The field of "personal training" needs to be regulated.
Do you need a college degree to be a personal trainer?
Do you need a certification to be a personal trainer?
Doctors and therapists do not feel comfortable telling their patients to seek out a personal trainer to help them maintain their health because no standard of care exists.
“It’s literally the wild, wild west out there." “[Becoming a personal trainer] requires three things: It requires a computer, access to the internet and a good credit card, and you could be certified by no less than six organizations. Without third-party accreditation, you could make up an exam, put it online, charge $59.99 for it, and it would be meaningless,”- Dr. Walt Thompson
Health club owners don’t place emphasis on specific certifications.
“It can be a two-day certification, they don’t care. Without any standards or regulations in place, clients won’t know if the person training them is actually qualified to do so unless they investigate for themselves. Or if and when they get injured.”
- Kevin Steele, President of Personal Training Academy Global
“If you had a board-certified personal trainer in medical fitness, that would be the kind of language that would really resonate with physicians,” - Dr. James Lindberg
I can tell you from experience that many trainers working both independently, and in gyms, have no certification or credentials that qualify them to train others. Unlike dietitians, which have specific roles, responsibilities and guidelines they must adhere to by law, no such regulations or laws exist for personal trainers. By law, for example, a person must meet certain requirements to call himself or herself a dietitian or nutritionist.
In contrast, there is no law that stipulates what is required for someone to attach the status "personal trainer" to his or her name, so be wary. Yes, there may be some exceptions to this rule. An experienced professional with a master's degree in exercise physiology is probably more qualified than many personal trainers whose only experience comes from their weekend certification course.
While each organization that certifies trainers includes several safety standards that their trainers are supposed to abide by, including lists of exercises that they deem too risky and precise guidelines for how to progress a person through a fitness program, your trainer may go against these rules based on his or her own ideas and theories. I've seen countless trainers whose workouts are completely inappropriate and unsafe for the weight, health issues and fitness level of their clientele. I've seen trainers in the gym who allow people to perform highly advanced exercise in poor form and do nothing to correct them.
And in my opinion, it's the goal of far too many trainers to push a person to their physical limits, despite the fact that doing exactly that is counterproductive to that person's goals and against the safety recommendations of exercise organizations.
Just because they are in shape doesn't mean they are qualified to train you.
Many gyms are willing to hire "trainers" who simply have an interest in fitness but otherwise no credentials. Remember that there are countless diet and fitness programs one could follow. Some are safe. Some are healthy. Others are extremely risky.
Certifications exist for a reason—both to protect the fitness consumer and the trainer (against liability and lawsuits if they hurt you in some way). Certifications are based on medically accepted science, safe protocols, good judgment and sound research, among countless other safety measures.
You can attend a two-day clinic and take a test for your CrossFit Level 1 certification.
You can become an American Sports & Fitness Association water-aerobics instructor with a lifetime renewal, taking the test instantly (and as many times as you want) and paying the $499 fee only if you pass.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about half a million people hurt themselves using exercise equipment annually.
Can your "trainer" provide evidence of the following:
College degree in a related field
Up-to-date certification (from a nationally accredited organization.
Here is a list of Current NCCA-Accredited Certifications from the US Registry of Exercise Professionals: Credentials | The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals (usreps.org)
Make sure you are doing your homework! After all, you are paying for this...