How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Arkansas

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As a personal trainer in Arkansas, you’ll join a promising career field helping people across the state get fit and improve their long-term health and overall well-being. With 57.3% of Arkansas’s population failing to achieve healthy levels of physical activity according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your skills and expertise will be essential in helping the state’s population thrive.

You’ll also have the opportunity to work in the hottest areas of fitness in the state. The Stuttgart Daily Reader reports that High Intensity Interval Training, CrossFit and Hot Yoga are three current trends in the Arkansas fitness scene. Eager clients will look to you for proper technique and training programs that will allow them to join the fitness movement without risking injury.

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Arkansas’ outdoor culture means that many gym-goers have fitness aspirations related to their favorite hobby. Whether you’re helping a climber with strength exercises or working with a mountain biker to maintain cardiovascular endurance in the off-season, your skills will be essential in keeping Arkansas’s outdoor enthusiasts limber, strong and ready.

In addition, you will be joining a field with competitive salaries and strong entry-level benefits that typically include free gym memberships and discounts on fitness products and gear.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in Arkansas

As health and fitness become high profile national priorities highlighted by figures like Michelle Obama, personal trainers find themselves in an increasingly sought after profession. As such, employers seek candidates with the most relevant and comprehensive education in addition to national credentialing.

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field will provide specialized knowledge in everything from nutrition to the science of body movement. In addition, these programs provide opportunities to round out a resume by providing experience through job shadowing and leading group fitness classes.

The following are typical majors you may pursue as an aspiring personal trainer:

Associate’s degree program in:

  • Fitness and Health
  • Exercise Science

Bachelor’s degree program in:

  • Biology
    • Including courses in Human Anatomy, Human Structure and Function and Physical Diagnosis
  • Kinesiology
    • Including courses in Exercise Physiology, Mechanics of Human Movement and Exercise Applications for Special Populations
  • Nutrition
    • Including courses in Sports Nutrition, Food Science and Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Exercise Science
  • Physical Education
  • Sports Medicine

Coursework in these programs will typically cover the following topics:

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Exercise theory
  • Human anatomy
  • Weight management
  • Biomechanics
  • Health and fitness analysis

The expertise you’ll have after taking these courses will allow you to competently work with clients from a variety of backgrounds. Whether you’re helping a rock climber gain upper body strength or helping a parent lose weight to keep up with the kids, you’ll be able to confidently assess needs and create workout programs tailored to each client.

In addition to the theoretical knowledge they provide, these programs also include communication components designed to hone your interpersonal skills. Future employers aren’t looking for someone to simply advise clients on fitness theory; they’re looking for someone who can make the whole training process a motivating and enjoyable experience. With opportunities to shadow working personal trainers or teach group fitness classes, you’ll need strong communication skills to create a truly enjoyable client experience.

National Certification in Personal Training

Most employers require their trainers to hold national certification, so obtaining this through a national credentialing organization is key. Some of the certifications are so rigorous they require undergraduate education, so degree programs like those named above are an excellent way to prepare. Agencies also usually require a CPR certification prior to taking the certification exam

Highly respected certification agencies include:

  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
    • Must have at least two years of fitness experience
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS)
    • Requires a 4-year degree

  • The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)
  • American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
  • National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
  • The Cooper Institute

These organizations are recognized by the Livestrong Foundation and have received accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Additional Preparation

If you have an interest in a particular client age group or style of fitness, you might also want to pursue further certification in your area of interest. These certifications tell employers you have an advanced skill set and will let them know the areas in which you specialize. You might also consider lifeguarding or water safety certifications if you plan to teach swimming or water aerobics classes. Some of these specialized certifications that the above-named agencies offer include:

  • Youth Fitness Trainer
  • Flexibility Coach
  • Aquatic Fitness Professional
  • Functional Training Specialist
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist
    • Requires a 4-year degree

Personal Trainer Careers in Arkansas

It’s a great idea to check out what prospective employers are looking for as you consider a career in personal training. You’ll find they prefer educated, highly motivated candidates and generally require national certification in at least one area. The following employment postings give you a great idea of what employers are after (examples shown for illustrative purposes, March 2015):

If you’re interested in a rewarding career working with clients in a medical setting, Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville is looking for personal trainers who can provide individual instruction, help clients meet goals and teach group fitness classes including water aerobics. In addition, you must hold or be working toward a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or a related field, and hold national certification

Employers at Anytime Fitness in Beebe are looking for hardworking, responsible trainers who are able to do one-on-one consultations, provide nutritional guidance and plan workout programs. They’re particularly interested in candidates who can lead yoga, bootcamp, dance or kickboxing, and offer competitive pay of up to $36 an hour

As you consider your future career, you’ll also want to keep in mind the types of group fitness classes a particular gym or fitness club offers. A significant component of many personal training jobs is leading a range of clients in social workout settings, so you’ll want to know what classes you might be called on to lead. Whether you’re passionate about CrossFit or enjoy a sassy Zumba dance workout, you’ll want to be prepared to provide a superior client experience.

The following classes found at ClubHaus Fitness in Little Rock give you a look into some of the classes you might be expected to lead:

  • Sunrise Yoga: a morning class where participants flow between yoga poses in a heated environment
  • RPM: a combination of cycling, choreography and coaching that provide a comprehensive aerobic workout
  • CXWorx: a class than concentrates on the core muscles that connect the upper and lower body
  • The Hollywood: a fusion class combining elements of ballet, vinyasa yoga, pilates and plyometrics
  • Brickhaus: clients use rowing machines, kettlebells, TRX bands, slam balls and more to focus on cardio and total body toning
  • BodyCombat: an intense cardio workout combining martial arts moves from karate, boxing, taekwondo, tai chi and muay thai
  • BodyPump: training that uses participants’ full body weight to ramp up heart rates and achieve rapid weight loss results

As you interact with clients in classes like these and create positive experiences through one-on-one consultations and motivational coaching, your education and certification in personal training will provide the skills and expertise you need to create a truly memorable experience, and help Arkansas residents enjoy happier, healthier lives.

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