This brief overview isn’t to deter anyone from Personal Trainers at all, I started as a personal trainer and fitness professional. And there are many experienced, qualified and knowledgeable trainers out there. However the level of training unfortunately for becoming a Personal Trainer in the UK isn’t consistent or as high as pther countries and doesn’t cover many important aspects that are needed for one to one coaching/ training. Personal trainers are trained to deliver one to one sessions to the general population in general goals such as weight loss, improve health, improve fitness and improve body composition (Fat loss, Hypertrophy etc).

If you have medical conditions such as hypertension, mild anxiety and depression, hyperlipidemia etc there is an additional job role / qualification that specialises in helping this called exercise referral (GP referral). Both the personal trainer course and GP referral course are each level 3 and very appropriate for one to one training for these goals.

Now here is the difference Strength and Conditioning coaching is a science based practice (some PT’s would argue this is the case for their job; which it should be and those who take that approach will have great success and their clients will be in safer hands, however the courses for PT level 3 and 4, do not identify how to find the correct information, recommendations and research nor how to analyse them to make informed decisions).

If you are a coach, athlete or part of a sports team this is where the difference should be identified.

First lets look at a typical Job Spec (obviously some vary but you can see live ones on jobs sites or UK strength and conditioning website)



Alongside this usually to be working with a team they expect you to volunteer if your newly accredited / qualified for approximately 12 months, before you are considered for a paid job role in this.

If you then looks at the key areas that are studied in a S&C degree and again in S&C accreditation process:

  • Applied Anatomy
  • Gym and fitness module (usually first year so level 4 equivalent)
  • Principles of coaching including some psychological element to this
  • Injury prevention in sport (Modules usually studied alongside physiotherapists and sports therapists)
  • Performance analysis (using GPS data, video analysis and movement patterns)
  • Essentials of S&C (Speed, agility, plyometrics, strength, power, anaerobic and aerobic fitness)
  • Application and practice of methods
  • Assessments (using EMG, force plates, speed gates, 3D camera, bar velocity trackers, dynamometers etc)
  • Other methods in sports (altitude training, thermoregulation in heat chambers or cold chambers, cryotherapy)
  • Nutrition
  • Biomechanics
  • Physiology

The last three being a specific pathway

To get onto the degree you must have A Levels or relevant diplomas and experience (Level 3 or above).

Personal training

  1. Role of a fitness professional
  2. Anatomy and physiology
  3. Assessing fitness levels (and general tests for resistance avoiding maximal training usually)
  4. Structuring a session – warm up, cool down, machine based cardio/resistance, free weights, some ‘functional equipment’, stretching
  5. Goal setting
  6. Sometimes level 3 Nutrition, behaviour change, marketing and TRX/ kettle bells… etc are covered (otherwise additional short courses on these equipments to be insured).

The reasoning for this blog is strength and conditioning is a relatively new role in sport. Also as with many there are people out there who claim to be this without the training or experience. Personal trainers can still help you with your goals especially those with years of experience. But if your a professional athlete you want to make sure your coach fully understands the movement patterns, fitness, strength, risks of injury in your sport, positional differences etc. Not only this but to make sure they are insured.

Please Note: I am open with clients, potential clients and social media etc… I am not a strength and conditioning coach yet. I am training up to be with my degree (should be finished by June 2018) and hope to have completed my UKSCA accreditation later in 2018. I do specialise and have experience in areas of this and qualifications for certain clients and for certain sports such as (outdoor sports, dancing, weightlifting etc due to being a coach in these areas and also doing these sports for 20+ years).

Unfortunately this isn’t the case with many and there are a lot of personal trainers that work outside of there scope. Many trainers will claim to be strength and conditioning coaches without any of this training or short courses. But ideally if your being paid for a sport and want to increase performance wouldn’t you want someone who has that speciality and understands the science, practicalities and the legality side of this. Those who are qualified are insured and have dedicated the time.

Think of it this way: If you were a patient with a condition or disease that is complex to understand and requires a specialist, you would be asking your general practitioner for a referral. It doesn’t mean your doctor or nurse don’t understand or make a huge positive influence but they haven’t had the specialist experience and training to give you the best advise for your specific circumstance.