Virtually every Personal Trainer will have a series of letters after their name indicating some, if not all, of the fitness certifications they hold. Often it will be CPT, meaning Certified Personal Trainer. The organization that bestows the title is more important than the letters CPT. This article will give you an idea what to look for AND what to look out for in a Personal Trainer’s certification. Armed with this information, you will have a much better opportunity to hire the right Personal Trainer for YOUR needs.
Currently there are currently only seven organizations in the exercise industry that meet the stringent requirements of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, The Cooper Institute, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the National Council on Strength and Exercise, the National Federation of Professional Trainers, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Holding a certification from one of these organizations does not mean you’ve found a Great Personal Trainer. It means that individual meets one of the criteria for being a Great Personal Trainer (see my article on The Five Traits of a Great Personal Trainer) and may possibly be the person to help you get in the best shape of your life. Getting in the best shape of your life does not include limitations for age or your current physical condition. Unless you are afflicted with an ailment that precludes exercise, a Great Personal Trainer can help you get in the best shape of your entire life, as safely, painlessly, and expediently as possible, regardless of age or current physical conditioning. That is the Personal Trainer we are seeking!
A certification from one of the above organizations means the Personal Trainer has met a strict and thorough process to become a Certified Personal Trainer. They have an understanding of anatomy and physiology, which exercises work various muscle groups, a basic understanding of designing an exercise program for a variety of clients with differing physical abilities, and the knowledge to implement those programs. Importantly, the organizations also require CPR certification and continuing education to maintain certification. CPR certification is important for obvious reasons…and not just in an exercise setting. If you are not CPR certified, consider doing it. You will learn how to potentially save a life with a few hours training.
The continuing education requirement for Personal Trainer certification is vital because exercise science is a dynamic discipline. Ongoing research studies by non-biased entities, such as universities and hospitals, provide constant information updates on our understanding of how exercise affects the human body. This promotes more effective program design and more efficient results for the client. In other words, by staying informed about updates in exercise science your Personal Trainer can continue to help you achieve peak performance, improving your fitness level as proficiently as possible!
There are too many “Certified Personal Trainer” programs to list that do not meet the standards of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The reasons they don’t meet the standards are also too numerous to list but let me give you a few: For $99 you can take an online test for certification and become a CPT instantly. If you fail the first time you are allowed to continue re-taking the test until you pass. Multiple organizations design their own educational material, administer their own tests, and grade those test, with no outside oversight. Think about that for a minute.
Would you want your doctor to be educated, tested, and licensed without some type of objective outside oversight? I think not. Other programs are put together by bodybuilders or powerlifters and cater to that audience. The problem is that they are only “qualified” to work with that small segment of the population but their business card says “Certified Personal Trainer.” When their rent is due, they may decide you meet the requirements to become one of their clients. This is a short list of the potential problems encountered when dealing with a Personal Trainer certified by anyone other than the seven organizations certified by the NCCA. My advice is to avoid them.
Certification by one of those seven groups does not guarantee …