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Redefine Your Training: Genetic Testing + Personal Training

Redefine Your Training: Genetic Testing + Personal Training

The fitness industry is ever-evolving with new tools, tips, and tricks for personal trainers. These are all meant to make your job easier and to help your clients achieve their goals faster. 

In the past, personal trainers were limited to trial and error to find the optimal diet and exercise plans for their clients. During that process, most clients gave up before ever fully figuring it out. Which is why genetic testing—also known as DNA testing—has become more popular recently. Genetic testing uncovers the potential your client has and how you, the trainer, can best help them achieve their fitness goals.

How Does a DNA Test Work?

Everyone shares about 99.5% of DNA; it is the 0.5% that makes each person unique. That small percentage is the difference between being 5’6” or 6’2”, hair color, and even the amount of exercise needed to lose weight.

Different areas of genetic testing include risk of disease, ancestry, and lifestyle traits. Insights for personal training fall under lifestyle traits. These tests give insight into areas such as weight loss ability, athletic performance, and macronutrient utilization.

There is very little risk with the genetic tests personal trainers use to assess lifestyle traits. Your client will use the provided testing kit to collect a saliva swab. This is the DNA sample the lab tests. Once you send the kit to the lab, it takes about two weeks to receive results. Then you can go over the results with your client and start adjusting your client’s program design accordingly.

What Traits Does a DNA Test Assess?

There are many different genetic testing companies along with different options for testing traits. The traits most applicable to a personal trainer will fall within categories of weight loss, athletic performance, nutrition, and exercise responses. Within each category, different traits give the personal trainer further insight for specific program design. 

Weight Loss Ability

The first and most common area tested for health and fitness is a client’s weight loss ability. This test reviews several different traits. Traits vary depending on the company doing the test, but the most common ones include the following:

  • Weight loss tendency
  • Fat loss response to cardio
  • Body composition response to strength training

These traits supply the personal trainer with insight into the type and length of workouts best to lose weight for a client. This takes much of the trial and error aspect out of the picture for personal training. 


As every personal trainer knows, diet is critical to a client’s ability to hit their fitness goals. Understanding how a client’s body uses different macronutrients unlocks great potential. This saves a lot of trial and error and weeks or months of adjusting ratios for the client and trainer to figure out what works best. 

With the testing results for this trait, you’ll be able to tell if your client benefits more from a low-carb diet or a high-protein diet, for example. As every client is different, this will guide you into creating a personalized nutrition plan

The macronutrient section tests the following areas:

  • Protein utilization
  • Fat utilization
  • Carbohydrate utilization
  • Caffeine metabolism
  • Cholesterol response to dietary fat 
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid tendency
  • Insulin response to dietary fat

Exercise Response to Cardio

Beyond just weight loss, each person’s body will have different responses to cardio. Genetics is part of what impacts those responses. Some of this is clear and seen through training sessions. However, some of these benefits aren’t clear unless a person seeks it out from a medical professional. 

Understanding how your client’s body responds to cardio helps not only their immediate health and fitness goals but also longevity and long-term health. For many clients, that will be an equally important goal as weight loss. 

Some of the traits impacted by exercise response to cardio are:

  • Fitness response to cardio
  • HDL response to cardio
  • Glucose response to cardio
  • Insulin sensitivity response to cardio
  • Triglyceride response to cardio
  • Testosterone (only tested in men)

Mental and Physical Foundation

Mental and physical foundation is often assessed in those clients with athletic performance goals. However, it can be equally as important to assess for weight loss clients. 

For personal trainers, these DNA traits show how to motivate a client to the types of exercise based on genetic potential. Will they prefer endurance-based activities, or do they prefer more power-based workouts?

The different genetic traits tested here are:

  • Intrinsic motivation to exercise
  • Addictive behavior and stimulus control
  • Impulse control and taste preference with aging 
  • Power and endurance potential 

Training Response

Another area typically tested for those with athletic performance goals is the body’s response to training. This area is more in-depth towards athletic performance as some areas are hard to measure without specialized equipment. Although, these genetic tendencies can have a meaningful impact on clients with athletic goals. 

The areas tested here are:

  • VO2 Max
  • Exercise heart rate response
  • Exercise stroke volume

Recovery and Injury Risk 

The last section covered in the genetic test is recovery and injury risk. This area gives trainers insight into how many days per week clients should be training. It even goes down to how much rest they need and what injuries they may be at risk for. 

This section includes the following traits:

  • Systemic inflammation
  • Injury risk
  • Sleep duration

The more you can give personal and defined feedback to your clients, the more they’ll trust you for the long-term. While this is a brief overview of how genetic testing plays a role in personal training, you can dig deeper with ISSA’s course on Genetics-Based Program Design. Don’t let your program design be ruled by trial and error—stop guessing and start knowing. 


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