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Becoming a Personal Trainer

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I got my ISSA trainer's certification some time ago and never ended up using it, but they're a reputable certifying organization and one of the better "study at home" courses you can take and are worth checking out. Back about a decade ago, it was around $500 for me to enroll, I studied for about 4 hours/week total (usually an hour or two during the week and a few more on Sundays), took about 3 months to get through the course at that pace. Of course, not keeeping up with my CEUs has put me back to square one, but I don't expect I'll be training anyone any time soon.


Best bet is to start with the following:


1. Do you want to work for someone else (gym, training studio in your area, etc.) or train people yourself either in your home or at their homes? Do you have hopes to open your own small facility, or want to use someone else's equipment/space to keep things simple?


2. If you want to train people yourself, then the certifying agency you go with is certainly 100% your call, you can either choose an expensive high-reputation certifying agency, or, one of the cheap "barely-cover-anything" certifiers just so you can be a trainer, that's your call. HOWEVER, if you plan to work for someone else, you should always do research into what their expectations are. Some places want you to have a degree in exercise science to work there, some will require that you're certified via one of their preferred organizations (ISSA, NCSM, etc.), others just want to see ANY certification and proof of liability insurance (another factor to consider, don't ever bother training anyone unless you're covered in case something goes wrong!) Here in our area, the requirements vary - my business partner said he wouldn't even consider bringing someone on board to our facility unless they have a degree in exercise science/kinesiology and have at least 2 years' hands-on experience training athletes. Another chain in the area requires ISSA, NCSM, or one of a few other reputable groups to have given their certification. Then, there's Bally's, where they've had the one-day course where you can be certified and are then qualified to train there (which is why I wouldn't ever bother throwing my money at them, half of their trainers in our area are barely qualified to tie their own shoes). And, of course, the pay scale for working for someone else often depends on their requirements for qualification - you work at Bally's, you make about $12-14/hour as a trainer. You work at one of the better ones, you could be making $15-25/hour starting pay. Of course, if you work for yourself, you can set the rates, but the certification you possess will certainly impact what opportunities you have elsewhere and what you can make by working for them.


Lots to think about, but if anything, see what reputable certifications your local establishments will accept for you to work for them, it's the best place to start unless you have the money and drive to start being your own boss ASAP. Most trainers I know have started working for someone else to get the experience under their belts, THEN moved to doing their own thing, it seems to be the better path!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I train a breakdancing at a gym. A few independent gyms may not require cert. I got around this by training. On the other hand if you decide to train yourself insurance cost around 300 dollars. If you train clients yourself get liability insurance and it is cheaper with a certification but still affordable if you don't want to go the cert rout. Since it is safer to be covered read this. http://www.starting-a-personal-training-business.com/personal-trainer-professional-liability-insurance.html

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Great question. I've been looking into this also. Here's from wiki:


A number of certifications are available in United States of America, although a number are not accredited. Most require a high school diploma, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, and some type of examination.[6]

A 2002 investigation evaluated a random sample of 115 personal trainers using the Fitness Instructors Knowledge Assessment (FIKA) (which measures knowledge in nutrition, health screening, testing protocols, exercise prescription, and special populations). The study described that:[8][9]

70% of those surveyed did not have a degree in any field related to exercise science.

Those who did not have a bachelor's degree in exercise science-related field scored 31% less than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the field.

Those holding either an American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certification scored 83% of the questions correctly.

Those holding any other certification (not ACE, ACSM or NSCA) answered 38% of the questions correctly.

Years of experience was not predictive of personal trainer knowledge.


In partnership with the fitness industry, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) (which represents over 9,000 health and fitness facilities) started an initiative in 2002 to improve standards for both its own clubs and the industry as a whole. In January 2006, IHRSA implemented a recommendation that its facilities only accept personal trainers with certifications recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or an equivalent organization. IHRSA considers other accreditation agencies if recognized either by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and/or the U.S. Department of Education (USED). As of January 2010, the ACE, ACSM and NSCA certifications are among the 15 accredited certifications recognized by IHRSA, two of which are accredited by an agency other than NCCA (the Distance Education Training Council (DETC)).[10]


There remains no national legal restriction on the industry to date.





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Ive been a trainer for years and was a professional athlete for over 10.


NASM is good, I got my first cert with ISSA which is good too. But the truth is only people who care about a cert is the gym youll train out of and more importantly the insurance and AED card you hold. I havent recertified in 4 years, as my clients dont care or ask. That said constantly evolving your training, method, and modalities IMO has to come from you not NASM, ACT or ISSA.


Also their is a false illusion that get a cert be training clients. I have two friends all fired up got spent their $500+ and cant get any clients who will pay more then $55 in this economy. Its hard work, and inconsistent. With the economy the first thing to go was dispensable income. Also dont work out of a gym is cool if you do small fee group boot camp deals. IMO thats great. That said if you have the skill set and then the clients to yield 85+ an hour then you will need an intimate and good gym. I train out of one facility that is a trainer only gym and my rate their varies from 150-175 [depending on the client] with a 25$ floor fee.


Go to a place like Equinox that have a goofy tier system, and you'll yield 20 an hr: caveat being youll only get that when your doing training sessions atleast in the beginning.


Im really lucky and have some great successful clients but training is hard career. Example: holidays nearly all my clients left for Aspen, Europe and Saudi Arabia. literally. so no income since December 15th with one back this week.


Regardless good luck, thought Id give you the straight scoop atleast from my side

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