Let's face it...most people are scared of personal trainers. You see them on the Biggest Loser beating the hell out of overweight and out of shape people. You see them at your local gym flexing in the mirror and talking to girls. And you see them online giving advice on how get ripped.
But what you may not realize is that "there is no standard personal training licence." That's right! Literally anyone can start doing it...at any time...and for any reason.
Yes I know...that's terrifying to me as well...
There are several reputable fitness organizations that rigorously test and certify professional trainers and I'm going to talk about "my top 3" later in this post. But for now, I'm going to try to convince you to stop looking at trainers like they know everything - and start looking at them more critically.
Personally, when I walk into many facilities, I cringe! To the untrained eye, their exercises and methods look advanced and intimidating. To me, they often look outdated and dangerous. I definitely wouldn't trust many of them to work around chronic pain and physical limitations.
There are way too many trainers in this industry guiding their clients based on personal experience and principals they found on public websites. Some have obtained a meager weekend certification and have proclaimed themselves as experts - but that's just not enough.
The fact of the matter is, not all trainers are created equal - and not all trainers should be feared. If you know what to look for in an experienced and professional trainer, you will be in good hands.
If you choose a trainer just because they are the only one available at your local gym - you're making a huge mistake. You have every right to dig deeper into their background, education and experience before making the commitment. After all, you're trusting them with your health and your money. You wouldn't purchase a car without kicking the tires first. Hiring a trainer is no different.
Here are the top 3 certifications in the field right now in no particular order. Every one of these credentials involves an at home study course and exam that takes anywhere from 3-6 months to complete successfully. When I took the NSCA exam 10 years ago, only 73% of people passed the first time around. It cost me over $700 and I studied for 6 months!
1. The organization: NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
The certification: NASM-CPT (Certified personal trainer)
2. The organization: NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association)
The certification: NSCA-CPT (Certified personal trainer) NSCA-CSCS (Certified strength & conditioning specialist)
3. The organization: ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)
The certification: ACSM-CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) ACSM EP-C (Certified exercise physiologist)
And there you have it! Real personal trainers aren't scary. Unfortunately most of us have a bad reputation because a few bad apples have spoiled the bunch. The take home message is "know who you're working with."
Don't hire a trainer because you think they know what they are doing. Confirm that they actually do know their stuff by asking for their credentials. If they have a bachelor's degree in an exercise science related field or one of my favorite 3 certifications...go for it!
When you hire someone with a degree in business, a weekend fitness certification and primarily personal experience...there is no telling what you're going to get.
Don't be afraid...Be Critical! You're the consumer, get what you are paying for!
To your success!
Brian Reynolds MS., CSCS
Owner | Thunder Sports & Fitness