AustinCertified Personal TrainerCoachingPersonal Trainer

Personal Training or Online Coaching

When students come through PFTA Austin, most of the time they have no idea what type of clients they want to train or even where or how they want to run their training business.

As previously mentioned, the health and wellness space has seen a significant increase in spending – with a mix of companies setting up programs or individuals taking control of their personal health. If you want to be a part of it, you simply need to find your way.

Personal Training

To become a personal trainer years ago, you simply needed to find a place to work and look the part. Over the past couple of decades however, gyms – private and commercial – have stepped up the requirements. The majority of gyms require personal trainers to have at least one industry certification. Additionally all personal trainers must be CPR AED certified and have insurance.

The reasons for industry certifications are plenty, with the main reasons being the educational background in:

  • Safe training practices
  • Relevant physical assessments
  • Adaptations for special populations including the elderly, children, and pregnant women
  • Proper programming techniques
  • The human body, including musculoskeletal and cardiovascular physiology; functional anatomy; and energy systems
  • Nutrition including carbohydrates, fats, and protein requirements; vitamins, minerals, and fluid requirements; and supplementation

Certified personal trainers must also complete continuing education to stay current and certified in the profession.

The Client Side

As a potential training client, if you join a gym and discover that the personal trainers might not be industry certified, find a gym with guaranteed certified trainers. If you are worried about the cost of a non-certified personal trainer to a certified one, think about the importance of your health. Should you get injured while working with an uncertified and unlicensed trainer, the costs will become more impactful to you. The best way to find a certified personal trainer at a cost that works for you is to shop around. The larger, commercial gyms will have certified personal trainers and proper insurance to protect you, the trainer, and the business. The cost to work with these trainers will more than likely be 50% or higher than working with a private personal trainer out of a smaller gym such as Gym One.

Online Coaching

The online coaching industry is still fairly new and going through a huge growth phase. Because of its rapid growth and unregulated industry, it tougher to know what you are getting. While manly online personas claim to have various credentials or certifications, unless they can prove it through a certification body such as the National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF) you might never know for sure.

There are many ways online coaches acquire new business – Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and websites seem to be the most common. How online coaching is conducted also varies. Unlike the personal training setting, online coaches rely on technology to work with their clients.

Some coaches provide basic programming using the shared capabilities of applications such as Google Sheets or training programming applications such as My PT Hub or PT Minder. Should the online coach want to be more hands on, applications such as Skype or Google Hangouts can be used so the trainer can watch and queue online.

The Client Side

When it comes to working out, you will need to find a workout space to support whatever your coach assigns. The costs for the actual online coaching services vary. To be competitive with in person training, you can find rates as low as $50 a consult. Most online coaches though charge a fee range. What all is included is difficult to tell unless you complete information and speak with the coach. Based on what is typically shared publicly, you get a program, nutritional support, and coaching as needed and based on your goals.

What to choose…

Personal Training might be best for you…

As a Trainer if…As a Client if…
You are a great motivator and like to push people in person
You prefer the hands on approach to training
Your personality is better experienced in person
You need someone physically present to help motivate you
You need hands on guidance to safely exercise
You need someone with you to comfortably move around the gym

Online Coaching might be best for you if…

As a Coach if…As a Client if…
You are ok being distant from your client
You are comfortable with clients working solo the majority of the time
You simply want to program and coach from wherever you are located
You can routinely workout, but lack a program
You are comfortable working solo in a gym
Are self motivated, but need occasional support or a check in

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainingPowerliftingWeightlifting

Powerlifting or Weightlifting

When joining a gym and determining a goal or focus, how do you decide what you want to pursue? While both lifting styles are demanding on the body, they are very different in movements, purpose, and preparation.

Bench press

Powerlifting for Overall Body Strength

If you use weights at a gym, there is a good chance you are familiar with the big three powerlifting exercises of bench, squats, and deadlifts. While you might not actually lay on a bench and press a bar up or stand in a rack with a bar across your shoulders and squat downwards, you probably do a variation of these exercises. 

  • Bench press: In the bench, the lifter lowers the weight to the chest and then presses it back up. The bench press can be done with a bar, dumbbells, or bands. This exercise helps develops upper body strength and an alternative is push ups.
  • Back squats: For the back squat, the lifter places the bar across the top of the back, lowers towards the ground, and then drives back up. Squats can be performed with weight on the front, overhead, or at the waist. Barbells, dumbbells, and various machines, such as the belt squat can be used. The squat is great for core and hip activation as well as lower body strength. Alternatives include box squats, body weight, and air squats.
  • Deadlifts: For deadlifts, the lifter lifts a loaded barbell or bar off the ground to the level of the hips and then lowers it back to the ground. Deadlifts are a great posterior exercise that can be performed with bars, dumbbells, and bands. Alternative exercises include hip thrusters and kettlebell swings.

Powerlifting exercises are very muscle power focused. These exercises are easily adaptable to accommodate or adapt to individual needs. For example, if someone is weak in the hips or glutes, a box squat can help. Alternatively, if someone is weak on one side, these exercises can be modified to single leg or arm to isolate and strengthen. If someone is very strong using two legs or hands, these exercise can easily shift to one leg or arm to challenge stability.

Jerk press

Weightlifting for Strength and Flexibility

Weight, or Olympic, lifting includes many lower body-focused exercises. While the lower body does the bulk of work, a weightlifter also requires a strong core and shoulder complex. The common exercises in weightlifting include:

  • Snatch: For the snatch, the lifter takes the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single motion. This exercise involves power from the ground, through the feet, and all the way through the body. The ankles, knees, and hips start flexed, are quickly extended, and then flexed again. The elbows stay fairly straight, while the shoulder, or rotator cuff, is the joint action (shoulder extension and abduction) that takes the weights from the floor to over the lifters head. While there aren’t alternative exercises for the snatch, it involves the snatch deadlift, rows/high pulls, and overhead squats.
  • Clean: For the clean, the lifter moves the barbell from the floor to a racked position across the deltoids, without resting fully on the clavicles. Similar to the snatch, the ankles, knees, and hips start flexed, are quickly extended, and then flexed again. The wrists and elbows start extended and then flex as the bar settles across the deltoids. The shoulder, or rotator cuff, is the joint action that takes the weights (extension) from the floor to rest (flexion) on the delta. While there aren’t alternative exercises for the clean, it involves the traditional deadlift, rows/high pulls, and front squats.
  • Clean and Jerk: For the clean and jerk, the lifter moves the barbell from the floor to a racked position across the deltoids, without resting fully on the clavicles and then presses the bar overhead. In addition to the joint actions involved in the clean alone, the jerk adds shoulder abduction as the lifter presses the bar overhead. The military press, traditional deadlifts, high pulls, and front squats are used to build this exercise.

While all of these exercises might not sound overly difficult, every joint from the wrist to the ankle is used, with a high amount of force pushed through the body. As mentioned above, preparing the body for these types of lifts requires lifters to complete powerlifting exercises including front squats, snatch deadlifts, and military presses.

Supporting Both Styles

Regardless of which lifting path you choose, do not neglect your joints! Additional exercises, such as external shoulder rotation with bands or light weight shoulder movements can benefit all powerlifting and weightlifting exercises. Air squats are great for warming up the hips and lower body, while lateral lunges warm up the knees and stretch the hip joints laterally.

45 degree front raises

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingCoachingWeight Lifting

Working Safely in the Gym

When working out at the gym and approaching a piece of equipment, do you know how to set it up for your safety? In an exercise movement, do you know how get out of the movement to avoid injury?

Working Solo to Avoid Injury

While some exercise movements might have an obvious “out”, such as dropping the weights, many exercises do not. There are many variables to consider in exercise safety, including:

  • Type of weights used: Barbells and dumbbells are different. You cannot disengage your body with a barbell the same way you would a dumbbell. For example, bench press. Using a barbell on a bench press, you must have safety bars in place or not have clips securing the plates to tip the weights off. In a dumbbell bench, you simply need to release the dumbbell safely away from your body.
  • Machine used: Fixed weight machines move or they don’t. If you are able to get the weight up/moving, you better be ready to bring it back down safely. For a machine, such as a belt squat, you can use safety pins at the bottom to prevent the weights from pulling you to the ground, otherwise, you must be able to grab the handle bar and rack it. If using the rack, use the safety bars placed at an appropriate level for the exercise, such as knee height for squats and shoulder height for overhead presses.
  • Personal space: When performing free weight movements or mobility exercises, such as kettlebell swings or walking lunges, know what is going on around you. If you plan on doing weightlifting, such as a front squat or clean, make sure you have the surrounding space to safely drop the bar forward and move your body backwards.
  • Exercise movement: Similar to the issue of personal space, know the exact movement you need to execute the exercise properly. If you are in a small space, you might not be able to execute the exercise properly or safely. When setting up your space for the exercise, make sure you have safety features, such as a safety bar in the proper position if you must abort the movement.

Having a Spotter to Avoid Injury

As you work up in weights or become less comfortable moving in an exercise, you might ask someone to spot your movement. While most people are willing to help, not everyone knows how to do this safely. For example:

  • Bench press: Spotters should be overhead at the bar and ready to assist with a neutral grip on the bar. The neutral grip helps ensure the spotter doesn’t lose the bar backwards or forwards when trying to pull the bar up.
  • Front or Back Squats: If one spotter is in use, they should stand behind the lifter with arms ready to wrap around the torso under the arm pits to help the lift move up and not fall forward. Additional spotters can be at either side of the bar ready to grab the ends of the bar to help lift it up.
  • Dumbbell exercises: Depending on the exercise, it might be easiest for the lifter to simply drop the weights. If however, an assisted lift is requested, the spotter should be providing stability at the wrists.

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingCoachingWeight Lifting

Standing Upright

At PFTA Austin, in addition to teaching students hands on learning with equipment in the gym, we teach students how to fix or correct common conditions that can lead to pain, discomfort, and injury.

Previously, we discussed the importance of breathing and how without a proper tight core, you can create repetitive strains and injuries.

Are You a Sloucher or Do You Stand Tall?

When standing or walking, does your posture look more like left or right Justin?

Ninety percent of personal training clients we meet, have a variation of upper crossed syndrome because of their daily activities. The majority of these people experience this syndrome because of working with technology – sitting at a desk or with a device in hand – for extended periods of time.

The Sloucher

In the image of Justin slouching, you can see how disengaged the posterior, or backside, is and the resulting effect on the body. If we had another angle, you might also notice knees and ankles turning in.

What Does it Mean?

Depending on the person, the results of a slouched body could include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Core discomfort including the ribs
  • Back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Upper body weakness
  • Knee pain
  • Foot pain
  • Lower body weakness

In addition to the items above, a sloucher is simply going to be prone to injuries. Injuries will occur because their backside is dormant and their core is weak. Anyone with this posture, will have difficulties doing basic things, such as getting up and down, picking things up, reaching, walking, or assisting others.

Standing Tall

In the image of Justin standing tall, his shoulders are pulled back and his chest is up, helping straighten his neck. His glutes and core are also engaged pulling his hips into neutral.

By making these changes while standing, Justin has taken the pressure off his anterior, or frontside. This change in posture means that his entire body is engaged. If he were to trip or lose his balance, he is less likely to strain a muscle or hit the ground because his body is not anterior dominant or dealing with a forward momentum situation.

How Can You Stand Tall?

If you happen to have a desk job, get up! Get a standing desk to straighten your hips, but also get moving. Find ways to stretch your chest, activate your back, and loosen up.

The Effect at the Gym

If you don’t take the steps to fix the poor posture, you are guaranteed to experience problems in the gym. While it might not be obvious, in addition to the back-focused exercises of rows and pull downs, your back is extremely important for the following exercises:

  • Shoulder press
  • Shoulder raises
  • Front raises
  • Chest press
  • Push ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Hammer curls
  • Front squats
  • Back squats
  • Goblet squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Planks
  • Step ups

Does this surprise you? If you think about the focus of an exercise and how the body is used, a strong back is required. For example, if you don’t have a strong back, how can your shoulders support weight above your body? If you don’t have a strong back, how can your rotator cuff act safely as a stabilizer for anything chest, shoulders, or back?

Notice the inclusion of the lower body exercises? Many lower body exercises involve placing weight on the upper part of the body or lifting it off the ground. If you don’t activate your back and core for squats, then you are likely to tilt forward and get injured. When executing a deadlift, if you don’t engage your back/lats to get the weight posterior focused, you run the risk of anterior strain because your chest is bearing the weight of the bar, pulling your shoulders and everything else forward.

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerContinuing EducationCPR AEDFirst AidHealthNews

Offering First Aid/CPR AED Certification

Starting in August, PFTA Austin is proud to offer certification and testing for First Aid and CPR AED. Whether you are needing to certify for the first time or renew your existing certification, we can help!

To register for the skills assessment, at the American Heart Association website, click Locate a Training Center. To narrow down the options, provide 78757 as the zip code, filter the list for Heartsaver CPR AED Skills Session and Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED Skills Session and then click Submit.

If you have any questions, please contact Keli for more information – (512) 710-7773 | keli@pftaaustin.com

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingContinuing EducationNewsPartnershipWorkshop

Continuing Personal Trainer Education in Austin

When students complete their Certified Personal Training certification with PFTA Austin, we want to continue to help them succeed in their personal training careers.

As a result, we continue to improve ourselves and expand our educational offerings for the personal training community. We are excited to share that Keli Hay will become fully certified as a CPR/AED instructor next week with the American Heart Association. With this new certification, PFTA Austin will be adding monthly CPR workshops – stay tuned for the exact dates!

Provider for Continuing Education

In addition to the CPR courses, we are creating workshops to help personal trainers hone their skills in different areas. Where are these workshops coming from? We have created them based on our first hand experiences as personal trainers (working in corporate gyms and as private trainers) and from feedback in the field.

To make sure certified personal trainers receive credits for our workshops, we became an approved provider of continuing education with the National Council on Strength and Fitness. Our inaugural workshops are:

  • Client Assessments and Engagement
  • Program Design

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or are interested in our continuing education workshops, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingHealthWeight Lifting

Bracing and Breathing to Avoid Injuries When Lifting

Watching people lifting around the gym, it’s hard to tell how much time lifters spend thinking about and practicing the elements of creating a strong core which includes – bracing and breathing. Faces go deep red/purple because people hold their breath for too long or breathe at the wrong time resulting in body shifts – mainly hips and shoulders.

Poor Bracing and Breathing

As you continue to build strength in any exercise – especially the main three of bench, deadlifts, and back squats – you must continue to brace and keep your form. Without proper bracing and breathing, you can hurt yourself – especially as you increase weights. For example, you could:

In addition to injuries in the moment, you could cause repetitive stress on joints and muscles creating other issues, such as lower back or neck pain.

Tightening the Core

Buddha Belly Breathing

How do you practice core tightening and breathing? Lay flat on your back and breathe! If only it was that easy 🙂 To truly brace your core, practice breathing in through your nose to expand your belly and then exhale out your mouth.

To practice bracing your abdominal muscles:

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Get your hips into neutral position.
  3. Breathe in through your nose.
  4. Lift and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
  5. Very gently contract or tense your abdominal wall.
  6. Keep your pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles contracted.
  7. Relax your abdominal muscles after maintaining your abdominal contraction for 5-10 seconds at a time.
  8. Exhale out your mouth.

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingCoachingHealthPersonal TrainingWeight LiftingWeight Loss

Sharing A Passion for Training

Over the past few years, the health and wellness industry has continued to see an uptick in consumer spending. While the investing areas vary, the results are conclusive – people are starting to take better care of themselves.

With consumers investing $702.1 billion on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss and an additional $595.4 billion on fitness, personal trainers need to find their piece of the market.

Making Your Mark

On June 25th, PFTA Austin was proud to welcome Justin Mihaly and Megan Davis from Team Mihaly to the school to share their lessons learned with the upcoming graduates. If you haven’t heard of Justin and Megan, you might not be into body building or use online coaching. Since 2015, Justin has successfully built a very successful online coaching product and service. The company works with clients in 9 different countries and 50 states. 

Justin and Megan shared their previous life and work experiences contributing to their current successes. Additionally, Justin shared his beliefs around what makes a great trainer. Top of the list was passion. He believes, as we do at PFTA Austin, that you must love personal training. Whether that passion means helping create the perfect physique for competition, helping people lose weight, or simply helping people move better, you must have a passion for it. 

His second and third items on the list were knowledge and networking. In a previous post, we discussed how personal trainers must be self motivators and lifelong learners, so we were very happy to hear Justin reiterate the importance of continued learning. He also emphasized the importance of networks – whether it be in person contacts or networking groups.

Finding Partnerships

We really want to thank Justin and Megan for spending time with us at the school. As the health and wellness industry continues to evolve through technology and people continue to invest in their health, we want to make sure that all PFTA Austin graduates have the tools to succeed. 

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer or would like to partner with PFTA Austin to help educate personal trainers, we would love to hear from you!

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerEventsPersonal TrainingWorkshop

Client Assessments and Engagement

PFTA Austin is proud to announce our inaugural workshop. On July 14th from 10am until 3pm we will be running the Client Assessments and Engagement workshop – split between the school on Shoal Creek Blvd and Gym One.

In this course, students will practice meeting with new clients and conducting fitness assessments. Starting in the classroom, students review and practice completion of client screening documents, including the informed consent, the Par-Q, the health risk appraisal, medical history questionnaire, the health status questionnaire, and the behavior questionnaire. With this collected information, students then discuss how to interpret the information and what to do with it.

After the screening documents are complete and the data analyzed, students move to the gym where they practice client fitness tests including resting tests – circumference and skinfold measurements, postural assessment, and flexibility tests. Upon completion of the resting tests, students then practice the other fitness assessments, including the strength and power tests (bench press and pull ups), endurance tests (push ups and modified pull ups), anaerobic tests (vertical jumps and power steps), and aerobic tests (1 mile walk and 12 minute run).

For information about the open enrollment for the July start of the Certified Personal Trainer course or any PFTA Austin workshops, contact:

Read more
AustinCertified Personal TrainerCertified Personal TrainingHealthWeight LiftingWeight Loss

Working with Client Goals

When working as a personal trainer, the most important aspect of connecting with a client is understanding the client goal. While the most common goals include weight loss and muscle gain, you must let clients tell you their goals. Taking the time to listen and understand what the client is saying is the most important. For example, if a client is overweight, never assume their main goal is weight loss. 

As a personal trainer, it is very rare that you will encounter the “perfect” client. For example, a weight loss client might hit it hard at the gym, but struggle with food, so the weight loss is slow. It is not your job to tell someone what to do, but rather coach and encourage the client when progress and healthy choices are made.

Be Ready for Curve Balls

Most clients come to you with health conditions or variables making the achievements of the goals challenging. Your goal as a trainer is to work with whatever the client brings you. Weight loss programs, dieting trends/fads, workout programs, muscle disorders, medications…every single thing a client will tell you they have/are doing can be found online.


If a potential client is on a prescription, research the product to understand the impact of the drug. When researching the product, look up the side effects and impact on the body. Also research any potential conflicting medications or supplements incase something, such as caffeine – which is common in pre-workout – impacts the effects of the prescribed medication.

Injuries or Physical Limitations

The most common injury amongst athletes is a sprained ankle. The next 5 common injuries are all lower body. In addition to the common injuries, because of commuting and sitting the majority of the day, most office job people have visible anterior body movements. Be ready for this, but never make assumptions. Use your pre-exercise screening tools to help assess client movements. Also be ready for clients in a mental state of being disabled. What do I mean? Clients will indicate they were injured over 5 years ago and still mentally think the injury is a problem. Realistically, the injury is long gone, but the client is favoring the injured muscle/joint causing other problems.

Dietary Concerns or Beliefs

When a client comes to you wanting to lose weight, do you think they want you to tell them how to do it? Nope. Don’t even try for a couple of reasons.

  • Unless you have a specialized degree or certification, you are not a nutritionist, so be careful with what you say. Consult the Center for Nutrition Advocacy for the laws applicable to your employment state.
  • Clients need to figure out their diet on their own. You can coach and guide around good nutrition choices, but you cannot force or control what they eat.

If a client has a medical reason for not consuming a certain food, ask why and do some research. All dietary concerns can be accommodated to match a client goal at the gym.

If a client is following a particular diet program or fad, also do your research. While many diet fads can be tough on the body during exercise, they can also be accommodated. If you can tap into the true goal and understand the nutritional habits of your clients, you should be able to coach them mentally to a successful weight loss – regardless of the chosen method.

For information about the open enrollment for the June start of the Certified Personal Trainer course or any PFTA Austin workshops, contact:

Read more