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Aspire Fitness

Why the term personal trainer bothers me

Food for thought


It’s a common term in the industry, “Personal Trainer” yet it is something that makes me cringe when I hear it. I’m not faulting those who say it because it is riddled in magazines and advertisements. If you give me a couple of minutes I will go on a rant about what that term means to me. Please take this with a grain of salt as it’s not meant to offend anyone just hopefully shed some light on the title.

It’s unfortunate that there is no distinction between the term personal trainer and kinesiologist, because they are two very different entities in the world of health and fitness. I myself am a kinesiologist, as is Jeff and Jenna is working on finishing up school and will in turn be one as well. What that means is that we have completed a 4-year degree which includes specialities in biomechanics, exercise physiology, physics, chemistry and advanced course in anatomy. Yes this means we have a huge arsenal of big words to throw down when the moment strikes us, but now’s not the time to talk about proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Wink. This isn’t to say that Personal trainers don’t have an education, it’s just not as in depth as we have.

I see the biggest distinction in the whys and whats of training. A kinesiologist has the education to answer why something is happening and to dive into the nitty gritty of what’s happening. For example a personal trainer may understand that if somebody does a workout with sprints in it they will get better at sprinting. What we like to do is look further than that, we’d be interested in motor neuron recruitment, calcium buffering and maybe how glucose will be effected by epinephrine. Just to name a few. I remember back when I was in school we were discussing exercise prescription and my TA, Kyle, had said “There’s no bad exercise, just bad application”. It’s amazing that after almost 8 years that has stuck with me. I think this is relevant, where a kinesiologist makes their mark is in terms of knowing when an exercise might be better applied elsewhere in a program. I have seen it many times that we have somebody come through our doors complaining that they got hurt at another gym under the guidance of a personal trainer. Upon further investigation we then discover that there are a list of prerequisites we need to address before evening thinking about lifting a weight. Or my favorite is the mentality that it worked for all their other clients it must work for everybody else. People are different, and their training programs need to be flexible enough to accommodate this.

Is this important to a client, I think yes. Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t. My thought on it is that for a client we have more creative freedom to try different exciting things. I can’t help but think of a client who just came through our doors, a young receiver who is making waves in his respective league. After chatting with him and running a few tests we now know we need to work on his excitation-contraction coupling. A fancy bit of words that means how his brain and muscles function together. So because we have the knowledge and experience to assess this we have created a program that will help him improve this.

So what would I like to be called, Jason usually works great for me. But if we’re getting into actual titles I would say Strength and Conditioning Specialist or Kinesiologist. Anything but Personal trainer. In a future world I hope to see that term being regulated so that term can be reserved for those who have put the time and resources in to complete the required education and passed an exam issued by a certification board. Fingers crossed!


Jason Penner; BESS, NSCA-CSCS