When Choosing a Personal Trainer All Certifications are not Created Equal

Working with a personal trainer can be a rewarding experience that can significantly increase your odds of achieving your long term fitness goals. In fact, one university study showed a 57% increase in individuals’ attitudes regarding physical activity after a 10-week program with a trainer. This outcome will most likely lead to greater physical activity for the participants over longer periods of time.

When choosing a personal trainer one should take many factors into consideration such as the trainer’s education, experience level, demonstrable ability to produce results, and personal chemistry. However, a crucial consideration is the organization from which the trainer is certified. The personal training industry is highly unregulated where out of many hundreds of certifying agencies there are only a handful that are considered legitimate by serious fitness professionals. Some of the low quality organizations offer certifications after just a brief internet correspondence course. On the other hand, the top tier organizations are much more rigorous and require months if not years of study in practical knowledge areas to pass the certification exam. Additionally, these higher quality organizations often require verifiable continuing education credits and an up-to-date CPR certification to maintain the accreditation. Some of the more reputable organizations include: National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The Certified Personal Trainer designation that I hold is through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) regarded by many professionals to be the “Gold Standard” and has one of the most rigorous credentialing exams in the industry. In addition, I hold a Corrective Exercise Specialist designation through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).


Steven R. McClaran, “The Effectiveness of Personal Training on Changing Attitudes Towards Physical Activity,” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (March 2003)

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