T Nation

Becoming a Personal Trainer?


I know it's lame, but I've decided to get certified. I guess I've had enough of watching these clueless trainers giving out bogus advice to innocent victims. Does anyone have any advice on which certification is worth getting? I was looking at AFPA because they have a correspondence course.

Any help would be appreciated!


I would certify through NASM. I'm not familiar with AFPA. NASM and ACE are the two most popular certifications. I initially certified through ACE, but hated their test so much I'm recertifying through NASM now that my ACE certification is almost up. The NASM home study course is competitively priced and their study guide lays out an easy daily planner for covering the material. You have the option of adding a practical training workshop for something like another $75 on top of the home study course, which is a hell of a deal.

Ultimately, out on the floor with clients, you'll do what you see fit and apply knowledge that you've gained from training yourself and reading up from a variety of sources. Having a certification allows you to responsibly apply what you know. I would encourage you to learn about contraindications for special populations and various joint/spine injuries. From there, keep things simple with newbies. Hope that helps.


In my opinion the only respected ones in the field are the NSCA, ACSM, and NASM. All require a degree in a realted field and are done by correspondence. I took the NSCA CSCS about 7 years ago my senoir year of college, not too hard.


I agree the NSCA and CSCS are most likely the cream of the crop the NSCA can be taken without a BA or BS degree but you better know your stuff, with the CSCS however you need former education. I think the website is nsca.com if you want more info. I believe ACE is worth it simply because it is international. I personally do not have it, but i hear it is widely recognized.


my wife has been a personal trainer for 12 years and she is certified through NASM. Keep in mind that the people you will be training are severely out of shape and in very bad condition for their ages.Wife comments everday on how someone who is only 25-35 years old can be in such bad shape, and how it seems to be getting worse every year.

Dont got into trainer thinking your going to train athletes and peaple like yourself, for the most part it will be the general population you train.

Being a personal trainer is not lame, its the idiots who have degrees and dont know how to use the knowledge they gained who are make it seem lame.

Have fun!!!!

PS. PT on the net is a great website also


The I.S.S.A. (fitnesseducation.com) is
A. - Internationally recognized.

B. - Has either 2-day seminars, or at-home study options.

C. - Has an awesome network of alumni and instructors ("Dr. Squat" Fred Hatfield, a pioneering powerlifter, Tom Platz, with the most insane legs pro bodybuilding has ever seen, and Strongman C.J. Murphy who has some articles at EliteFTS, to name a few)

D. - Leading the charge to get a National Board of Fitness Examiners, which would help to eliminate fly-by-night operations that will certify anyone who can lift a 45-pound bar, and would ensure a standard level of competency by anyone wanting to call themselves a "personal trainer".


NASM or NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and/or Certified strength and conditioning Specialist.


Im certified through NASM also and I love there program. When I got interested in becoming a personal trainer I thought it would be all about just putting together programs for people. That is far from the truth. NASM focuses quite a bit on workin to fix muscle imbalances and workin the core. If peoples bodys dont move in the correct way then they wont be getting the full benifite of the exercise.


I don't have a related degree, I have 20+ years of experience as a non-certified PT, PL coach and various other fitness related jobs. I've always been a part time gym techie so I keep up on the latest garbage that spews out of the fitness world, throw away the junk and keep the gems sort of thing.

I am looking to start taking in a few clients but the gym I'm at requires a cert to advertise etc. I have no problem with that, and I'll probably get multiple certs just to spite 'em (and maybe learn a little on the side) Thanks for the inputs I'll look into your recommendations, with all the certs out there it's hard to muddle through them and know which ones really mean something!


true but the CSCS is not an easy test. i was going to take it but deicded to go back to school for my masters in performance enhancement then take the CSCS and the PES


I have worked as a pt for three, almost four years, and the only cert anyone has ever asked about is Paul Chek's. Not that I would get it, but my point is that no one has ever cared. No trainers I know ever get asked. It seems to be an ego trip for trainers to say they have a bunch of certs. But customers don't care. That being said, I think ISSA would be a good way to go, they have lots of good info and are well respected. I think the NASM stuff is a bunch of horseshit in relation to training, but it is good from a marketing perspective.


im a 16 year old senior here in LA, i want to become a personal trainer when i get older.
could anyone tell me what to major in, in college? kinesiology excercise physiology etc? also i hope this is not a rude question but how much on average do p.t.'s make a year?


I'm NSCA certified, from all the data I read before I went for my testing, NSCA seemed to reign king of the proper science behind personal training, and the most respected. If I recall correctly, it is also the only agency recognized by the National Commission of Certifying Agencys (correct me if I'm wrong please), meaning only NSCA trainers are truelly certfied. (No I am not implying you can't be an intelligent, knowledgable trainer without it). Cheers!


that told me exactly nothing i wanted to know......anyone else?


My feelings exactly. I've held the NASM certification because it's the one the gym I was working for at the time wanted, but it's a load of horseshit.


Im kind of confused why you think NASM is a load. I think that the NASM system is not the best in the world for training a bodybuilder, but there phylosiphy works very well when training the general public which is going to be the bulk of your clientel. Also after attending one of there seminars they made it very clear that the OPT system is a guide for training clients and that each trainer can mold and shape it to there own style.


Yeah I agree with you on NASM(I have there cert), they have gone the functional way but still it is highly regarded and there Performance Enhancement Specialist(PES) is quikcly becoming a top cert. They even require you to have a exercise related degree


The big problem is that 1) postural and movement deficiencies aren't as prevalent as they teach, 2) those deficiencies that do exist are better addressed as an adjuct to hardcore training than in the method NASM recommends, and 3) the best way to build a strong core isn't with circus tricks; it's through squats, cleans, and overhead pressing.


My experience has been that depending on where you work, the certification that you have actually can matter. Now I don't really know much about NASM, It seems to me that the two most reputable certifications are NSCA, particularly the CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist)or ACSM(I have the health fitness instructor certification from ACSM)

Both of these certifications require degrees. The NSCA is more strength and conditioning oriented where you'll study such things as the olympic lifts and plyometrics. ACSM is more clinically oriented and will serve you particularly well if you want to get into corporate or medical fitness.

Just below those two certifications I would rank ACE which is still highly thought of, less expensive, and you don't have to have a degree to take the exam. The ACE exam is still quite challenging though and probably is more similar to ACSM as far as the scope of information covered.

That being said, I think you'll actually learn the most information from practical experience, reading books and of course reading articles from T-Nation.

Quickly Serd I will tell you that you don't necessarily need a degree to become an effective trainer. However both of the courses of study that you mentioned will allow you to have better credentials and will make you more knowledgeable. Kinesiology is more about musculoskeletal anatomy and will serve you better if you decide you'd like to go into physical therapy, or perhaps even into athletic training. Exercise physiology is more generalized and might be a better path towards academia. Either path would serve you well and give you plenty of options.

I don't know about average yearly earnings for trainers, but I think even a number woudn't do you justice. It really depends on the income level in the area where you live, and especially on how aggressively you are willing to market yourself.


I agree with you about the core thing. I wish I could get all of my clients to do squats, DLs and overhead presses and I do for the clients that are physicaly able to. For the 60 year old lady that has never lifted in her life but wants to improve he health those just arnt options yet. For me personaly I will be DLing and Squating to work the majority of my own core.

Also I have found that the postural distortions and muscle imbalances are pretty easy to spot and work toward improving. An example of this is a cross country runner that I am working with. She had extream adduction in her knees when she did the over head squat test. You can imagin how that would affect her running. After a few months of having her do ball squats with abduction (from a band) she has almost got her legs working the way the were designed to and she has lowered her run times.

I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this subject. I do agree with you that the true NASM system is bad for bodybuilders and people that are already in good shape. This is why we can modify the programs to suit our clients needs, and also why I come to this website to get more ideas to use with my above average clients.