Personal Training Redefined - What Truly Makes A Personal Trainer?

Personal training has been a profitable commodity in the fitness industry within the past decade… Distinguish between the fake and respected trainer from the following: required credentials, respected institutions, what to be weary of, and much more!

Today more and more people are looking for better ways to get into shape and other options besides plastic surgery when it comes to reshaping their bodies. Fortunately, this interest has led many people to seek additional help from personal trainers in sculpting the body through more natural means.

Personal training has been a profitable commodity in the fitness industry within the past decade. Despite this widespread popularity and due to the unregulated nature of this profession, many people hold different perceptions and opinions of personal training.

Some people believe a personal trainer is like having a workout partner or spotter who simply counts reps, while others look at personal trainers as motivation that gives them more of a reason to go workout. Although these conceptual beliefs are true for many personal trainers, they do not do justice in fully defining the competent and fully qualified personal trainer.

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A fully qualified personal trainer in my professional opinion would be an integrative fitness expert who gets results for his/her clients through a sound application of exercise and motivational science and who holds people accountable thereby promoting long-term consistency.

Results are both intrinsic (feeling better) and extrinsic (looking better), but the bottom-line is that we do our job in satisfying the customer and exceeding their expectations.

Personal trainers wear many hats in the fitness industry. For example, personal trainers can be considered counselors, educators, innovators, motivators, and inventors. Although personal trainers wear many hats, it is also important that they stay within their scope of practice and work together with other corresponding medical professionals.

Trainer
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A Qualified Trainer Gets
Results For Their Clients.

Being a personal trainer is about helping people and improving their quality of life (Yoke, 1997). Interestingly, there are several studies that have found significant improvements in exercise adherence and various performance and health variables during training when supervised by a personal trainer (Coutts et al., 2004; Maloof et al., 2001; Mazzetti et al., 2000; McClaren & Steven, 2003; News Briefs, 2000, Wing et al., 1996). This research provides solid concrete evidence that we are effective at helping people get better results than they would training alone.

This is not to say personal training is for everyone, however, it can certainly help the majority reach their goals and dreams. The reason why a professional personal trainer can be the difference is because we have spent a great deal of time studying what many would say is the most complex machine in existence, "The Human Body." So in a way, we actually have to study and work harder than a rocket scientist! I mean lets face it, a rocket is "Man-made."

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Griffin (2004) reported "Nor are personal fitness trainers just for the buff, spandex-sporting crowd" says Fred Klinge, chairman of the Health and Registry Board at the American College of Sports Medicine.

Klinge emphasizes that the scope of personal fitness trainers has broadened. "It's not just about weight lifting and cardio work anymore," he tells WebMD. "It's more about assistance in developing a healthy and fit lifestyle."

Although there haven't been too many, some studies have shown that personal trainers can help people stick to their exercise routines more effectively than they would on their own, according to Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Trainer
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Personal Trainers Help People
Stick To Their Exercise Routines.

dot Cost Of A Personal Trainer dot

    Hiring a qualified personal trainer can be a lucrative investment. For example, a college-educated personal trainer most likely spent 4 or more years learning about health and exercise. The time a client spends learning about exercise is very small compared to the time it took the personal trainer to learn about it.

    For example, the cost of attending college for 4 or more years can be very costly, but the money spent working with a personal trainer for 1 or more years perhaps only 1-3 days per week, is a very small price to pay relative to the profitable health and intellectual benefits gained.

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    The personal trainer essentially is teaching the client in 1 or more years what it took him or her to learn in 4 or more years. The personal trainer is simplifying what he/she learned and providing shortcuts to maximizing the client's time and efforts in the gym.

    Griffin (2004) reported "They're really much more affordable than people would think," says Hagerman, who is also a board member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and owns Quest Personal Training in Oklahoma City.

    The National Strength and Conditioning Association conducted a recent survey of prices and found an average of $50 per hour with a range of $15 to $100 per hour. Prices do vary depending on region, according to Hagerman, and naturally, they will be higher in urban areas than in rural ones.

Trainer
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Personal Trainers Teach Clients How
To Maximize Their Efforts In The Gym.

    Hagerman and Klinge both agree that getting a trainer at a commercial health club is probably the cheapest way, since a personal fitness trainer in a private studio will inevitably have to charge more. The number of sessions a person needs can vary, but both Hagerman and Klinge recommend at least two a week. Although sessions are typically an hour, Hagerman says that some people opt for half-hour sessions, both to save time and money.

    Hagerman emphasizes that money isn't everything when it comes to choosing a personal fitness trainer. "Don't just shop for the lowest price," he tells WebMD. "Cheaper trainers aren't necessarily better trainers. They may not be worse either, but there are other things to consider."

dot Hiring A Personal Trainer dot

    In order to hire a truly qualified personal trainer, look for the following credentials:

    1. Certification - Certified through an accredited and/or reputable certification such as ACSM, NSCA, NASM, ACE, Cooper Institute (Griffin, 2004).
    2. Education - A 4-year degree in an exercise-science related field of study such as, Exercise physiology/science, Kinesiology/biomechanics, or any other exercise science curriculum-based degree (Malek et al., 2002).
    3. Experience - Word of mouth is a common and effective way of finding out what other people think of the trainer's effectiveness and impact.
    4. Exercise/Athletic Background - If one is going to work in this field, they had better practice what they preach/teach. If you are interested in preparing for a sport (i.e. football, basketball, physique competition) it would be wise to select a trainer who has experience in your sport of interest.

    Griffen (2004) reported "Just about any trainer you find is likely to have an impressive-looking diploma or certificate indicating that he or she has been certified as a personal trainer; in fact, the lobby of your fitness center may be lined with them. But don't be dazzled by just any degree. Instead, it's very important to find out just what organization performed the certification."

    According to Hagerman, there are about 400 organizations in the U.S. that purport to certify personal fitness trainers. Of that number, about a handful are considered legitimate by most professionals.

    Among the most respected are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Trainer
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Find A Trainer With More
To Offer Than Just A Degree.

    The better organizations have specific requirements based on tested and practical knowledge, mandatory retesting at renewal periods, and continuing education. The ACSM has recently begun to require that its certified trainers have a formal educational degree in exercise science or a related field.

    The requirements for other organizations may not be so strict. Some award certification after an Internet correspondence course or as little as a weekend retreat, according to Hagerman.

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    "Unfortunately, all you need to become a certifying organization is an acronym, advertising, and employees," Bryant tells WebMD.

    And be sure to read those acronyms closely, since many dubious organizations have chosen names and initials that are very close to the well-known and legitimate groups. If you're not sure about them, Klinge recommends writing down the names of the organizations that certified your trainer and looking up their requirements on the Internet.

    "A lot of these organizations like to throw in words like "national" or "international" in their names even though it doesn't mean anything," says Hagerman. "There's a "national" one in Oklahoma City that nobody outside of the city recognizes. In fact, I'm in Oklahoma City and even I don't recognize it."

dot Things To Be Aware Of dot

    Things to be aware and weary of when it comes to incompetent trainers are as follows:

    1. Weekend certification and/or any certification not listed above. There are many trainers available today, but chances are if they do not meet at least 3/4 criteria above, they are not at the top in this industry (Malek, 2002).
    2. No academic degree in an exercise-science related field of study (Malek, 2002).
    3. Breaching the scope of practice. Breaches include but are not limited to: Diagnosing injuries or diseases, selling or recommending supplements or foods, and prescribing dietary plans (Kruskall, 2007).

    Griffin (2004) reported "A properly trained personal trainer will know how to deal with that and how to establish the scope of their practice," Klinge tells WebMD. "They'll know when to hand off a client to a registered dietitian, physician, or physical therapist."

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A Properly Trained Trainer Knows
When To Send A Client To A Dietitian.

    By the same token, be careful if you feel your personal fitness trainer is offering suggestions on topics that he or she isn't trained in.

    "If a trainer starts giving specific diet prescriptions or a lot of advice on ways of treating medical conditions, that's a problem," says Klinge. "That sort of information should only come from a medical professional."

dot
Conclusion
dot

The bottom-line is, anybody can call themselves a "personal trainer," but the true difference is "quality of knowledge." If they do not have an accredited and reputable certification and a 4-year college degree in an exercise-science-related field, they are not truly qualified (Malek et al., 2002).

Just to play devil's advocate, lets say a trainer has none of these qualifications but is an expert through personal experience and years of training. This is more the exception than the rule, and one can always find an exception in any area of life.

Trainer
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The True Difference
Is Quality Of Knowledge.

Bottom-line is if they do not have the academic qualifications, they are NOT qualified, no matter what. Having experience is a bonus not a requisite. Same goes for an attorney, sure one could claim to be experienced and know how to debate and argue, but without that college degree and license, they are NOT a legal attorney. And this should be the standard of excellence we all should hold in our own chosen profession of practice. Why should this standard be any different for personal trainers?

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Furthermore, since personal training is mainly an unregulated profession, based on the fact that there isn't a state or national licensure to practice, the next best approach is to chose your personal trainer wisely based on the above criteria. To tell or show someone an exercise is simple, but addressing the "how to" and "why" of an exercise is where the competent personal trainer truly solidifies his or her place as being classified, personal trainer.

References

  1. Coutts et al. (2004). Effect of direct supervision of a strength coach on measures of muscular strength and power in young rugby league players, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(2), 316-323.
  2. Griffen, R.M. (2004, February 24). Finding a personal fitness trainer, WebMD Features. Retrieved September 1, 2007, from http://women.webmd.com/features/need-a-personal-trainer
  3. Kruskall, L. (2007). Do you know your scope of practice? Nutrition advice that you should and should not be giving your clients, ACSM's 11th Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition, Dallas, TX.
  4. Malek et al. (2002). Importance of health science education for personal fitness trainers, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(1), 19-24.
  5. Maloof et al. (2001). The effect of use of a personal trainer on improvement of healthy-related fitness for adults, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(5), suppl. 1, P274.
  6. Mazzetti et al. (2000). The influence of direct supervision of resistance training on strength performance, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32(6), 1175-1184.
  7. McClaren & Steven (2003). The effectiveness of personal training on changing attitudes towards physical activity, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2, 10-14.
  8. News Briefs (2000). Referring patients to personal trainers: Benefits and pitfalls, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 28(1), from http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/2000/01_00/news.htm
  9. Wing et al. (1996). Effects of a personal trainer and financial incentives on exercise adherence in overweight women in a behavioral weight loss program, Obesity Research, 4(5), 457-462.
  10. Yoke, M. (1997). A guide to personal fitness training, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, Sherman Oaks, Ca.

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Reliance on any information provided by the author is solely at your own risk. The author accepts no responsibility for materials contained in the article and will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the use of information contained in this or other publications.

Copyright © Ivan Blazquez, 2007. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.