Find the Best Personal Trainer

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Brock Flint
Brock Flint

5 out of 5 stars

posted 5 months ago

Sand and Steel Fitness is a great gym with an excellent coaching staff. Paul has incredible knowledge to help you with any mobility problems you have. He is also capable of designing a program that fits your needs and goals specifically.

Dawn is an excellent programmer as well, she is able to create strength programs spanning the spectrum of novice to experienced weight lifter. Overall their coaching staff is professional, kind, and highly experienced.

The amount of equipment they have is amazing allowing one to train every muscle in the body, even the ones you never thought you had! If you are looking for a gym to help motivate you to work out Sand and Steel is your gym! If you just reached a plateau and want to ascend to the next level, you should stop in and see Paul or Dawn!


5 out of 5 stars

posted 5 months ago

I have very much enjoyed my workouts at Sand and Steel. It's a great crew, with professional coaches and knowledgeable expertise. I'm addicted to my program, and it's exciting seeing and feeling results of hard work.

Since I started training with Sand and Steel a couple of months ago, I've had the opportunity to train with Rachel, Max, Alex, and Dawn. I learn something every time I train, and I appreciate the variety of instruction from each of the separate coaches. I look forward to all my sessions -- something that I never thought I'd say, when workouts start at 6A! I appreciate the same level of focus and dedication from the coaches, that I give to the workouts twice a week.

Sand and Steel coaches are well-versed in technique and repercussions of different movements; they’re dedicated to ensuring that I get the max out of my workout, and I appreciate their attention to detail, as well as their motivating attitudes.

Thanks to Dawn and Paul -- to the both of you, as well as the coaches that you hire -- for providing amazing talent, and kick ass workouts. You have a great thing going, and I'm excited to be part of it!

Jason Fu
Jason Fu

5 out of 5 stars

posted 5 months ago

If you're looking for high quality exercise and nutrition guidance from knowledgeable, personable, and capable trainers, then I highly recommend giving Sand & Steel Fitness a try. You will be safely pushed to your limits and there's a good chance that you will enjoy it! Ask for Paul. He's a good person and he knows and loves what he's doing to help people achieve their fitness goals! I'm sure he can help you whatever your level.

I have been close friends with Paul, co-owner and trainer of Sand & Steel Fitness, since middle school on Long Island. I recently visited him during a trip down to NC. Paul and Dawn have created an amazing gym. Paul was always passionate and competitive about fitness. He sets the bar high for himself in all of his goals, and I am sure he helps his clients do the same for themselves. Paul told me that it feels good to help others and he is confident in his ability to do so.

After catching up and giving me a tour, Paul invited me to join him in his workout. As expected, the gym is in immaculate condition and spotlessly clean. It has to be clean because Paul is very sensitive to dust.

Also of no surprise was that all of the equipment and apparatus is of the highest quality. Paul always believed in having the best for the activities and hobbies he cared about. This high standard also applies to the quality of the trainers that Paul hires and teaches, as well as the programs and supplements offered at Sand & Steel.

Paul's mother is a dietitian so Paul was always conscious about health and nutrition. Paul probably learned a thing or two about health and fitness while earning a degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins.

Edit: I stopped by a second time on my way back north and got to do a second workout with Paul and another trainer Max. Max is very nice! I had never done any of the exercises in either of the two workouts. It was fun and challenging! I haven't been to a gym in 7 years and I don't miss it. There is a stark contrast between Sand & Steel and your typical gym. I wouldn't get bored at Sand & Steel.

June Turner
June Turner

5 out of 5 stars

posted 5 months ago

In my opinion, Paul and his team are the best in the business. As someone who has had many injuries and stubborn weight loss issues, I cannot be more pleased with my results. I have spent thousands of $$$ on personal training over the course of my life - looking for that special trainer. Then I discovered Sand and Steel. There is NO comparison. These guys and gals know their stuff!!! This has been the best investment in my life - with their help, I am on a path that has helped me lose weight, gain strength, walk better, less pain, more confident, etc. I am in my mid-50s so this is no easy feat! I could go on and on with all the benefits. I am thrilled with my results. Most would agree, "the greatest wealth is health," so if you really want to "reach for the moon" as far as your health goes, look no further. You might just make it to the stars!!!

Alex Ramos
Alex Ramos

5 out of 5 stars

posted 5 months ago

Before I started as a personal trainer at Sand and Steel Fitness, I was a member of different Crossfit gyms in the area. I thought I knew about all there is to know about functional fitness. When I went into my interview, everything changed within minutes. A lot of different equipment that I'd never seen was hanging out in every corner. Paul, the co-owner and I went through the Sand and Steel 300 workout that first day and I was smoked!

I also went through the Functional Movement Screening which is an assessment used to identify faulty movement patterns or, in my case, weaker areas in my body. I was blown away that I couldn't lift a light dumbbell performing a simple upper back exercise. It was just an area that wasn't worked much in my previous Crossfit experience.

Another factor that definitely impressed me was that although Paul and Dawn have a myriad of certifications, they are still signing up for more. Continuing Education is the name of the game in today's fitness world and it's great to be immersed in that culture.

Personal Training Standards is THE tool we use
to find the Best Personal Trainers in Alexandria.”

Your progress as an athlete is directly proportional to the knowledge and experience of your coach or personal trainer.  In order to find the best personal trainer, you need a qualification tool at your disposal.  Personal Training Standards is that tool.  This exam covers:

  1. Questions on exercises that can only be answered with actual coaching experience.
  2. Questions concerning proper body mechanics, and weight loss programming.
  3. Questions on human anatomy
  4. Nutrition: going beyond macro nutrient balancing
  5. Nutrition: sports supplements, joint pain, and hypertrophy supplements
  6. Nutrition: Food prep and recipes
  7. Nutrition: Recovery and hydration

In addition, the exam provides you with a physical fitness test for your coach to perform, as well a nutrition worksheet analysis.  Make sure your next personal trainer is best trainer you can find – hand them this exam.

Personal Training Standards is Comprehensive in Its Scope

This is the same exam we use to screen new coaches and it serves as an amazing tool for us to rapidly slice through personal boasting and puffery that some coaches use to substitute for actual talent and experience.  There is no way to b.s. your way through this exam, either you know the answers or you don’t.  Plus, if your coach can get a good score on this exam, you know it’s a coach we would likely hire to work at Sand & Steel

For right now, Personal Training Standards, is a free download, and we hope you find it to be an invaluable tool to finding the best personal trainer in your area.

Overview of Personal Training Standards

Personal Training Knowledge

Asks straight-forward questions that your would-be personal trainer really should know. Accept nothing less than 80% score on these questions.

Nutrition Knowledge

If you want to transform your body rapidly, you need an integrated fitness/nutrition approach. This section asks several baseline nutrition questions to determine whether your new trainer has the requisite knowledge to write you a customized diet plan.

75% or higher required.

Personal Trainer Physical Fitness

Test the Physical Fitness of your trainer. There are many different ways to get into great shape, and your coach should practice what he or she preaches. Your new personal trainer should be able to hit at least 60% of the benchmarks set here.

Diet Analysis

Finally, in Section IV we have an example diet from an anonymous client. Once fixing the problems with this client’s diet, we were able to cause this client to drop her body fat from 27% to 14% in 4 months. Section IV provides a copy of her past diet, and require the trainer to determine what needs to be fixed. Your new coach should get at least 80% on this section.


Foundational Mobility Questions that any Coach Should Know


Best Personal Trainer

Certifications needed to deliver safe and effective training include:

a. Exam based certifications: NASM, ACE, ASCM, NCSF are very important to provide a baseline understanding of training protocols, energy systems, anatomy, and movement fundamentals.
b. Specialty equipment certifications are necessary so that the trainer is a master of at least two types of equipment they are going to train you with.
Examples include:
c. Barbells certifications (USAW, Starting Strength, CrossFit)
d. Kettle Bell certifications like: Russian Kettlebell Club (RKC) or ISSA
e. Core Training like TRX Suspension Trainer
f. Nutrition: Precision Nutrition, NCSF Sports Nutrition, etc. These certifications will provide your trainer with the tools he or she needs to write a nutrition program that will work for you… not just them. Just because your trainer looks good, doesn’t mean they can write you a program that will work. It also doesn’t mean they can properly analyze your diet.
g. When was their last certification? Staying up to date with advances in personal training is very important. Your trainer should be obtaining at least two new certifications per year, and attending one fitness conference.
h. All certification agency provide registration numbers… ask your trainers to provide these numbers – so you can verify they have the qualifications they claim.

Example Training Questions

John is able to bench press 200 pounds ten times. What is John’s Calculated one rep max weight?
What Barbell Lifting exercise uses the most narrow grip?
What Barbell Lifting exercise uses the most wide grip?
The Two Hand Russian Swing targets three muscles and two secondary muscles, which ones are they?
Nick can do 60 24Kg Kettle bell swing in 90 seconds… how many Dumbbell thrusters with 35 can he do in 90 seconds?
What reaction creates the energy needed for a one-rep max deadlift?

Example Anatomy Questions

What body part is the semimembranosus?
What is the common name for the sartious?
What is the common name for the suprasprinatus?
Name five muscles in the glutes.
T. Band is an abbreviation… what is the full word?


Macronutrients: the following are fundamental questions about nutrition.
If your trainer doesn’t ace this section… he or she should not be teaching nutrition.

A nutritional label for food X lists that it has 30 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of sugar.  How much starch does it have?
Which of the following foods have lots of starch that have a low glycemic index: Vegetables, yogurt, pasta, rice, agave syrup, avocado, beans, yams.
What is the difference between glycemic load and glycemic index?
Which of the following foods a high glycemic index and no sugar: Figs, Mangos, potatoes, nuts, pasta, beans, olives.
How many calories in a ½ tsp serving of Splenda and a ½ tsp of sugar?
Nuts contain which of the following macronutrients: sugar, fiber, starch, protein, monosaturated fats, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fats, protein.


Supplements are very helpful for improving the speed of development.
If you want to get the most of your training, supplements will get you there faster – if you use the right ones.

From a growth perspective, what’s the difference between soy, vegan, and whey protein?
Why is whey isolate more expensive than regular whey, and why should I take it?
Arganine and Arachandonic Acid do what?
Which of the following popular bodybuilding supplements is clinically ineffective (all marketing hype): Beta Alanine, Creatine HCL, Glutamine, Green Tea Extract, Raspberry Ketones, Garcinia Cambogia
Name 7 (or as many as you can) naturally occurring anti-inflammatories.
What is the difference between an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory? Which foods are high in antioxidants?
Which fish contains more protein per gram: Atlantic salmon, Sockeye salmon, or Coho? How many grams of protein are in 100grams of salmon?


Conversions are extremely important in food journal analysis.
If your trainer doesn’t know these common conversion of the top of his or her head, he or she isn’t reviewing many diets.

How many Tablespoon in a quarter cup?
How grams of sugar in 1 Tsp?
How many calories in 1 TSP of sugar?
How many ounces is equivalent  100 grams?

Food Prep

Food Prep:

How can you prepare Jam without sugar?
How can you cook fish without using heat?
Make oatmeal without boiling it in a pot?
Why are rolled oats better for you than instant oats?
What is ALA and what are the primary sources?
Gluten can cause weight for some people and not for others depending on certain factors. What are those factors? What is Gluten?
How would one compute how much Omega 3 fats to consume daily?



Which of the following is effective for DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)?
Hot Bath, Cold Bath, Creatine, Stretching, Protein Shake, Working out more, Massage, Eating a healthy meal, Gatorade

Which of the following are electrolytes that can get depleted during exercise? Calcium, Selenium, Chloride, Manganese, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sucralose, Sodium.


Find Out the Answers Here

Have your potential Personal Trainer/Nutritionist analyze the following diet:

Angela has some issues with her diet. She’s looking to build muscle, what needs to be changed?

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Find Out the Answers Here
  1. Yoga: What is the difference between the baby cobra position and up dog?
  2. Yoga: describe the what the humble warrior pose is and what it stretches.
  3. Mobility: if I am “flossing” a joint… what does that mean?
  4. Mobility: what are two movements I might use a gemini for?
  5. Mobility: what does distraction mean in the context of a mobility exercise?
  6. Mobility: what is the difference between mobility and flexibility?
  7. Movements: a client cannot execute an overhead squat correctly. Back alignment, shoulder movement, and hip mobility look like fine.  Knowledge of technique is fine.  We are just using a dowel as the bar.  What is the next thing to check?
  8. Movement: What is a goniometer?
  9. Movement: Describe the technique involved in a windmill and half windmill.

Your coach should able to demonstrate at least 60% of the following items.

  • 3 Bar or Ring Muscleups
  • A Reverse Lever on the Rings
  • Deadlift at 1.5x bodyweight, Benchpress at 1.4x bodyweight, and squat and 1.6x bodyweight
  • One leg pistol squat with both legs.
  • 100 Kettle Bell Snatches in 5 minutes using 53# for men and #35 for females.
  • 36 Inch box jump for me, and 30 inch box jump for females
  • 60 unbroken upside down bosu pushups (full lock out on top and bottom)
  • 50 abmat situps with heels to but and knees and feet together in 2 minutes.
  • The Suspension Trainer atomic pushup and the Rip Trainer Pitchfork. If your trainer says he or she knows how to use TRX based equipment, they should know these two. If they don’t, they have no business teaching you anything on these pieces of equipment.
  • Ask them to show you their logbook
    1. There is nothing worse with a trainer who doesn’t practice what he or she teaches. Your trainer should have an up to date workout log available, either a hard copy notebook or a blog.
Find Out the Answers Here
Angie G.'s Review Angie G.
5 Stars

I chose to visit Sand and Steel when I realized that after a major surgery, I could not utilize my core like I could before. I was actually freaking out...

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Matt J.'s Review Matt J.
5 Stars

Probably the very best personal training staff in Old Town...

Let me make one thing clear that I am NOT writing from the perspective of a member of Sand &...

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Rob S.'s Review Rob S.
4 Stars

I was referred to Sand and Steel when I stayed at the Morrison House,across the street. When I gave Dawn the day pass she was happy to have me work out and...

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