Certification Does Not Equate To Knowledge: How To Find A Qualified Personal Trainer

Certification Does Not Equate To Knowledge: How To Find A Qualified Personal Trainer

by Nicolle Sisia
[edited by Narkissos]

NarkSide – 22nd August 2009

I spend COUNTLESS hours in the gym. I run, kickbox, lift, you name it. While I’m there, I take note of the personal trainers who work one-on- one with clients who are looking to shed pounds, get healthy, heal from injury, etc.

How lucky are they to have the money to get that type of SPECIFIED, PERSONALIZED attention?

I stress the words “specified” and “personalized” because far too often, while personal trainers are certified on paper, their depth of knowledge appears less than proficient.

For example, I was at the gym this morning and saw the Rico Suave of trainers.

He sauntered in, hair slicked back, checking himself out in each mirror he passes.

Behind him trailed a woman who appeared to have never even seen the inside of a gym prior.

Strike One:
The trainer failed to assess the skill level of his client.

I saw the “trainer” hand her a dumbbell, briefly explained the exercise he wanted her to perform, and then allowed her to try it on her own.

During her first rep, I watched her arch her back in a way that made me cringe.

“GOOD!” says the trainer.

“Good God!” said my conscience.

Strike Two: The trainer failed to be hands-on.

After the third rep I watched as the woman, now gasping for air, flailed her arms and moved her body in a manner which did not in any way mimic the intended exercise.

“Good God!” my conscience screamed again.

Enter STRIKE THREE: The trainer is a “cookie-cutter fitness” disciple.

I watched as this debacle continued…via the “trainer” moving his client from exercise to exercise at a rapid-fire pace.

She struggled too early in each rep scheme, and he did nothing to help her.

He didn’t correct her form.

This led me to believe that :

a) He doesn’t care or
b) He isn’t smart enough to notice

I bring this story to your attention because, according to msnbc.com, industry experts believe that there are between 40 to 400 personal training certifications available.

Some of these can be done online, over the weekend or by simply reading a book while taking a test.

When you are paying a trainer a pretty penny, would you want to hear that he doesn’t know the anatomical difference between his ass and his elbow?

A Few Tips to Consider:

1. Look before you leap: Look at the trainers in your gym. Do they have a strong client base? I suggest that you speak to some of their clients for opinion and feedback.

2. Meet with them first: LISTEN TO THEM. Do they sound like they know what they’re talking about? Do they get all of their information off health and fitness websites? i.e. Do they are merely regurgitating what they read?

Do they actually KNOW the information?

Just because they are “certified” does not mean they have proficiency in this area.

3. LOOK AT THEM: I would NEVER pay a trainer who is out of shape.


They should look and act the part.

A doctor doesn’t show up for work in flip-flops and a bandana.

In my opinion, a trainer NEEDS to exude professionalism.

A trainer is responsible for you looking healthy… and should, by extension, look healthy themselves.

4. Schedule One Session: See what you think. Don’t fall into gym “specials” or “packages” that lock you into a certain number of sessions.

Who wants to get stuck paying for time with a moron?

5. Ask questions… Serious questions: What certification do you have? Where did you get it? What types of courses did you take? How long have you been training? How many people have you helped to reach their goals?

Go ahead, ask!

If you’re serious about making changes, you want a support system that will help you make positive advances.

The Bottom-line:
Listen… truth be told, I’m not a trainer.

I have been given advice from trainers who consider fitness magazines to be the Holy Grail.

On the other hand, I have also spoken with those who live and train like it’s their job and don’t have a single degree in health and nutrition.

Don’t get me wrong… It’s not being suggested that you accept advice from the 47-pound waif at the gym who only eats egg whites and runs three hours each day.

What I’m asking is that you remember what your mother always told you: Don’t believe everything you hear. See, hear, and evaluate a trainer’s merit for yourself.

Apollo Fitness Barbados Research and Development

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