The TRUTH About Personal Trainer Certifications

Throughout my travels I’m constantly getting asked about Personal Trainer certifications: Which one is best? – Which do I recommend?, etc:

In today’s post I’m going to share with you my answers to these questions along with my general outlook on Personal Training certifications.

I have no affiliation with any fitness training certification organization. So you can rest assured that what you’re about to read is 100% unbiased. Additionally, I don’t know how to communicate without being truthful, straight-forward and to-the-point.

how to become a certified personal trainer

The readers digest version of my TRUTH about Personal Training certifications!

This is what I’ve found to be true about certifications from being a fitness professional for 12yrs + and from working/ communicating with 100’s of other fitness professionals over the years:

– Fitness certifications do NOT help you make more $! Getting results helps you make more $!

– Most people, even doctors and PTs could care less about who you hold a cert under. They care more about what you know and what you can do with what you know. I’ve never once been asked by any other health professional (aside from other trainers) who I’m certified under. My clients are all happy and getting the results they’re after. That’s what people care about!

– Yes you should get a certification if you don’t have a college degree. But it’s only for legal purposes (and, I’m not sure how much that even helps if you are taken to court).

– It doesn’t matter which certification you’ve got because most of the stuff you’ll actually use “in the trenches” will come from non-certification based education anyway.

– If you plan on working for a fitness club, they may require a specific type of personal trainer certification. If so, you’re stuck with what they require.

– Go with a certification that’s cheap and well established like: ACE or NSCA.

– Don’t assume that since you’re “certified” that you’re “qualified” (I stole that little saying from Dave Parise). If you’ve passed a test from an organization, it simply means that you’ve memorized what that specific organization feels is important based on thier system.

– There are lots of great fitness trainer certification courses out there. Some are weekend courses, and others take several months of intense learning to complete. In the end, you’re still just certified as a trainer. And ANYONE can be certified. So don’t put to much juice behind it because the folks paying you certainly won’t.

– If you are shy, don’t communicate well or you’re simply an ass-hole who people don’t seem to like; all the certifications in the world won’t make you successful. In this business, you need “personality.” And, you don’t get that from any personal training certification course!

– You’ll probably end up getting more clients from how you look and how you carry yourself than you will from the letters behind your name.

– People in the fitness setting will rarely pay more $ for a more heavily certified trainer since 1) they’ve never even heard of your “special” certs in the first place to put a $ value on them, and 2) most people still don’t consider personal training to be a “real job” anyway.

My Top 7 Recommendations to upcoming Personal trainers!


1. Find a cheap, quick and easy certification and go with that one. Then, with the $ and time you’ve saved, buy DVDs & books, attend live workshops & conferences, and do lots of mentorships and internships.

2. Certification courses are just memorizing someone else’s system. Good trainers develop their own philosophies, and training systems based on those philosophy. So take the shortest/ easiest course you can find since you won’t use much of it in your actual training anyway.

3. Clients (for the most part) don’t care who you’re certified by, they just care about results. So don’t focus on having the best certs. Instead, focus on being the most able to get results each individual client is after.

4. Clients who do care about what personal trainer certification you have probably saw something about it on TV or in the news paper. So they just want to “feel” like an informed consumer. Those folks are also the ones who may become a pain in your ass because every time they see a new article or TV show on fitness training, they’ll ask you about that too.

5. You can never go wrong with getting certified through NASM, ACE or NSCA since those are fairly well known and established personal training certifications.

6. The best learning will come from reading research and combining that with practical experience, as personal training is the art of expressing the science.

7. If you’re just getting into this industry, focus on just getting certified vs. what certification to get. As I’ve said, it really doesn’t matter anyway since none will help you make more $, get more clients or give you more legal coverage.

Final Thoughts

I’m well aware that many people will disagree with what I’ve said above due to their personal biases toward certain personal trainer certifications, professional affiliation, personal opinion or elitism! And, that’s cool with me, as my only bias is to the evidence I have. And, with the very large number of individuals I’ve helped break into and advance the fitness field, not one of them has ever come back to me saying “I owe all my success to the certification I got from __________ organization.”

Their success has come from having a passion for helping others get fitter, an infectious energy, great communication and teaching ability, along with a mastery of basic exercise techniques, progressions and regressions, and the principles of program design.

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