This is not about marketing. It is about how to make yourself more valuable as a personal trainer. You can stand out on social media all you want, but how do you actually build up your knowledge and skill set as a personal trainer? Here’s how.
A Personal Trainer’s Knowledge of Anatomy
You must know anatomy.
This is a subject that should not be glossed over. It is the foundation for your understanding of everything about the human body.
Once I started really diving into the subject of human anatomy, my competence and value as a personal fitness trainer skyrocketed. In fact, how much a personal trainer knows about anatomy is actually a rough measure of their worth. It’s like a mechanic being able to name the parts of an engine – pretty basic and fundamental stuff.
I stress this because it is not stressed enough. Don’t think, “I don’t need to know anything about nerves because I just train the muscles.” False. You’ve got to know about nerves, muscles, bones, connective tissue, organs, the various systems of the body, bacteria – everything.
You are first and foremost a student of the human body. Then you use that knowledge to train paying customers. The beginning of learning about the human body, is learning anatomy.
This is not stressed enough.
Unique Personal Training Skills
What makes a personal trainer stand out, is unique experience along a certain line. Whether you’re a cross country runner, martial artist, gymnast, bodybuilder or tennis player – you have a unique skill set and experiential track.
Clients who want to be better tennis players will go to a personal trainer who is also a tennis player.
The same goes for golfers, basketball players, and just about every sport.
This is why it is important to get involved in a wide variety of activities. Do things you suck at. Join a volleyball league and you’ll be better prepared to train a high-school volleyball player when the time comes.
Obtain a Variety of Certifications
Make yourself look good on paper. Real good. This isn’t just for vanity or advertising.
Start taking every course you can that will give you some sort of a credential. Aim for ten per year. Sometimes these are as simple as reading a book and taking an online quiz, like for a Continuing Education Unit. Others involve going to a two or three-day workshop. I love going to these where I can meet my peers from all over the country.
Just start racking up certifications. If you work for a gym, then see how much they will contribute. I’ve done this and had several certifications and workshops paid for by the fitness center.
Once you can sit down and start having intelligent discussions about various certifications and how they compare to each other, then other personal trainers will begin to listen to you. But you’ve obviously also got to have a winning clientele to show that you can apply it.
Combine Your Knowledge in New Ways
If you’ve got experience in a variety of sports, and a mountain of certifications, then you see the world like no one else does. It’s true.
You’re aware of common injuries and – with your impeccable knowledge of human anatomy and knowledge of exercise – you are able to develop training programs to prevent or remedy those common injuries. You become the specialist in your area. Once you’ve worked out a good program for any given injury, make a page on your website that showcases your success with it. Make a video about it and put it up there too. Include a written success from the client on how their back problems were hurting their golf game and how YOU helped them get back on the golf course.
Find a niche. If there is a local high school team that needs some extra training, volunteer your time a couple of days per week. The experience, exposure to new faces, networking, and all that comes with it, is priceless. Working with teenagers is also a learning experience in and of itself. Just throw yourself into the fire, my friend.
Look for opportunities. Don’t just be like every trainer who’s trying to find the perfect client to fill their hours. Get OUT of your comfort zone and train people with disabilities, eating disorders, medical conditions – the whole lot. These extreme cases are extremely educational. So long as you come at it from a position of help, you can’t go wrong.
I had a couple of clients who had knee injuries. One had a torn ACL and the other had a torn meniscus that had recently been shaved down. Both were doing physical therapy but wanted to continue working out as much as they could.
Since I really wanted to help them, I got out my anatomy book and made absolutely certain that I knew where these structures were located and what purpose they served. I then got in touch with their physical therapists and found out what programs they were doing, down to each and every exercise. We went over how to safely train them in the gym and what part of this person’s overall training program would be done in the gym and what would be done by the physical therapist.
Physical therapists love this. They want the client to get better. One of these individuals needed to lose quite a bit of weight just to take stress off of their knee. We talked about this person’s tendency to try to work through the pain and how necessary it was to hold them back at this point.
From taking on these two clients I learned more about the knee than I ever thought I could know, I built a relationship with two physical therapists who now refer clients to me, I learned all sorts of knee rehabilitation exercises, and I have a new set of skills I can use when I’m training my regular clients.
Also, imagine the difference of speaking with a potential client who’s gone through surgery and having a trainer who knows exactly what the recovery process is like. The potential client will be much more likely to sign up with that trainer.
It takes a lot of work to really dive into these things the first time. Then your future clients with similar problems are a breeze because you have familiarity with the anatomy, specific exercises and process of working with other professionals.
Spend Your Free Time Educating Yourself
If you’ve got some extra time, use it.
Instead of watching TV, sign up for a continuing education course and take it. Putting in the time like this, here and there, is what makes the difference between a regular personal trainer and an absolutely great one.
The freshness of data in your mind plays a role. If you are a trainer who got certified (and maybe even got a college degree), but haven’t picked up a book in years, you’ve got a problem. If a new situation comes up, you’ll be likely to forget what you learned way back when.
However, if you are regularly updating your knowledge and reviewing subjects from a different angle, it keeps all of that material relatively fresh.
And your clients love to hear when you are excited to try some new exercises that you learned over the weekend.
You could even take a self-defense class and teach them a few moves. This is and has always been a hot topic. Especially these days…
You are as valuable as you invest in yourself.
If you want to stand out as a personal trainer, be willing to go that extra mile. Put yourself in situations where you might have taken on too much. You’ll be fine. You may be stressed, but you’ll learn and be willing to take on even bigger things.
Apply even part of the above tips and you’ll stand out among the other personal trainers in your area.