7 Qualities That Distinguish the Best Personal Trainers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[e]mployment of fitness workers is expected to increase 29 percent over the 2008-2018 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.”

The reason for such phenomenal growth of the fitness profession is not hard to understand. Spurred on by health statistics and public service announcements about the dangers of leading a sedentary lifestyle, Americans are getting fit-or, at least, they are endeavoring to do so. Not only are they joining gyms and fitness facilities in record numbers, but also “an estimated 5 million Americans are using personal trainers” to help them achieve their fitness goals. (Source: Personal Fitness Professional magazine) One could say that another fitness fad has infected the American psyche, but where there’s a fad…

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There are charlatan personal trainers, ready to pounce on the naivete of health conscious consumers, and instead of helping individuals, they may at best do little to enhance their health and at worst, cause actual harm. There are ways, however, to separate those who are truly interested in helping others to achieve optimal fitness goals from those who simply are seeking to line their pockets. Experts say that the seven qualities that distinguish the best personal trainers are:

1. Education

Anyone can claim to be a personal trainer. But the very best way to judge the skills of a personal trainer, say experts, is in the type and amount of education that the trainer possesses. Ideally, they should have either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in exercise physiology, physical education, health and wellness, sports medicine, or anatomy. Such a degree verifies that the trainer possesses an in-depth knowledge about both exercise and the mechanics of the body, as well as the requisite training to provide safe and reliable instruction.

2. Certification

Many, if not most, personal trainers claim to be professionally certified, but even this claim should be treated with skepticism. Phil Kaplan, author of Personal Training Profits, says that there are over 300 certifying agencies, and not all are reputable. (Sadly, several of these agencies, in fact, do little more than mail a certificate-for the right price).

To ensure that a prospective personal trainer is truly qualified to work with your body, ask about the types of requirements he had to fulfill in order to become certified. The best certifying agencies require that the applicant pass both a written and a practical exam. Moreover, they require that the applicant fulfill a certain number of continuing education requirements as a condition of renewal of the certification. The two most respected certifications for personal trainers are:

· The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

· The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

3. Experience

The amount of experience that a personal trainer possesses is a good indication of quality. However, there is no established amount of experience that is applicable to all personal trainers. Therefore, in addition to asking about their previous experience in the field, you should observe their level of knowledge and competency during the training sessions.

A key factor is the ability to admit when there are gaps in knowledge-claiming to have nutritional expertise when in fact the individual has neither the experience nor the training to support such a claim might prove to be dangerous to the client. Indeed, the mark of excellence is understanding limitations and directing the client to an appropriate source who does possess the requisite expertise.

4. Excellent Observational Skills

A personal trainer should watch your every movement during the session, correcting your form or performance whenever necessary. He should also watch for subtle signs of dehydration and overexertion and take appropriate action. Furthermore, he or she should also evaluate the state of your health before the start of each session – by asking 1questions about sleep, emotional state, nutritional intake – and periodically monitoring the client throughout the training schedule. This will allow the trainer to measure fitness progress and to notice any changes that could signify a potential health issue and avoid injuries or overtraining.

5. Great Communication Skills

A quality personal trainer should be able to clearly communicate the exercise process. There should also be a mutual communication process between client and trainer, and goals should be revisited on a periodic basis. The client must feel comfortable disclosing any pertinent physiological or psychological issues that might impact performance, including without limitation, new medications. The goals of the client, provided that they are realistic, should be paramount and the trainer should be responsive to same.

6. Expert Motivators

Truly effective motivators use positive reinforcement, from focusing the client on their ideal image, injections of humor, challenges or other methods tailored to the psyche of the particular client. They should motivate by constructive correction, as opposed to criticism, and in general qualities such as confidence, optimism, and a passion for their profession are the hallmark characteristics of top trainers. They encourage you to perform better than you believe that you can, and they share your delight when you do indeed do that exercise or last repetition that you were convinced was impossible. In short, they challenge you, by a variety of techniques, to achieve you optimal fitness goals.

7. Networking with Medical Professionals

A quality personal trainer often has ties to the medical community. As noted earler, the trainer should recognize when a certain matter is outside of his or her expertise and refer the client to the proper medical professional.

Personal trainers who ignore this point can seriously injure a client. When one such trainer recommended that his client, Anna Capati, take diet supplements that contained ephedra (a stimulant), even though she had high blood pressure, his unqualified advice had fatal repercussions. Capati died from a brain hemorrhage, and her husband brought a lawsuit against Crunch Gym. The family’s attorney stated that Capati’s personal trainer, who had claimed to be trained and certified was neither and that he had “[given] out life-threatening advice that he wasn’t near qualified to give.” (Source: CBS News).

Benefits of Hiring a Personal Trainer

A qualified personal trainer can:

· Develop a customized diet and exercise plan for you.

· Provide you with undivided attention to ensure perfect technique for every exercise

· Motivate you to achieve your (realistic) dreams

· Ideally, though it is not essential, become your personal guru-and friend.

Though it may seem daunting to weed out unqualified personal trainers, the ultimate benefits will be well worth the effort.