With the lines of health and fitness professionals, including certified personal trainers, being continually blurred with all the cross-over, synergy, and holistic education programs/niches available, it can be quite difficult to discern what is within a personal trainer’s legal and ethical scope of practice with regard to their business.

For those who hold multiple certifications, licenses in other health industries, or doctoral degrees, your scope of practice will be dictated by your highest level of education or licensure in the area of question. For those who are solely fitness professionals, first and foremost, there are several areas of consideration where knowing the law and the boundaries can be the difference between your ending your career and continued success.

Scope of Practice for NFPT Personal Trainers

There are plenty of areas where personal trainers should excel and focus on with regard to best practices and continuing education. Although being the most professional and adept trainer is not limited to the following, this is a checklist you should have no problem ticking off:

  • Have and maintain a working knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, a grasp of biomechanics, are able to comprehend and apply the concepts of functional training, basic nutrition, and fundamental principles of exercise science as is affirmed by passing the certification exam.
  • Demonstrate an ability to design and execute individual and small group exercise fitness programs, tailored to the needs and attainable goals of the individual, apparently healthy client, in a safe and effective way
  • Understand the need and importance of screening and client assessment and proficiency in conducting these evaluations initially and progressively, and referring to proper medical professionals when called for.
  • Exhibit a passion and desire to help clients identify and reach their health and fitness goals through appropriate cardiovascular, flexibility, and resistance exercise
  • Effectively motivate others in an encouraging and uplifting manner toward improving their overall fitness and health
  • Maintain unwavering professionalism by manifesting personal integrity, client confidentiality, and professional standards for best practice
  • dedication to self-improvement, self-awareness, continuous learning, personal growth, and development with regard to personal health, fitness, and mental capacity

Personal training is a job that starts with heart, motivation, and a love for all things fitness. But, there’s much more to it than your own personal motivation to be fit. Your clients’ needs, goals, and health are entrusted to you; taking that responsibility seriously is the difference between a fitness enthusiast and an effective professional personal trainer.

A good personal trainer delivers safe, effective, fun, and interesting workouts to all of their clients. The training programs you develop should be varied and progressive, and geared toward improving your clients’ health and wellness. As a trainer, you should be enthusiastic and supportive, so that your clients remain interested and stimulated, which helps ensure they stick with the program — and with you.

What Personal Trainers Should NOT Do

While personal trainers often assume multiple roles with their clients — which sometimes includes being a coach, cheerleader, or confidant, there are some responsibilities that personal trainers should avoid.

  • DO NOT give medical advice, physical therapy advice, or attempt to make a medical diagnosis.
  • DO NOT create specific meal plans and/or dietary recommendations that include portioning and/or timing of meals and/or supplementation.
  • DO NOT provide body massage to clients, or any similar service that can be construed as inappropriate touch.
  • DO NOT serve as a psychological counselor to clients or offer mental health advice.
  • DO NOT have a romantic or interpersonal relationship with a client.
  • DO NOT push your own preferences for fitness goal-setting on clients who do not seek out those same goals.
  • DO NOT flagrantly upsell your services or steer your clients towards products or programs they neither need nor want.
  • DO NOT allow your credentials, liability insurance, and other trainer business standards/practices to lapse.

When in doubt, refer out. Having a mentor or other close fitness professional to consult when uncertain situations arise can help you navigate ambiguous territory regarding scope of practice. And be sure to check out the detailed Codes of Conduct for NFPT personal trainers, for additional guidelines.

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Michele Rogers

NFPT Publisher Michele G Rogers, MA, NFPT-CPT and EBFA Barefoot Training Specialist manages and coordinates educational blogs and social media content for NFPT, as well as NFPT exam development. She’s been a personal trainer and health coach for over 20 years fueled by a lifetime passion for all things health and fitness. Her mission is to raise kinesthetic awareness and nurture a mind-body connection, helping people achieve a higher state of health and wellness. After battling and conquering chronic back pain and becoming a parent, Michele aims her training approach to emphasize fluidity of movement, corrective exercise, and pain resolution. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Health Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Follow Michele on Instagram.