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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

How do you judge the credibility of a fitness professional?

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Panel Discussion: How do you judge the credibility of a fitness professional?

How do you judge the credibility of a fitness professional? Is it their personality, the size or their arms or waist, their confident demeanor, the letters after their name, or is it something else entirely?

Moderated by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

This Panel Discussion was originally posted on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/brent.brookbush - on June 6th 2010

Steven Summersill, June 6, 2010 at 10:55am: I think it's all of the above Brent. I want a trainer that "looks" like they specialize in the area of fitness I want to train in. And if not, then the experience counts. A good boxing instructor sometimes does not look like a boxer. I need a trainer who motivates me, so personality is a must. And the letters shows book knowledge. But out of all the above, I'd take the experience over everything.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 11:14am: What if someone has 15 years of experience, one lapsed certification, and no other credentials? Is that person still credible?

Andrew Dianiska no less so than someone else who picked up CPT, CES, PES manuals while working an unrelated day gig, got a couple of certs and then hangs out their shingle. Give me someone with 15 1,000 client contact hour years and a lapsed cert* over the guy who specializes in theory.

most boxing coaches no longer box, that doesn't negate their knowledge.

with my piddling little certs and 30,000 contact hours behind me, i see the real world flawed applications of the shake and bake CSCS folk.

as I’ve told you when we had a working relationship, you cannot 'create' a trainer by education alone.

there is a reason why in the classic euro guild system it took seven years of apprenticeship and journeyman status for full admission to the guild.

and most guild-members' educations were on the job training.

certs are learners' permits only.

my US $ 0.02

*ironically a position not too dissimilar to some body we know. ;-)

Kellan Finley, June 6, 2010 at 11:38am:

I think its experience and up to date education. I for one do not buy the idea that my trainer has to look how I want to look. I'm not paying them so I can look at their big biceps; I want someone who has the knowledge and experience to help me reach MY fitness goals, not theirs.

Experience plays a big part as I want a trainer who has logged a good amount of hours understanding how to program design, motivate, understand exercise selections, etc. I've personally worked with trainers where it seems like they just ran me through their own workout routine, or watched as someone else did the exact same routine as me. I want someone who has the experience to understand my goals and limitations and create a program that accounts for those.

As far as education, book knowledge and letters behind their name is a must, but they should have continued education to be savvy of new research and science on exercise. Someone who got a degree or certification 10 years ago, who has let it lapse or stopped educating themselves is (in my opinion) not the best option. The fitness information is evolving all the time and being up on the latest exercise science is why I would pay to work with a trainer, otherwise I could just go buy Tae Bo videos and do group fitness.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 11:45am: Hey Andrew and Kellan,

I think experience counts, as long as that time was dedicated to increasing their knowledge base, putting theory into practice, and trying to become a better trainer. One of my biggest pet peeves as an educator in the industry was teaching a rock solid course with fellow educators, only to have trainers return to the same obsolete training methodologies they arrived with… Experience… yes, but "what experience?" may be the better question.

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 11:46am: You go you learn you move on. You can learn from most anybody. It's less about the teacher and more about your attitude towards learning.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 11:52am: As an educator, I am biased, but I have to disagree. There are a tremendous number of gurus in this industry who should not be encouraged to give advice to anyone. Being an educator comes with responsibilities, including the responsibility to deliver information with as little bias as possible, and motivate students to want to train better. It was great educators who propelled my career, and I hope I can do the same for others.

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 12:01pm: Brent, I understand your point of view, but learning is a 2 way street. Bruce Lee held no black belt in any art. Vladimir Janda had polio. We learn from people, not from their certificates or "lack" thereof.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 12:05pm: I see your point, and some of my most influential role models have been un-credentialed in the formal sense. I guess the question becomes… If education is important, who should be allowed to have that title? And, if your answer is everyone, how is a new trainer supposed to find the right one, and no the difference between good and bad?

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 12:20pm: It's like shopping for a car or real estate: know the market, know what you want, see who can give you the best product by investing time into the process. The reason why most clients get screwed is because they want quick fixes with no due diligence. This is how they get screwed by bad trainers, bad car dealers, and bad real estate packages.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 12:21pm: Great points :-)

Derrick Price, June 6, 2010 at 12:23pm: I think anyone is credible as long as they understand they are mere guides in another person's journey towards their health and fitness goals. Credibility is lost when the trainer thinks they are above the people they work with and are more important than the client. I know many veteran trainers who have every certification, years of experience and a Master's degree but they still miss the biggest point when it comes to personal training: The client should always come first, ahead of the trainer's own knowledge and understanding of what they think is right for the client. The only difference between a new trainer and a veteran trainer is a veteran trainer might have more tools to help the client and to me, more tools should not mean more credibility.

Gabriel GdmFitness Martinez, June 6, 2010 at 12:25pm: Has any of his clients reached their fitness goal? That's what makes credibility.. Success.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 12:31pm: Success is a tricky measure… I am going to empathize with my fellow trainer and say that success is not entirely in our hands. Some of my clients are successful and some are not, their dedication, available time for exercise, eating habits, motivation, support system, prior injuries… all pose challenges. I agree with you Gabriel, but I think maybe we should say something like -"Did the trainer provide every possible tool (to use "DP's" terms) to help that client achieve their goals."

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 12:31pm: Here's another common scenario: the client GETS the trainer who knows movement screening, resetting inhibitor thresholds, manipulates heart rate intervals, understands myofascial activation and release, connects high motor control with vestibular functions, has invested years into their education and is 110% guaranteed to deliver the goods. But the client chooses, instead, the cute blonde chick as his trainer who's also 20% cheaper by the hour who specializes in body sculpting. The question becomes: how much of our PERCEIVED value become actual value for the client?

Gabriel GdmFitness Martinez, June 6, 2010 at 12:32pm: That's cool. Some clients do suck that way.. Free money!

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 12:32pm: Great points DP,

I would agree and say that more tools are not important, but I would also say that the right tools at the right time are really important.

Jasmine Pou, June 6, 2010 at 12:50pm: I have worked with Many trainers and have many trainers working for me that have many degrees and know absolutely nothing…yes as you do need the qualifications to tell clients that you are safe to train with…it all comes down to experience and the experiences you put yourself through as well!

I agree with Steve I would look at a trainer that looked the way I wanted to look study what they do, obviously change a few things to suit my body type, a trainer that had a personality and not the personality of a tool or here in New Zealand we just call them dicks.

Someone who knew my body well and what works for it, having a trainer is similar to being in a relationship without the bullshit that comes with it.

At the end of the day the best trainers I have had that got the most results were body-builder as they kept things simple and trained really hard…not a text book trainer that researches everything on the internet and has a body of someone who has never trained a day in their life.

All clients want is to change their mindset, look good and feel great about themselves.

Erika Medrano, June 6, 2010 at 1:11pm

Chemistry,,, u could have the knowledge, body, yrs of training, but without that chemistry I don't think u have much.. ;-p

Marty Miller, June 6, 2010 at 1:32pm Ok, here I go. I am a little late to the party since I was teaching. What I have chosen to do with this discussion is to not read everybody else’s posts until after I post mine.

I judge if a trainer is credible in many different ways. First and foremost will they admit that they do not know everything. Learning is a race with no finish line, so if you know everything and have stopped the need to learn then that is a huge red flag. In my interviews I ask them name me 3 things you need to learn more about. If they hesitate with the answer then they do not have a plan already in place to learn it. Of course there are certifications such as NASM that are a must for me. I need to know they understand that there is a integrated process as it relates to training.

Experience is only a small factor. I have seen a lot of people doing things wrong for a long time. So I guess that makes them experienced with making mistakes. That scares me even more then a newbie making a mistake, if you do not get the results you expect to see but keep doing the same thing isn't that the definition of insanity.

A great trainer needs the ability connect with their client AND deleiver results that are what the client need while making the client enjoy/tolerate the process. College degrees are nice but not always a sign of a great trainer. I have learned more since college about training then when I was in college. Degrees do help establish a certain level of credibility but are not my only measure. And finally does the personal trainer realize that they have someone’s health in their hands, and do they take that responsibility as serious as they should. It's all about the client 100% of the time.

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 1:43pm: Again, it takes two to tango. Trainers don't have to, IMHO, deliver results. Clients are adults - they have to deliver their own results. The trainer sets up the knowledge and curriculum, but it's the student who has to take notes, do their homework, and pass the test.

Igor Daysudov, June 6, 2010 at 4:53pm: I would suggest the best way to do this is to build up a reputation and that's the best resume for any trainer. Of course for absolute beginner trainee you need super basic routines, but for more professional training, trainer needs to have that kind of experience. So the key is EXPERIENCE.

Elizabeth Hawk, June 6, 2010 at 7:51pm: Knowledge and empathy.

Brent Brookbush, June 6, 2010 at 8:32pm: Empathy… I really like that :-)

Elizabeth Hawk, June 6, 2010 at 8:52pm: Yes. Knowledge is key. Empathy is essential. I have many clients with MS, Fibromyalgia, etc., etc. If you love to help people and love your job in addition, then you're golden. Being funny doesn't hurt either. ;-)

Rolando Garcia, June 6, 2010 at 9:11pm: Gray Cook recently said that the best cue for your client to activate deep diaphragmatic breathing is to tell them a joke.

Elizabeth Hawk, June 6, 2010 at 9:13pm: Then my clients are doin' alright in that department. :-)

Scott Pullen, June 6, 2010 at 10:03pm: Education helps, if you have an open mind to use the knowledge of the body as a filter for other ideas, concepts, etc. Experience is huge, but if it is experience based on poor methodology or misinformation, it may not be ideal or useful. Looks make a certain statement that you have the ability to walk the walk and realistically live what you expect others to adopt. Empathy, understanding and good listening and communication are crucial. In any facet of life, there are those that are a cut above and they possess certain innate and learned skills. A huge part of that is paying attention. Observing, listening, thinking…taking the time to consider before offering a solution. It is the perfect marriage of analytical and emotional… a very rare thing. Ultimately, no one knows it all. Understanding this and going out of your way to learn the TRUE basis behind something is wise. If not, then surround yourself with those that complete your weak points or know what you specialize in and where to draw the line. Lastly, the long term results or finished product of what we do is always dependent upon the "weak link". This is the client. I am not alone, I am sure, in caring more about a client's results than they do. Ultimately, many will be inspired for a while, but long term success is in the hands of the client.

Brent Brookbush, June 7, 2010 at 9:19am: Wow, thanks to everyone for you unbelievable contributions. This was a great discussion about an ongoing debate within our industry.

© 2014 Brent Brookbush

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