When it comes to which certifications your personal trainers should have, should they be a “Jack of all Trades,” or hold specific certifications catering to niche demographics? Many of the personal trainers we spoke with thought the latter, and earned specific certifications, giving not only themselves an advantage, but their clubs one as well.
For Katy Meuer, an INSANITY Master Trainer at Princeton Club in Madison, Wis., the brand recognition that INSANITY provides is invaluable. “As a fitness professional, to have a class like that, that’s so well-branded, is very beneficial,” she said. “It’s great to have something that’s nationally recognized.”
Meuer became a Master Trainer in March 2013, after she traveled to Los Angeles, Calif. to audition in front of Sean Thompson — or “Sean T” — the famous face behind INSANITY’s infomercials.
Now, Meuer teaches INSANITY at Princeton Club every Friday at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Despite the early hours and the class being fairly new, Meuer said the class has achieved great attendance. “For a first-time class, we took a risk putting it on the schedule, especially in the summer when class attendance tends to die down,” explained Meuer. “On the first day, we had 25 people attend. Now, we tend to attract 34 to 40 people.”
Meuer cited the brand’s notoriety as a contributing factor for high attendance numbers. “The majority of participants have either seen the infomercials, or have heard people talk about it,” said Meuer.
This notoriety has boosted Meuer’s recognition as a personal trainer. “I also teach Turbo Kick®,” she said. “Members who don’t recognize me from Turbo Kick, recognize me from INSANITY. From a fitness professional standpoint, it has helped me reach a broader audience.”
Another benefit to becoming an INSANITY-certified trainer is that no prior experience was required. For trainers looking to expand their programming knowledge, Meuer said it was extremely beneficial. Once certified, instructors could take the certification anywhere. There are no licensing fees after the initial certification.
“It’s especially beneficial for smaller or locally-owned clubs,” continued Meuer. “The brand recognition is just great.”
Brandon Howard, an ACE-certified personal trainer, has put his ACE Therapeutic Exercise Specialist certification to good use at Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Ky. The certification has allowed him to work with clients with a variety of conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, osteoporosis and more.
In today’s world, as baby boomers continue to experience the consequences of the aging process, Howard believes this type of training will increasingly be sought after.
According to Howard, his confidence, and that of his clients, has improved as a result of the Therapeutic Exercise certification. “It gave me the confidence to go into a session with a client and feel comfortable prescribing certain exercises,” he said. “It gave me added credibility, and gives my clients more confidence.”
In addition, Howard said having the certification has helped Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center monetarily. “It helps clubs financially, because people know they can go to that club for that specific type of training,” said Howard. “It separates you from the pack.”
In fact, Milestone Wellness Center sponsored Howard in his pursuit of the certification by paying for his fees. When asked why Milestone valued the certification, Howard said, “Because of the clientele we have here. A lot of people that we have coming in are from physical therapy, so they’ve already had some issues, ranging from accidents to obesity. This gives us another weapon to help the people in our community with those issues.”
Howard advised that gaining the certification wasn’t an easy process — including studying, it took about a month — but also felt that the difficulty only added to the certification’s credibility. “The certification book was about 300-400 pages long,” he said.
Despite the hard work, he felt that it was worth it in the long run. “I’ve had referrals from other people I’ve worked with because they know I have this certification,” explained Howard.
Just as Beachbody’s INSANITY certification offers the benefits of brand notoriety, so does Beachbody’s P90X Certification program. “P90X is such a well-known and well-branded program, it almost markets itself,” said Cheryl Kurn-Sacks, a personal trainer certified to teach P90X at Retro Fitness in Kingston, N.J.
Kurn-Sacks earned her P90X certification in October 2012, and said the certification has been instrumental in boosting her club’s small group training program, a setting in which the program thrives. “With the recognition that comes with P90X, we were able to expand our group training participation,” she said. “It sets us apart from other clubs.”
In addition to boosting small group participation, Kurn-Sacks has an appreciation for the program itself. “My clients love the program,” she said. “Each day is something different and challenging. My P90X certification gave me the ability to offer my clients something that is fun, motivating and result-driven.”
Results, said Kurn-Sacks, are due to the program’s three phrases, which are implemented so that clients’ bodies are constantly adapting. “It’s not just a fad,” she said. “It’s something that actively drives client results.”
Another benefit, said Kurn-Sacks, is P90X’s appeal to both men and women. “It’s designed to be gender-neutral,” she said. “It appeals to the market that doesn’t necessarily fit into Group X.”
Unlike Beachbody’s INSANITY certification, there is a renewal fee trainers must pay after two years to continue their certification. However, “there is no license fee to teach at a facility or conduct classes,” said Kurn-Sacks.
Aaron Drogoszewski, a NASM Master Trainer and a personal trainer for Crunch Fitness, agreed that MMA is currently a “buzz word” in the industry. “Some people are attracted to MMA because it’s cool, hip and edgy,” he said. However, despite its “edginess,” Drogoszewski believes conditioning like an MMA fighter is not just for those looking to participate in the latest fad. In fact, it’s suitable for everyone. “The training and the programming behind MMA is great for any fitness level,” he said.
Drogoszewski became certified in NASM’S MMA Conditioning Specialist course in 2011, which has allowed him to train clients as if they are preparing for an MMA fight. “MMA fighters are great athletes,” he said. “There’s no denying their fitness levels.”
However, Drogoszewski explained the certification works best when used in a small group training (SGT) setting — another buzzword currently taking the industry by storm. “During SGT is when it’s most effective,” he said.
Because of both MMA and SGT’s popularity, Drogoszewski believes having a personal trainer with a MMA Conditioning Specialist certification could be extremely beneficial. “With MMA conditioning, you bring something to the table that most people don’t see,” said Drogoszewski. “The SGT dynamic, it forces so much attention.”
In addition to drawing attention, Drogoszewski believes it’s extremely motivating for members as well. “The competitive energy of [MMA conditioning] is perfect for a SGT setting,” he said. “That competitive spirit drives clients to push themselves harder and see results.”
For Butch Sand, a personal trainer for Crunch Fitness, being given the opportunity to positively affect children through fitness is the most valuable part of having NASM’S Youth Exercise Specialist (YES) certification. “The most important thing my Youth Exercise Specialist certification teaches is how you can really make a difference in the mind and body by changing the habits and lifestyle of our youth, one child at a time,” he said.
Sand gained the certification after being frustrated with the lack of quality youth fitness certifications, he believed, the industry had to offer. That was, until NASM came out with YES. “NASM — I think they’re really on the cutting edge,” explained Sand. “Through YES, I learned things that I should know and need to know about how to safely work with children.”
For example, YES taught Sand how to advise children ages 6-19 specifically, on both nutrition and fitness. “They have a different cardiovascular system than adults,” said Sand. “I’ve taken a lot of certification courses, and this is one of the most in-depth. Not only do you learn how to physically work with kids, but you learn how to psychologically work with kids to make exercise fun.”
One of Sand’s young clients, an avid swimmer, is the daughter of an adult client he trained at Crunch Fitness. Sand works with her to exercise the muscles she doesn’t use when swimming. Without the YES certification, Sand would have been less equipped to fulfill this need.
According to Sand, now is the time to get kids committed to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. “If you teach kids healthy habits while they’re young, they won’t have that emotional need to overeat or sit in front of a TV all day and play videogames,” he said.
By having a personal trainer with a youth fitness certification, Sand believes clubs can further aid in the fight to stop obesity in its tracks. “It’s important for a club to be open to children,” he said. “Some schools are limiting kids’ access to recess, which I think is terrible. It’s really important clubs start offering opportunities for kids to get involved.”
By Rachel Zabonick