Standards of Care and Utility for New Personal Training Directors – Expert Article

In this article, originally published by IDEA, sports and fitness expert, Dr. Laura Miele-Pascoe discusses key topics that fitness managers must address to provide a safe environment for their members, clients and staff.

Standards of Care and Utility for New Personal Training Directors

by Laura Miele-Pascoe, PhD
November 16, 2015
Published by IDEA Health & Fitness Association

Operations: Familiarize yourself and your staff with key components of safe practices.

New managers aren’t always accustomed to looking at the big picture. They may know a lot about the fitness industry, and even a lot about business, but there are core issues relevant to running a personal training department or studio that must be solidly understood. Even veteran directors can benefit from taking a step back and reviewing the basics. This article discusses the main areas of safe practice that managers must address in order to create a sound environment for their facility’s members, clients and staff and to protect their business.

Credentials and Emergencies

It’s well known that fitness professionals must possess a personal training certification and/or an exercise science degree, as well as CPR/AED certification and insurance. These are all minimum requirements. However, having these credentials does not necessarily prevent trainers from making poor decisions or selecting inappropriate exercises. Thus, it is critical that all staff know how to assess and handle emergency situations. Review your standard operating procedures with your staff to ensure that:

  • employees are properly trained in both cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of an automated external defibrillator;
  • staff know where the facility’s AED is located and how to access it in an emergency;
  • personal trainers know what their role is and what is expected of them if a client is injured-they should be prepared to react to an injury properly;
  • all staff members know how to file an incident report and fully grasp the importance of documenting extenuating circumstances (every time), no matter how insignificant they seem; and
  • you have created an emergency action plan and shared it - this may save someone’s life.

Accurate Recordkeeping

Being a fitness trainer involves insight and foresight: insight to understand what should be done and when, and foresight to understand the potential dangers of certain activities. We have already mentioned the importance of documentation. Require that all trainers keep a written record of their clients’ programs, as well as each client’s progress/ with pertinent notes, including the rationale for various decisions the trainers have made. This achieves three things:

  1. Trainers and clients can see how close they are to reaching predetermined goals.
  2. Proper note-taking may reveal “holes” in the program; trainers can then make revisions in order to get the exercise selection back on track. Trainers must understand their clients’ abilities, as well as when to keep clients on their current exercise program and when to progress them into more advanced movements and/ or exercises.
  3. A hard-copy review helps lessen the incidence of injury. For example, a written note about seeing a biomechanical weakness in a client can help the trainer remember to avoid certain moves until the movement pattern is corrected.

Coach your personal training staff to adhere to basic principles, including proper supervision, monitoring and spotting. These precepts empower clients to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Also, educate trainers about the importance of proper progression. Allowing clients to progress too quickly may increase their risk of injury due to fatigue or unfamiliarity with the movement.


Some personal trainers become complacent or over-comfortable while training clients whom they see on a regular basis. Staff members need to understand the importance of maintaining a professional image. Remind employees that the main objective is to ensure safety while helping clients reach the goals that were established during their initial consultation. Discourage trainers from any and all of these:

  • answering the phone while training clients
  • texting
  • walking away while clients are executing an exercise
  • failing to use equipment safety features
  • forgetting to spot clients if required

Our society is a litigious one. If you don’t know the industry standards and guidelines or you don’t follow them properly, your facility is an open target. Make sure all your employees are well trained. Know what must be done to keep your clients and your business safe. Education alone does not make you a professional. Experience, constant continued education and insight are required.


The experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to conduct investigations when individuals are injured at health clubs and fitness facilities. The scope of our investigations will typically include an analysis of how the incident happened, the condition of the equipment and environment in which it occurred, and the way the facility managed the emergency situation.

For more information, visit our Fitness Facility Operations practice page.


ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). 20t2. ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines (4th ed.). Champaign, I L : Human Kinetics. https://cmc.marmot.orglRecord/.b35340150


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