How to Become a Personal Trainer Specializing in Corrective Exercise

A personal trainer is a fitness professional who helps clients meet health and fitness goals through exercise. Some are general trainers, while others specialize in specific areas like corrective exercise. Trainers have several roles when working with clients: develop workouts, assess and monitor client progress, instruct clients in proper technique and provide guidance in other areas of health and wellness.

Trainers specializing in corrective exercise focus their instruction and workouts on correcting form and movement, both during workouts and doing exercise and in everyday functional movements. The goal is to reduce, manage and prevent pain and injuries.

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To become a personal trainer requires learning the fundamentals of fitness and working with clients. To become a corrective exercise specialist, you’ll need additional coursework and certification. Learning to become a specialty personal trainer does not take a lot of time. You should be able to complete a course in about two months.

Getting Started in Personal Training

Personal training is an industry that is not regulated by the government in the U.S. There are no laws that require trainers to have certification or a particular education. Technically, to be a trainer you simply have to call yourself one and start working.

However, the path to a serious career as a personal trainer is not that easy. Without education and training and with no certification, you’ll find it difficult to get work. Personal experience and self-learning count but may not be enough to convince a client to work with you or a gym to hire you.

In general, the best way to become a trainer, with or without an area of specialty like corrective exercise, is to complete an education program through an accredited or approved school and then get certified. You can then go on to train or take courses in specialty areas in order to offer clients more services.

What is Corrective Exercise?

There are several areas of specialty that personal trainers can focus on or offer as additional services for clients. One of these is corrective exercise, techniques used to correct movements and form to minimize, prevent or manage injuries and pain.

A specialist in corrective exercise uses knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics and kinesiology to help their clients move better. The focus may be on functional movements, how a person moves just by doing everyday tasks, or on exercises and athletics.

Corrective exercise specialists observe clients, watch how they move doing normal, functional movements and exercises, and then make corrections. They develop workouts and training programs that will help address a client’s poor form, pain or injury.

The benefits of this kind of training include less pain, injury prevention, more effective movements that improve athletic performance, better posture and balance and overall improved quality of life. This is a more technical type of training, and it does require a special education to do it right and to avoid causing a client more damage or pain.

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Why Specialize in Corrective Exercise?

All careers for personal trainers are growing at an astounding rate of 13 percent. Choosing this as a career will provide you with job stability as demand increases. Fitness trainers earn a median annual salary of close to $40,000, but certified trainers can make more.

A general training career is a great choice for job security and a good income, but by adding a specialty like corrective exercise, you can earn even more. According to the International Sports Sciences Association, a specialized certification can potentially increase a trainer’s income by 48 percent.

Corrective exercise is a smart choice for specialization. Many people struggle with musculoskeletal pain and are looking for alternatives to surgery and pain medications. You could be a truly valued professional helping people manage, reduce and prevent pain through better, more efficient movements.

Choosing a Training Program in Corrective Exercise

It is not necessary to already be a certified personal trainer in order to start working toward a specialization in corrective exercise. However, it is a good idea to start with this foundation. A general personal trainer program will give you the basic knowledge you need to start working in the industry. From there, you can build your specialty skills.

The most widely recognized and respected schools for personal trainers online offer both general certification courses and corrective exercise specialist certification. All of these schools are accredited either by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission:

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE). The ACE’s program uses a specially created method to teach corrective exercise instruction. Known as the Biomechanics Method, it is a step-by-step process that makes training for movement correction simple and effective. The program includes five modules that are self-paced but which must be completed in one year. You get all the necessary online materials and unlimited attempts for the final exam.
  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). The ISSA offers a corrective exercise specialist program and certification that takes about eight to ten weeks to complete online. The program includes online textbooks, quizzes and a final certifying exam. You will also have access to an online exercise lab with animated exercises and a student forum for discussion and guidance. The program teaches anatomy and body structure, about joints and movement, and how to assess and correct movements and exercises.
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The NASM corrective exercise specialist program is designed to train you to become an expert in human movement. It includes online texts, lecture videos, demonstration videos and more downloadable resources. The program takes about ten weeks to complete, and you then have a year to take the final exam for certification. The NASM has one of the oldest corrective exercise programs, which has been refined over the course of 15 years. It also coined the term corrective exercise.

Getting Certified

If you choose any of the above programs for becoming a corrective exercise specialist, you’ll be certified through completing the course and passing the final exam. Because these are all accredited schools, many employers and clients accept the certification as proof that you are knowledgeable in corrective exercise training.

You may also choose to get certified through an independent agency. This is not necessarily required to work as a trainer, but many employers and clients prefer to see independent credentials. The National Federation of Professional Trainers offers Standard and Premier certifications for $339 and $449, respectively. To achieve the credential, you must register for, take and pass the required exam.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association offers a certified personal trainer exam as well. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and be certified in CPR and AED. The cost is currently $300 for members of the association and $435 for non-members.

Consider Working with a Mentor Trainer

Most educational programs for trainers are online. The schools that offer these courses include videos and animations to help you learn how to train clients and correct movements. However, this is a hands-on career, and you will learn more if you can actually train by doing or observing.

Working with a more experienced trainer is a great way to learn and develop your skills as a corrective exercise specialist. It’s generally not required, although some employers may have new trainers go through this mentorship process before being able to train their own clients.

Even if it is not required by an employer, consider finding a master trainer to work with and learn from. By shadowing a corrective exercise specialist, you’ll enhance your online learning and learn intangible skills that are impossible to glean from online courses. A mentor trainer can also observe you work and provide important constructive feedback. Network with gyms and trainers to find someone willing to work with you, or choose a job that has a mentorship program.

Landing Your First Job as a Corrective Exercise Specialist

Finding a job as a trainer should not be difficult, especially if you have additional certifications like corrective exercise. This is a growing career with high demand for qualified professionals. Look for jobs with gyms, spas, resorts and fitness studios.

Your corrective exercise specialization should also expand your opportunities. You may be hired by a physical therapy office, chiropractic or massage therapy office, athletic teams or organizations, and health and wellness centers.

Trainers also often work independently. If you choose to do so, understand that you will be working as a trainer and as a business owner. You will need to find a place to train clients and be able to market your services using strategies like social media and advertising.

Working as a personal trainer specializing in corrective exercise can be extremely rewarding. You will be helping people manage pain and reduce injuries, enjoying a better quality of life as a result. And becoming a trainer with this specialization is not difficult. Even if you choose to get both general personal trainer certification and the specialty certification, you can still be certified and ready to work in less than a year.