Experienced or Merely Qualified?

The fitness industry is in shambles. Sorry to tell you, but it’s true. From the people running the courses to accrediting trainers to (most likely) your trainer too – barely any of them have any real idea how to make things better.

The problem goes like this –

In Australia our Fitness courses are marked on what is called competency based marking. Essentially this means that you have to be able to prove competency in certain criteria. The problem is that CBM is pass/ fail. Either you proved you could do it or you fail. That actually seems pretty straight forward, however that’s not the full story.

The commercial reality is that most fitness institutions are competing for the same dollars in what has become a very crowded marketplace. If one institute were to run a course that was “by the book”, as in they failed those who don’t display competency, the thinking goes that no one would attend their course. So in an effort to maintain their attendance (and income) they soften their course little by little until a shaved monkey on crack could pass.

At Holmesglen TAFE where I used to teach a student could fail a given piece of work an infinite number of times and would always be allowed a resit – as long as they attended more than 80% of the classes. In other words, as long as you turn up every day you can be miserable at something up until the a week after the final day of the course when results were done. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have someone train me who failed program writing seven times before finally making the teacher so frustrated with having to spend further time with them they were gifted a pass – anything as long as the teacher no longer had to deal with that student.

To further complicate matters the definition of competent is somewhat vague and this creates further problems. Let’s say that the task is to sit on a chair. Some teachers will pass anyone who manages to land on the chair no matter how out of control, lopsided or dangerous it may be. Others will only pass the student if they sit a particular way – back straight, feet shoulder width apart, controlled descent, etc. This can be further complicated by teachers being involved in subjects they have no involvement or experience in.

Further muddying the fitness industry is the desire for PTs to accumulate continuing education. I am all for continuing education and believe that most trainers should spend more time on their education. In the last few years there have been some interesting developments in continuing education and two, in particular, have affected me. The first was a decision that for PTs to use boxing in their workouts they needed to have participated in an accredited course. This year the same has happened with kettlebells too. I have no argument with either of these policies, however the means of implementation has been rather sloppy and heavy handed because of what it causes.

I used to work for Thump Boxing. I firmly believe that the Thump course is one of the best fitness related courses of it’s kind in the country. In fact, looking at it’s growth both here and overseas it is very clearly a great success story for it’s creator Christian Marchegiani. Having said that, the popularity of the course does create certain issues, that are exactly the same as the mass production of fitness trainers via the educational system spoken about earlier. The modern fitness industry is based on this “competence” not on actual skill or experience. At the Thump courses, over the three to four years I worked for them, I saw a total of one single person I could have safely sent clients to. One out of around a thousand. That’s not a slight on the course but on the marking system and on the fitness industry itself. The industry is built on people with shallow knowledge in a broad range of areas always looking for new ways to entertain clients rather than seek out deeper skill and actually have their clients really get results. This means that most will not have any boxing or combat sport experience prior to attending the course, and that is fair enough. But to suggest that by attending a weekend course they have somehow reached a level of mastery that should allow them to run classes using a potentially dangerous form of training is ludicrous. Considering that they have spent thirteen hours of the course learning, that is like a person who has been to two months of boxing classes off the street being allowed to run classes. And which gym would allow that? But somehow if you’re a PT it’s expected that you’re gifted an unnatural ability to learn new skills quickly and that despite having next to no experience that you are now in a position of authority over a class of people who in many cases may actually have more experience than you!

So they may have the piece of paper, but are they really masters of the subject matter? And do you want those people training you?

Contrast this to what goes on at the HKC/ RKC. We have set standards, many of which are easy to find on this blog, and we expect a student to be able to do them. If they are not met you fail. The standards are set out in such a way as to ensure that marking is consistent across the board. Additionally, when it comes to marking, every RKC knows the standard and what is required inside out. So the person marking you is intimately familiar with what it entails, spends a large amount of time themselves working within the system and has many, many hours of experience. For my part, I treat my clients no different to what I expect from students at the HKC. This means that every day we are working on the standards and we even have them up on the wall of the gym. Every single class and PT session for us is a trial run for marking at Dragon Door events.

This high standard approach has been problematic when getting our course accredited. We were actively encouraged to make the Squat standard easier as the “fitness authorities” felt it was potentially dangerous to squat below parallel. While it can be a problem, if a student has spent adequate time and effort preparing for the lift there is no danger in it. And right there is one of the biggest issues for many – we expect that our students turn up having spent some time learning how to use kettlebells, training hard and gaining strength and movement. So yes, our standard is high – higher than any other fitness course in Australia. We have failed instructors from other certifications who simply weren’t good enough to meet our requirements and we have failed people who simply weren’t ready to become instructors. Dragon Door take their role as the market leader in kettlebell training very seriously which is why there is such a big difference between the results you can expect to obtain from an HKC or RKC than from any other brand of instructor. If you are paying good money to have someone train you wouldn’t you prefer they actually had experience with the thing they were teaching you rather than just turned up and had a piece of paper handed to them just because they had a credit card?

This same high standard continues throughout the system too. As instructors we have to regularly attend events to re certify or we lose our accreditation – no different to the continuing education process of the fitness organisations. But, to re certify we are expected to maintain the same high standards that we had to exhibit to pass in the first place. Recently another exercise distributor made a blog post about how he hadn’t really been working out. For me, that guy should not be held up as an authority on exercise. When you see videos like Master RKC Dave Whitley doing 200 snatches in 8 minutes it really puts it into perspective. If you’re an exercise professional you can choose to either maintain high standards and professional integrity or you can be a shadow guru, professing knowledge without being able to demonstrate it.

If you want to learn more about fitness, strength and kettlebell training there’s only one solution –

Dragon Door’s HKC Instructor Workshops- Enter the lucrative world of the certified kettlebell trainer—and attract more clients for a better income. How to master the essentials of kettlebell lifting—and dramatically boost your power.Click here for Course Information or Register Now!.
How to master the essentials of kettlebell lifting—and dramatically boost your power and effectiveness as a personal trainer or coach Pavel and Dragon Door’s one-day, entry-level kettlebell instructor certification workshop .

And, because we take you being the best instructor you can be very seriously, the only way to really get ready for that workshop is to start with our Beginner and HKC Preparation workshop

If you’re a prospective client – do some homework on your trainer. Find out if they are experienced or merely qualified. And if you’re a trainer – get serious about the service you are selling and give your clients the results they are paying you for. Don’t just get qualified.


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3 Responses to “Experienced or Merely Qualified?”

  1. Cole Summers RKC Says:

    Another outstanding article,Andrew! Thank you.

  2. Tess Hunt Says:

    I agree 100%, great article as usual!!
    I did boxing and Muay Thai for 6 or 7 years but because I haven’t done a weekend course apparently I am not qualified to teach boxing to my clients.

    • Andrew Read Says:

      You can do a Level 1 boxing course… But the point remains the same. You’ve got way more experience than most “boxing for fitness” trainers yet aren’t teaching it! Go figure.

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