Personal Trainer

What is a Personal Trainer?

A personal trainer is an individual who has earned a certification demonstrating a level of competency for creating safe and effective exercise programs, catered specifically to an individual. Personal trainers work one-on-one with a client to develop and implement a fitness regimen that helps them lose weight, get stronger, improve physical performance, or maintain their health--based upon their personal goals, skill level, and health needs. 


Kinesiology is the study of the movement of the body. A good personal trainer is someone that knows how to get the body to transform. With that, the trainer has to have an understanding of basic kinesiology principles to get the best results and to help reduce the risk of injury. Without this general knowledge of kinesiology principles, a trainer would not be able to do their job effectively.

Things to Consider When Searching for a Personal Training program:

Personal Training (PT) Program Search:

  • Cost:

    • Depending on if the course is offered by a 2- or 4-year institution or a certifying body, the cost of obtaining certification varies greatly. 

  • Location:

    • Determine if the program will be located on campus or online. Some personal training programs offer a hybrid learning option (campus + online learning). 

  • Other Factors:

    • It is also important to explore the structure of the program, accreditation, and the length of the program. Questions to consider in evaluating program:

      • How long will it take you to finish the program and acquire your certification?​ 

      • ​​​What is your academic background?
        • ​You can complete a PT program having solely obtained your high school diploma. However, some certification courses require a collegiate level Anatomy course, CPR and AED certification prior to enrollment. 
          • If you have completed these certifications or additional Kinesiology related courses that will allow you to shorten the time it takes to complete the course and certification, as well as lower the cost. 
      • What type of exam prep is offered with the program?

        • How many practice exams/quizzes will you receive? Does the course include a certification study guide? What other resources are included such as flashcards?

      • What does the program have to offer?​

        • Can you obtain two certifications, simultaneously?​ Can you transfer courses that you have completed during your collegiate academic career to fulfill some requirements?

      • Is the program accredited? ​

        • Most employers, such as gyms and ​training facilities require candidates who have attended accredited programs.

        • The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is the primary accrediting body for personal training certifications, see the Accredited Programs section below for the most popular options. 

 

Tips for Prospective Students

 
  • Getting a Mentor: There are a few different options that you can think about. First and foremost you can research programs that are in the city that you are currently in. Some programs offer internships/mentorships. If you choose to go the online route you can scout for mentors on your own. You can check out trainers at the gyms that are close to you. If you follow any fitness gurus that you look up to you can reach out to them. When getting a mentor you need to makes sure that expectations are set at the front. Before you start any training you need to sign paperwork that states that you are an intern and that if anything happens the gym and/or mentor should be held responsible. You should be training any clients that you have under the supervision of the mentor.

  • Gaining Clientele: The fitness industry thrives off of word of mouth. You will gain clients based on the opinion of others. You can find people in local gyms to train. Your mentor should be helping you scout for clients. Once you train one person and people see their results they are going to want to book with you. Since social media is such a big thing right now, you can recruit clients on social media. The biggest thing is to always promote yourself/your brand.

  • Exam Prep: Depending on what program you choose and which certification you trying to obtain will depend on the type of preparation you may need. Some programs offer practice exams, study guides, flashcards, and practice quizzes. Being as hands-on as possible will help tremendously. Being able to see what it is that you are wanting to do in person will help with retaining knowledge. Depending on the program you may have a set exam date. Some programs require you to complete the program and then schedule the date. 

  • Suggested Undergraduate Courses to take:

    • Human Anatomy

    • Sports and Fitness nutrition

    • Business

    • Theory of Exercise

    • Applied Kinesiology

    • Sports Psychology

  • Steps to getting started:​

    • Do your research on programs. Do not sign your name on the dotted line or give anyone your money until you have researched the program. Research everything that the program has to offer and compare programs. You want to find the best program for the money you will spend – the more knowledge and resources, for a price that is affordable. You can decide whether or not you want to do hands-on in-person learning or if you can learn on your own.

    • Once you have picked a course and have started, find a trainer to mentor you, sort of like an internship. I suggest someone that owns a successful fitness gym in your community.

    • Study every single day, the more you see the information, the more you will retain it.

    • After you feel comfortable and have talked with your mentor, find 1 or 2 clients to start training. Start getting that experience and start finding your training style.

    • Once your course is over, take the time to thoroughly study all of the information you have learned.

    • Take your exam and pass it!

Types of Certification

Many different certifications can be obtained in the fitness world. Below are a few that are popular choices. One thing about these certifications is that you can have more than one. To pick which certification suits you, you will need to figure out what it is, specifically, that you are passionate about and trying to achieve. You must also note that with each specialization and certification there are different qualifications. There are some certifications/specializations that cater to one or two people, and then there are other certifications that allow you to cater to groups of people. 

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): 

    • A person that has passed the CPT exam and wants to collaborate with their client to create an exercise program meant to improve the client's fitness by helping reduce body fat, create and define muscle tone, and helping to improve the cardiovascular endurance of the client.

  • Health Fitness Specialist (HFS):

    • A person that is qualified to work with people that have stable, medically-controlled health conditions and also other healthy adults. It is for those individuals wanting to take on an advanced personal trainer role by working with clients that may have minor to moderate health considerations.

  • Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CCEP): 

    • A health care professional that is trained to create exercise and fitness plans for individuals with chronic health conditions. 

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS):

    • A fitness professional that helps athletics attain optimum performance. 

 

Accredited Programs

 
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)

  • International Sports Science Association (ISSA)

  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

  • National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

Contributions by: Brittani Parchment, CPT