Blog
21
01
2016
Why The Fitness Industry Is Unfit

Why The Fitness Industry Is Unfit

It’s fashionable to be a personal trainer, own a gym or to have an online following who double tap your bathroom selfie as you flex on a Friday… Plus, it’s profitable if you have a six-pack, cash to splash around or a large online following.

The fitness industry is unfit, in dire need of reform and full of guru’s stealing money from the confused, desperate and vulnerable consumer looking to get fit.

I’ve been in this industry 7 years now, and I’ve seen first hand the number of personal trainers, gyms and online coaches that have started adding their two cents to what constitutes health and fitness, and it infuriates me that the industry is on a downward spiral to being unfit to teach people to be fit…

WHY IS THE FITNESS INDUSTRY UNFIT?

The fundamental reason the fitness industry is in such disarray is twofold:

1. Ease Of Qualification; and

2. Lack Of Regulation.

Do you know how easy it is to obtain qualifications to become a trainer?

Well, it’s like buying a cereal box to obtain the token inside…

With the rise of online courses, it’s never been easier to obtain qualification in the fitness industry… 

Quite simply, you pay your fees, attend a few classes, get a tour in a gym, pass a few online tests that only require you to identify a bicep and voila, you are qualified personal trainer.

The fundamental reason that so many trainers are not fit to practice is due to the the lack of scrutiny of their ability to screen clients, write programs, conduct sessions and communicate with clients. There is very minimal in gym experience, lifting weights or training a variety of individuals with different needs and goals, nor is there much credence given to ensuring a their advice is evidence based, which at the end of the day is the bulk of the job description…

But you’re just a PT, bro…

Before you argue that personal training isn’t that difficult, let me tell you first hand that there is far more to personal training than meets the eye.

It requires an in depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology, human movement, biomechanics, psychology, nutrition and communication skills, just to name a few…

But that’s if you want to get people results of course…

The main issue with the industry is that to gain an understanding of these topics at a basic level requires, a trainer must spend years reading, researching, lifting weights, watching, observing, listening, practicing and most importantly, making a lot of mistakes…

All of this is something that must be done outside of the requisite content in the certificate, and very few understand this… 

The industry qualifications BARELY scrape the surface of what is actually necessary to enable a trainer to become competent in all things fitness.

Once qualified, very few coaches will actually spend time and effort improving their knowledge in the aforementioned areas, and although knowledge is important, but personal training is the application of knowledge to a clients individual needs, and is a completely different kettle of fish.

The second main issue with the industry is in its regulation.

Prescribing nutritional plans or training programs is serious business.

After all, you are in charge of someone’s health, and malpractice can have dire consequences – eating disorders, body image issues, injury and other physical and psychological health issues, all of which are a common occurrence as a result of under qualified personal trainers, especially online programs.

When there is minimal regulation, the cowboys run rampant as the police aren’t there to ensure they abide by the rules of evidence based practice… And the rise in online coaching has only muddied the water for the bodies governing the industry.

WHO YOU SHOULDN’T LISTEN TO…

  1. The social media celebrity.
  2. The Rich & Famous.
  3. The fit chick with abs and a booty.

Just because someone has a large online following, a six pack or the money to buy a fitness center or franchise, doesn’t mean they have the requisite knowledge, experience and know how to help you improve your physique.

Don’t listen to the social media celebrity. Chances are they have f*** all idea about programming, periodisation, nutrition or physiology. Just because they are famous dos NOT qualify them to give advice on a matter, period.

Don’t listen to the rich. They probably have a paid trainer, chef and live a lifestyle that is conducive to a lean, muscular physique. If they aren’t working 9-5, slogging it away in the rat race, have a partner and kids, then they won’t understand the specific requirements of your lifestyle and obstacles an ‘everyday’ Joe Blow may face. Plus, owning a gym or facility doesn’t automatically qualify them to train people!

Finally, don’t listen to those who are in shape. Listen to people who have helped others get in shape, time and time again. Whilst experience is at the forefront of evidence based practice, it automatically qualify the advice given. Just because they have abs, doesn’t mean they know how to help YOU achieve your goals…  

How To Identify An Unfit Trainer…

STRIKE 1…

Firstly, if your trainer or online coach doesn’t give two sh**s about your individual needs, ask questions or gather personal information before prescribing your plan, that’s strike one.

STRIKE 2…

If the scam, I mean plan, or systems is black and white, inflexible, rigid and have little consideration for their clients needs, that’s strike two.

STRIKE 3…

Finally, if your trainer gives blanket prescriptions and recommendations to all of their clients without any regard to their individual goals, preferences, biomechanics, training or dieting history, anthropometry and so forth, that’s strike three.

The kicker is if a guru typically has their product endorsed by celebrities, or uses their own physique to market the product and make outlandish claims and promises or use buzz words such as ultimate, fast, rapid, then you can bet your bottom dollar that their programs aren’t evidence based. 

With the rise of obesity and other health related diseases, the fitness industry is only going to continue to grow exponentially, hence the attraction to becoming a personal trainer.

However, as the number of trainers increases the quality of personal training will only continue to diminish as long as the ease of qualification and poor regulation continues…

It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a large movement to personal claims against trainers for false advertising, negligence and malpractice in coming years for the reasons listed above.

The amount of clients who come to JPS who have had a negative experience with their previous trainer, or online ‘guru’ is absurd. 

Although it’s great for our business, it reflects poorly upon the industry, and those trainers who actually do a good job, and there are a few ‘good’ trainers out there. 

The problem is, in a world where it is easy to hide behind a screen, there are too many fitness ‘enthusiasts’ chasing a dollar, when they should instead be chasing experience, knowledge and improving their skill set as a coach…

The fitness industry has become unfit to be fit, and we need change.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, so please feel free to comment below!

Coach Jacob

 

author: Jacob Schepis

Jacob Schepis is the director of JPS Health & Fitness and one of Melbourne's best personal trainers. As Head nutrition consultant and Strength and Conditioning coach at JPS Health & Fitness, Jacob has transformed hundreds of physiques with his no nonsense, evidence based approach to training and nutrition!

Comment
22
Mel

I came into the fitness industry 5 years ago as a mother of 6 with a severe anxiety disorder that, thanks to a healthier lifestyle, learned how to manage my disorder. My goals as a trainer are to help others find what they need to improve in their lifestyles to reduce anxiety and stress and add to the quality of their lives, there is no one size fits all in the fitness industry, I see it all the time, I continue with my own health improvement to inspire (no rock hard abs here though). In my own time I research, I talk to other trainers about what they’re doing and what they find does/doesn’t work, I try to upskill with short courses and I study exercise science and nutrition at uni which I think is pretty amazing for a 39yo mother of 6 ???? It frustrates me when people come to me expecting a million burpees and not a lot of feedback on technique, I observe and alter posture and progressions so i can remain appropriate with the work load for the individual and their goals, there’s not a lot of this and I try to remain true to my reasons to work in this industry when clients speak of trainers who are ‘harder’ usually the clients who over train significantly and when I hear this I tend to work them lighter to avoid over training! Thank you for this article I find it quite motivating for me to keep staying the trainer I am and not succumb to working outside my level of accreditation to impress the many clients who want me to tell them what and how to eat when I have not yet studied dietetics ????

Steve Buckland

Hi Jacob, I enjoy your posts and have had only a small sample of personal training luckily with Liz M, so an enjoyable experience. I have witnessed some quite dangerous exercise prescription so l must concur with your comment on the deteriorating quality of trainers. For my own knowledge I completed the certificate 3 course myself and it is indeed reasonably simple. A side note, perhaps a term of preceptorship for newly qualified trainers. A professional body with the process of credentialed leaders. I work as a senior registered nurse where our professional training has been oversee by doctors for years with our practice only now emerging without the wrong regulators.

Then of course there is nutrition!!
What a battlefield of misinformation. I have a good working knowledge of nutrition and metabolism and it is frightening how many in the fitness industry feel they have the knowledge to prescribe nutrition plans for clients. Unfortunately the poor knowledge includes trained university qualified nutritionists. Unless individuals are proficient at reading and dissecting medical and food research the message will continue to be wrong.

I personally dislike diet advise that prescribes a one size fits all approach discounting age, previous training, and hormonal response to nutrient groups eg. insulin response and fat storage.

Anyway keep up the good work

Steve Buckland

Cain

My only grief on the flip side is amazingly qualified trainers who have all the uni degrees and scientific understanding but lack detailed understanding of specific skill sets. I would much go with your ‘shit’ trainer that has a background in whatever skill set I’m after. I don’t even care if they have a qualification. Boxing, gymnastics, bodybuilder, muay thai, wrestling. Most of these require moments that seem unconventional and violent on phisiology. But they are skills I want to learn. most strength and conditioning experts with all the best quals aren’t open minded to awkward movement patterns. To do gymnastics properly you need extreme protraction of the scapular. Capoeira requires dangerous flexion of the back. These are things the overly qualified don’t get. So I’d have to say I kind of dissagree. I prefer to get training from the best in an area I want.

Lisa Kanidiadis

Is their any spots left for the nutrition talk?

Delores

Please switch your TV off, stop eating foods with getlaicnley-modified ingredients, and most of all PLEASE stop drinking tap water (Sodium Fluoride)

John

Delores, did you mean genetically-modified foods? If so, could you actually spot them from non GM foods? Also, what peer reviewed scientific evidence do you have regarding the dangers of tap water? Do share.

Effie

Jacob i totally agree. Im in my final stages of Cert IV in Fitness and im supposed to go off and train people after being at school for 6mths. Im a long way from that as ive still got alot to learn. Thank you it was great reading something so frank as whilst doing my course i wondered why this was not an apprenticeship. PT learnings should not only be text book but hands on.

Lachlan

That’s why I’m not a personal trainer anymore.

Shane Mackenzie

Killer article mate. I’ve been in the industry as a trainer, manager and now business owner for a little over 10 years. Couldn’t have said it better myself and it frustrates he hell out of me, people are becoming more and more confused about what’s right and what’s not and when I finally get a hold of them I have to undo all the bad habits created by uneducated people who think they know about what works. The only way to turn this around is to make it much harder to gain qualification. The problem is there’s too much money involved now that it’ll never stop. It’ll take an underqualified trainer to kill someone before anyone will take any notice.

Jess

Have been to so many “nutritionists” who fail to follow up on their prescribed plans or who disappear after giving you 1 day of plans and then completely disappear or don’t bother to reply to questions… It’s everywhere no matter what you do

Dean

I agree with what you say about personal trainers, but you make it sound like rocket science, it’s not ,it’s simple formulas, the gym is not going to rid people of obesity it’s what they put in their mouth that will rid obesity, and fatloss and weight loss are two different things, the whole fitness industry is wrong and run by sponsors selling bullshit weight loss products, eat right and lift

Dean

What is the point of writing articles and when someone does leave a reply and you don’t like it, you delete it, no keeping it real here,

Will

Agree with good part of your opinion. However, a fourth strike might be using the same photo of that lady in the green t-shirt that is available in most stock-images websites…

Steve

Here’s a note for PTs. No understanding of science. Very poor understanding of metabolism, almost no understanding of the changing cellular response and hormone synthesis throughout the lifespan. It’s sad to listen to young trainers bang on about nutrition still driving the calorie in calorie out theory which has absolutely no science to backup. If you want someone to provide a good understanding of the working of a human body and maintenance of fitness don’t ask a PT speak with a biologist.

Kerry

Couldnt agree more! There is not a single PT at the gym I go to that I wpuld strain with. They’re too busy checking their phones or zoning out ro even bother checking their clients form. And whwn i being it to the attention of their recruitment staff who are promoting these ‘trainers’ they dismiss me. I get angry when I go to gym and I see their misconduct and no concern for the future injuries they are causing. My pt work from home. I’d train with you guys if you weren’t on the other side of the world!

How to Select the Right Personal Trainer for You

[…] Just because someone has a large online following, a six pack or the money to buy a fitness center or franchise, doesn’t mean they have the requisite knowledge, experience and know how to help you improve your physique. – Jacob Schepis, JPS Health & Fitness […]

corburt erilio

The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

Mal

I have just started studying and unfortunately I have to agree 🙁 It seems way too easy to gain a qualification, which is why I am taking the time to learn as much as possible rather than just find answers on Google to the assessment requirements which is basically all you need to do. Having my older brother as a successful PT has been a great way to see how it should be done, through hard work, education and learning how to motivate clients (and he did it all without having to show off his six pack!). If there’s one thing I vow to stick to as a PT it’s that it’s all about the clients, not your ego.

Kyle Schuant

I agree that there is a lack of qualification out there, both book knowledge and experience, but I do not agree that more regulation would help.

In Australia, certifications are got from technical colleges, and only 20-40hr unpaid practical placement are required. The same technical colleges offer certificates in plumbing, electrician, cabinet-making, hairdressing and so on – but hundreds or thousands of hours of practical placement are required, and this is paid for – the old apprenticeship system.

In an apprenticeship, you learn theory at school and practice under a master of the craft, starting with sweeping up and handing tools over to the master and watching and taking notes, and gradually taking on more and more responsibility over 2-4 years; many pre-1960 apprenticeships were 7 years, but kids would sign on at 12-14yo, nowadays it’s 16-21yo.

In medieval days, after those apprentice years you would graduate from apprentice to journeyman, and travel practicing your craft and learning more. Later you produce a “masterwork” as you apply to be named a master, able to take on apprentices yourself – much as people are examined for university Masters or PhDs today, defending their original research.

The craft of training people really requires an apprenticeship. Unfortunately nothing like that structure officially exists anywhere I know of, instead we have informal relationships, where the brighter students will seek mentors, and experienced trainers take on interns, as I have. But not many students or gym owners are willing to do this.

Mary Jones

All i can say is WOW! Shame on you. There are people in every profession who do a bad job. Most proffessions require on the job learning and further training before one can call themselves an expert.

Although you make some relevant points you fail to see the bigger picture. You are discreditting the industry you work in. Obviously to make yourself seem more knowledgeable.

In my experience people seek a personal trainer for many reasons and generally people choose someone they connect with.

As i stated earlier, there are cowboys in every field but i have never heard of an accountant teacher pharmacist etc …discredit their own

There is misleading information regarding nutrition everywhere…food labels government websites and the outdated food pyramid

Focus on your own learning and stop bagging the industry you work in…shame on you

Warren

not my experience. I have met only well qualified, helpful, client focussed, dedicated and highly professional trainers whose care and support has been above and beyond what one has any right to expect…. maybe its where you look.

Alisa Ewert

There is alot to learn and note down from your article. A perfect recipe of health

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