A Publication of WTVP

If you’ve ever hired—or contemplated hiring—a personal trainer, that person may have completed a certification course indicating he or she has acquired the basic analytical and practical skills to prescribe exercise properly and safely. A proficient certified personal trainer should be a professional involved in developing and implementing an individualized approach to exercise in healthy populations and/or individuals with medical clearance to exercise. This person also should be skilled at writing and articulating appropriate exercise recommendations and motivating individuals to begin and continue with their healthy behaviors.

There are currently more than 300 trainer-certifying organizations in this country. However, there’s little consistency in the course criteria for these certification programs. Most organizations offer a curriculum based on anatomy and physiology, with a general overview on nutrition, exercise prescription, injury prevention, and other related aspects. Usually, this educational process is nothing more than a textbook of random information and memorization. A person can know the information needed to pass the certification test but not have the skills to be an accomplished fitness instructor. It’s similar to a scientist who understands the function and intricacies of an engine who’s then expected to be a top-notch mechanic.

The testing procedures for most certifications range from a two-hour examination to a weekend workshop. Learning to prescribe exercise properly is a tedious and intense process that takes weeks and even months to optimally fine-tune a client’s workout variables. Most certifications don’t cover information pertaining to one’s competence as an instructor. How does a competent instructor prove expertise at instruction? Obviously, a practical is required as part of the certification process. Some certifying agencies have no practical, or the practical is totally unrelated to instructional proficiency because it emphasizes expertise in testing. Or the practical is merely a demonstration of exercise performance by the examinee—not his ability to convey the information to a client. A practical whereby the examinee demonstrates exercise performance doesn’t test his skill to safely convey this ability to a client. It might certify the examinee to be qualified to instruct himself—but not others.

A certified instructor needs to prove he can influence his client to perform properly. For example, those who teach CPR, scuba diving, or driver’s education are required to complete an instructor course and certification. This emphasizes the common need for instructors in any endeavor: not only to prove they can perform the skill, but prove they can convey the skill, critique the skill, and test for modifications of the skill in the examinee. In other words, there needs to be more value placed on certifying a personal trainer’s instructional ability. It isn’t enough for the instructor to know how to properly perform an exercise; the instructor must make proper execution happen. If you’re seeking the services of a certified personal trainer, learn more about the trainer’s ability to communicate the appropriate instruction. Your safety and results should always be your primary concern. IBI