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How to Choose a Personal Trainer

Tony B.By Personal Trainer Network member Tony B.

The purpose of this article is to make choosing a professional easier. The concept is designed to quickly and easily help you come to an educated conclusion when making the difficult decision of picking a professional. Today we will talk about criteria for hiring a Certified and Qualified Personal Trainer.

Personal trainers come in all shapes and sizes. Some trainers go to college, some go to grad school, some of the best of them have no education past high school, and their experience can take them further than many degrees or certifications. The trainers in the best shape are not always the smartest, (sorry but that is the truth) and you'll come to find the trainers with the most education are not always in the best shape (they want you to follow the "do as I say not as I do" philosophy). As with any business, marketing and marketability are as important as background and experience.

Q: Who am I looking for?

A: Personal trainers demonstrate proper exercise form and design exercise programs, that's their job. They can assist with diet recommendations, equipment purchases and cardiovascular exercise advice. Their job is also to evaluate, educate, and provide real world solutions to fitness problems. Most personal trainers still work in health clubs, yet the recent trend is for trainers to work for themselves, doing in-home sessions or working at private personal training studios. The future holds room for highly specialized personal trainers in medical offices and other specialized facilities. The average charge for a personal trainer in a health club is roughly $40-70/hr. The average charge for an in-home or private personal trainer is $50-125/hr depending on where they train, amount of experience, and distance to the client. Personal trainers have certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, International Sports Science Association, American Council on Exercise, as well many other recognized certifying bodies.

Corrective Exercise Specialists are a new breed of personal trainers with advanced education and/or certifications. The advanced education can be in the form of continuing education classes, degrees, internships, etc. Corrective exercise specialists look more closely at injury prevention and rehabilitation than your average personal trainer. They usually have more experience and demand a higher wage. Corrective exercise specialists get certifications from the C.H.E.K. Institute, National Academy of Sports Medicine, the RTS Program and a few other organizations that offer specific programs.

Muscle Activation Therapists are a new breed of highly precise therapists who specialize in the assessment and treatment of muscular imbalance. Muscle activation therapists find inhibited (weak) muscles and then "jump start" them through an activation technique which is taught over a 10 month internship program. The technique itself was developed by Greg Roskopf, a biomechanics expert who specializes in the identification and treatment of muscular imbalances that contribute to injury. Greg is the owner and president of Muscle Activation Techniques, based in Denver Colorado.

Q: What certifications/qualifications should I look for?

A: Since there are no national/state licenses the fitness industry has relied on certifications for the self regulation of professionals. Let's assume you want someone who is certified and has liability insurance. Today, between the Internet, home study courses, and many national and international organizations, there are hundreds of places to get certified, and a few places to get liability insurance. Our advice, like with any purchase, is to stick with the recognized and reputable organizations. The next question, in the line of questioning would be, "How do we know who is reputable?" Go with the largest organizations and the certifying bodies that have been around the longest. This list includes, but is not limited to: National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise, Cooper Clinic, Resistance Training Specialist, International Sports Science Association, Muscle Activation Techniques, and the C.H.E.K. Institute. Those are the major national players in the fields of personal training, corrective exercise, fitness therapy, and hands-on exercise advice.

Q: Why/when do I need a trainer?

A: Before you over do it, before you hurt yourself, before you read some book or some magazine article, get yourself some professional advice. It is well worth it. If you have never worked out before, get a trainer. If you were injured before and you want to start a regular exercise program, get yourself a trainer. When your physical therapy is over and you want to get back to 100%, get a trainer. If you want to lose weight and you have not met your goals yet, get a trainer. Do not assume your doctor knows anything about diet or exercise! Find someone that studies diet and exercise for a living!

Q: What actually happens during a typical session?

A: If you hire a trainer, they will make you fill out a health history form, check your body fat, and they may measure your flexibility. The trainer then takes you through a general stretching and resistance exercise routine. You leave feeling like you had a great workout and learned some new exercises. If you hire a corrective exercise specialist, they will perform a more thorough evaluation of range of motion and flexibility then take you through a precise stretching and corrective exercise program to isolate your problem areas. You leave the session feeling like you have a personalized plan to attack your problem areas. If you hire a Muscle Activation Therapist they will perform a precise range of motion evaluation identifying your weakest link, they then use isolated muscle tests to pinpoint the exact muscle or muscle fibers that need to be activated. You leave with less pain and more range of motion (its unbelievable).

Some tips before you go: Ask your trainer or therapist about their previous clients' results. Ask your trainer about their education, experience, and certifications. Ask your trainer if they have a money back guarantee (that is going to get me in trouble). Ask your trainer for unsolicited testimonials, and for before & after pictures of their success stories. Ask your trainer what continuing education classes they go to and why. Ask your trainer if they are full or part time and if they can fit you into their schedule. Figure out what your fitness goal is and ask your trainer if they have worked with someone like you.

If you have any questions regarding any of these topics or you would like help narrowing down a specific fitness goal, feel free to call us. We can set you up with a personal trainer for your home or at one of our facilities, or a Muscle Activation Therapist to help you increase flexibility or decrease pain and hopefully this article has shared what you need to know when hiring a personal trainer.

Written by: Tony B., NASM CPT, C.H.E.K. Level II Practitioner, Certified Golf Biomechanic, IDEA Master Trainer, Muscle Activation Therapist.

630-541-LIFE (5433)