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So You Want to Be a Personal Trainer

More than 300 organizations offer personal-training certification. If you’re looking to get certified, you need to know that it can be confusing and overwhelming; however, one of the most respected groups is the International Sports Science Association, founded in 1988. That year a team of renowned fitness experts joined under the leadership of Sal A. Arria, D.C., MSS, and Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D., MSS, to stem the tide of physical decline.

The ISSA’s founding mission was to increase the fitness of the people on our planet by helping more fitness professionals enjoy successful careers. In its nationally accredited programs, the ISSA teaches students and graduates how to construct scientifically proven, customized routines consisting of 1) cardiovascular conditioning, 2) resistance training, 3) flexibility and stability training and 4) sound nutrition principles.

The ISSA teaches the most current scientific information, beginning with anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics and exercise physiology. The solid foundation students get ensures that they fully understand how the body moves and responds in order to best help clients.

Students are also taught how to assess a client’s needs and then develop a custom program for him or her. A properly designed training program is key to helping clients reach their goals, but a mental component plays a substantial role as well. ISSA trainers understand that the desire for transformation is rarely strictly physical.

The learning process continues far into a trainer’s career, and the ISSA supports its students and alumni, who can call ISSA professors anytime. Also, students and trainers can connect through the ISSA Member Forum and learn from one another what works and what doesn’t.

The ISSA offers six fitness certification programs: Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT), Specialist in Fitness Nutrition (SFN), Specialist in Sports Conditioning (SSC), Specialist in Exercise Therapy (SET), Youth Fitness Trainer (YFT) and Specialist in Senior Fitness (SSF), in addition to dozens of carefully chosen continuing-education courses. The ISSA flagship program—the Certified Fitness Trainer course—includes texts and learning tools covering everything that is required to enjoy a career in the booming fitness industry.

The topics covered in the 727-page Fitness: The Complete Guide include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, exercise-related biomechanics, client assessment, program development, strength training, nutrition, sample training and nutrition programs, exercise for special populations, an overview of sportsmedicine and basic first aid. Included materials also cover the business side of personal training, teaching trainers how to succeed in the personal-training industry.

And to add to their continuum of education for the profession, the ISSA just announced that they are the first in the industry to offer an Associates Degree in Exercise Science, with an emphasis on personal training.

The ISSA is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, a nationally recognized agency and member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a self-regulation accreditation advocacy organization with national scope. The ISSA is the first fitness organization to earn national accreditation from a federally recognized accrediting agency.

The ISSA is now approved by the United States Department of Defense for Military Tuition Assistance through the DANTES, AVOTEC and MyCAA (the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account) programs. In addition the ISSA has recently been approved for Veteran Funding via the G.I. Bill. Such accreditation helps legitimize the public perception of fitness educators and gives the entire profession credibility as wellness providers

As ISAA co-founder Sal A. Arria has said, “So many people need what exercise can give them, yet so few know how to make it a daily part of their lives. My dream, my passion and my vision is to have every physician in the country refer their patients to certified personal trainers and have the medical profession embrace exercise and activity as a necessity and vitally important element in the long, happy and healthy lives of their patients.” For more information on ISSA visit

Editor’s note: Robet Wolff is the author of Become a Certified Personal Trainer (New York: McGraw-Hill. 2010).



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