Monday, December 3, 2012

Should Weight-Training Be a Prerequisite When Pursuing a Personal Training Career?

The great thing about having a blog is you can write pretty much anything that you want in regards to any topic. This question has come up from time to time from many strength coaches and trainers...Should weight-training be a prerequisite when pursing a personal training career? Before I give my opinion on this, I'm going to break down the question:

Prerequisite is defined as "required beforehand". Synonymous include essential, required and precondition. Its important to understand certain words and phrases as we touch upon this topic; being mindful that not everyone will agree with me or read things carefully. When I think of a prerequisite, I think back into my college years and the amount of time I had to spend to get to Math 127 (Statistics). I was never very good at Math. I liked writing and art. Math was a subject I usually avoided. So in my first few years of college, I avoided any math classes. I was enjoying classes like Literature, Physical Education, Art Philosophy, Public Health...but Math classes I put on hold. When it came to my junior year, I learned that I could not take any courses that were pertinent to my degree without certain Math classes already completed.  This meant that I had to start all the way back to Math 95. Then Math 100, Math 101, Math 105, Math 120, Math 122 and finally Math 127. I learned that all those Math courses were prerequisites to the Math course I ultimately needed to progress into vital undergraduate courses. I took 3 semesters of straight up Math courses to catch up--with the help of a tutor. I learned the hard way that prerequisites are important to complete in the order that they are placed because they progressively prepare you for a specific end goal.

Weight-training is a form of exercise that uses external resistance such as of barbells, dumbbells, cables or weighted-balls to elicit muscle growth, strengthening and conditioning, and/or fat loss. There are lessons learned in a sweaty, dungeon surrounded by concrete walls and rusty iron. Those days when I visited the local YMCA to do some weight-training and it was 6 of us in a room 10 feet by 18 feet with a loud standing fan in the corner and foggy mirrors. At one point or another, many people are attracted to bodies that have ultimately been altered using weight-training. Muscles and revealing lines attract attention. Obtaining muscles from using weights is a learning experience--both physiologically and mentally. I remember a time when my father was painting the kitchen walls and he needed help moving a big refrigerator from the one side. I was around 8 or 9 then, and I began pushing the refrigerator and it wouldn't budge. My father was holding something and basically had his hands full. He yelled, "C'MON!!" And with that order...I tensed my body, blacked out my mind and pushed with all my might. Here I was....pushing this refrigerator around and my father said, "OK...that's good". I stopped to peer around the corner of the appliance and noticed that I had moved it beyond where he wanted it. From that day, I understood that the harder I push something...the more effort I make,  that it will move and it will change. When I hit my teens and discovered weights...this thought-process resurfaced and became a staple in my training.

A personal training career is sometimes confused with a personal training job. According to the dictionary, career is defined as " occupation, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework." A job is a short-term 'pit-stop' to make some money. Jobs can last a few months to a few years. However, a career is something that is sought after for years and obtained through education, specialized training and dedication. Dedication ensures that a career becomes the epitome in someone's life: the bread and butter of survival and the identity of one's lifework. That term "lifework" is important to this post because in order for a person to become a personal trainer; there should be a "lifework" leading up to this endeavor  That decision is based on a lifework that may or may not include athletics, sports, dance, pageantry, or emphasis on health.  All of which, will include some sort of physical alteration using weight-training.

Weight-training is used to enhance one's body and musculature for aesthetic reasons, human functionality and for sports performance. Growing up, if you engaged in weight-training--chances are you experienced changes in your body and in your mentality.  Confidence and self-worth improve, which translates to better self-efficacy in an individual sport or event. There is also a sense of empathy that comes with spending grueling hours in a gym lifting rusty weights.

To go from Point A (feeling negative towards one's self or need for improvement) to Point B (developing positive feelings and fulfilling needs of improvement); creates a nostalgic road of hard work, high's and low's, and commitment. A lifework that includes regular weight-training enhances our ability to commit  That understanding of commitment is the driving force to changing one's physique. We know that success in physique alteration takes commitment because it is the culmination of differing forms of exercise that make the change people seek.

The most committed and successful trainers that I have encountered over the years have always been the ones that had a background that included exercise--and more commonly, weight-training. Regardless of sport background or emphasis on physique alteration (lose bodyfat); the characteristic commonalities always included:

1.) commitment
2.) fortitude (mental toughness)
3.) empathy
4.) passion
5.) understanding of the knowledge acquired

The last one is an important one. Having an understanding of the knowledge acquired in college courses, books, or certification manuals allows a trainer to customize and troubleshoot programs or current client fitness levels; without a skipping a beat. When a trainer has experience with exercise including weight-training, there is a smoother accepting and processing of the information learned. For instance, if a person has bench pressed his max, he has an understanding of what it took to get there. Whether by means of trial and error, or scattered programming,  the person has an understanding of the amount of work and effort it took. If a person deadlifts a new personal record, he or she has an understanding of the process involved to get there. If a person has lost an incredible amount of weight....that took time...and he or she has developed an understanding and empathy for that process. Those experiences have provided the trainer with valuable information in the form of feedback. The reactions the body undergoes during weight-training exercise is pertinent to helping others.

Albert Einstein once said, "...if you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don't know it well enough".

That quote resonates with strength coaches and personal trainers--in the trenches--because there is an abnormal amount of students that enter the fitness field, having memorized test answers and squeaked by certification exams to be considered fitness professionals. As an instructor myself at the college level, I am seeing an influx of even exercise instructors without an ounce of muscle mass...never having the chance to perform 5 pull-ups, bench press their bodyweight or squat to parallel. They are professional students turned teachers.

End of my rant. To reflect on the beginning of this post. A fitness career that supports your lifestyle, family and future is prefaced by a lifework of sports, exercise performance or desire to change. Whether it is weight-training or not, any one that discovers the ability to enhance,  improve, or change the way their body looks and feels through different means develops an understanding and a love to share that information. It takes a body of work to alter the human body, including grueling days and nights in a gym. However,  those hard-pressed hours become the bedrock for  your success as a fitness professional or strength coach.

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