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A Personal Trainer Study Guide

author image Joshua Bailey
Joshua Bailey has been writing articles since 2006 with work appearing at and Bailey holds the following certifications: NASM-CPT, NASM-PES, NASM-CES and NSCA-CSCS. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Master of Science in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
A Personal Trainer Study Guide
Studying various skills is critical to passing your certification exam.

To effectively teach individuals how to work out, a personal trainer must have interpersonal and salesman skills as well as a solid scientific foundation. Those wishing to become certified are typically required to pass a competency exam in order to earn the certificate. The exam has many aspects.

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Exercise Prescription and Assessment

One of the primary areas that all trainers need to study is exercise prescription and assessment. This section deals with getting basic health information from your client and placing them into risk categories based on their health. This allows you to design an exercise program that is safe and effective. Other assessment skills such as learning how to measure skin folds for body fat or a step test to determine cardiovascular improvement are also included on these exams.

Exercise Physiology

Learning which exercises to use and how to structure a program requires a fundamental understanding of how the body works. Exercise physiology is the study of how the body works in relation to exercise. You will need to learn how your heart and lungs work in response to exercise and the types of muscular changes you would expect based on different weight-training programs. Once you understand some of these concepts, you will be on your way to becoming a trainer who can use scientific facts to train people and not just what is popular or trendy.

Exercise Technique

Exercise technique is another important concept for a trainer to study to pass the competency exam. During this section of your preparation, you will learn how to teach different exercises that target the various muscular groups. You will learn chest, shoulder, back, abdominal, leg, triceps, biceps, and butt exercises. Once you have learned how to perform the lifts, you will need to be able to effectively communicate to your client how to execute the lifts properly and safely.

Nutrition and Weight

Although a personal trainer is not a registered dietitian, you must learn basic nutrition and weight-management techniques so you can offer your clients general principles of nutrition and weight management. You might not give them a full diet plan with meals to eat because that's against the scope of practice. Confirm that your recommendations fall under governmental guidelines such as the Food Pyramid.

Clinical Conditions

You also need to study clinical conditions. You'll encounter a variety of clients with chronic illnesses and conditions. Material from this section will cover basics such as training individuals who are obese, have diabetes or those who have heart conditions. Not all certifications require this extensive training but your versatility as a trainer will improve by knowing this topic.

Client Relations

The final section of most personal training certificates involves client relations. You will mainly find information on goal-setting, motivation and professional practice in this section. A personal trainer’s primary job is to help the client get the results they want, but a trainer can’t be with the client all hours of the day. By teaching your clients how to set goals and be motivated, you can help your clients when you're not around.

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