Monday, June 22, 2009


The other day I was browsing through Craigslist in Hartford, looking for DJ services for my upcoming wedding. I noticed there was a job category for "Fitness" and wanted to check out what was going on in the job market. This is what I noticed:

"Personal Trainer Needed - NO EXP NECESSARY"

"Fitness Models Wanted - MUST LOOK GOOD"

"Fit Pro's - NO CERT NEEDED, Will Train!"

I wondered when did our expectations of personal trainer qualifications drop so drastically? Apparently, no training experience or certifications are required anymore to be employed as a personal trainer -- at least here in CT.

That made me wonder. Do hospitals place job requirements such as:



"Physicians Wanted - NO EXP NECESSARY, Just have White Coat!"

I believe the public and the job market's perception of what exactly a personal trainer does is a bit skewed. This floundering perception is partially due to the un-regulation of the professional requirements necessary to design safe & effective programs; as well as increasing profit margins desired by big-box fitness facilities, as well as some small business owners.

So how do you know that the trainer you hire or the one that wears "Trainer" on the back of his/her shirt is legit?

1.) Ask what their certification is. Here are my top 5 certifications that I look for: NSCA, NASM, ACE, ACSM, ISSA. if your trainer tells you that they have 90 days to complete their certification through their employment, that is a red flag. Some employers do give a 30-90 period for a new staff to acquire a certification. But this means your trainer is also inexperienced and basically, un-tested. He or she may look great and have an invigorating personality, but they lack skills needed to work with "unscripted" or "out of the ordinary" client cases. Also, a passionate trainer will get the certification process going rather quickly if they decide to really cement their feet in this profession. Although not all certifications are created equal, they do provide a baseline of measure for qualifications. They are proof you trainer passed a test.

2.) Ask them what types of clients do they tend to work with. Experienced trainers have a specialty. Certain trainers know alot about one area of exercise program design, and therefore excel at training a certain type of population (athlete vs. weight-management). New trainers tend to work with everyone. This is not a bad thing, because it provides experience working with a large array of conditions. However, the longer a personal trainer stays in the profession...the "pickier" they get regarding who they work with. Specialization certifications give trainers "niches" in the field and furthermore, they are more successful at them.
3.) What is their background? Today, many people become trainers because they choose a rewarding career versus a monotonous 9 to 5 job. An athletic background can explain why a trainer prefers to work with athletes...a trainer who has success losing weight may explain why they prefer working with obese clients. A senior trainer may prefer to work with baby-boomers. Finding out a trainer's background can confirm if they are the right trainer for you, and if they are qualified to work with special populations.


  1. That's crazy. In Aus no one will hire you unless you've got your cert, registered with a national body, insured and have current first aid cert. Some gyms even specify they will not hire anyone who has done an online course.

  2. John it amazes me how many people hire trainers with no experience or certifications. Granted everyone has to start somewhere, but there's a difference between the trainer who has their certification pending vs. the one who just doesn't have it and isn't planning on getting it. It really irks me when people who have no interest in becoming certified consider themselves "fitness professionals". It devalues the good trainers.

    Anyway, good post John, hope all is well..

  3. Hey John:

    This is a topic that really gets under my skin. Because there are many of us out there who have studied/are studying long and hard to pass these certifications. Meanwhile there is a whole group of managers/clients out there who hire based solely on the looks of the trainer. The trainer may be in incredible shape simply due to genetics and some sort of fitness program, but it doesn't matter to them because this person looks good. (Not to say all really fit looking trainers don't know shit...look @ Craig Ballantyne).

    Anywho, the thing that bothers me is the trainer who isn't certified and isn't bothering to become certified. It's people like this that devalue personal training...

    Good post John, I'm really enjoying your blog. And I hope all is well...

  4. This is why I plan to get my ACSM cert before even looking for a place (or recruiting clients) to work... Granted I plan to start out slow but even my few clients should have a certified vs unprepared trainer...

  5. I absolutely agree guys. The only way we can change the perception of trainers from the "outside" world, is to clean up the industry. When people understand trainer are true professionals...then maybe demands will be tougher.

  6. But John, I've worked out before, and I like to look in the mirror and see how ripped I am. I'm definately certifiablly jacked, and that's accepted everywhere!

    Haha, I hate people like that


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