Is your Personal Training Certification Exam enough to prepare you to be a successful and effective Personal Trainer?



Personal training certifications from National Certification Groups may be missing the boat in preparing trainers for the real job of counseling clients and helping them reach their goals.  National certification tests tend to be more focused on anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and basic health assessment and often focus more on training protocol for the healthy or active adult.  These are all wonderful aspects of training to learn, but are not enough to prepare a trainer for the real job of health and fitness coach or “personal trainer” as needed by our general public seeking these services. I have a voice in this because I own one such transformation company, Rapid Results Personal Training, which has been hiring trainers with these certifications for over fifteen years. After continually becoming frustrated as trainers were unprepared for the job and lacked assessment skill and education as well as the ability to design effective programs that ensured results, I endeavored to bridge the gap between the certification and the job.

Allow me to elaborate on the why first:

The average client is out of shape, unmotivated and uneducated and needs a trainer with the background and education to create a program based on their health assessment that is GUARANTEED to work if they follow it.  This requires a GREAT deal of preparation, confidence and experience on the part of the trainer. A simple set of study guides or a two day test and passing a written exam is NOT enough to prepare a potential trainer for these clients.  Trainers need hours of training practice on all kinds of clients from all backgrounds. Clients are NOT one size fits all in ANY respect.  They have individual health concerns, body types, endurance and strength tolerances, emotions, desires, motivational outlets, learning capacities, lifestyles, addictions, and moods and therefore their is NO book model that will outline them.

In order to be prepared trainers need to experience real life examples so they will know how to perform ACTUAL health assessments, how to create affective and successful fitness programs for these individual clients with their various situations. They will also need to know how to perform injury assessment and alter programs for injury clients.  Additionally, they must learn how to perform athletic endurance tests so they know how far to push athletes without causing injury as well as how to prepare a client to continue on their own after leaving a trainer so as to maintain results. All of this is learned during application not memorized in a book or obtained through practice in two weeks worth of “mach” or “pretend” sessions. On the other hand,  if trainers are expected to learn ON the job they put potential clients at risk as well as waste clients investment if they cannot in fact lead them to success due to lack of experience.

Additionally, trainers need “motivation counseling” practice as clients don’t just naturally do everything  they are asked by a trainer, but rather, they must be continually motivated and coaxed through goal counseling and recognition models.  Trainers must understand how to handle the various level of emotions experienced by clients as they embark on their transformation programs.  No book or test will prepare a trainer for that.  If trainers seek only these national certification tests they are not getting any of this preparation and because of that they often fail in their attempts  to create a career as a busy , thriving and results oriented personal trainer who is out there changing lives as most set out to do.

It doesn’t have to be that way. IF more certification groups would get on board with requiring a practicum with their personal training certifications, trainers would improve dramatically.  That is what we have been doing at Rapid Results Personal Training for over fifteen years. While no one can ever be prepared for EVERY possible situation in life, as people choosing a career in any type of life coaching especially one with a actual physical as well as emotional and mental aspect to it, it is imperative that we educate and prepare ourselves as fully as possible to offer the most professional and thorough training that we can.

I was so disappointed with the majority of  trainers with national certifications applying at my facility over the past 15 years that I decided to created my own 4 to 9 month training practicum and exam test which is required above and beyond any national certification or degree in exercise science. It has made an amazing difference.  My trainers are trained by me as the owner along with several advanced trainers who assist. Within four to six months of hands on personal training shadowing, bookwork sessions, daily note taking and progression into training while being shadowed they are light years ahead of the average trainer coming out of certification. They are given a great deal of knowledge and practical application as well as sales training, cpr training by an outside group and group fitness training for everything from kettlebell to cross training, glutes and abdominal classes.   They are given ample opportunity to ask many questions and get ALL the answers for their clients as well as see how  real clients respond to different types of training so they can determine what their style will be.  Clients enjoy the trainers going through practicum as they want to learn everything their trainers are learning so it is motivating for them as well!

The best part though is that trainers in my practicums are also offered training of their own while going through the certification so that they know EXACTLY what their clients will be experiencing and they have the opportunity to meet their own fitness goals WHILE going through the training and all without paying any extra.  If fact, our certification is less expensive than the cost of a course through the local colleges or personal training schools which try to make the same practicum  attempt except without real life application. While I give great credit to these groups for trying to expand beyond what the national certifications are offering, it is my experience that creating “mach” training with students who are receiving free personal training with no real commitment to a program, or creating made up clinical trials is NO substitution for seeing it “IN ACTION FOR REAL with real paying clients who are coming to a training center for help with their injury, weight loss or fitness goals with the hope of getting results”!  Its kind of like the idea of future doctors practicing surgery on dummy’s or animals…it just doesn’t quite mimick the real life situation of being in an operating room with a real person with a real heart, brain and systemic reactions. So because of that doctors have to actually assist with surgeries before performing them (thank goodness)! In the same sense, trainers need this real life program application that we provide to help them to be more prepared for the job and to allow them to be GREAT trainers who truly help clients to achieve SUCCESS!

It is my hope that over time more certification groups will realize this need and make practicums a part of their certifications so that we will no longer have trainers out there unprepared and unsuccessful due to lack of experience and training.  Clients should not have to worry that, while they did their due diligence and ensured that the trainer they hired was certified, they are still not knowledgeable or experienced enough to properly assess them and their health and provide a proper training program.  Book work alone is NOT what will prepare these trainers.  Real life application through practicum training is what will!

I know because I have trained MANY trainers over the last fifteen years and the ones who made it through the program (all but a few who decided training was not their career path after all) are THRIVING as amazing trainers who are either running their own training businesses, working as training managers, competing in fitness competitions or training for teams and corporate fitness companies.  I do not attempt to certify trainers as a business (my business is client transformations), I do this merely to ensure that my trainers that I contract are the BEST of the BEST! I refuse to have a client spend their hard earned money on a trainer in my facility that is not worth the investment.  I only take on two to three training practicums per year and my training practicums are always offered a training position at the end of the practicum if one is available.  If not, these graduates who are extremely marketable given the tools they are provided within the practicum are the pool from which I would hire in the future.  I only take on serious candidates who are ready to DEDICATE themselves and the next four to nine months on becoming amazing trainers.  It is school…so the work is long and hard but they ALWAYS become amazing trainers and NEVER have a problem getting hired if not by me.

If you are reading this and think you are that person send us an application for practicum consideration to  We only take two per year.

If you are a certifying organization and you understand this dilemna do something about it by changing your requirements.  Find companies like mine who care enough to want to make AMAZING trainers and team up with them to combine certifications with companies who will offer thorough practicums and help these trainers to thrive and more people to get results by working with well prepared, well educated trainers!

LaurieAnn Bonus
Owner Rapid Results Personal Training
Marietta, Ga

Real People, Real Results…Real Fast!

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