Do you have a passion to help people reach their physical fitness goals? Maybe you’re always the one at the gym who’s offering to spot bench press lifters or you’re there to point out technical issues to those around you. Today We will review the best personal training programs…
Now, it’s probably best to not just tell people what to do at the gym (unless they ask, of course), even if you have a passion for it.
However, if you want to be someone others come and seek advice from while working with all sorts of people to improve physical fitness, maybe becoming a personal trainer is in your future?
Now, you can go the longer college route and become a physical therapist and expand outward from there.
That option does provide the most opportunities, both work wise and financially.
However, that is not the only option. There are several different personal training certification programs out there. Certifications help you land positions in gyms while demonstrating your expertise.
So if you are serious about helping others at the gym, check out these different personal training programs.
Before Enrolling In The Best Personal Training Programs
Before you head out to one of the different personal training programs, there are some tidbits of information you need to know ahead of time. Each program has its own set of prerequisites.
In general, you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age and have CPR and AED (automatic external defibrillator) certifications. If you don’t have these certifications you can enroll in courses at your local community college.
There are also short programs available to your local community that focus specifically on these hands-on medical requirements, which are often completed in no more than a few weeks.
It is also best to have at least a GED. Most (but not all) personal training programs require you to have this educational minimum.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
In terms of personal training certifications that bring with it a high level of employment opportunities, few are able to compete with the ACE.
This is because some gyms (such as Gold’s Gym) requires you to have this certification in order to work with the gym.
So what makes the ACE such a desirable form of certification?
It’s because it covers the widest range of fitness methods. Unlike others that are more specialized, this one is designed to have the widest breadth of training. With this kind of certification, you have the ability to work with most people at their fitness goals.
It is important to note you can stack your certifications. While this one offers the widest coverage, you may want to increase your personalization and knowledge by looking at more specific programs. As is the case with most other lines of work, the more certifications you have the more job potential you’ll hold as well (ACE Fitness, 2018).
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
This personal training program is almost as old as ACE (NASM came about in 1987 while ACE started in 1985). As the name suggests, there is more science-based information included while studying for the certification.
Receiving additional scientific insights can prove especially beneficial. With this certification, it’s not just about how to reach someone’s goals but why the techniques work in order to reach someone’s goals. The NASM certification begins to run closer to a physical therapist line of education.
For example, you’ll discover why certain muscles and tendons work during a set exercise.
You’ll uncover how each muscle works, how it works and what is needed to improve the performance of the muscle. This kind of information can prove helpful, especially if you work with a client who’s struggling to reach their workout goals, no matter what it is they do. You’ll have greater insights into how the body works and why it may not be performing as normal.
Both NASM and ACE are accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies).
This is extremely important to note as the NCCA is the physical fitness standard throughout the country. Due to this, when you begin your journey towards becoming a personal training, you need to seek out an NCCA program first.
Only then, after you receive accreditation within the program, should you consider branching outward to different programs. The other programs are fine as supplemental training protocols, but usually do not offer the same in-depth and wide-ranging training education (NASM, 2018).
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
Do you want to help people increase their strength and boost their conditioning?
If so, you may want to seek out certification from the NSCA. This program, like the next personal training program on the list, is one of the most difficult to obtain certification in. The exam itself requires around half of all those testing to take it at least a second time (due to failing it the first go around).
The NSCA, as well as the American College of Sports Medicine certification, are the only two personal training programs with a published peer-reviewed scientific journal. That demonstrates the level of appeal and respect found in having a certification with the NSCA and ACSM.
Many of the other personal training programs are if you want to work with individuals just trying to get in shape or who have been away from the gym for a while.
But what happens if someone who’s in solid physical condition wants to boost their production and jump-start muscle gain after it has leveled off?
They will need someone with next level personal training education. That’s what you obtain when you have a certification with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. You’re able to work with these individuals, such as professional bodybuilders and athletes in search of boosting their peak performance.
If you want to work at the neighborhood gym and help those coming in off the streets, the other more basic personal training programs are better suited for you. However, this is a great second tier personal training program when you want to take your own education and your ability to help higher-tier athletes to the next level (NSCA, 2018).
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
The ACSM is both the oldest form of personal training certification on this list and one of the most difficult.
The study focuses not only on the performance of the body but the physical makeup of the body. This includes an in-depth study of anatomy and physiology. This kind of a program is excellent if you want to work with more than just people who want to build muscle or drop the pounds. The course centers on human functionality.
Think of it like this: there are mechanics who know how to take an engine apart and put it back together.
Then there are mechanics who can take it apart but also know what every single piece does and how it affects the other pieces.
That’s what the ACSM is.
Being certified by the American College of Sports Medicine is highly respected. This is because the program itself is difficult. Roughly half of the test takers fail their examination the first time around. While that may initially sound like a bad thing, it means it’s highly selective and difficult, so if you do receive certification from the ACSM, it instantly stands out.
If you are not interested in the in-depth functioning of the human body, this is not the personal training program for you.
However, if you want to learn as much as possible, obtain an education in a setting similar to that of a university program and want to increase your job offerings and earning potential, ACSM is one of the best options around. Just make sure you can put in the time into studying for the exam, as it compares with college-level anatomy and physiology courses (ACSM Organization, 2018).
American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA)
Of all the programs on the list, this is the newest, being around for about 25 years now.
However, one of the major benefits connected to this program is there are different specialty courses provided with the AFPA.
This way, you can fine-tune your personal training certification in order to better fit the kind of training you wish to provide.
For example, you can focus on injury prevention, nutrition, posture analysis, fitness for longevity and so on. You’ll also receive specific certifications for different areas of study. By having individually recognized certifications, you can continually build your education and expand in your knowledge base.
Another perfect of the AFPA is it is owned by military veterans. The organization will reimburse you for your costs if you are a current or former member of the armed forces. If you are and want to pursue a career in physical training, this is an excellent way to start. You can also add specialty certification courses from here onto other courses you have taken in the past (AFPA, 2018).
National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
This program comes with some pros and cons, but we thought it is, at the very least, worth mentioning on the list.
For starters, it is NCCA certified, which is extremely important.
Many gyms will not consider a certification if it is not NCCA certified. With that said, there are a number of programs that simply do not recognize the NFPT. This isn’t due to a lack of quality but due to a lack of exposure. It doesn’t have as many certified members so the NFPT certification isn’t as widespread.
The organization is attempting to change this though, which is what brings us to the major per: the price. If you don’t want to spend a ton on a certification, this is a great option. In fact, it is the most affordable certification program on this list.
For example, all certifications require continued education every few years (depending on the certification). This way, you’ll stay up on changes in physical training and new fitness programs. Most of the other certifications require you to enroll in a class and pay for it. Not the NFPT. All continuing education credits (or CECs) are free once you graduate from the original program (NFPT, 2018).
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Generally speaking, we like to have boots on the ground when it comes to physical training.
We feel that’s the best way to go about learning the ropes. Of course, there are times where you just don’t have the time to go to the gym for an education. Plus, much of the material you will learn in physical training courses is done in a classroom. Additionally, many universities now provide complete Internet-based educational programs.
That is essentially what the ISSA is for physical training certifications.
The ISSA is accepted throughout the world and you are able to obtain the certification from anywhere that has an Internet connection. You’ll receive the educational course for a one time fee, which i good when you are just looking to get your feet on the ground in the world if physical training.
The ISSA helps you out with a number of added benefits, including building a website and offering marketing material.
We generally recommend the other programs over this simply because more gyms accept those certifications above the ISSA. With that said, if you want a foot in the door and don’t currently have the time for the other programs, this is a solid way to start (Huffington Post, 2016).
When fitness is your passion, why not turn it into your career as well?
By receiving certification in one of the listed training programs you’ll establish yourself as someone not only educated in physical fitness but who has the knowledge and capability to help others with their own fitness desires. In terms of job opportunities and salary, we recommend considering a physical therapist program in college.
However, if you already have a career and don’t have the time to enroll full-time, or you would rather go for shorter-term certification programs instead, these are several of the top personal training programs currently available and you should consider.