Practical certification application
by Adam Britt
(Chelsea, AL, US)
I recently graduated as Senior Elite in dietetics which has given me a solid background on evidence based practice, and I feel that personal training may be a solid career option. I have about 6 years personal experience in the gym, and I have semi-trained a few friends short term just to help them get into training and not hurt themselves. In other words, I have plenty of theory but less practical application.
Since I have gotten more serious about training, I have tried to look at a number of different certifications. My own workouts have been derived from the information from AST. I have gone over the free NFPT study book and study guide multiple times, I am currently going through an AFAA study book (borrowed from a friend), and I have also read through some of the NASM material. I was strongly considering starting with an ACE certification. However, after searching through all this information, I am struck by two opposing things. First off, the bulk of the material seems to be the same for all of these. However, the details seem quite different.
I use my own workouts as an example. In order to attain maximum hypertrophy, AST and NFPT both suggest a 4-6 rep range at 100% intensity for 6-9 total heavy sets per body part. AST suggests each body part one day a week, NFPT suggests a 3 day split, meaning some body parts will be trained twice a week. NASM and AFAA both would suggest 8-12 reps at 70-85% of 1RM (which AST and NFPT both say is horrible), where AFAA suggests 8-10 total heavy sets per muscle group and NASM suggests between 24 and 36 sets per group.
The amount of specific differences seems to be unreasonable. After looking at these well respected authorities, I am left with the idea that ... I really have no idea what I should do in my own training. Do I shoot for 6 reps or 12 reps? Do I attempt 9 heavy sets or 36 heavy sets? Which intensity value is the most accurate?
To me the most confusing part is that all certifications basically claim the same things. Each of them say you are trying to overload your muscle to stimulate growth ... and each claims scientifically that theirs is the best approach.
I say all that to say this: If I personally am unsure of my own ideal work out, what am I going to say to a client? Which of these suggestions would I make to somebody else looking to gain muscle? Each of these different authorities also have slightly different suggestions for the general fitness client, though they are somewhat more congruent in the areas of weight loss and general fitness.
Ultimately, which of these training methodologies are most effective? Which certification should be trusted above the others (if any)? When there are multiple different and irreconcilable answers to the same specific question, only one answer can be right given a specific circumstance. How do experienced trainers deal with these discrepancies? I have spent hours reading through different posts on this website, and it seems that I am having the same problem. There are equal numbers of people backing up each different certification as the best. There seems to be solid anecdotal evidence for every certification, and better evidence for multiple certifications.