T Nation

Personal Trainer Certification

I’ve got a question that’s sure to make everyone moan and groan. But what do you guys think are the more reputable personal trainer certifying bodies out there? I’ve worked out at enough gyms to know that the average personal trainer knows dick. I’m interested in getting certified and working my way through the rest of college working at a gym. I figure that since I’m a exercise biology major and hope to become a legitimate strength and conditioning coach someday, that it would be a good experience to see what works for which kinds of people. And I think I could use a lot of what I learn in school and here on T-nation to do more for the typical beginning trainee than hand him or her a clip board with a cookie cutter program and point them to the smith machine. So how bout it? Are there any reputable personal trainer certifiers out there? Or would my results be the same if I just picked one and wrote a check?

Since you are already going to be a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and that is affiliated with the NSCA,I would add to that with the NASM.I have many of their certs and have found their info to be the most cutting edge.I also have certs from the NSCA,ISSA and ACE. Given your college choices for classes,the NASM would be right up your ally.They basically teach from a Physical Therapy method to an asymtomatic population.All the bad rap I hear about them stems from “too much” functional training,no hardcore lifting,etc.When I was in a gym, most clients didnt last long enought to get to any of the low rep,heavy set or Olympic style stuff.Clients would not last long enough to make it to the good stuff.Those on the outside just see us NASM guys doing stuff on stability balls and balance boards,etc and rarely do we get to move any steel and so on.Plus,I wasnt “allowed” to do any fun stuff at the gym like lift sandbags or barrels and the like.So there is plenty of real work in NASM certs AND alot of rehab stuff; important cuz at a gym, you train alot of broken people and not alot of big metal movers(I train those at my house). Besides,if you are reading T-Nation, you are already following all the hardcore and smartcore people like Poliquin,Staley,King,etc so the NASM would ADD to what you are already getting from a therapy-post rehab direction.The ACE is pretty worthless unless you dont know what a dumbbell is and you can get all the good stuff that the ISSA has from Hatfield’s books for much less.The CSCS is the NSCA so you will already be there unless you get their NSCA-CPT until then. If you like doing crazy shit like I do (try to do) then get the Renegade cert from Coach Davies.Fun stuff,but nobody will hire you(“that stuff is a liability-just have em lift those pink plastic dumbbells over there…and make em buy a shirt!”.Good luck to you,zach_x@hotmail.com

They’re all about $$$ period. Yes ACE is at the bottom of the barrel. ISSA, NASM, NSCA don’t differ very much as far as PT certification goes. NSCA’s CSCS you need a degree and ACSM’s PT you need a degree in a related field.

You’ll learn more from books and reading other materials but all of the above PT certifications are equal. You’ll get rabid fans of one or the other that claim one is better than the other and it is junk etc… The only one I would stay away from is ACE. ISSA and NASM you can do from home at your own pace. NSCA must be done in person at a test site I believe it is all multiple choice. Choose which one suits your needs/schedule the best.

The NSCA and ACSM are perhaps the two most recognized certifying bodies in North America, so I would start there.

Truly, the CSCS is hardly the be-all-end-all, but it will get you a foot in the door depending on where you go knocking.

To be a successful strength coach, though, it’s more important to become certified for credential and insurance reasons and then pursue other areas of professional development like the ART courses or Muscle Activation Techiniques. That will truly offer you an edge. Cost is obviously an issue, but the return on the investment often makes it worth it.

I use those two as examples. I’m sure there are others that are fellow forum-ites can suggest.

Just try to concentrate on professional development and not certification, if you get my philisophical difference between the two.

My suggestion to you is to check out the gyms you might be interested in working out of, and determine which certification is preferred by the majority of them. That way the course you choose will give you the most for your money in terms of the employment options it provides you. I don’t think I need to tell you that you really shouldn’t expect too much in terms of an education with regard to what it takes to train people effectively, from any program. Given that, what you are essentially paying for is insurability. In truth, about all any of these programs really provide is that, and (hopefully) enough basic knowledge to keep a new trainer from getting clients hurt, until they gain enough experience in the business to be effective for clients beyond the novice level.

Since you are an exercise science undergrad I would suggest doing the NSCA-CPT exam. You will need to be a part of their organization in the future to receive your CSCS anyways.