How to Become a Personal Trainer

If you were to decide what was necessary to know for becoming a personal trainer, what would it be? Just how you would construct the curriculum for the education, whether it be a strength or bodybuilding trainer.

Most personal trainers in my country are what you would call idiots; they know fuck all about anything, and the level of experience is frightening. I’d just like to know what some of the more qualified people on this board think.

I’m a new hire as a trainer at one of the bigger gyms in my area. I’ve been training for about 2 weeks now. My learning progression went like this:

Screw up horribly in the gym from ages 14-18 → Read New Rules of Lifting by Alwyn Cosgrove → Try squatting/deadlifting/lifts that actually matter → Discover T-Nation, EliteFTS, Mike Boyle’s Strength Coach, etc. → Go to the NSCA National Conference and get certified → Get hired.

Each area has taught me a lot. I admit that the principles I use most are stuff from T-Nation and EliteFTS, because that’s about the end result. However, I still have taken pre-med quality anatomy courses, physiology, treatment of athletic injuries, and nutrition courses to broaden my viewpoints.

That said, I will agree with BBB: The bar is set very, very low for trainers and it takes relatively little to be a good one because 95% of the trainers out there have their certification and do nothing else to further their education.

For fuck’s sake, I’ve seen other trainers in my gym recommend bodypart splits for old women. They can’t walk at a full gait, they hardly have the upper body strength to press more than 20 lbs, and they sure as hell couldn’t do a single body weight squat, but here the trainers are, using their “best” methods which are 20 years out of date (given the clients they are training).

They throw every client they get into a one-size-fits-all workout and nutrition program. One trainer was given a diabetic client, and he was so clueless that he tried to put him on a low carb diet! I mean, holy shit!

So, to summarize it… it’s not hard to be a trainer, but it is very difficult to be a great trainer.

There are some universities with an actual degree in Personal Training requiring practical hands on experience. Sadly most “exercise science” programs do not. Most in fact simply teach you enough to pass the ACSM or NSCA tests.

Personal Training needs to get its ass in gear the same way Physical Therapists have gone. Nationalize the damn thing!

Education for Personal Training should be just as intensive as Physical Therapy, which is now a doctorate program.

4 years of basic study in exercise science followed by 2 years of intense practical experience learning from various sources: Strength Coach, Physique Coach, Nutritionist, etc.

Most trainers I work with don’t know how to squat or deadlift properly and worse if they do they can’t coach it or correct problems their clients are having. Most exercise science programs don’t require any sort of time spent in an actual gym as most of these programs are simply feeders for the PhD programs in Ex.Phys.

Name the major muscle groups.
Understand energy systems.
Understand nervous system and basics of the immune system response (for training sick clients).
Understand several approaches to training (programming) from powerlifting to classical bodybuilding and sports conditioning. This is, of course, on top of understanding caloric deficit vs cardiovascular ‘fitness’ as far as weight-loss and general health goes. They should not be confused about how to achieve each goal a person has!
First Aid level III
Working with Children
Understand the implications of and how to train seniors differently.
Understand implications of basic medical such as diabetes, osteoporosis, anaphylaxis, etc thus they should go through a ‘dealing with X problem psychology mini-course’ so they don’t screw over the depressed or the physiologically lacking.
They should NOT be allowed to give nutrition advice, they should refer to a nutritionist, or it should be a separate course, or most probably they should discuss with a nutritionist after each introductory consultation with the client.
They should be educated about steroids, their medical use, their recreational use and safe use. (not encouraging the use, just everything anyone in the steroids forum should know).

And they should have a certain benchmark of physical fitness, body fat percentage and strength to keep the registration to be a personal trainer. Obviously not a high one, but one none the less. Also people can apply for exceptional circumstances, which will be judged by a board of knowledgeable people (eg a lifter bulking over 20%, or a disability or something like that).

I don’t know whats actually on the course, I would have guessed most of that is on the course though, except the diversification kind of criteria like programming, steroids and working with medical cases.

[quote]forevernade wrote:
Name the major muscle groups.
Understand energy systems.
Understand nervous system and basics of the immune system response (for training sick clients).
Understand several approaches to training (programming) from powerlifting to classical bodybuilding and sports conditioning. This is, of course, on top of understanding caloric deficit vs cardiovascular ‘fitness’ as far as weight-loss and general health goes. They should not be confused about how to achieve each goal a person has!
First Aid level III
Working with Children
Understand the implications of and how to train seniors differently.
Understand implications of basic medical such as diabetes, osteoporosis, anaphylaxis[/quote]

I covered most of this in my PT course, I think the standard is a bit higher in Australia.
It depends on how you do the course though, I did part of mine through TAFE (a government technical colledge) Which I thought was excellent it was a full semester course and had good teachers, good content and we worked with 2 clients for 8 weeks (this was for a cert III gym trainer qualification). The other part (cert IV Personal Trainer) I did by correspondence and didn’t learn much from.

It seems to me that people have discovered that they can make more money training personal trainers than training clients. There are more private institutions providing shorter courses all the time and the quality is dropping. There is a nationally recognised certification body but i don’t have much respect for it.

Maybe it is time to regulate the industry and create much higher bench marks equivilent to physical therapists as someone suggested.

On the other hand I think that most PTs in Australia do know how to apply safe (although not always effective) programs for the healthy population. Most people have modest goals of losing a few kilos, improving their cardiovascular fitness, getting stronger and generally feeling better. All they need is someone to point them in the right direction and give them some confidence. I don’t think you need to spend 4 years at university to provide that.

[quote]Doyle wrote:
I covered most of this in my PT course, I think the standard is a bit higher in Australia.
It depends on how you do the course though, I did part of mine through TAFE (a government technical colledge) Which I thought was excellent it was a full semester course and had good teachers, good content and we worked with 2 clients for 8 weeks (this was for a cert III gym trainer qualification). The other part (cert IV Personal Trainer) I did by correspondence and didn’t learn much from.

It seems to me that people have discovered that they can make more money training personal trainers than training clients. There are more private institutions providing shorter courses all the time and the quality is dropping. There is a nationally recognised certification body but i don’t have much respect for it.

Maybe it is time to regulate the industry and create much higher bench marks equivilent to physical therapists as someone suggested.

On the other hand I think that most PTs in Australia do know how to apply safe (although not always effective) programs for the healthy population. Most people have modest goals of losing a few kilos, improving their cardiovascular fitness, getting stronger and generally feeling better. All they need is someone to point them in the right direction and give them some confidence. I don’t think you need to spend 4 years at university to provide that.
[/quote]

One thing I know most PT’s don’t know is how to squat. There seems to be a third kind of basic squat: first the power squat, then the high-bar squat… and now there is a PT squat :stuck_out_tongue:
Maybe that’s what I was getting at, as far as understanding a diverse number of types of training: I just meant they should have diverse knowledge of different types of movements. HB squat, P squat, PT squat, P bench, BB bench, Kipped chin, Unkipped chin, Row-style chin, proper running technique for those clients that want to know it (to save lower back and knee injury in fat people), Deadlift, Goodmorning, on top of all the other stuff like the usual triceps extension, curls, and stuff like that.

Now that CT has brought up the idea of repping properly, they should know how to rep in different ways: plyometrically, isometrically, powerlifter-style, TUT style, HIT style, saftey style (slow paced), and of course CT style :slight_smile: - and know WHY someone would use any specific style, as opposed to favoring one style and ignoring the rest.

Steps to become a personal trainer:

  1. declare yourself one
  2. ???
  3. profit

I never post, but this I couldn’t pass up. A respectable regulatory body to govern PT has been a missing element for FAR too long. Commercial gyms and their certifications are why I won’t even try to make a living as a trainer here in Canada. Also a missing element in health care methinks.

Tax dollars better spent than on flu vaccines and off label use prescription drugs in my opinion. I bet it would make a huge difference in QOL across the board. Makes me wonder how it might affect morbidity and mortality statistics. Particularly for things like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, pulmonary diseases, and metabolic syndromes. Joi de vivre? Not to mention create a multibillion dollar education and job structure on top of a model that’s already proven to be commercially viable.

[quote]bushidobadboy wrote:
Having been a PT and now calling myself a ‘Health & Performance Consultant’ (after much continuing education), I would have to say that there is a fundamental lack of required knowledge to gain a basic PT qualifiactation and that it drags the whole progfession downwards.

Since I don’t think that these requirements are ever likely to be increased (due to internal political pressure and nephotism), it is up to the individual PT to undertake a program of continuous professional development and lifelong learning.

But many won’t of course, citing financial pressures etc. However if they are clued up, they will realise that to make themselves more saleable and of a higher earning potential, they need to know (and be able to use) more information than the next PT in line.

I would focus on anatomy, throw in some physiology and neurophysiology. Nutrition and supplementation would need to be in there as well. But forget all the esoteric crap they throw into a Sport Science degree about lactate threshold training, etc.

Unfortunately, ‘my’ PT curriculum would require much more than even the Premiere Training 8 week course I think. Certainly FAR more than the basic, week long course than I did.

BBB[/quote]

have you ever considered attaining training acreditation (not all that difficult to do) and actually make changes to the education system, or the qualifications on offer? I think it would be something that is incredibely rewarding and as someone interested in the industry I love the idea that I could learn off someone with considerable knowledge in an intensive course that covered a much more intense set of curriculum.

[quote]Xab wrote:
I’m a new hire as a trainer at one of the bigger gyms in my area. I’ve been training for about 2 weeks now. My learning progression went like this:

Screw up horribly in the gym from ages 14-18 → Read New Rules of Lifting by Alwyn Cosgrove → Try squatting/deadlifting/lifts that actually matter → Discover T-Nation, EliteFTS, Mike Boyle’s Strength Coach, etc. → Go to the NSCA National Conference and get certified → Get hired.

Each area has taught me a lot. I admit that the principles I use most are stuff from T-Nation and EliteFTS, because that’s about the end result. However, I still have taken pre-med quality anatomy courses, physiology, treatment of athletic injuries, and nutrition courses to broaden my viewpoints.

That said, I will agree with BBB: The bar is set very, very low for trainers and it takes relatively little to be a good one because 95% of the trainers out there have their certification and do nothing else to further their education.

For fuck’s sake, I’ve seen other trainers in my gym recommend bodypart splits for old women. They can’t walk at a full gait, they hardly have the upper body strength to press more than 20 lbs, and they sure as hell couldn’t do a single body weight squat, but here the trainers are, using their “best” methods which are 20 years out of date (given the clients they are training).

They throw every client they get into a one-size-fits-all workout and nutrition program. One trainer was given a diabetic client, and he was so clueless that he tried to put him on a low carb diet! I mean, holy shit!

So, to summarize it… it’s not hard to be a trainer, but it is very difficult to be a great trainer. [/quote]

Depending on the type and stage of diabetes one is handling, traditionnal occidental medical and nutritional approach is low(er) carb, obviously not to the point of ketogenesis, so you may very well be completely ignorant on the subject, rather than that PT.

i’m doing a sports science degree, which, tbh, is pretty useless, but will give me a Bsc in Sports Science, and that will look good on CV, plus a lot of theoretical knowledge. i want to do UK S&C Association Accreditation, and get to work asap. i might do a masters in health & nutrition, but i want to work as a S&C coach before i start it, i think hands on experience is most important.

It seems like everbody is a personal trainer now a days.Training the average dude who wants to cut a few pounds is know big deal,but when your dealing with athletes you better know your stuff the personal training cert. is not going to cut it.You need to know human kinetics and the european methods.Good source Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky AND Thomas Kurz are a good source.

[quote]Rekkitanko wrote:

Depending on the type and stage of diabetes one is handling, traditionnal occidental medical and nutritional approach is low(er) carb, obviously not to the point of ketogenesis, so you may very well be completely ignorant on the subject, rather than that PT.
[/quote]

Interesting. I didn’t know that LCDs could be used on diabetics. I have been able to impliment an LCD on a client that is sort of a diabetic in remission, but only because he already lost quite a bit of weight and had really improved his insulin sensitivity. I always figured that a full LCD would be too risky for someone starting out. Looks like I have some reading to do!

The other trainer advised the client to eat less than <25g carbs a day. After a few days, that diet will certainly require full ketosis and gluconeogenesis for energy, which will then almost certainly put the client into a hypoglycemic shock. Fortunately the client was educated enough to know that this would not be sustainable, as she was VERY overweight and extremely dependant on insulin, but still… shudder

a bunch of cert letters look good next to your name, but people dont give a rats ass about it.

its whether you can get the results that they want.

your education can come from any source… whether its a BA in exercise science, NASM NSCA KBC ACE etc etc it doesnt mean shit until you apply it and see what really works and what doesnt.

learning how to access the situation or goal of the client is paramount. give them what they want. they dont all want to be 250lbs bodybuilders or a strongman.

most of your education is going to come from just down right experience. you’re going to see what really works, and what doesn’t. you’re also going to see that certain things that worked for you, or even your friends, isnt going to always work for another.

overall, enjoy the learning process and have fun.

it truly is one of the best jobs ever.

and this is coming from someone whos been doing it a long time :slight_smile: