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How Well Do You Know Your Personal Trainer?

How Well Do You Know Your Personal Trainer?

| Sande Caplin |

A vastly growing career and one in which individuals seeking to get into shape conduct constant debates within their heads over and over on whether to spend the money to “see the results” or “meet your goals.” Personal trainers could be your source to lose that weight that has been haunting you for years or take your fitness levels higher. 

They can be that motivation that drives your determination to push through the tough workout sessions or to show up on the days when the last thing you wanted to do that day was exercise.  A well-educated and experienced trainer could be that stepping stone in reaching your goals. On the other hand, this field is being watered down with personal trainers slipping through a flawed system in which just studying a book of guidelines for a few months and passing a test… and voila! they are now a personal trainer.

The problem with personal trainers who lack a college degree in any field relating to sport performance/medicine or exercise leadership/physiology is that they are incompetent in executing, detecting, and correcting proper form; designing specific goal-based workout programs; and preventing injuries. A study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” (Melton, 2010) examined the current state of personal trainers and what exactly managers are considering when hiring trainers and their importance of the potential employee’s background and education in the field. The main reason personal trainers require (at minimum) a Certified Personal Training certificate (CPT), with employers having high preferences from where the certificate comes (1 of the 4 major certifying associations): American Council on Exercise [ACE], National Academy of Sports Medicine [NASM], American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM], or the National Strength and Conditioning Association [NSCA]) is pretty much a safety net for any damaging legal or liability lawsuits. The majority of the hiring managers who participated in the study stated that ensuring a certification does not distinguish competence in trainers, but is used as a profit generator for each respected certifying organization. As Melton wrote in his study:

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“The managers agreed that certifications are necessary for liability reasons and also to provide some indication of the presence of core knowledge. However, the managers also agreed that many certifications do not test practical skills and do little except possibly generate profit for the organization from which they come.”

The major problem (and I could not emphasize the word major enough!) with managers hiring trainers that are only capable “to provide some indication of the presence of core knowledge”, is that in the realm of proper health, exercise, and fitness, many factors play critical roles in not just injuring a client, but possibly even killing him/her. With certain medical conditions comes a very precise understanding of how each specific condition could affect a client and even what exercises are extremely dangerous for the individual to perform. A college degree targeting health, fitness, and science not only goes into thorough detail of such warning signs, but also gives hands-on training regarding proper technique and program designing which allows the trainer to lead their client to their optimal potential goal with less likeliness of injury.

Nothing plays a greater role in losing weight and getting to peak physical shape than consuming proper meals and exercising. The “National Academy of Sports Medicine” guidelines for weekly physical activity are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity. Whether you are paying for a top-notch personal trainer or a trainer who is just getting their feet wet, at the end of the day you do not need them to tell you how to ride a bike, swim, run, do push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups 150 minutes a week, which equates to only 2 ½ hours of exercise in a week that consists of 168 hours.

This is not an anti-personal trainer rant, only a way to put out advice on what to look for in a personal trainer. Ask questions and research a personal trainer before you sign your legal rights over and put your well-being on the line. Every gym should have a picture line-up of each of their trainers with their experience, education, and even how many and which certificates he/she holds. If not, then simply ask for the credentials. At the end of the day you are hiring them to train and guide you toward a better quality of life, so do the due diligence and conduct your own interview prior to committing your time and finances.
Clark, MA, Lucett, SC, Sutton, BG. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012.

Melton, D. I., Dail, T. K., Katula, J. A., & Mustian, K. M. (2010). THE CURRENT STATE OF PERSONAL TRAINING: MANAGERS’ PERSPECTIVES. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(11), 3173-9. Retrieved from

photo from Deposit Photos

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