I posted a while back on what makes a good personal trainer and having spent time around trainee trainers its been interesting to see the standard and quality of those people trying to get into the business and the level of knowledge they bring with them.
In the UK the exam board certification is very different to that in, for example the States and whilst I am not saying either method is best, it seems they have a lot to learn from each other. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Person Trainer (CPT) is a very thorough course and covers anatomy, nutrition and exercise prescription in a great deal of detail – far more than the equivalent course in the UK. The UK Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS), a Government based quango that attempts to regulate the fitness profession through voluntary membership (really?!) has, for some inexplicable reason, determined that such a course is only a Level 2 despite using the information provided by ACSM as part of their course material for Level 2 and 3!
The part missing from the ACSM course is though, the practical assessment which is a proper real client, hands on (well metaphorically!) assessment of technique and something sadly missing from the ACSM CPT exam. The UK Level 2 course is, well, to be honest, pretty basic and doesn’t come anywhere close to the complexity demanded from ACSM.
The UK Level 3 course is supposed to be more advanced than Level 2 and one would expect that the course itself would be more rigorous and demand a greater degree of skill and knowledge to pass – you would be sadly mistaken! It is still far less complex than that demanded from ACSM and covers a fraction of the information but again the only real difference is how you apply that knowledge and how you approach a client as part of a PT session.
What worries me though is that there are a number of trainers out there who have never lifted a weight in their lives, have only ever taken cardio classes, have never experienced a programme written by a PT or have never developed a healthy eating plan for themselves, let alone anyone else! How can they even attempt to be a PT? How can they ever give complicated, personal training advice when they haven’t even used a dumbell let alone even understood what drives a client to want to lose weight?
If the industry numbers are being added to on a daily basis it makes me wonder, is it just too easy to be qualified as a PT and are such ‘easy’ qualifications dumbing down the profession and reducing the credibility of trainers? And how do clients judge who is a good trainer and more importantly, who is experienced and SAFE?
There are a great many really good trainers out there who care about their clients and their results, who are professional, knowledgeable and deliver 100% all the time. And then there are those who are filling in time until something better comes along, the ones who want to pose at the gym (male and female!), the ones who really couldn’t care less and who deliver the same programme no matter what the client wants, the ones who never take the time to learn anything and who are basically only in it for the money and who couldn’t care less about being professional. They are the ones who undermine the credibility of PTs everywhere, who perpetuate the perception that PTs are just a bunch of meat-heads, posers or gym bunnies who are overpaid for doing very little and who ironically, as a consequence, inspire all the future half-hearted applicants who think it’s an easy ride.
As clients we put our faith in PTs, we want them to motivate us, push us, deliver programmes we couldn’t do on our own and above all we want them to get results that we couldn’t do on our own but how many of us have ever checked a PTs qualifications, checked them out to see if their training philosophy agreed with ours, how many of us took the time to see if we could (or wanted) to work with this trainer? We put our trust, and to a certain extent, our bodies, in the hands of our trainers but the skill levels vary so widely that unless we ask the right questions we could end up with the gym bunny who has only ever been on a treadmill, has never even used a barbell and who took seven weekend (yes just fourteen days!) to go from a receptionist to a qualified PT!
Maybe, just maybe, we should all be a little more sceptical and then perhaps we will get a trainer that will deliver the results we want and who will make the whole experience FUN rather than something to be endured and above all else, we will ensure our own safety!