What is a Personal Trainer?

What is a personal trainer, you ask? Depending on their approach and demeanor, you can hire an independent personal trainer or find one at the gym you go to to serve as part-coach, part-mentor, part-friend and even part-drill instructor to get you into shape. What remains constant for these fitness gurus is their goal, which is to guide and oversee an individual’s fitness program in a health club or home gym.

Personal trainers have a love of fitness, and it shows. Their focus on a healthy lifestyle, a commitment to a fit physique, and a desire to share their passion with others is apparent, which allows them to serve as positive role models for the exercise challenged or for those who want to take their fitness to the next level.

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The Role of the Personal Trainer: Professional Goals and Scope of Practice

Personal trainers have a few things in common: they are healthy, fit, and active. Although the type of training and training style they deliver, will vary, the role of these fitness gurus remains constant:

  • Personal trainers want to help people pursue or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Personal trainers want to educate people about the many ways to engage in physical exercise and healthy living.
  • Personal trainers want to help people achieve their personal health and fitness goals.

Personal trainers should possess, at a minimum:

  • Knowledge of human anatomy and the concepts of functional exercise, exercise science, and basic nutrition
  • The ability to successfully assess and screen their clients, both initially and progressively
  • The ability to design health, wellness, and physical fitness programs that are tailored to their clients’ specific needs, wants, and goals
  • The ability to execute fitness programs that are both safe and effective
  • A thorough understanding of cardiovascular, flexibility, and resistance exercises
  • A dedication to personal and professional integrity

Therefore, successful personal trainers are able to deliver safe, effective, and interesting workouts to the clients they serve. The training programs taught by personal trainers, most of which are offered on a one-on-one basis, are varied and progressive, and are geared towards improving their clients’ health and wellness.

Successful personal trainers are not only excellent teachers, but supportive and enthusiastic champions of physical fitness, as well. Their overall goal includes not only teaching their clients, but providing them with the encouragement and motivation to stick with their programs as to achieve their fitness objectives.

How to Become a Personal Trainer: Education, Certification, Experience, and Insurance Requirements

Unlike related professionals, like athletic trainers, who are state regulated and licensed, personal trainers are not required to be state regulated or certified, with one exception. Washington D.C. recently adopted legislation to regulate the personal training profession. This legislation, which was passed by the D.C. Council in February 2014, will require all personal trainers providing services in the District of Columbia to register with the D.C. Mayor’s Office following a procedure that as of March 2015 has yet to be defined or put in place. Once the legislation becomes active, the D.C. Board of Physical Therapy will oversee the registration process for personal trainers.

Because of a lack of credentialing and regulations for personal trainers in the U.S., the personal training profession is largely self-regulated through credentialing. This means that education and professional certification can go a long way in establishing yourself as a highly qualified personal trainer.

Educational Options for Personal Trainers

Given the large number of programs related to the practice of personal training, you will have a wide array of choices when it comes to achieving a degree to kick-start or advance your career.

There are a number of associate and bachelor degrees related to personal training. You may choose to pursue a degree program in exercise science, health and fitness management, exercise physiology, and physical education, among others.

A degree program related to personal training should include a comprehensive framework in personal training concepts and skills. Important coursework in these programs often includes:

  • Conditioning
  • Kinesiology
  • Motor development
  • Anatomy and physiology

Many degree programs also include coursework in business and management, preparing you to oversee a fitness center, gym or even your own personal training business.

Certification Options for Personal Trainers

There is a host of certifying bodies for personal trainers, so you should research your options to ensure you achieve a national certification (or certifications) that best represents your personal training philosophy and skill set.

For many personal trainers, professional certification provides is a mark of professional excellence that displays a commitment to their profession. Professional certification also indicates that you practice according to a strict code of conduct, safety standards, and professional integrity, all of which are important in this industry.

Some of the most high-profile professional certifications for personal trainers include:

CPR/AED certification from nationally recognized organizations, such as the American Red Cross, are also highly regarded in the industry.

Experience Requirements for Personal Trainers

In addition to a comprehensive resume that details your educational and certification achievements, clients and employers will want you to possess some type of experience in personal training and fitness. For many, becoming a personal trainer is a natural progression of their passion for physical fitness and experience working out in fitness centrers and gyms.

Insurance Requirements for Personal Trainers

Property and professional liability insurance is a must for personal trainers, regardless of whether you train in a club, in a studio, or in a private setting. Many of the professional associations that certify personal trainers also provide low-cost insurance to once you have achieved professional certification. Liability and property insurance are also offered through some of the nation’s largest insurance companies.

Property and liability insurance is a requirement since you will generally work as an independent contractor. Insurance serves as an important risk management measure that protects you in the event of an injury claim from a client.

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