As someone who has worked in the fitness industry for many years, I am often ask which personal training certification I think is the "best". It's a very good question because there are so many different certifications out there to choose from. Just a few of the more familiar organizations that certify personal trainers include ACE, AAAI/ISMA, ISSA, NSCA, NPTI, WITS, the Cooper Institute and ACSM. Trying to decide which organization to go with can be overwhelming.
But it doesn't have to be if you remember this fact: the general public will probably NEVER ask you "who are you certified by". This is because the public does not know the difference between ACE, WITS, NPTI, NSCA or any other personal training certification.
Another fact is that all personal training certifications basically cover the same main areas of knowledge. All fitness training organizations (and their textbooks) place emphasis on exercise science, muscle and cardiovascular physiology, anatomy, fitness testing, exercise program design, basic safety / first aid, geneal nutrition and exercise technique.
The difference between each organization is how in depth the certification exam and study materials are. Some personal training study books are so hung up on counting every ATP molecule made in the Krebs cycle that they forget to mention that people should be more focused on burning calories during exercise and not burning fat. In other words, they place more emphasis on the obscure E=MC2 high tech science stuff, rather than the information that people can use right now.
If you want to be a personal fitness trainer and been wondering about what cert you should get, give your mind a rest and don't get hung up on which is the best certification. The trick is to look at several certification programs and find a certification that's:
2. Teaches you what you need to know to work safely with others
3. Allows you to get re-certified relatively easily. And...
4. Is cost effective for your budget.
Remember, Knowledge is more valuable to people then a fitness certification or the size of one's biceps. Consumers are very smart and they look for professionals who can save them time not only working out but also as they search for answers about their health and wellness.
Regardless, the most important thing to do is to keep educating yourself. Remember, a certification does not mean you know everything. Most people are more concerned with how smart you are than how much you can bench press. Having a certification plus six-pack abs may get you a few clients but if you can't accurately answer a question like "why does my urine look dark colored after I work out," you are at a BIG disadvantage and you probably won't keep those clients very long. Most certifications only teach facts and not how to apply those facts to the real world. Thats why I wrote my personal training book to help fitness trainers avoid mistakes and understand how the facts apply to real life.
Joe Cannon, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT holds an MS degree in exercise science and a BS in biology and chemistry. As a writer and educator, he is a consumer advocate who tries to educate the public about the myths and misunderstanding that permeate the health, nutrition and wellness industry. He is also a self employed personal trainer who educates and certifies personal trainers. He has authored books on personal training, dietary supplements and sports nutrition and has written for several publications.
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