Nutritional Aspects of Personal Trainer

rick ligthelm

You may ask yourself, “How much do you need to know about nutrition to be a personal trainer?” First of all, a personal trainer is not a nutritionist or a dietitian, that is a different degree or certification (you can become certified for that and greatly increase your marketability). Although we are not nutritionists and should not prescribe diets, we still need to be educated on publicized Government recommendations.

When it comes to the line between nutritionists and personal trainers the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has this to say,

“…personal trainers have the a responsibility to provide educational information about the fundamentals of appropriate diets. Clients with special dietary needs and problems … must be referred to a registered dietitian or similar professional (trainers must not “prescribe a diet”). Otherwise, information that is educational in nature and in the public domain, such as that from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid, can and should be shared with clients.”

During your personal trainer course you will have to learn and understand the ins and outs of macro-nutrients and their background. Fear not, the program will help walk you through this and teach you everything you need to know. When it comes to nutrition, you should be educated enough to answer any nutrition questions they may have or be able to point them in the right direction. Remember that we are here to help.

Image Credit: rick ligthelm on Flickr

16 Tips for the Personal Trainer Practical Exam


The second part of the personal trainer certification examination process is the practical exam (other part is the multiple-choice exam). Some organizations don’t have a practical exam so check to see if the organization you choose does (most accredited organizations do).

The practical exam is your chance to show the instructor what you know and how you would handle a real-life training session. During most practicals the instructor gives you a situation that you need to act out and then they will have you explain why you did what you did. For instance, the instructor might tell you, “You have a very old client with a hurt knee that wants to build up his functional strength, show him a beginner hamstring exercise.” Usually another student in the program will play your client as you act out the scenario.

Usually you will then have to verbally answer an assortment of questions that range from describing how to modify the exercise for a more advanced client, to listing what the main muscle groups exercised were, to listing the opposing muscle groups. Of course each organizations program is different and will vary accordingly, but the format should be relatively the same. Make sure to ask your instructor about the format of the practical and what they are inspecting. Here are 16 tips for dominating the practical exam or any training session in general:

  1. Talk, talk, talk – The more you talk and explain the exercise the better you will do (unless you are completely wrong). That being said don’t spout off nonsense, keep it related to the exercise and explaining what you know.
  2. Eye on client – During the practical make sure to stay engaged with the client. Make eye contact with them and speak to them, forget the instructor is there.
  3. Describe the exercise – First part of any training session is explaining to the client exactly what they will be doing. During the practical, explain the exercise and how it is done.
  4. Explain why you doing it and muscle groups used – After explaining the exercise, discuss with the “client” what the purpose of the exercise is and the muscle groups worked.
  5. Demonstrate the exercises – This is the point in the practical where you demonstrate to the client how to perform the exercise, tell them exactly what you are doing. Describe every detail.
  6. Have client perform exercise – Have the client do it building from the floor up (next tip)
  7. Build from the floor up – When demonstrating the exercise and when having the client do it, it’s important to remember to build from the floor up. This means start with the feet: tell them they need their feet flat on the floor, knees bent at a 90 degree angle, body straight up, head looking forward….etc. explaining exactly how the body should be positioned for that specific exercise. Once again: talk, talk, talk.
  8. Count our repetitions – As the client is performing the exercise, count of the repetitions they are on.
  9. Be encouraging and upbeat – During the practical be sure to encourage and support the client.
  10. Ask if there is any discomfort – Make sure during any training session when the client is performing the exercise ask if they are having any discomfort. If so tell them to stop the exercise immediately.
  11. Use the clients name – When encouraging the client, it is always good to use their name. This creates a bond with them, tells them you are there for them, encourages them, and lets them know you care.
  12. Ask to touch – Sometimes it’s helpful to touch a clients specific muscle group to help them understand which ones they should feel during the exercises. If you need to touch them, ask beforehand.
  13. Wrap it up – Have the client do a certain number of repetitions (count them out) and then wrap up the exercise.
  14. Take your time – During the practical take your time and remember everything you want to say. You usually have 15-20 minutes for the practical so use your time wisely.
  15. Utilize the review session to ask questions – This is very important! Use this time to ask any questions and figure out exactly what is going to be on the practical. Most of the time they will tell you exactly what they are expecting.
  16. Discuss the practical with instructor beforehand – This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. If you ask, most of the time they are more then happy to discuss what is on the practical and what they expect and are looking for! Asking questions never hurts.

Image Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images on Flickr

10 Tips for the Personal Trainer Multiple Choice Exam

Some people are great test-takers and can recall everything they studied. Other people have great memories but panic during tests and freeze up! Don’t let this happen to you, use some of these Personal Trainer certification exam tips to help you pass your multiple choice exam!

  1. Read instructions carefully – This is a simple but invaluable tip. Are they looking for the only incorrect answer? Do they want the best two answers? Make sure you know what you are supposed to be answering.
  2. Slow and steady wins the race – For many of the tests you have an extended period of time to finish it, anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 hours! Take your time and do your best work.
  3. Answer the ones you know first – We find it helpful to go through the test and answer the ones you know right off the bat, skipping any that you have doubt about. You can go back through and take more time on the questions you have any doubt about.
  4. Analyze don’t skim – Read each question carefully! Like reading the instructions carefully, the questions can be different throughout the exam as well. In many instances the answer to the question may be hidden in the wording of the question itself.
  5. Answer the ones burnt into your memory – If you know you struggle with a section and have been studying it religiously, hit that section first! This will put your mind at ease getting over your supposed “hardest” section. Then go through and answer the easy questions.COCOEN
  6. Eliminate the wrong answers – When answering questions you may not know, go through and eliminate any answers that are obviously wrong. This can greatly increase your chances of guessing the right answer, if it comes down to that.
  7. Answer everything – You aren’t penalized for guessing, so you might as well answer every question. At least you will have a shot of getting it correct.
  8. Forgot an answer? Move on, it will come back to you – If you are skimming through a test and come across a question you know but your brain freezes, forget about it and move one. Answering other questions could jog your memory in regards to that question at which point you can go back and answer it. Also other questions on the exam might actually include the answer to the question you are having a hard time on!
  9. If you don’t know an answer, use your best judgment – After you have eliminated all the obviously wrong answers and are down to a couple answers that could be correct, use your best judgment and make an educated guess.
  10. If you have extra time, double check your answers – If you breeze through the test and have extra time, go through and double or triple check each answer. This could save you from getting a couple question wrong that you either marked wrong or just flat out screwed-up on.

Image Credit: COCOEN on Flickr

Personal Trainer Exam Study Tips

There are several study methods to increase your chances of passing the personal trainer exam. Implement these tips into your own study strategies to help you understand the certification content and make the exam easier for you

calebcherry1. Slow and steady, don’t sprint – It’s important to note that you usually have an extended period of time to take the course and utilize all of your study materials. Most programs give you a 6-12 month exam voucher. Start studying earlier and do a little at a time so you can comprehend it all. Don’t try to cram and process all of the information a week before your exam voucher expires.

2. Have study plan, stick to it – This relates to the first tip. You have a set period of time before your exam. Make a plan that you can easily follow that allows you to study at your own pace but still have all the materials digested before the exam.

3. Know your weaknesses – If you have no experience in biology and physiology then you may want to study those sections more. Or if you are not very good at math or remembering formulas you may want to cover those sections more. Knowing what you are good at and knowing what you aren’t good at can greatly help you when you study.

4. Ask questions – This is a very important one! Throughout the course you will have many questions that you need help answering, or just concepts that you need clearing up. Do not be afraid to contact the organization if you have the capability to! It will save you a ton of headaches and you will comprehend the information so much more.

5. Know which sections are weighted most – Many sections of a programs course will be longer or weighted more on the test. Check out your program information to find out which sections have more questions from them (or call or email the program) and remember to especially study those sections.

6. Utilize study tools – Utilize whatever study materials the course offers! If you have them, you might as well as use them!


7. Understand the content in your own words – Sometimes the technical jargon can be completely befuddling. Go through and understand each of those terms in your own way. For instance, if the word is “isometric” you can picture the exercise walls-sits and know that the joint angle of the knee is not moving. So isometric to you means an exercise in which the joint doesn’t move or the muscles don’t lengthen.

8.  Don’t just read, practice – Be sure to do the practice tests if you purchased them! They will allow you to see how the question will be worded and their difficulty level on the real exam.

9. Use flashcards – Flashcards can be a really valuable study commodity. Flashcards come in handy for studying muscle groups, exercises, and joint movements/actions.

Image Credit: calebcherry on Flickr

Are Personal Trainer Study Materials Worth It?

Study materials come in many forms. After you decide what program you are going with you will have the choice of buying a number of study materials. They can range from none-at-all, to web-based materials, to study guides, to practice tests. Are they worth it though?


You can only purchase the exam in some instances but we highly recommended against that. Straight up, don’t do that. When it comes to study materials it depends on how experienced you are at working out and your common knowledge of physiology.

A large portion of the test and program covers muscle groups, stretching, and nutrition. These are all things that you may have learned in high school or college. The more experience you already have in these areas, the easier those sections should be for you. Either way its better to have too much study materials then not enough.

We highly recommend buying study guides and practice tests. These are critical and incredible beneficial. They allow you to get a feel for the types and difficultly level of questions on the test and give you insight into the areas of the program that you need to study more. This can literally be invaluable. When it comes to practice tests, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) tells us that their practice test (and all other organizations more than likely) is very similar to the real test in format, content, and difficulty. Bottom line: buy the practice test.

You probably understand your learning style. Are you a visual learner? Do you have to write things down over and over to retain it? Do you need flash cards? Do you need study guides? Whichever type of learner you are you need to take that into consideration when purchasing study materials. Buy however much you need to allow you to have the best chance to pass the final exams. You can’t have too much of a good thing and you can find several refreshers online or make your own study guide!

One last tip: If you have been attending the same gym for awhile you may have become good friends with some of the professional staff. If their certification is through an accredited organization that we recommend (they most likely are) that you are interested in, ask them if you can borrow their study materials on condition you will give them back after the test! It’s a great way to save yourself some money! We don’t recommend you choosing a program solely on the fact that you can get free study materials, but it can be a supporting factor.

 Image Credit: albertogp123 on Flickr

Personal Trainer Requirement: CPR/AED

One requirement to get into a personal trainer program is to be CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) certified. Every certified organization that we recommend require this prerequisite.


The easiest way to become CPR/AED certified is to take a course through the American Red Cross. They have a ton of locations all over the United States so there more then likely is one near you. To find a class near you go to the link below or click on the logo and enter your zip code and under Category select “First Aid, AED & CPR for Lay Responders”:

A list of courses will appear offering various locations and class types. Look for a class called “Adult and Pediatric CPR/AED” listed at a price of $90. Even the class called “Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED” will work but costs more; $110. Choose the one nearest you or one that fits into your schedule the best. Add to cart and proceed to checkout. When checking out, many times you can get a promotional code that will take off a nice chunk of the cost if you are pinched for money. Simply search “Red Cross Promotional Codes” on Google and try a couple to see if they work.


There are two parts to the course. The first part is a online portion that needs to be completed before the respective live workshop (takes a couple hours at home, or longer if this stuff is brand new to you). You will have to print off a certificate indicating that you completed the online portion and bring that to your instructor before your live class. The live class is the second part of the CPR/AED certification. It usually takes 4-5 hours to complete and will cover all of your CPR/AED questions.

Upon completion of the entire course you will be given or mailed a Red Cross CPR/AED certification card that is valid for two years. If you are over 18, you now have all the prerequisites required to enter many certified personal trainer programs!

Image Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images

Personal Trainer Program Requirements

Woman with Personal Trainer in gym

So you want to be a personal trainer and you have checked out some organizations, but did you know there are a couple requirements to get into those programs? Here is a list of the most common requirements to get into a personal training program from our 13 recommended organizations:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • CPR/AED certified
  • High School diploma or GED
  • Gym experience

All of the organizations we recommend require their trainers to be at least 18 years of age and have a CPR/AED certifications (check out our article on how to become CPR/AED certified). Likewise, there are a number of organizations that require a high school diploma or a GED to enter the program, check out our organization center to learn more.

Lastly, many organizations require that you have gym experience. This is not so much of a requirement but it is highly recommended you know what you are doing in the gym. Having gym experience will help you so much in the certification process because you have performed and used many of the exercises and equipment you will be taught about. Having gym experience will make the entire program much easier. Realistically though, if you are taking the initiative to become a personal trainer I’m sure you have a love for exercising so you have a ton of gym experience!

Although there are a number of requirements, there aren’t any that you can’t be overcome on your way to becoming a personal trainer!

Image Credit:

Choosing A Personal Trainer Certification

Personal Trainer Certification – Kind of a BIG Deal!

One of the hardest parts about becoming a personal trainer is deciding which organization to get certified through. Basically where do you want to get your personal trainer certification? This can be completely confusing because there are so many organizations. Check out our Organization Center for a breakdown of our 13 recommended organizations!

Personal trainer certificationWhen choosing a personal trainer certification it’s important to ask yourself these six questions:

1. How much time to do I have to get certified?

Organizations offer a number of different options for getting certified; from a 3-4 day workshop to a self-paced study course in which you can get a year long exam voucher. Set a time frame for yourself and go from there.

2. Which program fits into my budget?

Organizations offer a variety of programs and study material options that can cost anywhere from $300-$400 all the way up to $2,000. Many times you can get an exam voucher and amazing study materials (or a live course and study materials) for $500-$600.

3. Is it an certification accepted by all gyms?

Of course, you want an accredited organization that is accepted by any gym you try to get employed at! Make sure the program you choose has been accredited and is accepted everywhere.

4. Do I want to take a live workshop or do a self-paced study?

There are many benefits to both. For one, a live workshop is great because it allows you to get all of the information in a couple of days and get the course and exam over with. You also get the chance to discuss and review the exam with an instructor face-to-face. On the other hand you usually have to travel and a large amount of information is dumped on you rather quickly.

Self-paced online courses or physical studying materials can be quite handy as well. They allow you to work at your own pace and usually offer the ability to call or email staff with any questions you have. The problems with self-paced courses are procrastination and not being able to discuss and review the exam face-to-face with a professional.

5. If I want to do a live workshop, which organization’s classes are offered close-by?

If you want do a live workshop make sure there is a course occurring close-by. Find out which organization you want to go through that offers live workshops and check when the upcoming ones are and where they are. Workshops are offered at many different locations, so time it to where you can sign-up, study up. and be ready for a workshop when it is offered close-by. This will save you traveling time as you get your personal trainer certification!

6. How long until I have to get re-certified?

If re-certification is of concern to you, check to see how long each organization gives you until you need to be re-certified. This is normally around 2 years but can be anywhere from 6 months to 4 years.


Becoming a personal trainer and getting a personal trainer certification is one of the most rewarding decisions you can make! Your personal trainer certification will be your ticket to starting your own business or working at your favorite gym and changing lives! Let us know if there is anyway we can help you choose your personal trainer certification!

Wnat more? Check out our Blog or look for personal trainer jobs near you!

Personal Trainer Certification Goals

Why do companies make business plans? Is it because they are bored and like to over-delegate? No, they make them because they work and give the company something to shoot for. They are the GPS coordinates the company follows to get where it wants to be. When trying to achieve your goal of becoming a certified personal trainer and getting your personal trainer certification you could take a page from these large companies business plans.

personal trainer certification - becoming a personal trainer

1. Envision where you want to be – You want to be a personal trainer right? But what personal trainer certification should you get? Does a specific gym you want to work at only take certain certifications? Take all of this information into mind when setting your certification goals

2. How do I get there – Be sure to know the requirements for your specific program you want to take. Does it require CPR/AED certification? Do you want to do a 3-4 day live course of a self-paced course? Think of these things and be sure to implement them before you take your actual personal trainer course.

3. What’s the time frame – Remember that you can either take a 3-4 day live course which requires some studying before hand or you can get an exam voucher for as long as 12 months. It all depends on how fast you want to get certified or how quick you can pick the information up. Do you have a spot on a gym staff and need to be certified more quickly?

4. What are the costs – Will you need all the study materials or just some for your personal trainer certification? How much is the exam? How much is the overall course? How much is the CPR/AED certification? Take these things into mind when setting your certification goals. You may need to save-up for an extended period of time before starting a program.

Take these 4 tips into consideration when picking your personal trainer certification. What, how, time, and cost all need to be taken into consideration when setting your goals!

Image Credit: plantoo47 on flickr

Becoming a Personal Trainer

Thinking about becoming a personal trainer?

Want to be a personal fitness trainer? Want to become a PT? If you love exercising and want to share your knowledge and make a career out of it (or even just on the side) you may want to consider getting certified as a personal fitness trainer. Being certified by an accredited organization allows you to pass on your knowledge and make a nice salary in the process.

Become a PT - Personal Trainer - Becoming a personal trainer - personal trainer salary

CNN Money in a 2012 ranking, ranked being as personal trainer as the 18th best job in America with the median personal trainer salary around $56,000. Of course, this personal trainer salary is location dependent. Nevertheless there is a very high demand with a 24% estimated growth in the industry over the next 10 years and it could be a perfect fit for you. So does the personal trainer salary and becoming a personal trainer still sound like an awesome gig? To become a personal trainer the most common form is in group classes or in a self-paced at home course:

Group workshops: Group workshops normally occur over multiple days in which the entire program is taught to the class. The benefits of group training is that you can get the entire course in only a few days and not have to worry about making yourself study like you have with self-paced courses (more on that later). Also you can interact one-on-one with a certified trainer that can answer any questions you may have and watch examples first-hand. On the flip-side, you have to worry about the massive amount of material dropped on you in a short period of time. Some other workshop options are webinars which are basically the live group workshop broadcasted to multiple locations.

Self-paced courses: There are two options when it comes to self paced courses, some organizations offer online content and others only give you hard, physical materials. Until recently there were not many accredited online courses although there were self taught courses. The beauty of these courses is that you don’t have to travel to take a group course and can take it at your own pace from the luxury of your own home. The downside is that you don’t get the one-on-one in person interaction with a trainer (although you do have review sessions with a trainer via webcam in some cases).

For both of these options it is a very wise decision to buy all the class materials which is only optional in many instances. Buy the materials and spend the extra money to get the actual book, study guides, and practice tests. Study guides and practice tests are very helpful and should be filled out before the group classes to make it easier on you. The practice tests are very crucial as well when it comes to the online course.

Important Reminders

Becoming a personal trainer is a awesome, rewarding experience. There are many other similar accredited organizations that also offer personal trainer certification and I will cover some of these in later articles! Whichever certification you choose, find one that you are comfortable with it and is the right fit for you on your way to becoming a personal trainer.

Make sure to utilize the study materials and fill out the study guide completely and take the practice test! The benefits of being a personal trainer are enormous! It is a relatively stress free job that is satisfying and very rewarding! So do you want to become a PT? Let’s get started!

Image Credit: