As a gym owner or manager, you’re in charge of hiring personal trainers and checking credentials. You probably already know that a trainer must hold a certification from one of the recognized, accredited fitness organizations in order to be qualified to train individual clients.
However, not everyone knows that the entry level personal training certification does not qualify a trainer to teach group fitness classes or give clients detailed nutrition plans.
If you’re in charge of checking backgrounds and choosing the best candidate among a pool of potential fitness trainers, it’s important you’re clear on what exactly the various levels of certifications cover so you can be sure to select the best person for the job. Today we’ll be exploring the basic personal training certification level.
What do candidates study in order to acquire a standard personal fitness training certification?
Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter from which accredited organization a trainer earns his or her certification. All of them teach and test on essentially the same material. If a job candidate holds a certification from any of the major fitness organizations, you can expect that trainer to know all of the following:
Human anatomy and physiology
Personal trainers study the muscular and skeletal systems extensively. In order to pass the final test to obtain a personal training certification, a trainer is expected to understand how each muscle, bone, joint, and system of connective tissue articulates and affects movements.
Additionally, trainers study the heart, lungs, blood vessels, digestive system, and other major organ systems that are affected by exercise and diet.
The biomechanics of a wide variety of exercises
Each exercise has a different effect on the human body. Not only that, but the same exercise (for example, squats) can have very different effects from person to person. A tall man with long legs would need entirely different guidance on proper form than a small woman with shorter legs. And a dancer with excellent flexibility would require much different guidance than someone who has limited ranges of movement.
Trainers study the ways each common exercise movement affects the muscles and joints so they can develop customized, safe programs for individual clients.
Nutrition basics and how nutrients affect the human body
Though a standard personal training certification does not qualify a trainer to give custom diet plans, it does require trainers to understand the basics of nutrition well enough to offer helpful guidelines to their clients.
Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals all affect the body in very different ways. If a trainer has obtained an accredited certification, you can expect that he or she understands these principles and can give adequate advice on general nutrition.
The most up-to-date methods for improving strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness
Fitness recommendations are constantly changing. It’s a risk to adopt new methods too early before they have been proven safe and effective, but lagging behind the current science is bad as well. Luckily, trainers are not individually responsible for determining which methods to use. Any time medical journals publish compelling new data to suggest training methods may produce different results than previously thought, certification organizations have to make sure they are offering the most effective, safe, and proven recommendations.
How to perform fitness assessments and track progress accurately
When a client wants to work toward a specific goal (for example, losing body fat), the trainer must understand how to measure the client’s starting point and progress points along the way. That way, if a client lags behind in actual progress compared to expected progress, the client and trainer will discover the discrepancy early and take steps to fix it.
Perhaps the client would respond better to a more resistance-oriented program and less cardio work. Or, maybe he needs help learning nutrition guidelines to keep his diet on track. Either way, the trainer should be able to recognize when a client is hitting goals or falling behind and determine why this is the case.
How to develop effective exercise programs based on a client’s goals and current fitness level
From a client’s point of view, the whole point of hiring a personal trainer is to get help creating a customized plan to make progress toward specific goals. That goal could be losing weight, building muscle, improving athletic performance for a particular sport, or anything else.
Each trainer will likely specialize in one or more of these areas. Talk to your job candidates and ask them for details about how they develop programs for their clients. Experienced trainers will have a clear system based on proven methods, and they will be able to explain the system concisely. If a candidate does not seem to have a clear idea of how to move a client from the introductory intake session into a successful program, that could be a red flag that the candidate either lacks experience or proper training.
Once a trainer has earned a personal training certification, what are they qualified to teach?
The answer to this question is in the title of the certification: personal fitness training. Trainers who pass the test from their chosen organization will be qualified to teach individual clients on a personal level.
For each of those individual clients, the trainer will be able to create safe and effective exercise programs based around the latest methods for improving strength, cardio, and flexibility.
He or she may also include basic nutrition guidance along with exercise training.
Remember, however, that trainers who hold only the personal training certification are not certified to give clients custom diet plans, teach nutrition classes, or lead group fitness training sessions. Each of these areas requires a separate certification.
If you want your trainers to be able to do all of the above, make sure you look for a job candidate who holds a personal training certification and the necessary certifications to be able to legally provide these services.