We all know the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Put simply, there are several aspects of exercise science that, although are usually taught in most college courses and in personal trainer certification courses as “necessary, prerequisite” knowledge, I’ve simply forgotten most of the details about because I’ve not used them in my in-practice experience when training clients or when training the trainers.

I currently have 17yrs of in-practice experience as a successful fitness professional working with a wide variety of clients and athletes from pro MMA fighters to figure girls to the hard cases in post-rehabilitaon to exercises enthusiasts of all ages and fitness levels. Not to mention, my 7 years (and counting) experience as an effective fitness educator who teaches worldwide for some of the top organizations. That said, below is a list of the aspects of exercise science I’d probably get a “D” or “F” in if you tested me on them today, because I’ve simply not needed to discuss (at least in any sort of detailed manner) or apply them in all of my years experience as a personal trainer and fitness educator.

– Microscopic anatomy of skeletal muscle

– Muscle origins and insertion points

– Muscle architecture

– Sliding filament theory

– The make up of neurons

– Cardiovascular Physiology: Oxygen transport, Cardiac Morphology, Cardiac Output, etc.

– Respiratory System Function: Lung volumes, Gas exchange and Oxygen uptake

– Bioenergetics: Energy systems, rate and capacity of ATP production

– Lever Systems: Which parts of the body are first, second or third class levers.

– The equations for measuring linear kinetic energy, angular kinetic energy and potential energy.

– Respiratory quotient and respiratory exchange ratio

– Taking blood pressure (This is in every personal training manual I’ve seen, but I’ve yet to meet a quality trainer who regularly does it unless they’ve otherwise been advised by a doctor who’s caring for a client.)

– Cardiovascular Endurance Tests: YMCA Cycle Ergometer test, YMCA Step test, 1 or 1.5 Mile Run, Lockport Walking test, etc.

– Muscular Endurance Tests: YMCA Bench Press test, Partial Curl-Up test, Prone Double Straight-Leg Raise test

– Sit and reach Flexibility Test

Final Words

It important to note that I did not say that I’ve never used any aspect of exercise science in all of my experience as a personal trainer or as trainer of trainers – I certainly have used various aspects of it. What I expressed above was that, in order to do my job as a personal trainer effectively, my experience have never required me to either call upon any sort of detailed knowledge in the aspects of exercise science, or to use the testing procedures listed above.

I also want to make it clear that I have not attempted to make any sort of objective claim that no one who’s a personal trainer needs to posses detailed knowledge of the aspects of exercise science or I listed, or that they don’t need to use the tests listed. That said, I will share my subjective opinion that I don’t think one needs to posses much knowledge in the aspects listed above in order to be able to design and implement safe and effective exercise programs, in the same way I can teach a child to make a variety of paper airplanes, and design each of them to fly in different manner (straight, loops, etc.) without either of us ever having much knowledge of the aerodynamic laws responsible for their flight.

I often ask practicing fitness professionals to think about the things they learned during their schooling or when they took their personal training certification course, which they’ve now mostly or totally forgotten about. And, I also ask them to think about the things that they now know far more about than they did back when they were in school or were newly taking their personal trainer exam. What does thinking about these things tell you? It tells you what’s need to know information in order to do your job as a personal trainer effectively, and whats simple nice to know.

The need to know stuff is the stuff that you’ve gotten much better at as a practicing personal trainer because you’ve gotten more practice at using it, and therefore have had to do much more thinking about the details of it. And, of course, the nice to know stuff is the stuff that you’ve forgotten about as a practicing personal trainer because you’ve rarely, if ever had to apply it on the job. It all goes back to the old “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

I’ve found 99% percent of the time, after putting trainers through that little thought experiment, they usually find they’ve “lost” on the very same subjects that I listed above. This is a big reason why 1) my eyes start to glaze over anytime fitness “experts” start to get exercise science heavy when talking shop, and 2) why I focus on providing practical training information that I know other fitness professionals can regularly use in their daily practice because 3) we’ve already got a epidemic of over certified and under qualified trainers who are long in science education and short on practical application.

Nick’s Upcoming Live Events

Speaking at the NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) Annual Training Conference on April 6-9, 2015 in Orlando, FL.

Speaking at the Changing the Game Fitness Business Conference on April 30th, 2015 in Orlando, FL.

Speaking at The Fitness Summit on MAY 1-2, 2015, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Speaking at the Sorinex Summer Strong Expo on May 29-31, 2015 at the the Williams-Brice Stadium in South Carolina.