The mind is like a muscle — to make it stronger, you have to put in the work. And just as a personal trainer is a resource for members to get stronger, continuing education courses and new training certifications are resources trainers use to grow and strengthen their teaching techniques.
“Growth is key in our industry,” said Gretchen Collins, the director of fitness at East Bank Club in Chicago. “And I believe continuing education is the single most important thing a trainer can do to further their career.”
A trainer’s educational growth and experience will also benefit the overall performance of the club as a whole — and there are a multitude of sources to draw inspiration from.
“Continuing education is extremely important to grow your knowledge and business,” said Brandon Yates, the director of personal training at Chicago Athletic Clubs. “And the great thing about our industry is there are multiple resources for continuing education for all specialties.”
Personal training especially lends itself to individual work, which places a lot of importance on tapping into continuing education courses and new certifications.
“In every other industry, you’re in an office around people who work in your industry — you’re sharing knowledge, you’re working on projects together, and you become a master of those skills,” said Michael Nicholson, a master trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness in New York City. “But in the fitness industry, a lot of it is individual work with clients. And if you aren’t continually learning new stuff, the tools you learn can get rusty.”
Fortunately for trainers, there is a steady supply of “new stuff” being introduced to the industry, from new movement techniques to evolving strength and conditioning modalities.
“We can’t reinvent the wheel, but there are many different ways of spinning it,” said Orest Ludwig, a master trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness. “It’s important to make sure your trainers sharpen their tools and keep new tools coming in, so you can provide the best product out there.”
Between the several organizations that host seminars, offer research-based certifications, or provide other educational resources, there is no shortage of resources through which trainers can expand their knowledge.
Below, we’ll explore trending certifications and continuing education resources, and how to pick the right ones for your club and fitness staff:
With a steady supply of new exercise science research available in the industry, there are always new certification courses trainers can take advantage of.
“Big trending certifications I’m seeing are Animal Flow, Stick Mobility and XPT,” said Nicholson. “And we brought in another one called ‘Stop Chasing Pain’ from a big chiropractor out of New Jersey who recently got accepted into the Perform Better conference.”
According to Nicholson, well-known certifying bodies are also good choices. “The major training certifications that are still the most respected in the field are National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and American Council on Exercise,” he said. “Those are the three certifying bodies most gyms across the board look for.”
East Bank Club has seen success adding new certifications to its repertoire as well, based on trainers’ interests and members’ needs.
“We recently hosted the Stick Mobility training workshop, and it was a great success,” said Collins. “Other trends we have seen regularly are Stretch to Win Fascial Stretch Therapy, Functional Range Conditioning, and Kinstretch.”
In these certifications, Collins has noticed a common theme. “I have noticed a slight shift in continuing education trending more toward mobility and recovery,” she said. “Traditional strength and conditioning certifications are still extremely popular, but the aforementioned certifications have been on the rise with our personal training staff.”
At Chicago Athletic Clubs, trending certifications have indicated increasing popularity in strength and conditioning workouts, particularly those involving weightlifting exercises.
“In the industry, we are seeing more and more members gravitate toward powerlifting, Olympic lifting movements and athletic training components,” explained Yates. “With this, I see there is even more importance on these types of certifications, so one I would recommend is the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists certification.”
Yates and his training staff have also been exploring the use of specialized certifications. “We have been in discussions with Eleiko’s new extensive education offerings,” he said. “We feel there is great potential in the specialized certifications they are offering to increase the success of our members and trainers.”
Learning for the sake of sharpening one’s skills — not just to get a new certification — is essential for trainers, which makes continuing education a valuable asset for any club. However, with so many resources out there, it can be hard to know what to implement or add.
Leaning on other industry experts is one of the best ways to determine which educational resources are worth considering for your gym.
“Attending industry conferences gives trainers access to some of the top leaders in our industry without having the money or time commitment dedicated to a certification,” said Yates.
It’s important to choose the conferences you go to based on what your leadership and training staff want to learn. And you can even use survey information from your members to influence that decision.
“Poll your members and based on what members’ interests are, channel the selection of the seminar to that interest,” said Nicholson. “And look for a seminar that’s certified through one of the big certifying bodies or included in one of the big conferences — Perform Better, IHRSA and IDEA.”
Hands-on teaching is one of the biggest benefits of a fitness conference. According to Yates, there’s no better teacher than a live demonstration. “I am a firm believer that hands-on training is, night and day, better than simply completing a certification,” he said.
But your trainers shouldn’t only be inspired to learn while at a live conference. There are also several online educational resources you can give your trainers supplemental access to.
“We use IDEA FitnessConnect as a main resource for our personal trainers,” said Collins. “All trainers on staff have access to the FitnessConnect website, which has more than 480 courses, amounting to over $10,000 in free continuing education. It also offers a workout builder, and access to useful fitness and nutrition articles that can be shared directly with clients.”
The Cutting Edge
Clubs constantly update their programs, equipment and design to better serve members. Empowering trainers to pursue new certifications and continuing education courses should be no different — it will elevate their individual performance and, subsequently, the quality of your training department.
“Fitness is constantly evolving, and we have to stay current,” said Collins. “Clients expect us to be at the cutting edge of knowledge in the fitness field — therefore, continuing to learn new concepts only makes you more marketable as a trainer.”
Staying on the cutting edge of exercise science gives trainers that certain level of authority necessary during sessions. “When you can explain things easily, you come off as an expert,” explained Ludwig. “That’s what they’re paying you for — to be the expert, and to get them healthy and help them stay healthy.”
And with unlimited home exercise solutions and studies at their fingertips, it’s easier than ever for the average consumer to say they don’t need to go to the gym. This makes it essential for trainers to be experts in their field.
“With so much accessibility to information, everyone now has access to anything fitness-related and we are seeing our members are much more knowledgeable than they were in the past,” echoed Yates. “It is important for our trainers to be able to provide members with exactly what they are asking for.”
The ultimate goal of certifications and continuing education is giving your trainers the ability to enhance their knowledge and techniques, which will make them more valuable to their clients.
“As a trainer, you have to be confident in your ability to deliver what people are paying you for,” said Nicholson. “And every time you add another layer of education to what you’re doing, the value you add to the client only grows.”