There are a lot of options out there for people who want to bring their fitness to the next level. There are personal trainers, strength coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and even speed coaches. One of the things about all of these options that a lot of people don’t know is there are literally hundreds of certifications that will give these coaches their license to train you. Most of these certifications require you to do nothing more than pay a fee and they will send you a take home test with the text book. Once you pass the easiest test in the world you are a certified personal trainer. I would say that most personal trainers at one time had a certification. However, most of them are not current. They expire from year to year so if a trainer doesn’t want renew by taking continuing education credits then the certification will expire. Why does that matter to you? Well the fitness industry is always changing. There is new science and research all the time which should change the way a trainer approaches his or her clients. If a trainer is not staying current with their certification then they are probably using out of date procedures and potentially putting your health at risk. Or at the very least putting your progress at risk.
The first thing you should do when you sign up with a trainer is to ask the gym do they require their trainers to be certified. A little known dirty little secret in the fitness world is most “trainers” have no such type of current certification. A gym who employs trainers should pay for their continuing education credits or at the very least check annually. It is kind of don’t ask don’t tell because the gym owners don’t want to pay the extra money and neither do a lot of trainers. The general public has no idea what the “good” personal trainer certifications are versus the “bad” ones. So in most trainers’ eyes why should they be certified. I wouldn’t even take the trainer’s word for it. I would actually ask to see the sheet of paper that says they are certified. If you are paying good money you want every reassurance that your money is being spent on a quality professional who is dedicated to the study of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and the exercise sciences.
Now that you know about the dirty little secret that is rampant in the fitness industry you should be aware of which certifications to look for. These certifications are strenuous in nature and the exams are taken across the country at independent sites without the use of any study aids. Some of them have a prerequisite of a Bachelor or Science in a health science related field. Basically you need four years of undergraduate education to even take the test.
1. NSCA The National Strength and Conditioning Association has two distinctions. CSCS for training athletes and the NSCA – CPT for training the general population.
2. ACE American Council on Exercise.
3. ACSM. American Academy of Sports Medicine.
4. NASM. National Academy of Sports Medicine.
5. CI Cooper Institute.
Keep in mind even if your trainer says that they are certified in one of these categories, don’t hesitate to ask them to see the certification card. While it is impressive that they at one point passed these test and became certified they still should be staying up to date with their research.
Major League baseball recently mandated that all of their minor league strength coaches be certified CSCS and RSCC. No doubt this is to attempt to eliminate some of the shady characters who lurked around their clubhouses during the “steroid era.” Most of the Universities have full time strength and conditioning coaches for their athletic programs. The CSCS distinction is one of the largest governing bodies to certify these coaches. If a coach has two years working with and designing programs for athletic teams then he or she can earn the distinction of RSCC. There are also separate distinctions for ten years of staying current in that distinction and twenty. The trickle down effect has brought strength and conditioning to the High School level. During these years it is probably even more important to have a quality certified trainer working with these kids. Unfortunately, many High Schools just have a weight room supervisor or a member of the coaching staff supervising. If you suspect this is the case then you might be better off finding a facility near you that specializes in athletic performance. These facilities have popped up all throughout the country. Just make sure you ask to see that certification before signing up.