the most valuable step you can take help find a quality trainer. The credential is only a starting point.

Picking The Right Trainer for you Starts with You.

  • Before you pick your trainer you need to pick your training goals:  If you want to eventually run a 5k or a marathon picking a trainer that specializes in basketball players may not be a great fit.

  • Make sure your trainer has expertise in the area you want to train: Expertise in one area does not necessarily make them a good fit in another!

  • Think about what you need: Are you just looking for a coach to show you the basics and put together a program then I’d recommend, a few sessions up front and a few later on to check your progress and may sure your still on the right track. Or Are you new to working out or looking to kick-start your first 2 months of training with 2 sessions per week hold you accountable?

  • So what’s your deal? What type of person are you?  Do you need lots of time and attention to stay on track or do you prefer a more hands-off approach to doing things? Do you want you a cheerleader that is uber supportive or do you need someone to challenge you and your B.S. excuses? Most people need a mix of hugs and butt-kicking but you need to know which style you lean towards liking/needing in your mind.

When you are clear about what you want and how long you need a trainer for, then you can move on to find one that will help you get fit and enjoy the process.

Steps to Picking a Size-Friendly Personal Trainer.

  1. Observe Them: The real secret to getting a good trainer is to actually observe them before deciding which one to interview.

If you know what gym you will be training at good watch trainers for a few days. Just observe from a distance. This way you can see what they are really like without them being on their best behavior and full salesperson mode.

  • Are they distracted? Do they pay attention to clients or are they distracted?

  • Are they engaging or dull?  You are going to spend a lot of time with your trainer. It helps if you would actually like them if you weren’t at the gym. Even in the most intense workouts, there’s a lot of downtime between exercises.

  • Are they creepy or cool? #metoo it’s a real thing in fitness. Still, touch much touchy-feely stretching and spotting going on in lots of places.

  • Are they are gossips? After a while you will find yourself telling your train things that would make a bartender or hairdresser blush. It’s a thing that happens just a heads up.

  • Random but important recommendation.  Don’t try to turn your trainer into a therapist it ends up being not very fun for either of you.

2. Interview Them: You’ve done your homework. You know your goals, you understand your training style, you have observed your potential trainer in their natural habitat with clients, now it’s time to set up an interview/training session.

Ask these questions:

  1. What are your credentials? What certifications/ education background do you have? Ask if you can see them.

  2. What kind of (and how much) experience do you have?

  3. What is your strategy for preventing and dealing with injuries?

  4. Do you specialize in any training styles?

  5. How much does this cost?

  6. When are you available?

  7. What are your cancellation and refund policies?

  8. What is your coaching style?

  9. How do you design programs and track progress?

3. Schedule a trial training session. This won’t be the workout of a lifetime. It should be more of chance for you to interact with your each other. You will get to see how they coach you and they get to see if you can be coached by them.

4. Buy a small package of training sessions:  One workout will not actually help you very much but I also don’t want you on the hook for tons of cash if you find out your trainer and you aren’t actually  a good fit over time. I recommend at least 5 sessions but no more a months commitment to start your journey together. You should get a really get a good feel for how working with a personal train in this time frame.

Here are some things to look for during your training sessions together when looking for a size friendly personal trainer.

10 Things the Best Size Friendly Trainers Do that Help Clients of All Shapes and Sizes Reach Their Goals Faster

  1. They listen. They fully and actively listen to you in order to understand your story up to this meeting before making any suggestions. Trainers can be conditioned by fitness culture to assume everyone is at the gym to lose weight. A size-friendly trainer will never assume and will take the time to listen to your goals and help you achieve them. If you have a trainer who decides your goals for you, you need a different trainer.

  2. They observe.  They look for visual cues in the physical strain a client is experiencing. They manage the load put on clients. A size-friendly trainer will understand that doing a workout as a heavier person is harder than the same routine with a lighter trainee. They base the signs of fatigue on your fitness level not theirs.

  3. They are welcoming.  Getting started is very hard regardless of size or shape. They are compassionate and understanding that fitness culture isn’t always the most welcoming to some people.

  4. They have experience working with people of different sizes. They think about workouts prior to your session and design it from the knowledge and experience with how larger bodied clients move. They pick exercises that work with your size and shape.
    Size-friendly trainers know it in advance and have many modifications ready so that your workout will be enjoyable and effective.

  5. They ask about any prior injuries or experience with exercise. If they know about limitations physically and what level of experience, how you felt about your prior exercise experiences(likes/dislike/prior results) they will design a program that works for you that you will enjoy.

  6. They ask you about your nutrition but don’t push restrictive eating.  A size-friendly trainer won’t be focused on weight reduction and won’t measure performance and success solely by a scale. He or she will be more focused on strength and fitness performance and will use other markers for success.

  7. They practice what they preach. It isn’t a requirement to be built like a Greek god, the speed of a cheetah, the grace of a dancer and the strength of a thousand angry mountain monkeys to be a good trainer. But your trainer should authentically embrace a healthy lifestyle.

  8. They have a teacher’s heart. They can share their expertise and prior clients success in a way that helps clients become informed, inspired and healthy for the long term.

  9. They manage expectations.  They give realistic time frames, they explain how hard you need to work, they set up milestones along the way to track and show your progress

  10. They are body positive. Motivation never comes from shame, pain, or strain. Your body, at every size, is amazing and the fact you’re in the gym giving everything you’ve got deserves nothing but positivity.

5 Things All Bad Personal Trainers Do

Here’s what I have seen bad trainers do that damage a client and the industry.

  1. They are overly complex. They use needlessly complex terms and exercises that look and sound smart but doesn’t really share really useful knowledge with their clients.

  2. They use the same workouts for everyone. They put clients on the same identical program regardless of size, shape, goal, experience or needs. This is sometimes from laziness and other times from ego so that the trainer looks smarter than they actually are.

  3. They train clients way to hard way too soon. It’s easy to make someone sore, it’s really, really impressive to help someone consistently improve time after time. You can get tired and sore at home for free. Why are you paying this joker if they aren’t moving you towards your goal instead of theirs? Which leads me too this.

  4. They are money driven not client-centered. They are focused on scheduling the next session and keeping you paying instead of focusing on your goals. Are they putting in the time so they can see you get results? Or are they putting in the time so they can check the box and collect your money?
  5. They fail to keep up with current information. They rely of broscience/ conventional wisdom over the latest training information. Extensive fitness knowledge and expertise is the main reason why people want to work with personal trainers. Your trainer should be able to speak about a variety of training styles and the advantages and drawbacks of each. Most trainers have their own opinion about what gets results, but the best ones aren't so married to one particular modality that they won’t be versatile in their programming.

As my first training mentor said. Some people train good, some people are good trainers. It’s rare to find someone that’s good at both. Try to be one of those trainers and help people know how to find them. That’s why I wrote this for you.

One last thing. I know that going to a gym is intimidating, especially if you’re starting out. And not knowing the difference between a bad trainer and a good trainer (who will prioritize your needs and get you results) can result in months of lost effort and money
It’s why we created our own experience for our community.

If you are in a location where there aren’t any great trainers, you don’t have access to a gym, or you’re just not ready to work with somebody in person, consider checking out my popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

We build a workout program specific to YOUR goals, we help you make better food choices (which is 90% of the battle), and we help keep you accountable.

No guesswork. No confusion about what to do next. Just a coach you can text with questions, that builds a program for you, and can even check your form via video!

Schedule a free call to learn more by clicking on the image below:

If you have questions about what you need to look for when it comes to training with a coach in person or even questions about working with an online trainer, email me or reach out to me on social media.


Love, Peace and Less Chicken Grease

Alton Skinner