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What is the Job of a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer?


What does a professional Certified Personal Fitness Trainer really do?

The goal is simple: to help clients reach their goals in the most efficient, effective, and safest way possible. This means designing programs that include exercising without wasted effort. Such programs minimize injury and maximize the benefits of improved performance, whatever the goal may be. This cannot be accomplished without taking the time to understand the principles of exercise science and taking into account the individual limitations and needs of each client. There is not one perfect program for everyone. The job of the Certified Personal Fitness Trainer is to fit the program to the client (never the other way around).

The professional personal fitness trainer is a guide who leads clients from point A (their current health and fitness status) to point B (their fitness goals and health needs). This is also known as Bridging the Gap.

How do we get from point A to point B in the shortest and quickest way possible? NESTA breaks it down into simple steps:

Step 1: Assess

Why assess? What does it mean to assess?

Point A – Begin with the client’s current health and fitness level.

If the job of a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer is to get a person from point A to point B, you must first find out where your client is now (A) and where they wish to go (B).

To properly design programs for clients, the trainer must determine the client’s explicit and implicit wants and needs (goals). Explicit goals are goals that are mentioned by the client. Your client may tell you that they would like to lose weight. This is an explicit goal. Implicit goals are implied but are not necessarily mentioned. In this case, your client would clearly like to lose weight in the safest and quickest way possible. They don’t want to waste a lot of time and money. While they may not mention this, it should be obvious. Determine your client’s goals in explicit detail by asking questions until you know what they want and the deeper reasons why they want it. You cannot plan to meet their goals until you understand what drives them.

Know your client. They may be with you for a long time. An individual client assessment may help form a client’s goals (by showing them their own capabilities and limitations firsthand) and will provide you as a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with their needs (through your close observations during the physical and fitness assessments). An initial assessment gives a baseline fitness level, helps to identify risk factors, and can be an effective motivational tool. The results should be used to develop goals and design an effective and efficient exercise program.

What do you assess?

Assessing your clients may include performing a health history, exercise history, and any physical (i.e. blood pressure, body composition, etc.) and fitness assessments (i.e. cardiovascular and strength endurance tests, etc.) that would help to establish a baseline for later personal comparison.

Assessments are more valuable as a comparison to the individual themselves as compared to the norm. As their Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, it is your job to improve your client’s individual skills and abilities, not solely to seek or to meet the guidelines of a societal norm. A proper health screening must be performed to establish a possible need to be seen by a physician before proceeding with a new exercise regimen.

A trainer may choose from varying cardio-pulmonary, metabolic or musculoskeletal assessments. These must be standardized assessments with a specific protocol to ensure consistency and validity. This establishes a baseline and gives you greater recognition of your client’s current fitness level and the need for future improvements based upon their needs. Assessments are vital in establishing your professionalism. Performing an in-depth assessment protocol (a precise and detailed plan) shows that you both care enough to learn more about your client and that you are professional enough to be extremely thorough before proceeding with their program. You cannot train what you do not understand.

Point B – The needs and wants (goals) of the client.

Identifying a client’s goals can mean the difference between success and failure, and maintaining or losing a client. A trainer must have a clear idea of exactly what the client wants to accomplish, in order to successfully reach their end goals (point B). Showing the client that you care by investing in their needs is crucial to not only gain a new client, but to also retain long-term customers. A select few trainers are able to maintain a steady client base. Your client base will either grow, or it will de- cline. Your clients are your walking billboards. They are a testament to your abilities as a trainer and their physical success leads directly to future business for you.

Step 2: Design

How does a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer begin to design an exercise program?

Once you have gathered all the necessary information you need through a thorough client assessment (all performed within one training session), the principles of proper program design and progression must be implemented to properly customize the client’s exercise program. The principles of program design are based on the fundamental sciences (i.e. anatomy, exercise physiology, nutrition, etc.) that are covered in this manual.

Step 3: Instruct

What is the basis for proper instruction?

Based on the principles of proper biomechanics, the personal fitness trainer will teach proper exercise techniques while making appropriate modifications. You must advise your clients by using both scientifically proven principles of training combined with effective coaching skills. This will motivate the client into taking action and ultimately move them closer to the results they desire.

Step 4: Re-assess

What specifically must the personal fitness trainer re-assess?

The personal fitness trainer will continually assess the progress of a client on both a micro level and intermittently assess on a macro level.

A micro assessment is the close monitoring of every exercise repetition. If form breaks down, you should be able to identify the cause (roughly speaking, as this can be very difficult and complex) before you can expect to design the appropriate exercise in order to see a marked improvement. It is the job of the trainer to both identify a client’s strengths and to discover weak areas.

A macro assessment concerns the individual as a whole and the 1-2 month full reassessment is crucial in order to determine progress. A professional Certified Personal Fitness Trainer must devote the greatest amount of their time toward a client’s imbalances or deficiencies while highlighting the client’s abilities. Weaknesses must be isolated and treated before strengths can be harnessed.

Macro assessments are the 1-2 month follow-up to the assessments which were completed in the first step. This will show that you have designed the workout properly and whether your instruction and coaching has been beneficial in producing the desired client results. If results are not acceptable (or exceptional) from the client’s perspective, changes must be made (to redesign or make necessary program changes and reestablish new goals). This task becomes easier with experience as you commit to listening to your client by applying their assessment information toward bridging the gap between their personal needs and wants and their individual goals.

What Do You Need to Know?

In a sense, the process of bridging the gap can be looked at as the process of maximizing performance. Maximum performance is performing efficiently both physiologically and mechanically. In order for this to happen, you must first understand the basic sciences of the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology and biomechanics) of the human body. Only then can you understand the proper applications of the various sciences to ensure both physiological and mechanical efficiency for your clients.

The structure of this program requires that you prepare to be a trainer just like an athlete pre- pares for an event. Before athletes approach the starting line they must first prepare themselves physically and mentally for the challenge to come. You must also prepare yourself by learning and understanding the basic sciences before you can understand the applications of safe and efficient training.

Once an athlete reaches the starting line they will apply their knowledge and skills obtained in training to successfully complete the race. In a similar way, after you master the fundamental sciences and prepare for your “race” by preparing as a trainer, you are then ready to start by beginning the practice of being a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer. For a novice athlete, the race is often long and arduous. Your learning must be the same. The most successful trainers are lifelong students of the structure and function of the human body and how to optimize it for their clients.

When you focus on the basic sciences first, only then will you be able to successfully utilize the tools you have learned. It is the ongoing process of assess-design-instruct where you will apply foundational sciences. It is not enough to simply have the tools to be a great trainer, you must also know how to apply the tools better than other trainers and better than what your clients can do on their own.

How to Start a Personal Training Career

This article is originally published in the NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer manual.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

Is your recertification coming up? Learn more about earning your CEU credits. You can find the full list of CEU courses here.

One of the most popular and fastest ways to get started working with clients while you travel is to coach/train online. You will want to learn more about GymGo. GymGo lets you work with clients and make money in different ways: online, live-streaming virtual training & on-demand training. Use our link to get yourself a free 14-day trial >>>

If you are ready to start your online personal training or coaching business, don’t forget to learn more about our online coaching course. You will also really enjoy this very comprehensive training course called Online Expert Empire.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

That’s it for now.

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