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J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May;22(3):883-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181660dab.

The current state of personal training: an industry perspective of personal trainers in a small Southeast community.

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Human Performance and Leisure Studies Department, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA.


Although research has identified a number of qualities and competencies necessary to be an effective exercise leader, the fitness industry itself is largely unregulated and lacks a unified governing body. As such, a plethora of personal trainer certifications exists with varying degrees of validity that fail to ensure qualified trainers and, therefore, protect the consumer. It is argued that the potential consequences of this lack of regulation are poor societal exercise adherence, potential injury to the client, and poor public perception of personal trainers. Additionally, it is not known whether personal trainers are meeting the needs of their clients or what criteria are used in the hiring of personal trainers. Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to examine the current state of personal training in a midsized Southeast city by using focus group methodology. Local personal trainers were recruited for the focus groups (n = 11), and the results from which were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for themes using inductive reasoning by the authors. Qualities and characteristics that identified by participants clustered around 4 main themes. Client selection rationale consisted of qualities that influenced a client's decision to hire a particular trainer (e.g., physique, gender, race). Client loyalty referred to the particular qualities involved in maintaining clients (e.g., motivation skills, empathy, social skills). Credentials referred to formal training (e.g., college education, certifications). Negative characteristics referred to qualities considered unethical or unprofessional (e.g., sexual comments, misuse of power) as well as the consequences of those behaviors (e.g., loss of clients, potential for litigation). These results are discussed regarding the implications concerning college programs, certification organizations, increasing public awareness of expectations of qualified trainers, and a move towards state licensure.

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