My name is Paul, and I am a Certified Personal Trainer. Not only that, I’m also a Registered Health & Exercise Practitioner. In my most official, most professional capacity, I am Paul Landini: OFC RHEP – GE, RT, PT.
If you’ve spent any time immersed in the health and fitness world, chances are good you’ve come across a similar sort of alphabet soup, and chances are just as good you’ve wondered what the hell all of these designations mean. In my case, they mean I went to college, learned about anatomy, physiology, exercise prescription, and nutrition, maintained an honours-level GPA, and then passed a series of tests. Now I can put a bunch of letters after my name to indicate to the world that I’m qualified to teach others how to lift heavy things without killing themselves.
These certifications are a good thing. They afford clients a sense of security in my skills and demonstrate a basic level of competency to colleagues. Or at least that’s the idea. The fitness industry is notorious for being an unregulated Wild West full of poseurs and frauds. There are no oversight commissions or governmental bodies to ensure the validity of certifying organizations. I could have put a series of letters after my name without passing any tests. I could have completed any number of dubious online courses. I could have started training people without studying these subjects in depth, without spending countless hours in gyms across Toronto gaining practical experience training athletes and future former couch potatoes and everyone else in between. But I chose to study and practice, and I’m better off for the fact. My clients are too.
The true value of titles and certifications is that they serve as proof of both knowledge and commitment. The science behind getting in shape can be complicated, and many of the most effective exercises are technically demanding. Why put your faith in someone who lacks the proper credentials when doing so can lead to stunted progress or a serious injury? Think of it this way: would you trust the prognosis of a doctor who dabbles in medicine? Would you rely on the legal advice of a part-time lawyer/full-time barista? Take a look at the prerequisites for the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and you’ll understand why any trainer with an NSCA CSCS has more to offer than that jacked dude your cousin knows.
That being said, even the most prestigious certification is not a guarantee you’re going to love your trainer and get the results you want. All the qualifications in the world don’t make up for a personality mismatch or a rigid training ideology. The best trainer, much like the best program, is the one you’re going to stick with, so choose wisely. Consider credentials, but consider your instincts, too. Be picky. Ask questions. But please, whatever you do, don’t ask how much they can bench.