Opinion: Should We License Personal Trainers?

In recent years, many states have begun introducing legislation requiring personal trainers and coaches to obtain state-issued licenses. These licenses would allow them to legally work as fitness professionals and provide services in that category. The industry is full of many certifying bodies, like the NSCA, ACE, NASM, or even CrossFit, that would all define “fitness” differently. Now, it appears that many states are looking to establish a standard baseline for what actually qualifies as fitness training.

The barrier of entry to the fitness profession is unfortunately very low, and everyone seems to know everything about fitness.  No matter what, somebody will always have their own input on what you should be doing, how to do it, and what you’re doing wrong in the gym.

However, the problem is that “fitness” means different things to different people. For one person it could be losing weight, for another it could be to win a powerlifting meet, and for yet another, to run a 10K. To achieve this fitness, there are many ways to skin a cat. Everyone has different needs/goals, no one person has the same anthropometrics or body mechanics, and people like to challenge themselves all the time.

With such a broad definition of fitness, what good would standardization across all these different modalities actually do?

Instead of blindly abiding by what one certifying body says, you need to truly understand why someone is doing something a certain way before telling them that they are right or wrong. When it comes to exercise technique, different limb lengths, height, and weight all factor in to the biomechanics that are ultimately expressed in movement, and there is no 100% wrong or right in either direction; it just has to fit the specific person’s needs.

Before we jump the gun and try to license fitness training at the state level, we should keep in mind that all of us define fitness differently.  I’m not saying to look the other way when somebody is being reckless and doing something without any thought, but we should use common sense and make sure we aren’t overstepping our boundaries. Nobody likes a know-it-all and chances are, what they’re doing probably has purpose and intent. If they aren’t hurting themselves, they aren’t hurting you.

by Ross Curtis