AA-ER.com: Bookstore | Arlington Heights Around Town Directory: Athletic Leagues | Pro Teams | Fitness | Nutrition

preparation to be a personal trainer

Machine Weights, Free Weights and Stability Exercises

Exercise Reports



Be-A-Trainer.com -- managed by Aprioriathletics.com


Tired of your job -- looking to be a personal trainer

Welcome!   My name is Mark Bostrom and I have been a Personal Trainer for over 20 years.

People ask me: how to become a personal trainer, or what are the disadvantages of being a personal trainer. Instead of giving a long, boring answer in person, I created be-a-trainer.com to recommend some books, discuss the type of education you might need and give a little advice on how to get started.

... and so, here is 'Be-A-Trainer.com.'

A lot of people decide to be a personal trainer because fitness is a personal priority that they would like to share with others. That's true with me, but it might help if I tell you a little more about what motivated me to become a Personal Trainer. I grew up with a very high interest in medicine, physiology, and chemistry. I was athletic and kept in shape, too. I didn't want to end up in a job with little physical activity. I wanted to help people, but I was also fairly selfish because I wanted the time to keep my own body in shape.

Shrugs? I realized I wasn't quite sure which direction I wanted to take my career. I was interested in prevention in health.

I became a dedicated paramedic
while studying to get into medical school and found that I was fascinated by the physiological processes that occur during shock and trauma or low oxygen conditions. I compared this physiology to the physiology under stressful conditions of intense exercise. During those hard years of studying, some physicians warned me that the field of medicine was changing and that insurance companies were taking greater control of decisions for patients. They complained that there wasn't as much satisfaction and gratification while practicing medicine — especially with loss of control of making medical decisions subordinated to insurance companies. No lack of respect to physicians who have excellent careers, but I thought that maybe the medical profession didn't fit my career goals ... that maybe I would end up bitter and frustrated about my career choice in medicine. Also, while working as a paramedic, I noticed that many of the emergency calls were preventable, either through better concern for safety or better self-care and prevention with regard to health. In school I was learning how in other countries, citizens with better diets and more active lifestyles were living longer lives. I became motivated to study ways to stay healthy -- this was in the 1980's when the whole fitness & health promotion concept was just starting to expand.

I applied for only one medical school -- the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because there was a medical scholars program for students who wanted to combine another scholarly discipline with medicine. I chose Exercise Physiology with Medicine. I was rejected by the medical school, but I was accepted by the graduate school to begin studying Exercise Physiology. I graduated with a Master of Science Degree from the Kinesiology Department at the University of Illinois.

My first job was in Cardiac Rehabilitation. Personal Training was not really popular at the time ... at least not in the midwest ... maybe just in Hollywood. I loved studying physiology, but I surprised myself because I wasn't satisfied working in Cardiac Rehabilitation. The cardiologist made all the decisions. And at my career level, I just followed protocols. Personal Training was starting to gain momentum, and I saw the opportunity to take more control. You still might work closely with a physician, such as an orthopedic specialist. But, as a Personal Trainer, you are able to make a lot more decisions in the field while you report back and offer suggestions to the orthopedic specialist or physical therapist. I was lucky because my next job at an orthopedic sports medicine clinic with orthopedic specialists and physical therapists gave me a lot of responsiblity, free reign on creativity and the ability to make decisions.

I was able to come up with modified exercises, like this Abdominal Curl for people who strained too hard doing regular situps flat on the floor.

I eventually worked on my own as a Personal Trainer, and have watched the field grow tremendously. While many people didn't know what a personal trainer was in the 1980's, there are few people who don't know what a personal trainer is now.


The key is to distinguish yourself as a knowledgeable and interactive Personal Trainer. You have to give off good energy. Not perky energy, but energy that helps people believe in themselves and become self-reliant, fit and strong.

See the Top 10 Qualities of a Personal Trainer

What causes new trainers to fail?
Lack of education and lack of a sustainable client base are the top reasons for failure to thrive as a trainer.

Managing Your Time and Your Career
The good and the bad about being a trainer is all in the schedule. One of the great things about being a trainer is scheduling your own hours, but you can become a slave to your schedule.

In certain markets, you tend to work early and late -- around people's 9-5 jobs. If you are working with athletes you may be busy during practice schedules.

Cancellations are fairly predictable during specific seasons, but are pretty unpredictable day-to-day.

Bad Economy Doesn't Necessarily Hurt a Personal Trainer's Business
When the economy goes bad, many wealthy clients tend to look inward and look to rebuild their personal strength. A trip to Europe might be cancelled, but a trip to the gym will be a top priority.

The Disadvantages of Being a Personal Trainer
Hours can be very irregular. Sometimes you may find yourself working very early and very late. Then the next week you can have a normal 9-to-5.

Maintaining enthusiasm can be difficult at times. Occasionally clients may be going through very tough times, so there will be some emotional strain to keep things positive.

You may find yourself as a low priority for some people. People know they should exercise every day, but they might find that real world stressors cause them to cancel their training sessions. Therefore, your income may fluctuate.

Mark Bostrom, Personal Trainer
126 East Wing Street #220
Arlington Heights, IL 60004

Telephone: 847-253-2856

Advanced degree with Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Northwest Suburban Chicago. Call or e-mail for appointments and availability.

Advanced Degree
20 years experience
Medical background (former paramedic)
Computer records and data gathering




Apriori, Inc. is a privately held
Illinois corporation located in
Arlignton Heights, Illinois.

Check THE CARDINAL for news
from our home town of
Arlington Heights, Illinois.


Here's How You Might Help People ...
Here is a list of favorite goals that motivates people to call for help from a Personal Trainer:

Protect Cardiovascular System and reduce risk of other disease

Improve appearance (for a wedding, new job, to stop being a slouch for your significant other)

Feel better
and feel more energy

Perform better
(for sport or work)

Get stronger and faster or regain quickness and power after an injury

Improve ability to handle life's stresses

Lose weight
and gain health benefits

Gain muscle for stability,
shape and strength

Over a period of time a Personal Trainer can help clients discover their capabilities and work around limitations. Goals are reached efficiently and with confidence.

Core & Stability Training
Endurance Training
Joint Protection
Low Back School
Shaping aka Sculpting, Toning, Trimming
Speed Training
Sports Specific
Strength Training
Team Conditioning
Weight Management

Here are my outlined methods of training -- a scientific approach to Human Performance in sports, work, recreation and daily activities. Programs are designed with a variety of these methods.

Workout Phases. Personal touch guides clients to exercise at their current physical condition. Workouts are offered in phases to match physical fitness and goals. Phases include the following:

Corrective exercises to help correct postural problems and muscle imbalances that could otherwise cause injuries.

Stability and flexibility exercises to help develop muscles that optimize joint range of motion and stabilize the body's core -- the spine and abdominal muscles -- the basis of all other activity of the body.

Muscular development exercises for body shaping and weight management.

Muscular strength exercises to improve physical strength.

Power exercises to develop power in athletics.

Cardiovascular exercises to develop endurance for athletics or help with weight management.

Exercise reports database - exercise log
Goals are evaluated and documented.

Exercises are documented for accountability. An Exercise Reports database helps a trainer select from thousands of exercises clients can use in a health club, fitness center, at home, on vacation and outdoors.

Energy balance documents monitor activity and food intake.

Experience in fitness brings a
greater cooperation of
mind and body.
-- Mark Bostrom

Books from Amazon.com under the Exercise Physiology category


Adaptation The response of the body to stress that involves systems of the body growing or modifying to perform more efficiently while under a future similar stress.

Agonist The muscle or muscles that are doing the work to move bones in a specific motion that are coordinated with the antagonist(s), which perform the opposite motion. The agonists and antagonists are coordinated in the sense that the antagonist decelerates or controls agonist action. Also sensors in agonists and antagonists feedback information to the nervous system that helps control speed, force of contraction and flexibility of the muscles. When this coordinated system is well-trained and functioning well, performance is enhanced and injuries, such as muscle strains are prevented.

Antagonist The muscle or muscles that perform the opposite motion of the agonist(s). See agonist above.

Cool Down The process of slowing down the physiological processes after physical activity. This is especially important for the heart after endurance activity. Sudden decrease in activity or lying down immediately after intense activity causes a strain on the heart because of sudden decrease in blood flow return to the heart.

Exercise Physiology
The science of the processes of body chemistry, function, anatomy and body systems as they affect and are modified by physical exertion.

Endurance The ability to perform muscular work for extended periods (e.g., running, swimming).

Failure The application of work of a muscle until it can't contract. The purpose of bringing a muscle to failure is to bring adaptation for better performance in the future.

Oxygen Consumption The body's use of oxygen, especially by the muscles while working or exercising.

Progressive Resistance Exercise or PRE Working a muscle to failure by gradually increasing the intensity or the resistance of the exercise.

Repetition or Rep
One full range of motion of an action that is repeated in an exercise.

Set A group of repetitions of an exercise.

Speed The ability to quickly move the body or a part of the body, as in swimming, running, throwing, kicking, swinging, etc.

Sports Specific Training An exercise program that is designed to condition the body specifically for a chosen sport.

Strength The body's ability to overcome a force in order to move an object.

Superset The combination of two or more exercises in series. Instead of doing sets of the same exercise in series, you do a different exercise as the second or third set. You can do the same muscles and agonists or you can work antagonists in the combination. If you do the same muscles and agonists, you will really feel the fatigue and failure of the muscle. Same muscle/agonist example: Close grip lat pulldown/wide grip lat pulldown. Antogonist example: biceps curl from low pulley (elbow flexion)/triceps pressdown from high pulley (elbow extension).

VO2  Max or Maximal Oxygen Consumption
The maximum work or exercise intensity a person can achieve while still using oxygen in steady state. When intensity exceeds the Maximal Oxygen Consumption level, the body uses alternate metabolic pathways (such as anaerobic glycolysis) that perform for a limited time.

Warm-up The process of getting the brain, nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, lungs, heart and blood vessels and the body as a whole ready for an increase in activity. Generally thought to be safer for the heart, joints and muscles for preventing injuries.


Anatomy of Movement
by Blandine C. Germain
Excellent book for gaining understanding of muscles and their relationship to joints and skeletal structure. A great lesson in the mechanics of skeletal movement.

Joint Structure and Function : A Comprehensive Analysis by Pamela K. Levangie (Editor), Cynthia C. Norkin (Editor)

Personal Training
Books Listed Here ...


The best reason for education and certification is to gain confidence that the information and training that you provide is safe and effective. There is nothing worse than going to an appointment feeling like you don't have anything worthy to offer to your client ... or worse, that you might even harm a client. An education gives you confidence, even if you don't have a good solution or program right away ... you know with research and planning you can find a good solution and develop a good program for your client.

I have seen a lot of trainers lack confidence because they don't have a college degree in a fitness-related track. So, I will have to say it certainly helps to have a Bachelor of Science or Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology or Kinesiology. But, there are a lot of trainers that don't have these type of degrees. Some are good, and some are not so good.

Certification gives you confidence that you meet safety and performance standards. If you are athletic and have worked out for years and you get a certfication from a respected organization, you can probably turn yourself into an excellent Personal Trainer. But think about this ... there is no way a two-day seminar or a study-at-home program can match four years of college education. Without a college education, you need to work hard, study hard, and develop patiently as a trainer. I have been to some seminars where I could not believe what was being presented. The presenter did not understand how muscles, motor control and nervous system control of muscles worked! In another example, I was cringing as I was being taught a 'new' technique for bench press that was actually harmful to the shoulder joint. The organization changed the recommmendation a few years later.

Know the difference between education and certification. An advanced degree indicates that a Personal Trainer is capable of taking initiative to develop programs and understand methods of research and investigation. A certification indicates that a Personal Trainer is keeping current with trends in the fitness industry and meets necessary safety and efficiency standards that organizations have proclaimed.

Here are the top organizations to pursue for certification:

ACE -- American Council on Exercise
ACSM -- American College of Sports Medicine
NASM -- National Academy of Sports Medicine
NSCA -- National Strength & Conditioning Association

Here's the breakdown of facts for decision-making process on what certification to choose.
Reputation. Is the certification respected and universally recognized by employers?

Practical. Is the certification practical to the real world of personal training and to understanding fitness and exercise? Does the club where you want to work require a specific certification?

Pre-requisites. Is a college education in a fitness field required.?

If you are interactive, you have a great asset as a personal trainer. You need to perceive what your client needs and be a good teacher, especially during initial appointments. Some days, clients aren't that receptive to new techniques. They just want to 'veg out' and enjoy the workout without thinking. Those days your role as Personal Trainer is to see if you can engage them to focus or to distract them from the actual workout and help them just get through it. You still watch out for safety and performance issues, but you might be talking about news stories, entertainment, sports or family or work stress. A lot of clients like to air things out while they workout. In many situations, you start out as a teacher and evolve into a motivator first, and teacher second.

Bottom line is that most trainers need an outgoing personality, although some get away with elitist attitudes or just on charisma. Yes, some clients go for that elitist 'treat me bad' style. Patience is another necessity, especially for cancellations and poor client performances and poor lifestyle decisions (like too much drinking or eating over the weekend or while on vacation). Confidence is very important and comes with experience and knowledge -- both booksmart and practical.

There are several different types of locations where you can train. There are four main types of locations: Fitness Centers (greater than 3000 sq ft), Personal Training studios (usually less than 3000 sq ft), Residential Home Gyms, and the Great Outdoors. You can find yourself working as an employee or working for yourself with your own business. Most trainers start out working at a club and go independent later. Here is a rundown of types of facilities:

Athletic Clubs These are large facilities (greater than 100K sq ft) that usually hire trainers that are responsible for maintaining a client list. The trainers are viewed as a great asset to the facility. Most facilities hire trainers as employees. The facility usually has athletic amenities, such as basketball, tennis or swimming. They may have a high quality group exercise program. To boost their reputation they will often associate with medical and physical therapy practices. These facilities can be open longer hours -- even 24 hours.

Fitness Centers These are large facilities (usually in the 20K to 60K sq ft range) that are often occupying retail space in a shopping center. They may have aggressive sales techniques and usually attract a younger crowd. These centers are more likely to have tanning facilities, busy group exercise programs, and high energy areas with lots of cardio equipment. Some have busy personal training departments, but some members are just there to workout (with no trainer). These facilities can be open longer hours -- even 24 hours. Most facilities hire trainers as employees. These usually have quite a variety of progams, methods of sales and quality of facilities and services.

Hospital Wellness Centers These are large, well-designed facilities (usually about 50K to 80K sq ft) with physical therapy, wellness classrooms and cardiac rehabiliitation facilities built in. There tends to be an older membership. Many may have cardiac problems and/or orthopedic problems associated with aging. But the membership usually also has a lot of members of all ages who work or live nearby. Many members may be medical personnel who are interesting to train because they know a lot about the body already. Most facilities hire trainers as employees. These facilities tend to have shorter hours.

Personal Training Studios These are smaller facilities (less than 3K sq ft) often owned by a trainer or a group of trainers. You may find work as an employee or as an independent. These facilities may have limited access to expensive progressive resistance exercise equipment. Some training studios are specifically oriented toward athletics performance and may specialize in speed work and acceleration.

Spas, Resorts and Local Hotels
Many spas and resorts have great outdoor opportunities for trainers. And many clients love their experiences at spas with hiking and weightlifting mixed in with the spa luxuries. Major hotels near big cities often have excellent fitness centers with personal trainers.

Cruise Ships Many cruise ships offer personal training, group personal training or group exercise classes.

Home Gyms
Many people invest in excellent facilities in their own homes. Many include a commercial grade elliptical machine and treadmill or stationary cycle. Most buy a multi-station machine designed for the home, but some families have commercial grade individual selectorized station machines. Dumbbell racks and mirrored walls are also common. You might also look for opportunities at large apartment complexes with fitness centers.

The Great Outdoors
A hill, and open field, or a patio or backyard provide plenty of room to include portable equipment for use in a motivating and inspiring place to be ... the great outdoors. Somewhat limited in Chicago, of course, but those San Diego Personal Trainers have it made year round!

Online Personal Training
Another area of training is via the Internet. You can use technology, such as web pages, e-mail and even phone text messages to send out information or respond to questions. The online service can also serve as an adjunct service to the people that you already meet in person.

Some people aren't interested in meeting with a trainer on a regular basis, but they are interested in tapping their minds for ideas and advice on workout programs. Of course there is a disadvantage of not being able to observe form and intensity level.


Working for another company has its advantages and disadvantages. Paid expenses for continuing education is one advantage. Some clubs do an excellent job at marketing and sales, so you don't have to work on advertising, logos, or brochures or Internet presence. Marketing can be the fun part, though, since you are promoting fitness, anyway.

There are many good learning opportunities as you see and experience a lot more activity in a large fitness center. However, you often learn a lot of superficial stuff about training, but don't learn the 'secrets' from other trainers because they are generally competing for the same client base. In health clubs you will find competition between trainers and even other programs (e.g., swimming lessons, group exercise, nutritional product sales, and social events) that the club may want you to promote (in conflict with your own training). This is usually manageable, but it can take away energy from your main goal to learn about exercise physiology and train your clients to the best of your ability.

Many clubs are in saturated markets and use trainers to maximize their profits. If your priority is to know the body and avoid the commercial extras and hype, you'll probably be happiest to set your goals on working for yourself and your clients directly and blaze your own trail to your success and your client's success.

©Copyright 1999-2008 Apriori, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
APRIORIATHLETICS and Progressive Fitness Personality are Service Marks of Apriori, Inc.

All products mentioned are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.