I was recently sent a survey regarding the personal training industry. I thought it would be fun to share some of the questions…
Do you have a personal training/CrossFit or any other fitness certificate? Yes. 11 at present and I am currently studying and physically preparing for future courses* I can reasonably state that my current educational resume’ will change greatly over the next 18 months as my needs have grown in both sophistication and depth.
Do you hire personal trainers/coaches? I formerly did, and occasionally I am asked to review applicant resume’s as a disinterested third party.
If so, which fitness certificates if any, do you require? This depends on the gym and its client demographics. Minimums: Current CPR/AED with a live component (not a 100% online course) and whichever certification the gym accepted. The trainers specific credentialing agency isn’t that important to me as the certificate is only as good as the person who bears it.
Although I place better odds on the more well-known certifications than those considered fly-by-night or overly-easy to pass, the certificate alone (or lack thereof) DOES NOT MEAN the trainer is necessarily better or worse.
I have a personal bias towards certifications that are notably difficult to attain and include a proof of coaching requirement. Standard CPT certifications do not require any proof of ability other than passing a test and CPR/AED qualification.
FACT: Google “Personal Training Certification” and see how many possible results you get. I would like to see a reduction in the sheer number of personal training certifications that are out there, however I also see the value in having price points available to all
Do you think personal trainers should be licensed? I used to, and it may one day happen. I personally am against it as it could limit my ability to serve my athletes. Further, I don’t believe it will weed-out the trainers that are liabilities, at least initially. It might weed out those that are not certified, but not all not all certified ones are good.
Every town has its share of bad doctors and lawyers, and its entirely possible some of the limitations placed upon me will be made by people without any formal background in training.
I’m in a position where I can choose not to work. If I deemed that licensure was too expensive of a proposition, as it would naturally raise the costs of things, and possibly place too many limitations on what I could offer then I would leave the occupation. I can’t possibly be the only well-educated and highly experienced near 30 year veteran holding this opinion.
That said, I think it should become harder to become, and remain a personal trainer. The barrier to entry is low to nonexistent. I’ve actually had people state that the practical portion of my interviews were “too tough.” The fact is, the practical was based on the material common to the standard personal training certification manual.
Do you think personal trainers should be held accountable when they breach duty of care? Yes. “First, do no harm” should be our mantra. There have been notable lawsuits involving personal trainer negligence and it never ends well for the trainer.
Personally, I believe if the athlete/client/student gets hurt in training, outside of the unforeseeable freak accidents, its the trainers fault. As trainers, we will never 100% eliminate or prevent all injuries, but we can take measures to reduce them.
FACT: I talk the talk on this one. When teaching exercises, including benches, I typically “stress test” the equipment before the athlete touches it. I’d rather an accident happen to me than the athlete.
How can the general public, who have never worked out before, protect themselves against bad trainers? (1) Don’t base your judgement on the # of followers the trainer has on social media. Fact is, some trainers still don’t have any major form of social media and are “word of mouth” hires. (2) Realize that if you’re paying $10 USD a month for gym membership your odds of landing an exceptional trainer are on the low side. (3) If the trainer will willingly introduce you to his/her other clients, ideally those with similar needs to your own, it is a positive.** (4) If the first session has very little exercise (possibly none) a screen, health history interview and talking about your goals, then this is a positive thing. If the first session resulted in you lying in a puddle of your sweat then it isn’t. (5) The trainer should be able to provide proof of their certifications/related degree and CPR/AED qualification. Ask to see the liability insurance of Independent trainers (those not directly employed by the gym), the industry standard is $1 million USD. (6) It helps to be observant. Before hiring a trainer, watch how they actually train other people. (7) Some established trainers network themselves with Physical Therapists, Chiropractors and Sports Medicine Specialists. (8) If the trainer is attempting to sell you supplements and is NOT an Registered Dietician I would proceed with extreme caution. Minimally, they are exceeding their scope of practice and professional ethics and potentially exposing you to something hazardous to your health. (9) If the trainer DOES NOT take you on as a client, it isn’t necessarily a negative as you may have needs beyond their skills,education and experience. Ideally, they have a trainer they can refer you to. Personally I wish more trainers would do that, and I have a 100+ trainer network just for these purposes.
This blog features multiple articles on hiring trainers, and light-hearted (but still accurate) ways of finding trainers that suck.
* Even when there are no major courses on the horizon, I’m always studying. Some certifications and specializations have extensive academic, or physically demanding requirements. Westside Barbell for example requires the reading and familiarity of 19 textbooks, while others courses have performance and proof of coaching ability attached. Standard Certified Personal Trainer exams can vary between being proctored and timed (NCCA accredited certifications) to online and open book tests. Some are notoriously tough while others are frighteningly easy to pass.
** Newer trainers, or those recently hired may not have the ability of making any introductions as the clientele base is being built.