By: Jeremy Helton
A.C.E certified personal trainer
ETC Certified functional fitness specialist

There are so many types of fitness programs now and types of personal trainers. This blog will guide you in understanding the differences in order to make an informed choice.

Unfortunately, some fitness professionals have no formal education or certifications or they have let their certifications lapse. Ask for proof of certification and insurance with any trainer and do not feel bad about it, it’s your body and you only get one. There are several franchise fitness companies that offer a “one size fits all” or “cookie cutter” fitness program. Some fitness classes are taught by people who have no other fitness and health education other than attending a class that certifies them to teach a particular style of fitness. The instructors are not necessarily educated in overall biomechanics, anatomy, and exercise prescription. Examples are P-90 X, Insanity, Jazzercise, Cross-fit, 9 Rounds. If you use one of these programs, look for instructors with more than just the program certification. These workout programs are fine if you are completely healthy and have no injuries, muscle or coordination imbalances, I’ll get to that more later.

The next category is a personal trainer who is recognized by a nationally certified program. American Council on Exercise and NASM, to name a few. These programs you have to study and learn a decent amount of information about fitness and training and then pass an exam to hold that certification. Along with that you have to stay current on CPR and some even require insurance for the trainer. This is a mixed bag group. You have high level trainers, ok trainers and very dangerous and un- educated trainers in this group. I will talk more about how to be a good judge if someone is safe and effective later.

At the top of fitness education and knowledge is someone who went to school and earned a degree in exercise science, kinesiology or they may even have a degree in physical therapy. It’s important to ask the complete education background of your personal trainer. Did they mentor under anyone? How much experience do they have? What types of clientele have they worked the most with? Once again, just holding a high-level certification does not equal excellence in the workplace. Look for multiple certifications and some prior training in fitness outside of the requirement for those certifications.

There are some certifications that stand out in the crowd. The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) is one the highest level of certification in America. You have to get through a good portion of college to even be able to take the exam. They offer multiple types of certifications such as certified strength and conditioning coach and certified personal trainer. Sometimes this level of trainer goes on to train professional and collegient athletes or own their own fitness and health business. Another high level certification is the CSCCA. This certification is typically held only by those working with athletes, and it requires 3 years mentorship under someone holding the certification.

Educating the client and insuring them safe and effective training is the whole point of being a fitness coach or personal trainer. A few things to help you judge a good trainer are

  • Do they have a reasonable answer for why they have you do something? Because they saw it on TV does not count. Every client is different and needs to be trained that way!
  • Do they assess you and see your physical limitations before having you do something you have never done before? A good trainer should never assume everyone knows how to jump, run, squat or plank correctly. If you do things incorrect one of two things will happen. You will get injured, or you will not be effective with the movement, which wastes your time and money.
  • Do they create a workout that is best for your body? Working out should be temporary discomfort, but not create pain to endure later. There should be a component of fun, and a focus on improving the health and movement of your body.

Exercising is such an important part of living a long, healthy life. Make the most of it by being informed about who you look to for inspiration and direction. I hope these tips will lead you to find someone qualified and well-matched for your workout needs.