Personal Trainer Schools: What to Know Before You Go

For those who love fitness and want to inspire others, personal training seems like an obvious career choice. One thing to keep in mind is that doing exercise yourself and training others, can be very different. Understanding how to work with different body types, a variety of personalities, and overall knowledge of nutrition and exercise science, play a collective role in being a successful personal trainer. If you know your way around a gym, but are even a little uncertain about what it takes to train, then Personal Trainer School may be for you.

This article will help understand a bit about how to become a fitness instructor.

What is Personal Training School?

Personal training school is similar to any trade school in that it prepares you to productively start your career. A good school will cover every facet of personal training such as:

1.) How to discuss realistic fitness goals with clients and motivate them
2.) Nutrition for clients from a ballerina to a bodybuilder and everyone in between
3.) How to train clients in special populations (heart attack or stroke survivors, those with injuries, asthma, osteoporosis, cancers, eating disorders, and the morbidly obese)
4.) How to create a weekly, monthly, and yearly program with progressions
5.) Learn how to evaluate a client for correct form and adjust them accordingly
6.) Learn the name and location of every bone and muscle group in the body
7.) Be better prepared when it is time to take a national personal trainer certification test
8.) Build a network, have references, and always have a constant flow of job opportunities and openings as an alumni
9.) Give you knowledge of legalities and insurance options
10.) Valuable hands-on experience through partner work and real clients
11.) CPR certification – a requirement for any personal trainer
12.) Discounts on equipment and athletic clothing

A lot of the above details also go for the description of personal training in general.

Personal training schools typically offer flexible class schedules because they know many students are career changers and work full-time. Options typically are evening classes, weekends only, or full-time. Depending on the frequency of class attendance, students can graduate between 3 months and a full year. Class sizes are usually 20 students or less to ensure the teacher can give each student close attention and there is enough space for hands-on learning.

Throughout your curriculum, you’ll be given a variety of training scenarios and be guided through how to successfully train each one. This will prepare you for the many types of clients you will have when you start your own business. When training your peers in your class, the sweat, tears, and difficulty a person goes through at the gym is up-close and personal. While you may be self-motivated and determined for your own workouts, the majority of your clients will rely on you for motivation. The more you train, you will learn what types of motivation work best for each client. You can learn this on the job, but it is good to have had the practice before even starting in the field.

Personal training schools will often host job fairs for gyms in the area to meet new and alumni trainers. This is a fantastic network that you will have for your entire career as a graduate. In addition, ask to be put on the mailing list for potential job openings and personal training conventions, so you won’t miss any important industry-related news. By being on the alumni list, you will also get notices about continuing education classes and even CPR re-certification. Anything you need to know to teach clients about wellness, a healthy lifestyle, weight loss,

What to Know Before Attending

To be hired at most gyms, at least one national personal training certification is required. If you study hard and take all the available practice tests in the study books, you should have no problems passing a national certification exam. However, part of the hiring process at most gyms is a practical interview. During this time, you will need to train someone (usually your potential boss – no pressure!) and create a program for them. No matter how book-smart you are and how much studying you did, if you can’t create a program or correct someone’s form, then you probably will not get the job. That is why proper schooling can be a real asset to your career.

Similarly, some people go to personal training school under the impression that when they graduate, they will be a personal trainer. Yes, they will have all the skills to train someone properly, but without a national certification, they probably will not get hired. While the school gives you a more in-depth understanding of the human body, nutrition, and personal training basics, you will still need to study the materials for the ACE, NASM, ACSM, or whatever national certification exam you are planning to take.

Typical school programs can cost thousands of dollars. Some, but not all, offer federal aid and discounts to state workers or non-profit employees. Do some research when looking into schools so you can get one within your budget. Most schools do offer reasonable payment plans.

Be wary of any so-called “online personal training school.” When you graduate from one of these programs, you will still not have a national certification, and you certainly will not have any practical, hands-on experience since everything is done online. With this type of education, you may have the option to intern at a gym, but learning from a trainer on the job is less than ideal. Their clients may not like having you a part of all their sessions, and they may not be able to give you the proper education that you need. Frankly, they themselves may not know enough to teach you everything you need to know. If you are considering personal training school at all, go to one that gives you a solid foundation in a classroom setting.

Do You Need It?

For those who have had plenty of previous experience in the gym training their friends, playing sports, or coaching, then extensive schooling might not be for you. You could read the workbooks and study guides purchased off of the national certification’s website that you have chosen, go to a test center and probably pass the test. However, if you feel you could use some help studying, many of the national certifications offer workshops to help potential trainers prepare for the exam. These workshops cost nowhere near the fees of the personal training school and typically are only one day or just a weekend.

Spending extra on the workshops to pass the exam could be worth it since the test alone is at least $250. Depending on what certification you pick, you could end up paying more. If you don’t pass the exam the first time, there is a waiting period before you can take it again, and you will need to pay the test fee again.

Consider how ready you are for every aspect of personal training. A Personal training school isn’t for everyone. It could be a waste of time and money for some and a valuable learning experience for others. Just keep in mind that whether you choose to go or not, passing at least one national certification is the key to being hired at a gym and your stepping stone to becoming a personal trainer.

Certification Alternatives

Personal training certifications are an alternative way to learn what you would in a personal training school. For most, this is a much better option, especially with the course materials and overall level of information mastered with the completion of any of the top fitness industry certifications. The main organizations to find the best CPT courses are going to be ACE, NASM, ISSA, and depending on the ideal specializations and focus of a personal training career, NSCA, and ACSM are great options. All of these options are NCCA accredited. The NCCA accreditation is the gold standard and ensures learners are getting the best information, resources, and testing to show to employers.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization that offers 4 main fitness certifications, all at the top of the fitness industry in their fields, and offers many types of specialization and continuing education credits for fitness professionals that need them for recertification. ACE certification is widely considered to lead to easy employment in any gym. This goes for any of the fields that ACE offers, especially the gold standard group fitness certification that tops my list of the best group fitness instructor certification programs.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is an outstanding fitness organization, and it offers a personal training certification that is often considered to be the gold standard cert. NASM, like ACE, also offers a significant amount of specializations and certifications in very specific fields. The NASM CES is one of the best corrective exercise certifications and another field they are well known for. NASM makes use of the gold standard OPT model for teaching its fitness professionals, and this is very effective and easy to utilize once finishing sections on program design.

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is in the top three certification options for fitness professionals and is widely considered to be the best option for new trainers who wish to purchase multiple certification packages. The ISSA offers many study packages that start at the lowest deal prices in the industry and go to the most expensive premium study packages with in-person training options. NASM and ISSA are similar in the training business, as both are for-profit businesses. ISSA also has an extremely grand presence in offering continuing education credits. One more notable aspect of ISSA is its state-of-the-art health coach program which ends up as one of the best health coach programs in the fitness industry.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is, of course, most known for its strong presence in the field of strength and conditioning. In fact, this is the gold standard of strength and conditioning (Certified Strength and conditioning Specialist) and at the top of everyone’s list of the best strength and conditioning certifications. The company also offers an impressive CPT certification that is essential if someone wants to personal train and also go into the field of strength and conditioning and training athletes. The NSCA organization exhibits excellent professionalism and has a great reputation in the fitness industry and among employers. They might teach exercise technique, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology better than others due to their strength and conditioning focus.

Lastly, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a great 5th option for fitness certificates and has a high reputation and credibility. They are actually one of the leading research organizations in the fitness industry, and a lot of information throughout the other certifications above can be attributed to ACSM. ACSM offers very scientific textbooks, and when it comes to pure research, they may be one of the best in the world of fitness. Their study materials are often a bit lacking, as they more or less only offer the basic things needed to study, like a textbook and study guide.

All 5 of these excellent organizations offer personal trainer certifications that are accredited by the NCCA and offer the highest quality information in the primary fitness training topics, like the technique for exercises, kinesiology basics, exercise science foundations, overall health goals, proper use of weights and equipment, cardio, strength training, and flexibility, and most offer a solid set of business management teachings. All of the personal training certifications will teach the proper program design and movement instruction that is needed for training the general public.

If you desire to train other populations, then make sure to choose the company with the best guidance in your desired field. I highlighted a little bit of what each of these certification institutions is best at. And, if you still desire to go to a personal training school, then remember that the in-person idea of these personal training schools is an opportunity that not all packages offered by CPT certs. You will still need CPT certification, but more experience is always better in the fitness industry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of going to a Personal Trainer School?

Future personal trainers that attend a fitness training school are going to get a lot of hands-on training and experience from the best personal trainers teaching the information. In addition, learning from a training institute improves the sense of support, community, and friendship, as well as having the fun of being in person.

What do I need to do after attending Personal Training School?

If you want to work for a good gym and be one of the best personal trainers, then you need to achieve one of the aforementioned best CPT courses in order to get a career in fitness. The top training certification programs come from ACE, ISSA, NASM, NSCA, and ACSM. All of these programs provide the resources, tools, and recognition for fitness trainers to get a great personal training salary. When you start personal training, also make sure to look into personal training insurance.

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