I receive a fair bit of e-mail inquiries from various blogs I’ve posted and have decided to post three of them, with what I hope is some information that can help others. C
Q: “I would like to become a personal trainer and am having a tough time trying to figure out what credentialing group to go with. Which ones do you like? Not like?”
A: Quite honestly, your credential only gets you through the first part of an interview. That said, certain credentials open more doors than others. Any credential is only as good as the trainer that holds it. It would be best to know what your training interests are, what your goals are (part time/full-time) and your current education level.
The next order of business is to find out what certifications your potential employer prefers. Truth be told, some gyms don’t care what your educational background is, just that you look good and can sell.
My unofficial tier ranking system: TOP TIER: ACSM, NSCA, NASM. LOWER TIER: ACE, AFAA, ISSA, NESTA, NCSF, NFPT.
The tier ranking explained: Top tier group credentialing exams all have exceptionally high failure rates and the courses of study are particularly in depth.
ACSM focuses on the clinical side of exercise, NSCA focuses on the strength and conditioning side geared towards athletes and NASM draws heavily from physical therapy and biomechanics. Many of the specialized credentials within these organizations require Bachelor Degree minimums but all offer the entry-level CPT certification. A certification from any of these organizations can get your foot in the door with nearly any gym in the United States (non-CrossFit / Power lifting type gyms.)
Lower tier groups credentialing exams are noted to be comparatively easier than the top tier groups, with at least one being un-proctored/online/open book. Many gyms will accept certifications from these organizations, but higher profile gyms might not. Some employers will insist that otherwise qualified candidates earn certification under one of the top-tier groups within a specified period of time. A recent job posting stated (in summary) they would accept group exercise instructors from ACSM, ACE or AFAA and personal trainers from ACSM,NSCA and NASM. Otherwise qualified personal trainers without ACSM,NSCA or NASM credentials will have 6 months to obtain certification.
This does NOT MEAN my lower tier is LOWER GRADE. A prime example of this is ACE, which is perhaps the most well-known credentialing group and a high quality organization. There are trainers holding these credentials that are excellent at their craft and provide top-quality service.
Without going into major debt, I would consider obtaining one of the lower tier certifications that your potential employer will accept first, determine if this is indeed what you want to do for a living and then pursue advanced education afterwards.
Q ” I’m experiencing the same ,losing inches not weight. But I have another problem , I,m retaining fluid, staying away from salt, eating out, a lot of salads and healthy food the fluid stays Had heart tests . Drs. have no answers. Please Help….”
A: Seeking proper medical advice is, and always will be my first advice. I am neither a registered dietitian or medical professional. Below are a few known things that can lead to water retention (aka Edema (US) or Oedema (UK) )
Heart Conditions (already ruled out? ), Histamine, Lymphatic System issues, Kidney issues, OTC/Prescription Medications, including but not limited to NSAIDS and Estrogen aids, Pregnancy, Malnutrition, Protein deficiency,Allergies, Thyroid disease, Physical inactivity.
Only a medical professional can diagnose a condition and prescribe a remedy as this is well outside the scope of my practice and education.
Q: “I am a Type 2 Diabetic and am well-controlled. Is there a special workout program I should be following, or would you advise I hire a personal trainer. I don’t live in Las Vegas.” (NOTE: For clarity purposes, this person does reside in the United States.)
A: I defer to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Diabetic Association (ADA) joint position on exercise and T2D. You can read the full position here:
As far as hiring a personal trainer, I highly recommend ACSM certified trainers holding the Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) credential. According to the ACSM website…
“The ACSM Health Fitness Specialist assists those with medically controlled diseases and health conditions, as well as apparently healthy clients, in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Academic preparation also includes fitness management, administration, and supervision. The HFS is typically employed or self-employed in commercial, community, studio, corporate, university, and hospital settings.”
In practice, I have yet to meet an HFS working at a commercial gym (I.E. Gold’s Gym, 24hr Fitness, Bally’s et al.) There is a far better chance of finding an HFS working as either an independent contractor or at more upscale gyms (I.E Equinox, David Barton.)
The HFS credential requires candidates hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology or Kinesiology to sit for the exam and is among the highest credentials that a personal trainer can attain. The ACSM offers a locator service to help you find a local professional:
Non-ACSM certified personal trainers should adhere to the ACSM protocols for training medically cleared T2D clients and how to render proper first aid.