Friday, March 11, 2011

Why Your Certification Doesn't Mean Sh*t

  What Personal Training certification do you hold?  NSCA?  NASM?  ISSA?  ACE?  ACSM?  In my opinion, no matter how you cut it, it doesn't mean jack squat.  I know that certifications are a vital part of the industry and they help to develop some sort of standards, but holding one certification over another does not make you a better strength coach or trainer.

  Sure there are some certifications that hold higher esteem than others, but let me put this in perspective for you.  Are there any regulatory bodies that govern what each individual certifying organization puts in their tests?  No.  I could go out today and form the Sports, Hypertrophy, Integrative Trainer certification and people would pay me money to have S.H.I.T. put behind their name on their business cards as their certification.  Likewise, there are organizations out there where you do a weekend workshop, pay them "x" amount of dollars and you are magically competent enough to train a client.  Does that make a lick of sense?

  So what should you look for in a strength coach or trainer? 

  First look for certification because at least you know that the person know enough not to kill you.  This is the least important thing to look for.  If you didn't get the point from the previous paragraphs you are too dense and proably deserve to have a crappy strength coach/trainer.

  Next, look for education.  In this case more is not always better.  Look for a relevant field of study such as  Physiology, Kinesiology, Biomechanics, Fitness, Wellness, Human Performance, Athletic Training.  A Master's trumps a Bachelor's, but a Bachelor's is probably on the same level as a Ph.D..  All three of those will trump a H.S. diploma for obvious reasons.  Why rag on the Ph.D. Matt?  If you have ever spent any time in college, aside from hanging out in your frat house, you would realize what Ph.D. students actually do.  THEY SPEND ALL DAY IN A FRIGGIN' LABORATORY.  They have probably forgotten all of the things they learned that practically apply to exercise and retained all the stuff they needed to chop rats up in the name of science.  At UF I had plenty of professors teach me how to resistance train that looked like they had NEVER picked up a weight themselves, much less coached anyone else in their life.

  The most important thing is to look for experience.  Nothing, in my opinion, trumps experience.  I would rather have an ACT certified (free cert) Personal Trainer with 15 years of competition and "under the bar" experience than a pencil-necked geek right out of college with his NSCA-CSCS, along with his NASM-PES.  I'm sure that the 6'2" 155lb college kid had to learn more to earn his certification, but he has no idea what it is actually like to train.  You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the one you work with.

  Has the person been training for a while and can they carry clients?  If you are a strength coach or trainer and do not have the ability to carry 15 clients at a time, you are just an enthusiast.  Make a living and support yourself and possibly your family off of this industry and maybe I'll start to listen to you.  Experience is king.
  You can read all day long on how to do a Snatch, but until you walk up to that bar, put your hands on the iron and yank that sumbitch over your head, you have no idea what you are talking about.  You see this all the time on the internet.  They are the keyboard experts that carry about 4 clients at a time, but will try to sell you on their "secrets" of training leaving you with buyers remorse and a sour taste in your mouth about the whole industry.

  I get asked a lot, "Matt, why don't you start writing articles?".  I feel as though I have not fully earned the "experienced" title.  Sure, I've been lifting since I was 15 years old and have competed in strength sports since I was 19.  Hell, I've even come back from an accident that was supposed to kill me.  However, I have only been earning a living off of this industry for 3 years now.  I have been coaching people on lifting for the past 6 years, but not making a living off of it.  While I have been successful in what I do 3 years does not make me "experienced" in my own eyes.  Until that time when I deem myself "experienced" I will continue to educate myself, I will continue to grow, and I will continue to share my passion with new up-and-coming trainers.  So, until that time, my thoughts and experiences will be published here.


  1. Executive summary: In this industry, you're better off sticking your head up the bull's ass rather than just taking the butcher's word for it.

    Agreeance, some of our new trainers look like they spend more time doing software development on their iMac than packing on some hard muscle. And I'm just gonna say that.

  2. I always thought that if you stick your head up the business end of the bull you still come out looking and smelling like.. well, you know the rest.

    I'd think the executive summary would be better expressed as:

    Research and be willing to learn yourself, because otherwise you get back a trainer whose ability and experience match your initial effort expenditure. "Buyer beware and research" if the above is TL;DR.

    Do all trainers need to look like a 'lunkhead' to know what they are doing? Umm, no. Trainers can take many shapes and forms. Does a marathoner look like a 'body builder', not typically.

    I have seen plenty of people in GHFC 'packing on some muscle' using techniques that make me cringe. I'm sure the biomech stresses on their joints shoot through the roof.

    Not to mention the examples of poor form that others may see and emulate because "wow, those people look ripped so they must be doing everything perfect!"

    But what do I know, I'm here to read and learn myself. I'm not sure I was ever more than an enthusiast to begin with (great description there Matt). And depending on who you ask, may not have been much of one of those either. :)