NCSF Personal Training Study Guide Chapter 1 – Introduction to Personal Training 4

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Chapter Goals:

  • Know the 6 categories of wellness.
  • Be able to understand the factors that affect both wellness and health.
  • Be able to define and find the differences between exercise and physical activity.
  • Learn the key exercise principles, like overload, progression, and specificity.
  • Know the differences in plastic and elastic responses.
  • Find differences in both moderate and vigorous activity levels.

Personal Training: The Beginning

The profession of personal training started maturing and becoming viable in the 1980s alongside the fitness industry.

The weight rooms of bodybuilders and athletes made the idea of training grow in popularity.

This also led to increases of the same proportion in the number of classes like a group dance.

Research accompanied these changing industries and led to validity being found in the many health benefits that came with activities.

The idea of hiring experienced weight trainers gained a lot of merit from social and health perspectives.

The concepts within personal training have since gone through many changes as far as the landscape, services, and professionals providing the services all come together to bring a broader and more beneficial influence on society.

An interesting note is that the linear growth of personal training has been mirrored by a significant decline in the general population’s health.

Personal Training: Modern Concept

In this day and age, personal trainers are expected to emphasize changing health and behavior since neither diet nor exercise alone will give viable solutions.

Interestingly, the number of people needing help far exceeds the number of personal trainers.

This means that there is a big need for health professionals.

There were around 280,000 personal trainers as of 2017; for comparison, there were around 114 million incidences of diabetes or pre-diabetes.

This represents the persisting problem with health and the distinct need for fitness professionals to help correct this problem.

If we used the number of potential clients with these health disorders and took the trainers into account, then each trainer would have over 1000 hours each week at a minimum.

Scope of Practice and Legal Ramifications

Every career field has a scope of practice that embodies the main services each eligible professional will provide, along with the boundaries for their qualification.

These professionals who meet qualifications for different certifications all take legally defensible board exams, putting them as registered with the United States Registry of Exercise Professionals.

To define the scope of practice correctly, there are role delineation studies done for surveying what stakeholders think the job will need so that it can be effective and appropriately done.

There are cases where similar professions overlap but differ in how, when, and where to deliver services.

Some examples of somewhat overlapping careers with personal trainers would be the careers of athletic trainers and physical therapists. They are similar, but as anyone in the industry knows, they are quite different.

Qualified and credentialed professionals must also meet various industry standards to be held to elevated personal expectations.

Ethics and practice standards become very important when looking at fields with an imbalance of power.

Understanding Health and Wellness

Health is defined in many various ways so it can be a rather vague term.

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For the purpose of the textbook and the field of personal training, we define health as the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit, especially in the sense of being free from any physical diseases or pain.

It still can be broad, but we typically use the term alongside some talk of specific, quantifiable health measures like blood pressure and any self-reported issues like joint pain.

A somewhat evolved concept of wellness breaks down the various forms of wellness into 6 types:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Environmental

Some aspects of someone considered to be living a healthy life are:

  • Avoiding stress and any negative health behaviors
  • Eating a nutritionally appropriate diet
  • Enjoying positive relationships
  • Engaging in routines with physical activity

Some common things contributing to health declining prematurely are:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Poor emotional health

Common health disorders and diseases:

  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • COPD
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Systemic inflammation

Routine engagement in physical activity ranks as one of the most important features of any healthy living plan.

It is estimated that about 80 percent of adults do not meet the proper guidelines for aerobic or muscular strength activity. This percentage is also true for adolescents, unfortunately.

When we are looking at adults, we see physical activity lowering the risks for:

  • Premature death
  • Coronary heart disease and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast and colon cancers
  • Falls
  • Depression

For children and adolescents, we see physical activity improving:

  • Bone health
  • Cardio fitness
  • Muscular fitness
  • Body composition when overweight
  • Social development and confidence

Physical activity is defined as any purposeful and repeatable body movement that is done with voluntary muscle action of skeletal muscle and causes an increase in metabolism.

Exercise is defined as planned, structured, and repetitive movements of the body done to improve and/or maintain one or more components of fitness.

Physical inactivity is determined to be the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, which is seen to cause around 3.2 million deaths worldwide.

Physical Activity vs. Exercise

Ever since 2015, there has been a call to action for publicly engaging in walking. This is a valuable perspective used to “get America moving.”

But this can be unclear for people when trying to see the difference between achieving health and fitness.

Walking may work as a form of physical activity and be beneficial as an exercise for one person. Still, for another, it may simply be physical activity that does not give any exercise benefits.

Exercise produces stress that stimulates cellular response, generating the need for new and sustained adaptation.

Applying the overload principle is important to understand and assist in differentiating exercise and physical activity.

Overload is the principle that states stress is applied over what the body is usually accustomed to promote fitness improvement.

The body does many things with this overload principle.

The most important thing to note about the principle of overload is that the body takes repeated stimuli of stress that occur from physical activity, and it stimulates adaptations to happen in the body’s systems.

Simply doing an activity once, even if it is overload, is not likely to bring about much change. Instead, we need a repeated bout of the stimulus type, which causes changes to the body.

Once these adaptations have begun, we see new stresses needed to adapt and change the body. This is known as progression.

Progression is a big principle in exercise, and it states that once the body has adapted to a level of stress, new stresses or added stress are needed to promote adaptation.

The third of the main principles is then going to be Specificity.

The principle of specificity states that one must give the body a specific type of stress for the desired adaptations.

Americans need to aim to get these amounts of physical activity:

Adults need to have 2 and a half hours a week of physical activity in the form of cardio. This is considered moderate, with the number changing for more intense aerobics.

Women and older adults are less likely to meet these weekly needs for physical activity.

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Inactive adults will have a higher risk for premature death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

Regular physical activity will help people keep a body weight considered to be healthy.

Communities that are more easily walked will promote more activity.

Some fundamental definitions of physical activity:

Moderate-intensity exercise is considered to be done at 3 – 5.9 times the intensity of rest. It will also usually result in a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 – 10.

Vigorous activity is considered to be 6 or more times the intensity of rest. This would rank around a 7 – 8 on the 0 – 10 scale.

Muscle-strengthening activity is a physical activity that includes exercise that increases the strength of skeletal muscle, or power, endurance, and mass.

Some average moderate-intensity activities are:

  • Cycling at around 10 mph or less.
  • Gardening
  • Water aerobics
  • Tennis
  • Walking 3 mph or less.
  • Snorkeling or recreationally swimming.
  • Yoga
  • Golf while wheeling clubs
  • Playing frisbee
  • Shoveling a light amount of snow

Some vigorous activities would be:

  • Jogging, running, or sprinting bouts
  • Swimming laps in the pool
  • Aerobic dance classes
  • Cycling over 10 mph
  • Skiing downhill slopes
  • Jumping rope
  • Heavy, continuous yardwork
  • Karate
  • Circuit weight training
  • Team sport play

Physical Fitness

This looks at two fitness categories: health-related physical fitness and performance-related physical fitness.

Health-related physical fitness looks at the factors that quantifiably affect one’s health, and performance-related physical fitness affects just performance outcomes.

Some health-related physical fitness types include cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, and body composition.

Some performance-related fitness types are power, speed, balance, coordination, and agility.

Health-Related Components of Fitness

These are going to absolutely fundamental to a person’s overall well-being. They show easily showable measures of efficiency and proper function of both the systems of movement and metabolism.

Cardiorespiratory Fitness

This includes many synonyms like aerobic fitness, cardiovascular efficiency, cardiovascular fitness, or even cardiovascular endurance.

All of the various types of cardiorespiratory fitness mean one thing: they look at the ability of the body to consume oxygen and then use it. The term we use for this is VO2 max.

VO2 max is defined as the measure of maximum oxygen use, measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilo of body weight per every minute of work.

This fitness factor also shows the synergistic efficiency of the body’s systems and includes the heart and lungs, muscular and cardiovascular systems.

Muscular Fitness

This will look at the body’s ability to produce and keep the force output through the use of neuromuscular characteristics.

Two concepts come into play. These are muscular strength and muscular endurance.

Muscular strength is defined as the measure of someone’s maximal contractile force production against some resistance.

Muscular endurance is defined as the measure of muscle force declining over time.

Muscular fitness is essential to our health, as this looks at movement abilities and joint health and is responsible for stability and posture.

We define stability as the synergistic ability of the muscles, nerves, proprioceptors, and connective tissues to take firm positions and offset forces that attempt to disrupt.


Flexibility is among the active adult population’s least valued health-related fitness components.

We define this as the ability of a muscle to move through a range of motion at a single joint in one plane.

The reasons that this component is under-valued are likely because of three things:

  • Flexibility improvements do not satisfy some people’s needs for vanity.
  • Most normal activities don’t need high levels of this component.
  • Flexibility training often is seen by people to be too time-consuming, uncomfortable, and even boring.
  • Mobility is not equivalent to flexibility, and knowing its function is important.
  • Mobility is defined as the ability of the body to move its parts through full ranges of motion without restriction.
  • Often, we see people passing simple flexibility tests, but when trying to secure that position style and introduce movement, we see them fail. This hints at poor mobility.

Body Composition

This is defined as the fat mass ratio to the fat-free mass ratio in the body. We often will express this as a percent of body fat.

Fat-free mass consists of any tissues in the body with no fat.

Another factor we look at in this is the term lean body mass. This differs from fat-free mass, as it looks at the bones, ligaments, tendons, internal organs, and muscles.

So, some forms of fat are included in this lean body mass, as there is fat within the bone marrow, organs, and other lean masses.

In today’s age, with the rise in less active populations, we see normal-weight-obesity occurring. This is when people have a completely normal weight on paper but carry more fat than normal.

The factors of diet that lead to obesity and other specific health risks are:

  • Over sufficiency or excess intake of calories.
  • High in sugar and processed forms of carbs.
  • Low in potassium and high in sodium foods.
  • High levels of saturated fats.
  • Low levels of fruits and vegetables.
  • Excessive red and processed meats.
  • Low intake of water.
  • Higher intakes of alcohol.

Performance-Related Components of Fitness

These are usually emphasized in sports conditioning programs for individuals looking to excel in sports competitions.


Power is defined as the rate at which work is done. We use the calculation (power = force X velocity)

We should focus on acceleration instead of the amount of resistance moved for power enhancement.

An example of a workout way to view this can be with the back squat.

It has very low yields on power since it is a slower movement and instead focuses more on general strengthen enhancement.

A squat jump, on the other hand, would be a good example of power training, as it requires rapid acceleration for the performance of the jump.

Sarcopenia is introduced in this section. This is defined as a muscular disease in which there is a loss in skeletal muscle mass, more specifically in the fast-twitch muscle fibers.


This discusses our ability to move the body, or body parts, over some distance at a certain time.

Speed, much like the component of power, depends on neural recruitment patterns and adequate abilities of the muscular system.

This skill is vital for any athletic performance and is often the most valued performance measure.

The things that affect movement speed are the factors of stability, dynamic balance, and flexibility.


This can be defined as the ability to manage forces that act to disrupt the levels of stability in the body.

The nervous system plays the biggest role in the manipulation of muscle tension for the accommodation of demand.

We need balance in sports activities and activities of daily life. So, training this might be one of the most functional things we can do for all population groups.

Proprioception refers to the cumulative input to the central nervous system from receptors that relay body and positional movements.

Strength balance is an important term for the functional strength ratio of opposing muscle groups across a joint. This is also called the agonist/antagonist muscle ratio or the muscle balance ratio.


This is defined as the ability to control multiple body parts and/or senses simultaneously and efficiently.

The better someone manages a force, the easier the body performs tasks.

All activities require coordination, but high levels are unnecessary for health improvements.


This is defined as a rapid whole-body movement that changes the velocity or direction in response to stimuli.

Open skills are motor skills that need the participant to react to changes in unpredictable environments.

Closed skills are motor skills done in stable and predictable environments.

The most popular Physical activities in the US are:

  • Walking for fitness
  • Running and jogging
  • Treadmill workouts
  • Bowling
  • Free weight training
  • Bicycling
  • Weight or resistance training with machines
  • Stretching
  • Hiking
  • Swimming for fitness

NCSF Personal Training Study Guide Chapter 1 – Introduction to Personal Training 5
NCSF Personal Training Study Guide Chapter 1 – Introduction to Personal Training 6
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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