Not All Trainers are Created Equal.
I recently applied for a job with a company I never heard of and in their questioning of me they asked if I would reccomend their certification to a potential training candidate, to which I replied that I would not. Long story short I didn't get the job (maybe due to something I said), but it got me to thinking on my reason why I said I wouldn't recommend the NHE certification.
The personal training business is largely unregulated in the United States. Unlike doctors, or physical therapists, personal trainers do not have to have a license from the state to practice their craft. Truth is they don't even really need a certification. Any old person can call themselves a trainer and proceed to maim a client because they have no clue what they are doing. It really is scary when you think about it. Your are trusting your body to someone who may or may not be qualified enough to keep you safe.
The easiest way to reduce the risk of working with unqualified trainers is by doing a little research. First, ask around. See if any of your friends or co-workers have worked with anyone in particular they like. If not you can always turn to online reviews. I highly recommend IDEA located here.
So if you are wondering which certs rank tops let me tell you.
The NSCA has three training certifications. The CPT is the personal training certificate and requires a high school diploma. The CSCS is made for individuals who wish to pursue sports training and conditioning and requires a BA/BS degree, and the newly created CSPS is certified to work with special populations defined as people who have "chronic and temporary health conditions". The CSPS has rigorous requirements including 250 practical hours in the applicants particular area of expertise. Overall the NSCA is tops in my book. (http://www.nsca.com/Home/)
The ACSM is one of the oldest and most highly regarded personal training certifications in the country (by others, not me). Depending on the certification pre-requisites may include a high school diploma or a BS in Exercise Science, Exercise, Physiology, or Kinesiology. (http://acsm.org)
3 & 4) ACE & NASM
ACE and the NASM are both the same in that they do not require a diploma or GED. NASM fall behind ACE however because they are younger, they are for-profit, and their test is about $200.00 more than ACE. Plus ACE is much more well known. (http://www.acefitness.org/ & http://www.nasm.org/)
AFAA is a three day workshop and then you study and take a test. There are ZERO prerequisites. Not even a CPR/AED requirement, which all the other four on this list require. However they are at least a respectable company and I have known plenty of good AFAA trainers. (http://www.afaa.com/)
This list is mostly subjective and based on my own beliefs, but it is important to note that a 2002 study done by the UCLA exercise physiology lab found that:
"...a bachelor's degree in the field of exercise science and possession of American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association certifications as opposed to other certifications were strong predictors of a personal trainer's knowledge, whereas years of experience was not related to knowledge." They go onto suggest "that personal fitness trainers should have licensing requirements, such as a bachelor's degree in exercise science and certification by an organization whose criteria are extensive and widely accepted, before being allowed to practice their craft." READ MORE
I agree with the authors wholeheartedly, but until that day comes make sure to scrutinize your trainer just as you would your doctor or other health professional. Look for qualified trainers with the right credentials and do not be afraid to say something if you do not feel you are getting what you pay for. You should feel comfortable with your trainer and confident in his/her abilities. If you are not getting that vibe, than most likely it is not the right fit for you. -Aaron