The overall quality of personal trainers varies and the industry is loosely regulated. This had led to a massive discrepancy in skill levels. The fact that I feel the need to justify myself at a party when I tell friends I’m a personal trainer with “but not like most” is a disgrace. Public perception towards trainers is negative and with good reason. When somebody tells me they works with a trainer before my initial thought is they weren’t looked after properly.
The question I get asked most often is “how can I prove to a client I’m not the same as all the other trainers?”. My response is to have readily available material on your website and in your gym to hand to clients. It should be included in your package to hand out to prospective clients and available on your website.
A colleague forwarded me this list and I thought it was fantastic. I suggest you copy this post, tweak it as you see fit, and include it on your website in addition to in your package to hand to prospective clients.
Educating the public on how to identify a quality trainer is the first step to improving the quality and reputation of our industry.
How to pick your trainer
1) Watch them train someone else
I know you might look like a stalker, but get on a treadmill or bike and act like you’re exercising. Keep your eyes glued to the trainer or client. If they’re doing something that doesn’t make sense, such as endless sets of leg extension or performing one leg squats while doing tricep kickbacks on a bosu ball, run for the hills!
I’ll make it even simpler for you. If they’re doing something that doesn’t seem “right” it probably isn’t. Unnatural movements are all too prevalent in large scale gyms as insecure trainers feel the need to impress clients as opposed to help them.
2) Check their certification(s)
There’s a big difference between the certifications available. I actually heard of a top strength coach getting his dog certified through an online course. Look for NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). The first two are a little more reputable, once you get the NASM CPT the more advance certs can be taken online (which means someone smart can take them for you).
Note from Jon: The certs listed above are American certs. Canada also has some quality ones. This list is not conclusive, there are lots of quality certs available and the courses are improving due to public demand. When deciding on your certification be sure to ask around and judge the general perception of the quality of the cert.
3) Do they have a college degree?
This ins’t 100% true but a baseline of college education shows a level of intelligence and dedication. Preferably you would look for someone with exercise science, exercise physiology, human movement, physical/health education, or kinesiology.
4) What was the last book they read pertaining to health/fitness/nutrition?
How many seminars and conventions have they attended? Continuing education is extremely important. If someone tells you they read Muscle and Fitness every month, that doesn’t make them a fitness professional. If you are serious about your profession and making yourself and your clients better you will try to learn from people smarter than you. Pick up a book by Dr. Mel Siff, Gray Cook, Dr. Stuart McGill, or Mike Boyle if your trainer doesn’t know who at least one of these people is- walk away.
Note from Jon: Insert plug for thePTDC here…
5) Ask them about their training philosophy
Yes, it might seem a little odd, but a good trainer will be able to describe their philosophy in two sentences or less. It shows they’ve critically evaluated what they do and take pride in their work (this will change). If a personal uses the fancy terms “functional” and “core” don’t immediately discredit them but make sure to delve deeper and ask them to explain what those terms mean.
- Ask them to name 3 of the 4 muscles in the rotator cuff
- Ask them to describe the mobility/stability continuum
- Ask them to explain reciprocal inhibition
- … or whatever other questions you think judge their knowledge
I have to admit I’m not “World’s Best Trainer” and I don’t claim to know it all, there are a lot more people smarter then me out there- that’s who I learn from… I do however take this job seriously and want respect widespread respect for the industry I love.
Think carefully about who you pay to improve your body. It could be dangerous and you could get injured if you are working with someone who doesn’t take their position seriously or doesn’t continually improve their knowledge.
Your body is the most indispensable piece of equipment you own. Entrust it’s care to a high quality and passionate professionals and you may just get the results you deserve.
Damon Brobst CSCS is based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He played football and discovered his passion for exercise, nutrition, and sports performance at Graceland University where he studied Physical Education and Health Promotion. Damon trains at Emery Wellness Center and you can find him online at http://dbstrength.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook or Twitter.