Latest blog from Paul Swainson
Following on from the different places you can work with a PT qualification, Paul looks at the different niches you could become an expert in.
On a course recently I met a small group of trainers I didn't know. After asking what they all did, the first person said he was a strength and conditioning coach, working with amateur athletes to improve their performance, "I'm right at home with Olympic bars and crash mats" he said. The next person explained she was a pre and post natal specialist. "All that clanging metal", she winced, looking at the first guy, "that's not my world at all".
Both qualified and successful personal trainers, with totally different experience and knowledge.
That was a great example of just how diversified the fitness industry has become.
Q: 'What are you planning to do once you've qualified?'
A: 'I'll be a personal trainer'.
This is the common, obvious answer and whilst it’s not wrong, the rapid expansion of the fitness industry means there's more questions to be asked and hence more answers when it comes to your career path.
What type of personal trainer do you want to be? What types can you be? Last time I discussed the different locations you could be a personal trainer in. This time we’ll take a look at who your PT clients could be.
With more and more people recognising the benefits of exercise and healthy living, plus more opportunities and choices to participate, the industry has begun to fragment into niche areas, with specialist people, facilities and resources catering for the particular needs and wants of individuals.
Lets take a few examples:
The number one reason people seek the help of a fitness professional is to look and feel better. The majority of these will fall into the category of 'recreational exercisers' - they see training as a means to an end and will go to the gym or attend a bootcamp 2-4 times week. They may initially state vague goals such as 'lose weight and tone up' and so for them the PT's job is to provide quality training programmes and support within a motivational framework. In other words the main focus is keeping clients engaged and interested in the process.
Stepping up a level, we have the more dedicated clients who are looking for 'body transformation' - a term that has become ever more popular recently and normally refers to significant changes in physique, perhaps with a view to competing on stage at some point. Bodybuilding could therefore be considered a further sub-category here. Trainers will need to go much more in depth with nutrition and training to achieve the maximal results desired.
The upcoming BodyPower Expo next week is the very definition of this end of the market. With the amount of lean muscle on display from exhibitors, models and delegates it's arguably better described as a 'physique industry' event - if you want inspiration to get in shape this is the place to be!
Away from aesthetic goals, improved sports performance is another common specialist area for trainers, and of course there's considerable overlap with sports coaching. Personal training qualifications will give a solid grounding in the concepts involved, and you can choose to learn more about techniques, strategies and equipment that will be relevant to athletes, such as functional training, kettlebells and sports nutrition. Although there are some similarities, the approach needed to maximise gains in speed, strength and power is very different to that needed for changing body shape.
Health-based training is primarily geared towards management of particular conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, prevention of those conditions, or helping particular populations to lead healthier lives, such as older adults or pre and post natal clients. Here the emphasis is not on what clients look like, or pushing the boundaries of their physical potential, but being free of illness or injury and feeling good.
Corrective exercise could be considered a sub-category of health-based training. Corrective exercise is concerned with eliminating the cause of musculoskeletal pain and addressing imbalances to restore optimal function so the body is at less risk of pain and injury in the future. Concepts such as core training, postural correction and low back pain management feature heavily here, and clearly there's interplay with the other areas discussed; corrective exercise can provide a solid foundation for sports performance, as well as maximising potential in training for aesthetic goals.
So whilst it will always be beneficial to have an understanding of a variety of disciplines and to have a broad knowledge of training concepts and nutrition principles, it pays to think about what you want to specialise in, because each client will have their own specific goal and they will be more likely to invest in a trainer with the expertise to help them achieve it.
What do you want to be known for?