OVER 10 years ago, when Jeredan Conde was about to start gym workout, his father advised: ?Huwag kang magpapaloko sa trainer! (Don?t be misled by the trainer.)? The elder Conde made him read two books?the definitive ?Bodybuilding 101? by Robert Wolf and an encyclopedia of bodybuilding before Conde set foot on the gym. His father?s prediction came true. The programs that the trainer made for Conde were illogical and conflicted with the scientific principles imparted by the books.

When Conde, Planet Infinity?s business development manager, asks people why they don?t want to go to the gym, they often reply that they tried it for a couple of months with no results. ?Every good trainer knows that you didn?t get results because you weren?t doing it right,? he says. Hence the need for a PT.

Beyond the individual sessions, the personal trainer is someone who motivates clients, coaches them about techniques, and provides any other hand-holding they need to achieve their goals. The PT to a gym habitu is what a coach is to a team.

Conde clarifies that the PT is not a glorified achoy or butler who merely picks up the client?s weights, wipes the benches and counts the repetitions of their exercise. ?You?re here to sweat not the trainer,? he says.


Ace Duque, operations manager (better known as Piolo Pascual?s longtime trainer), says that in the ?90s, the personal trainer was usually either a seasoned bodybuilder or a physical therapist whose background was rehabilitation and pain management. Think Miriam Quiambao who was a physical therapist graduate-turned-trainer before becoming a beauty queen. Over time, it became an unofficial business of the gym, an underground economy, wherein the client and trainer had one-on-one sessions on an informal arrangement.

It was also in the ?90s when the PT was seen as a status symbol, since only socialites, stockbrokers and elite athletes could afford their services. The boom in the fitness industry has spawned the growth of personal trainers. With rates starting at P750 to P1,000 per hour, their services became more affordable. However, the boom has its bane. Just about anybody can be a PT.

?There are legit experts, wannabe experts, self-proclaimed experts, and people want to be there just to pay the bills. Others gyms hire physical therapists who have never touched weights before. In developed countries, physical therapy grads are not qualified for gyms. It has become a cool job that?s not restricted to bodybuilders. You hear models who do PT as part time. But there are fitness enthusiasts who are into educating people about the proper technique and safety in training. Some people from rich families go to the US, take up kinesiology, exercise science and get certified in this type of workout,? says Conde.

What does it take to be a personal trainer?

A graduate of physical education from the University of the Philippines School of Human Kinetics, Duque felt he was equipped to be a trainer until he was made to design a program for his first client. He was at a loss that he had to ask the senior trainers at the club. Although his course provided anatomy and kinesiology, it was geared more toward athletics. His passion led him to study fitness and weight training on his own, attend seminars and conventions and brush up on the trends and new developments in research.

?A lot of what we know is based on travels,? says Conde. ?We don?t limit ourselves to the local industry. Where there is an innovative fitness facility abroad, we make it a point to visit.?

Conde received his certification from the American Council of Exercise (ACE), one of the top four US groups for trainer certification. It took him over six months to comprehend the book provided by ACE which covered anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, safety, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and training techniques. He is one of the two in the Philippines who have passed ACE?s rigorous test. The ACE-certified trainer must commit to continuous education?renewing his certificate every two years, traveling to take credit courses, studying and taking practical tests online?to be updated.


Today, many gyms require trainers to complete an in-house training course. At Planet Infinity, the aspirants are made to distinguish between bodybuilding which focuses on ultimate muscle gain and fitness, aimed at cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and flexibility. Then the trainers learn the basics?anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, strength training, cardiovascular training, sports nutrition and health screening or understanding the needs of special clients with diabetics or hypertension.

Duque clarifies that the education is not about learning by rote. Aside from the lectures, written and practical tests, the potential trainers are given situations for application of their studies. They immerse themselves in the gym for two months before they can talk to a client. So far, the gym has experienced a low turnover.

Conde points out that the personal training industry is still in its infancy. Abroad, health clubs require their trainers to get a certification from organizations, which also have codes of ethics. Here, the percentage of individuals who invest in continuing education is small, and there is no regulatory system in the industry.

He warns against personal trainers whose focus is more on sales rather than the quality of service provided to the clients. ?I?ve seen trainers who just count while the client is performing horribly.?

?There are some who want to get it over and done with and move on to the next,? adds Duque.

Conde explains the good trainers in the Philippines are those passionate about working out or the fitness lifestyle. ?They look for ways to improve their training and make it more efficient. Eventually, it helps them, and they want to help other people,? he says. ?In a gym, you see so many disasters. Many people are doing everything wrong. You want to help all of them but you can?t because you?re not a trainer. But if you got the pedigree and the necessary certificate, you can help them.?

Tips on finding the right trainer

1. Educate yourself first by reading books.

2. Ask for a free trial to test-drive your trainer. Since the workout is physical, a trainer will need to correct your alignment, placement and posture or movement by touching. Work with someone whom you?re comfortable with. ?Was the workout fun that it was too fun to be a workout? There needs to be a balance. Was the workout too serious that it was for the Marines?? says Conde.

3. Ask for credentials or training background. Some local trainers have been certified by important foreign organizations such as the ACE, National Strength and Conditioning Association, American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine. Be careful of credentials churned out by American certificate mills. If the PT doesn?t have the international accreditation, ask about his PT education and work experience here.

4. Check out the trainer?s roster of clients. In the Philippines, this is the best way to know more about the quality of the trainer. ?You can see from the results,? says Duque. He adds that trainers with longtime clients will be more credible than those with a long list but with a quick turnover.

5. Determine your needs. ?If you want to bulk up, get a trainer who is good in bodybuilding. You won?t get a trainer who is good in rehab,? says Duque.

6. Good trainers display professional conduct. Conde has seen many instances when trainers take advantage of their female clients such as asking them to be photographed in their underwear for before and after photos; let their guiding hand be in a sensitive place or telling them to squat lower so that their rears could touch their hands. Professional trainers will ask the client?s permission on physical contact.

Ultimately, the success of the program is attributed to their partnership. ?A trainer is with a client for three hours a week (one hour per session). It doesn?t take into account there are 23 hours where they are responsible for themselves. They have to avoid certain foods, control cravings and try to take stairs instead of the elevator,? says Conde.

An example of a trainer-client relationship is that of Duque and Piolo Pascual. The actor was not only diligent about his workout, but also watched his diet, took nutritional supplements and asked advice on keeping fit while he was abroad.

Clients should be punctual for their appointments. ?The trainer is giving you 100-percent quality for your bucks. If you come late, he?ll give you only 30 minutes instead of an hour. There?s a compromise. You end up doing something that?s not fit for your program?s progression,? says Conde.

He adds that the client should read up and challenge the trainer to keep him on his toes. (For details, call 376-4512)