If you are a personal trainer looking to become the best in the field, then it should be no surprise a big part of getting there is by continually improving your skills. There are many ways to do this, and you don’t have to do ALL of them. Today I’d like to go over some of the best ways to build your skill set as a trainer. I highly recommend you choose one or two methods, and see how you like it, and then go from there to best apply towards your learning preference.
When becoming a trainer, the default method used to just be getting more and more certifications. This generally costs a lot of money, and in some cases involves going out to a seminar, or specific location to where that certification was offered. On top of that, you usually had to pay for continuing education courses to keep that certification active. I think this is still very much a viable option, however it can get very costly very quickly.
If you do go this route, the biggest thing for you to focus on is finding reputable sources to get your certifications from. Companies like NCI offer very in-depth courses which not only teach you the background knowledge but also the practical application which most certs leave out.
Pros: A condensed, trusted sourced way to learn about very specific areas of fitness and wellness. It adds legit credentials to your title and many jobs seek or show preference towards these.
Cons: costly to upkeep, and you risk the chance of certifications falling out of fashion.
This actually has to be one of my favorite ways to still learn. This is kind of a broad sweeping label, but following a knowledgeable coach who has a big online presence can be priceless. You’ve got everyone from the Mind Pump guys, Layne Norton, Mike Israetel, Mike Matthews and the list goes on and on. Sure, these guys have paid courses, or programs, but they also shell out an INSANE amount of free information.
I have a bachelors in kinesiology, as well as a nutrition certification, and I can tell you hands down, the most I ever learned was spending the last 15 years following all of these guys watching every single video they’ve put out and articles written. Having multiple coaches to follow allows you to see what information overlaps, and eventually allows you to decide for yourself which opinions you agree with or not. The other beauty of following guys like these are that they give a very objective look at both the data and their years of experience. You’re basically getting a fast track to what took these guys 20+ years of mistakes to learn on their own. I’ll see referrals to new studies coming out, or IG posts with quick tips of the day that are easily applicable.
Pros: LOADS of free and paid content, from super knowledgeable coaches. It’s a recurring resource that is easy to access and even easier to find any topic you might possibly have to learn about.
Cons: Just making sure you find respectable coaches. There are a lot of “influencers” out there selling cookie cutter programs and don’t actually know what they are doing. This is why it’s good to find several coaches to follow to see what lines up and what is hype.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point, but in general youtube is your biggest resource for finding literally anything you can think of when it comes to fitness. What once started out as random amateur lifters creating videos on how to lift, is now full of programs, and playlists of everything from how to put on muscle like a bodybuilder, to sprinting like an athlete, to rehabbing a knee injury. As a trainer you are going to get a lot of common questions from clients, but also some very niche ones that you will not know how to answer. Youtube has become a free resource where you can find the answer to any question much quicker than having to go to a library or pay for a certification.
Pros: A completely free library of every possible topic a personal trainer would need to build skills.
Cons: Again, it can be very easy to find videos of individuals who do not know what they are talking about, or making false claims they can’t back up.
This is like following an online coach but 10x. Not only do you get all the benefits I listed of an online coach, but if you are able to work under them, you are getting one on one DIRECT access to them as a mentor, and a potential career from working under them. I had done internships at UCLA and Pepperdine as a strength coach, and I learned more in those 6 month internships than I had in my entire 4 year degree. I got to see what it was like coaching division I athletes in real time, as well as how these top collegiate coaches programmed for each and every sport. It was a master class in improving skills.
Pros: A super concentrated way to learn skills, and get direct access to top coaches.
Cons: most internships aren’t paid, so you would have to consider it an investment on your future.
The last resource I have to recommend is podcasting. If you are reading this you are no doubt a fan of the Mind Pump podcast. I may sound biased saying this, but the honest truth is what I am about to say is exactly why I now write for this very group of guys. If you land on the right fitness podcast, you will get daily, or weekly access to some of the best advice you can find. Direct episodes that answer any question you might have ever possibly had or needed answered. A library you can constantly refer back to or utilize if you ever need it. I never used to listen to a single podcast, and now I can’t even keep up with all the ones I follow. It’s not just the ease of access, but podcasts in particular allow you to learn skills on the go. Coaches, and Youtube are nice, but they don’t let you continue learning while you are in the car, or cleaning around the house.
Pros: 24/7 access to a wealth of knowledge that you can listen to anywhere. Have answers to the most niche problems and a fast track towards learning more about your particular field.
Cons: As with the above, there is a lot of garbage out there. Make sure to find podcasts where the hosts are knowledgeable and provide objective insight towards the topic they speak on.