How To Choose A Personal Trainer In 2020

Legislative action to regulate the personal training industry is underway. How fast will changes occur? Remember ephedra? That’s how fast we can see a change in the industry.

As a newly nominated member of the National Board of Fitness Experts, a cohort of industry experts in the process of steering the personal training industry towards national standards, this article is presented as the first of a two-part series to help you choose a personal trainer in a rapidly changing environment.

You count yourself among the throngs of baby boomers and seniors that are finally understanding and implementing the message that regular physical activity leads to a healthier lifestyle. Looking to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, you head to the gym in search of fit and healthy lifestyle.

The commitment is made, you’re ready to lose body fat, increase lean muscle mass and begin down the lifetime path of sound nutrition. And in this quest, a certified fitness trainer is hired to help you meet your goals. But, is your newly hired personal trainer qualified? Certified, yes. But, qualified?

What’s The Difference?

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

Independent fitness trainers have been around for a long time but became an independent unit of the fitness industry in the 1970s. Just a decade later, personal training was the fastest-growing segment of the fitness industry. According to a five-year-old IDEA fact sheet, a company designed to provide personal trainers a forum for education and services to be effective fitness professional, “there are over 60,000 certified personal trainers practicing in the United States.”

Today, the number of personal trainers is in the hundreds of thousands. Based on that fact, gym members think that gaining access to a qualified trainer is easy. Think again.

As a result of the enormous growth within this segment of the fitness industry, literally dozens of companies have been formed to certify trainers. But, without industry standards, large profit margins can be gained by certification companies that depend on profits from selling certification programs rather than producing qualified personal trainers.

Currently, each certification company determines the criteria needed and method off testing to produce certified fitness trainers. And therein is the problem with certification companies. Some are in the business of maintaining a high level of excellence through a complete and continuing education of their clients, while others are simply in the business of making money by selling programs.

However, this is all about to change with new forthcoming legislative action geared towards regulating the personal training industry.

In the meantime, before regulations take place in the industry, you as a gym member in search of a qualified fitness trainer need to look for personal trainers with certifications from companies that maintain their reputation of selling programs of excellence that produce certified and qualified trainers.

Quality Certification Companies Should:

  • Have pre-requisites before candidates sit for the exam
  • Offer workshops that last for several days
  • Provide valuable educational materials for study
  • Have a broad range of company experts that cover a wide range of topics
  • Use valid tests given in a sound testing environment
  • Be technologically innovative with vast educational materials and online support
  • Require continuing education courses
  • Offer additional certifications and specializations
  • Provide information on the business side of personal training
  • Have a Code of Ethics for trainers to follow

Several Legitimate Certification Companies Meet Most Or All Of The Above Criteria:

    • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
    • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
    • American Fitness Professional and Associates (AFPA)
    • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
    • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
    • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
    • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

So, you’ve located a personal trainer that’s obtained a certification from a reputable certification company. Ready to go sign on the dotted line now? Not so fast!

Now, it’s time to evaluate that individual personal trainer. Can you work with him? Will she have the ability to teach you skills that will lead you down the path of improved physical fitness? Remember, not all that are educated are gifted to convey the message. Keep the following points in mind when evaluating an individual trainer.

Certified Personal Trainers Should Possess

  • Certification from a quality company.
  • Insurance that covers them in all locations in which they train clients. Want to workout in your own home? Be sure your personal trainer is insured while training in your home as well as in the gym. Not only do you need to be protected in case of injury, but the personal trainer needs to be insured for damage caused to your home. Ask to see the insurance policy.
  • Current CPR and First-Aid training certificates. Most certification companies will require this. But, do they ask for updated CPR certificates?
  • Business policies. Work with a personal trainer that takes the time to obtain your goals, concerns and medical history. A qualified trainer will provide you with written policies that outline your working relationship.
  • Professionalism at all times. personal Trainers should be focused on the needs of their clients. Walk onto the gym floor and just watch. You’ll quickly spot trainers that are attentive and those that are easily distracted. personal Trainers should be on time for appointments, have a groomed appearance, be fit and keep thorough and accurate records of progress.
  • An allegiance with local health care professionals. Members of the health care community are well aware of the lack of industry standards in fitness training. When these health care professionals do form an allegiance with a personal trainer, it’s based upon the personal trainer’s skills, reputation for excellence and professionalism.
  • References. Be sure to check out the references! And don’t be afraid to ask fellow gym members questions about the trainer you are about to hire.
  • Enthusiasm


This is a relationship. This is one of those times you will be hiring someone who is supposed to know more than you do. Your job is to let them lead. You must be able to follow directions and build discipline. This is how the relationship works best.

There is a wonderful peace of not having to figure every calculation and just doing what you are told. Let your personal trainer do it, after all… you’re PAYING for it!

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