Which exercise professional is best for you?
Not just their personality. 🙂 Each type of exercise professional has different scope of practice. Learn the difference.
Every industry has it’s own terminology. These can sometimes lead to confusion. This article seeks to clear things up. By the end you will know how to choose which exercise professional is best for you. Please keep in mind that there are differences between countries.
Broadly speaking, the distinctions between Personal Trainers (PTs), Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Strength & Conditioning Coaches (S&Cs) come down to three factors:
- Health sector or sport and recreation sector
- Training general or specific populations
- Tertiary qualified or not
Whether you choose to train with a PT, EP or S&C you should:
- Check that they are, in fact, qualified (the fitness industry is self regulated)
- Make sure they are insured
- Check that they have industry Registration (professional Code of Conduct, minimum standards, etc.)
- Professional Registration: Fitness Australia
- Scope of practice: General population (low risk only, not sport specific)
- Qualification: Certificate 4 in Fitness (may be completed in less than 6 weeks)
- Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Weight Loss
A Personal Trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction.
Proper exercise prescription may result in improved body composition, physical performance, heart condition and health outcomes. A trainer pays close attention to their client’s exercise form, workout routine, and nutrition plan. The decision to hire a trainer may be due to the perception of proper exercise selection and coaching or motivation and adherence.
PTs motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments are usually performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines. Qualified Personal Trainers recognize their own areas of expertise. If a trainer suspects that one of his or her clients has a medical condition that could prevent the client from safe participation in an exercise program, they must refer the client to the proper health professional for prior clearance.
There are scarce studies with men, but some with women. According to those studies, women working with personal trainers achieved:
- greater increases in strength
- higher workout intensities
- higher perceived exertion during exercise
- self-select heavier loads
than women who did not.
In summary, the scope of practice for a personal trainer is to enhance the components of fitness for general, healthy populations.
- Professional Registration: ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia)
- Scope of practice: Specific population (med-high risk, disease/injury management)
- Qualification: A Minimum 4 Year University Degree
- Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Rehab / Medical condition management
Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are allied health professionals.
They specialise in the delivery of exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. AEPs provide graded exercise therapy and lifestyle interventions for ‘specific populations’. These are clients that have developed, or are at risk of developing, chronic and complex medical conditions and injuries. AEPs work in hospitals and private clinics, occupational rehabilitation companies, employment agencies, seniors gyms and research institutes.
AEPs are not Personal Trainers. They are allied-health professionals and are trained members of the health and medical sector. AEPs are eligible to register with Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and WorkCover and are recognised by most private health insurers.
AEPs provide training in safe manual handling. They perform functional assessments and fitness tests. They also provide lifestyle education to help people manage their health conditions.
In summary, the scope of practice for an exercise physiologist is to assess and manage the components of fitness for specific, at-risk populations.
Strength & Conditioning Coach
- Professional Registration: ASCA (Australian Strength & Conditioning Association)
- Scope of practice: Sporting population, primarily sports/teams
- Qualification: Coaching Accreditation through the Australian Sports Commission; Tertiary Qualifications Available
- Usual work: Sporting Performance, Injury prevention/management
Strength and conditioning coaches (S&C) have two primary goals.
The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength,and power.
The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.
Let’s address each.
S&C Coaching for Athletic Performance includes:
- Developing systematic training programs for both teams and individual athletes
- Working in close association with skill coaches
- Teaching proper lifting techniques
- Supervising and motivating athletes as they work out
- Assessing their performance before and after the program.
The nature of the conditioning program will vary depending on whether the sport is in season or not. During the off-season, conditioning programs can be quite rigorous. In season, conditioning programs tend to focus more on maintaining athletes’ conditioning than on improving it. Conditioning programs also vary by sport, and even by position within the sport.
S&C Coaching for Injury Management includes:
- Designing regimens to strengthen body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport
- Preventing athletes from getting injured during training
- Teaching correct exercise and lifting techniques
- Monitoring athletes’ general health
S&C coach’s may also create nutrition plans for athletes, or liase with nutrition professionals. This is usually designed to provide the best possible nutrition to keep each athlete at peak condition. Additionally, proper nutrition helps to speed up muscle recovery time and provide the necessary energy for competition.
Maintaining accurate workout records for all athletes is an often overlooked but still important aspect of the job. Proper record keeping helps to ensure that individuals and teams accomplish the training they need on the right schedule. The right training increases the team’s odds of success in games over the course of the season.
Conditioning coaches usually meet regularly with the team’s coaches to determine what individual athletes, or the team, needs to work on in the conditioning facility. If working with an injured athlete engaged in rehabilitation, conditioning coaches will also consult with the sports medicine or athletic training staff to be sure they do not ask the injured athlete to do anything inappropriate in training.
In summary, the scope of practice for a strength and conditioning coach is to enhance the components of performance for specific/sporting, healthy populations.
Often a Personal Trainer with an interest in performance, rather than weight loss, will undertake additional training to become a strength and conditioning coach. (Like I did!) 🙂
So, hopefully now you know which exercise professional is best for you.
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