Becoming a personal trainer

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 08, 2007 10:05 PM GMT
    I have some free time this summer and thought working toward a personal trainer certificate might be a good use of my time. The knowledge would be invaluable and it'd be a great way to pick up some extra cash part time (I'm a student and looking for some flexible hours).

    Can anyone talk a bit about their experience as a personal trainer? What do you like or dislike about the job?

    I know there are tons of places out there that will certify trainers, are certain companies more accredited than others?

    Thanks for the info!

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    Jun 09, 2007 2:38 AM GMT
    Hey Vince,

    Having been in the Personal Training industry for a while, it's always great to know that more people are getting into becoming a trainer. It assures me that there's still a future for us :)

    If you're just going to do it for the summer, I'm hoping you are majoring in Biology or Physiology at least, since the more accredited certs require a lot of background reading before you can take the tests. Here are some top choices:

    ACE (
    NASM (
    NSCA (
    ACSM (

    These are just some of the ones that most gyms recognize, but like you said, there are tons of other certs that may or may not be accredited, but at least get you started.

    I've been doing personal fitness training and consultations for about 8 years (not including the time when I was working in a Physical Therapy clinic) and whenever I ask myself if I'd rather be doing something else, the answer is always, NO! Of course, that may change in time, but for now, I do love it!

    I feel it's still highly competitive, but if you're willing to take on the challenges, there's lots of room for personal growth. Of course, you get to help other people as well :) I think the biggest thing I struggle with right now is that gyms devalue the service right from the get-go by offering a "free" session. Would you ever go to your doctor and ask for a free consultation? I'm probably opening up a can of worms here.

    Anyway, best wishes on your endeavors!

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    Jun 09, 2007 3:08 AM GMT
    Vince I went through W.I.T.S traing school. The class was good instructor was better. I got my certification in '06. I got it for my own edification. I helped some friends train and get into great shape. This summer I might actually take on some paying customers at a local gym. I wouldn't want it to be at my gym though. That is like a sanctuary for me and I don't want to do anything that would make me feel different about working out there. I'll keep you posted. Do the same. peace good luck!

    (Also you will need to take aduly CPR as well to get certified and put in practical hours working in a real gyn enviornment.)
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    Jun 09, 2007 10:38 AM GMT
    Can't go wrong with NASM. Most big chains make it their preferred cert.
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    Jun 09, 2007 8:25 PM GMT
    Chucky is right that NASM is the top of the heap academically - but they also require that you have an undergrad degree in a related field, like biology.

    For a more practical and skills-oriented curriculum, I recommend ISSA - Fred Hatfield ("Dr. Squat") is a part of this organization, and his adaptations of Bompa's periodization ideas are clear, effective, and understandable.

    I'm NSCA certified. They, like NASM, are highly academic in focus. I reviewed the ACE and ISSA materials after my certification, and frankly wish I'd gone with ISSA instead.

    With regard to recognition - when I approached my first gym with this certification, they were unfamiliar with it. ISSA contacted the gym owners and informed them about ISSA. The owners added ISSA to the list of preferred certifications.

    But Vince, before you do anything, check with the local gyms and find out the economics of training. It's not uncommon for a professional membership to run $400-$500 or more per month, in addition to which you need insurance, a business license, and have to set aside money for self-employment taxes and continuing education. Unless you can command a really good fee or work a lot of hours, you may not pick up that much "extra cash".

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    Jun 09, 2007 9:37 PM GMT
    I agree with oth BigJoey and Chucky. As I have pointed out in other threads, the level of knowledge and skills between different personal trainers are very vast.

    I also gave an example that some chain gyms, like the New York Sports Clubs here in New York City area, would hire anyone off the streets as long as they go through their own certification process. I see any young kids, with almost no experience with exercise and working out, and no previous knowledge of basic anatomy and physiology, becoming "personal trainers" for this chain of gyms, and it shows... And many ckients hire trainers based on looks and persoality, and they just trust the gyms when they gym tells them these are "certified trainers." I know at least one of my patient with grade III ankle sprain from a training session with one of their trainers. The things she told me they had her do was just horrific and non-skilled.

    As far as making a living out of this business, I do not know anything about it, but I can see how a young kid of the street wold rather work for New York Sports Club as they do not have to invest any $ for learning and can put in the least amount of time to become a working trainer and start making $ with no investmetns in the filed what so ever...

    So best luck to you. And take BigJoey's advice. I can only say that if you are passionate about what you do and want to learn, no knowledge is ever wasted. Knowledge ALWAYS make you a better professional in any field, period..
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    Jul 02, 2007 2:26 AM GMT
    the Cooper Institute (

    They have some well respected certifications
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    Aug 18, 2007 6:51 PM GMT
    Actually just visited NASM web site:

    Looks very impressive, but it looks expensive as well..

    But I don't think you need a undergrade degree in a related filed like biology... As a matter of fact, I don't think a college degree is even required according to their web site. You are only required to be CPR and AED certified... That will just take a few hours...
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    Aug 18, 2007 8:28 PM GMT
    You're right, NYC - apparently they have lowered the bar since I was studying for my original CPT some years ago.
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    Aug 18, 2007 8:32 PM GMT
    One comment to Vince: To be a good trainer takes, in addition to knowlege, a real desire to help people gain control over their bodies.

    It's also the bread & butter of a large number of dedicated people, who depend on it for their livelihood.

    If you're looking for flexible hours, remember that the hours you work (if you're an independent) are the hours your CLIENTS want to work. If you work for a gym, they probably won't care about your needs as a student.

    Getting the information for your own use is great. But as a casual "oh, I think I'll personal train to pick up a few bucks" it's possibly not your best choice. You need certification, continuing education, insurance, gym fees, and pay income tax on that which remains.

    It's NOT a walk in the park.
  • silverfox

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    Aug 18, 2007 10:32 PM GMT
    I was AFAA trained. This was eight years ago and though I haven't been actively training clients for the last three years I think it was one of the most rewarding work I have done in my life. Education is important but...

    Part of the "experience" has got to be about motivating clients...and feeling good about watching people get to their goals.

    If this isn't part of the equation then I don't think you will be successful.

    Just my 2 cents.