So you’ve committed to hiring a personal trainer to take your fitness to the next level or get back in shape — great! But be sure to do your due diligence before hiring a trainer to ensure you’re getting someone who is well qualified and won’t leave you injured.
“Personal training is not regulated by any state in America. No state has a license requirement to practice as a personal trainer,” says Sean Grieve, MS, director of Education Services at the National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF). “This puts the pressure on the consumer to really understand what qualifies an individual to be a trainer and to research any prospective trainer’s education and certification. Unfortunately this creates somewhat of a ‘buyer beware’ market as anyone can legally call themselves a trainer and anyone can certify you as a personal trainer.”
The first step in the assessment process of the trainer is to look at their certification and education, he says. Ideally, they’ll have completed a 2- or 4-year degree program at an accredited college or university in an exercise science related field (exercise physiology, kinesiology, etc.) and have a current, valid NCCA accredited certification. “In most cases personal training is a vocational profession, oftentimes not requiring a degree. Therefore certification is imperative,” he adds.
The only fully recognized standard for certification accreditation is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
“This is a minimum that consumers should look for as all certification companies say they are accredited by someone or something,” Grieve says. “The only companies that require all certifications to be fully accredited or require accredited certification as a pre-requisite for additional specializations are the NCSF, ACE, ACSM and NSCA. These companies are considered the industry’s most-trusted and widely recognized.”
The specialist industry (specialty certifications) is even more watered down and unregulated than the personal training industry and has no oversight to the credentialing. “In most cases anyone can get certified online with an open book exam or in a day or two by participation without valid assessment of competency. These individuals then call themselves trainers or ‘specialists’ because again, it’s not against the law,” he explains.
Beyond checking to see if your trainer has the proper education, training and accredited certification, you should make sure that trainer you’re considering has worked with clients who have similar needs and limitations as yourself.
You’d never guess it by looking at her, but fitness expert Jill Brown has both spinal and hip injuries. Brown says she knows how to modify activities so other people living with those same and other injuries can still get a great workout. If you have an injury, she recommends finding a trainer with your same injury or a trainer who frequently works with people who have your injury.
“Spinal, ACL replacement, hip, — any nagging injury, you need to make sure you go to a trainer that is well qualified,” she says.
Physical therapists can offer recommendations to personal trainers who understand how to work with clients with injuries.
Photo courtesy of Flickr, CherryPoint