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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, What Is a Fitness Specialization and Do You Need One?

What Is a Fitness Specialization and Do You Need One?

Reading Time: 5 minutes 24 seconds


DATE: 2023-11-08

ISSA has helped more than 400,000 people obtain their certification in fitness instruction. Our core course offers personal training certification. In it, students learn about anatomy and physical movement. This knowledge is then used to create safe and effective exercise programs.

You can have a satisfying career as a certified personal trainer. You're able to provide services in a health club or gym of your choice. You can even train clients online or in their own homes.

Another option is to take your personal training one step further. One way to do this is by earning a fitness specialization.

What Is a Personal Trainer Specialization?

Taking a personal training certification course provides a base knowledge of fitness. You learn how to work with clients on a more general level. A specialization provides a more in-depth knowledge within a specific area. Let's look at an example.

In a personal training course, you'll learn how certain foods impact the body. With a nutrition specialization, you also learn how to develop an eating program for individual clients. The specialization provides the ability to create a diet that supports a client's physical fitness goals.

Another example is a specialization in resistance training. Again, a personal fitness trainer has a good understanding of the basics. They know what exercises to do. And they know how to work these exercises into a training program. They understand how to help clients build muscle mass.

A fitness coach who specializes in strength training and conditioning can take this one step further. They also know how to create a program that helps clients boost their strength. But they also know how to increase their endurance, power, and speed. This type of specialty can greatly benefit athletes interested in achieving peak performance.

Fitness Specialist vs Fitness Specialization

A fitness specialist is another name for a fitness professional. This person may or may not have advanced knowledge in a specific area. Technically, a personal trainer is a fitness specialist. They have more knowledge about fitness than the average person. So, they can be considered a specialist.

Conversely, fitness specialization refers to advanced knowledge in a specific area. It is a deeper level of knowledge than fitness in general. You can develop this knowledge with experience. Another option is to take a certification program.

An example is a certified personal trainer with a specialty certification in DNA-based fitness. They know how the body is likely to respond to diet and exercise. So, this instructor can create a program based on a person's genetics.

Benefits of Having a Specialization as a Personal Trainer

Earning your certification in a specialized area of fitness offers many advantages. First, it enables you to provide clients a higher level of service. In addition to creating an exercise program, you can also provide a menu plan, for instance. Or maybe you specialize in exercise therapy. Now you can also help clients trying to heal after an injury or accident.

Having a specialization also enables you to set yourself apart. There are currently around 329,500 fitness instructors in the U.S. (1) Having a specialization helps differentiate you from other trainers. You become a standout because you have more knowledge in a specific area.

Specializing also allows you to charge more for your services as a fitness instructor. Why? When you have specialized knowledge, people are willing to pay a higher amount.

Take medical professionals, for example. You pay higher rates to see a specialist than a general practitioner. But if you've been diagnosed with a chronic disease or major health condition, this is less of an issue. You want results and you're willing to pay more to get them.

The same is true in fitness. Being more knowledgeable in a certain area makes you more desirable to a particular client. As an older adult, who would you rather work with: a personal trainer or a personal trainer with a specialization in senior fitness? If you're an athlete who wants to improve your performance, wouldn't you rather work with a trainer who specializes in performance enhancement?

When clients know that you are more well-versed in their specific situation, they're willing to pay more for your services. They feel that they'll get better results because of your advanced knowledge. This makes the added expense more than worth it. This makes you more than worth it.

Personal Trainer Specialization Options

The fitness industry is broad. This presents a variety of options for specialized fitness instructors. Here are some to consider:

  • Nutrition Specialization. As a personal trainer, you can give clients general diet advice. If you have a specialization in nutrition, you can create actual meal plans. You understand how different nutrients affect the body. And you know how to tailor an eating plan based on an individual's specific goals and needs.

  • Strength & Conditioning Specialization. Strength training is part of the personal training curriculum. With this certification, you can offer more specialized athletic training. You'll know which exercise protocol increases speed, strength, power, and endurance.

  • Corrective Exercise Specialization. Corrective exercise is designed to help clients with movement dysfunction. Maybe they have chronic pain in their back or knee. This specialty teaches you how to help them engage in physical activity without making the pain worse. In some cases, you may help them resolve it completely.

  • Yoga Specialization. Yoga is a great addition to any fitness program. Through yoga, you can help clients build strength, increase flexibility, find balance, and more. This specialization teaches you the science, practical application, and yoga theory. You'll learn the nuances of each pose and how they'll benefit your client the most.

  • Weight Management Specialization. Weight loss is a common goal for clients. However, maintaining that loss is often a struggle. Weight management specialists know how to overcome these challenges. This helps clients maintain a healthy weight long-term.

  • Senior Fitness Specialization. An older adult faces different fitness challenges than a younger adult or youth. Therefore, their training program should address those challenges. It should also address fitness goals unique to this demographic. Having your specialization in senior fitness prepares you to work with older clientele. It teaches what type of fitness assessment is best. You also learn how to get superior results.

  • Youth Fitness Specialization. Maybe you'd rather work with youth than seniors. You can specialize in this area instead. With this specialty, you'll be able to help young athletes meet their fitness goals. You'll also know how to create an exercise routine based on their growing bodies and physical fitness needs.

  • Group Exercise Specialization. Teaching a group requires different skills than training one-on-one. Your exercise routine must provide results for everyone. But it also has to do it without putting individual clients at risk. Having a group exercise instructor specialization tells employers that you know how to execute exercise programming for multiple people at a time.

There are several more options to consider, such as specializing in exercise therapy, kickboxing, or powerlifting. If you want to provide training in a certain area or for a specific demographic, a specialization course is likely available.

How to Become a Fitness Specialist

The first step to becoming a specialized fitness trainer with ISSA is obtaining your personal training certification. This provides a fitness foundation. You learn how to create a safe and effective exercise program.

Next, decide what area of fitness you'd like to specialize in. One way to make this decision is to consider where your passions lie. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are there areas of fitness I enjoy more so than others?

  • Do I enjoy working with a certain type of client?

  • What is the one problem I'd like to help clients solve?

  • What area of fitness would I like to be recognized as an expert in?

All these questions can help you choose the best fitness specialization for your personal training career. If you aren't sure, or if you're ready to pursue your specialty, check out all of ISSA's specialization options. Any one of them can take your fitness career to the next level!

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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 6). Fitness trainers and instructors: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm

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