Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It is both a preventive medicine, a deterrent of metabolic disease, and a means to improve athletic performance. It is a growing field filled with educated professionals who hold accredited certifications and degrees ranging from bachelors to doctorates. They study concepts related to exercise physiology, bio-energetics, kinesiology, athrokinematics, anatomy and physiology and motor learning, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. With all of the qualified professionals out there, why would the consumer select a health and fitness professional with no credentials? After all, would you trust a doctor who never studied medicine?
The health and fitness industry, as we know it, is a disaster. It is filled with far too many who claim to know about the industry yet don’t, and there aren’t enough people who make sure they have the degrees and certifications to back up their knowledge. Just so you have an understanding of the current landscape in health and fitness, the educational requirements for a Certified Personal Trainer is a high school diploma or equivalent. The issue is not simply the level of education, but the fact that not all certifications are accredited. Yup, that means that anybody sitting in their pajamas can take an open book exam on the internet and become a non-accredited personal trainer. Imagine if your doctor did that. How safe would you feel? Probably not safe at all. So you shouldn’t feel safe with a personal trainer who isn’t accredited, after all, they are looking after your body just like a doctor. If you have had a personal trainer train you in the past, did you know their educational background? Were they certified? Maybe you overlooked that, huh? The following is a guide to helping you select a health and fitness professional. First thing here is a list of (NCCA) National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredited certifications
Next, at the minimum, make sure that the individual holds a Certified Personal Trainer credential and at least a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science or related field (kinesiology, exercise physiology, athletic training, physical therapy, nutrition and dietetics). Make sure that they are keeping their certifications up to date. Make sure that when you sign up for training, you are pre-screened for exercise ability and that your trainer has reviewed your medical history, and your current physical conditioning to assess your level of fitness and health. If your trainer does not do this then they are putting your body at risk. If your trainer does not prescreen you, know that he is pretty much treating your health like a surface that he or she will throw “grenades” against, because when one throws a grenade you are bound to hit something. If your trainer does not prescreen you, your exercise program has probably been designed on these principles:
To be clear there is no “right” when it comes to exercise program design, but there is a “righter,” more efficient and optimal way to designing a program. Individual who utilize the concepts learned in school usually follow these principle when designing an exercise program:
And anything else they learned while achieving a degree. So I know all this seems like jargon so here is a general breakdown of these science based topics:
Bio-energetics is the understanding of the body’s energy systems and their relation to exercise; examples include ATP-PC, Glycolysis, Oxidative cellular respiration (including beta oxidation) and protein metabolism (Transamination and Gluconeogenesis). Basically, under certain physical stress your body will be more dependent on certain energy systems. Think sprinting versus jogging: both the duration and intensity of each place a different physical demand on the body, thus your body provides energy for these physical activities using different energy systems. During the sprint the body primarily uses ATP-PC to produce the energy required to perform a sprint, during the jog (assuming long duration) your body draws its primary source of energy form Oxidative Cellular Respiration and Glycolysis. Keep in mind that all three energy systems are always going, but the intensity and duration of physical activity is what determines which energy system will be the primary provider of energy for physical activity. Let’s see your weekend personal trainer explain that to you when you ask why you’re doing a specific activity.
Resistance Training Principles are related to how the body should be loaded to create a positive adaptation, increased size of the muscle (hypertrophy), strength, endurance, speed etc. There is an optimal way to load, and those who study exercise science generally know how to do this more effectively, safely, and efficiently than those who don’t.
Periodization is the organization of a training program over a period of time. This is done to avoid the less desired resistance training principles like retrogression and reversibility (overtraining and detraining) and that inevitable plateau that we all seem to encounter at some point in our lives. For athletes, it is ever important to improve over time without any performance decrease, especially in a season of competition.
Biomechanics address how the body moves. Knowledge of this is what will keep a client (you) safe from injury when exercising. Physics, or the applied physics in relation to fitness, is the understanding of how that load that your lifting will move, should move, and how, in the long run, it will improve your performance. Research based applications are important because knowledge is constantly expanding in the field of health and fitness. So many new concepts are coming forward, so it is important that the health and fitness professional is up to date with current information.
With all of this being said, understand that degrees, and certifications may not make the best health and fitness professional for you; just keep in mind that they should possess the capacity to apply concepts, to design the safest and most effective exercise program for you, and they should motivate and educate their clients in a way that will increase their clients current health status. Your best bet is to go with someone who feels pride in what they do and attempts to provide you with the best service possible. So to be safe ask these questions:
Just as a disclaimer: there are professionals who do not have a degree, who are very good at what they do, because they still make an effort to read and research principles from legitimate educational sources. These individuals also probably have had the pleasure to work with or alongside very good, very educated, health and fitness professionals who guided, trained, and educated these “non-degreed pros.” These individuals are gems. Yet, these gems are very scarce, I believe that it would benefit the industry as a whole if they get a degree, thus promoting a uniform standard in the industry.
I hope this article helps you the next time you look for someone to train you or your family.