As personal training popularity soars, so does the number of personal trainers. But what happens when just about everyone claims to be an expert?
As people become more conscious of their health, the popularity of personal training has become one of the fastest growing health-related fields. According to economists from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry has grown by 44% since 2001 and it is expected to increase an additional 32% by 2020. The increased demand for personal trainers has resulted in so-called experts flooding an industry that lacks any federal or state regulation. Although licensure and registration bills have been proposed in several different states, the fact still remains that, at this time, anyone can claim to be a personal trainer even if they have no related education or prior experience. In fact, one study indicated that as many as 70% of personal trainers lack a degree in a related field.
Consumers new to personal training often have no idea if their trainer is good or bad. All too often personal trainers are selected based on their own physical appearance or on their likability but this can be a recipe for disaster. Training must follow a scientific path that takes into account a person’s past, their present, and what they have planned for the future. To achieve this, personal trainers perform what are essentially medical functions with activities that involve their clients cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems. They should be held to the same standard as any other medical professional.
The best way for a consumer to assess the quality of a potential trainer is to evaluate the trainers’ related education and experience. A little research can prevent painful and costly injuries later. The selection must be based on science and not vanity.
Experience alone is can also be a deceptive way of evaluating a personal trainer. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research disclosed in a study that trainers with at least 5 years of experience but who lacked a related degree scored, on average, only 44% on a test of their basic fitness knowledge whereas those who held a bachelor’s degree in a related field scored, an average of 68%. The final statistic from this study reveals how important credible certifications are: trainers who had a certification from ACSM or NSCA scored 85 percent.
Ask to interview a potential trainer before beginning to work with them and request information about their qualifications, certifications, education and experience. Follow up with some research into where the certifications are from and what it entails to earn them.
Learning more about the gym where your trainer works can shed some light on previous clients satisfaction with the facility in general.
A quality gym will insist on hiring well-qualified personal trainers but, unfortunately, many gyms don’t require their trainers to have anything more than a high school diploma. Gyms can be motivated by financial concerns to hire less experienced or well-qualified trainers because they will work for less. This can lead to a dangerous combination for consumers who are new to personal training. A recent survey by the National Board of Fitness Examiners revealed that nearly two-thirds of the 2,700 Certified Personal Trainers that participated admitted that they knew or worked with trainers that they believed were incompetent. Michael Brigger, General Manager of Studio South Fitness with over 20 years of experience agrees, “I have worked for a several gyms and can attest to the wide variation of experience among personal trainers. I can truly say that Studio South Fitness offers some the most highly educated and credentialed trainers I've seen in the fitness industry. They are committed to help, teach and challenge each other to continue their education so they are informed on current changes and trends.” Learning about your gyms hiring practices for personal trainers before you start working with one can prevent you from falling victim to a trainer who means well but ends up hurting you in the end. After all, the whole point of working with a personal trainer is to improve your health not to risk injury.