What Makes Me Different to a Personal Trainer?

I was asked the other day, “why should an athlete choose to train with you rather than a regular personal trainer?”

This is quite an interesting question because from the outside, what a PT and I do is pretty much the same. However, if we dive a bit deeper there are some very distinct differences.

First of all, if you’re wondering what it is I actually do, I train athletes from the amateur to elite levels who’s competitive sport of choice does not involve a barbell. In other words, I train athletes to get strong, powerful, and fast for their competitive environment, and maximise physical performance.

So without further delay, here is why an athlete should train with me:

1. Education

I’m Master’s Degree Qualified.
The biggest and clearest difference between myself, as well as other strength and conditioning coaches, compared to a personal trainer is that I’m Master’s degree qualified, whereas the majority of personal trainers have just a certificate IV or Diploma in Fitness.
I’ve spent 5 years getting formally educated, that’s five years of learning about the human body, how it responds to various training and life stress, and in depth research about training needs and requirements for athletes – and that’s only the tip of the iceberg! Compare that to getting qualified with a certificate IV which is extremely general, only takes 2-12 months to complete, and is not aimed towards training athletes who play sports.

I’m an accredited Level 2 ASCA Strength and Conditioning Coach
The Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) is the governing body of strength and conditioning coaches within Australia, so if you’re looking for a coach you better be sure they have at the very least a level 1 Accreditation. But, if you’re looking for a coach who has greater levels of knowledge and the experience to go with it, look to hire at least a level 2 coach.
There are a tonne of personal trainers out there who possess the level 1 Strength and conditioning accreditation and automatically think it qualifies them to coach athletes. It doesn’t. Whilst it does provide the ground work for athlete performance coaching far more than the Cert IV in Fitness does, it’s still extremely general.
Hiring a coach who has a Level 2 accreditation ensures you’ve picked someone who’s done the ground work and has had ‘skin in the game’ so to speak, so you can be sure they have sound knowledge and experience in coaching athletes.

2. Experience

To train athletes, having real experience training athletes is vital. Training athletes for performance is far different to training the average general population client who wants to simply build muscle, or lose body fat. Now some may argue “training athletes and general population clients shouldn’t be any different,” but the reality is, it is. I do believe that general population clients should be training for performance goals, as the visual goals they have will follow performance. However, the level of training from a general population client will likely never reach the heights that athletes will get to. Therefore, when training athletes, you need to have as many tools in the toolbox as you possibly can. If an athlete isn’t responding to your current method of training, what are you going to do with them?

Remember, it’s easy to give someone a hard workout that leaves them feeling tired, sore, and ‘feeling’ as though they’ve had a good workout, but are they actually improving from a performance standpoint?

3. Specialisation vs Generalisation

I’ve seen time and time again, PTs come out of their cert IV and look to sell themselves by saying they specialise at ‘rehab, sport specific training, muscle gain, fat loss,’ and whatever else you can add to the list…
Once you’ve finished a cert IV, you don’t specialise at anything. Stating that you’re a rehab specialist, or athlete performance coach is completely out of your scope. Do you think plumbers sell themselves by saying they can build your whole house? No, they stick to what they know, so why should the fitness industry be any different?

Those, and only those, who are qualified in a specific area at University and with the experience training the specific clientele, should be able to call themselves a specialist. A physiotherapist specialises in injury diagnosis and rehab, a strength and conditioning coach specialises in training athletes etc. PT’s are qualified to train general population clients with general strength and fitness goals.

For more on practitioners who specialise in a specific area, read this.

For the record, if your coach is selling you on ‘sport specific training’ you better get a new coach. Nothing in the gym is ‘sport specific,’ only practicing the sport itself is.

To conclude, being a strength and conditioning coach is far more in depth than that of a personal trainer. If you’re looking for someone with the specific knowledge and experience in the area of strength and conditioning to help you perform at your best, you should train with a suitable strength and conditioning coach. If you’re happy just getting a sweat on and feeling sore after a workout, go see a trainer at one of the many commercial gyms, there’s plenty to choose from.


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