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Sometimes I am retarded.

I don’t mean retarded in the ‘I am Sam’ kind of way (although my friends might argue that point) but more retarded in the ‘what were you thinking when you said that’ way.


I have one of my blog readers (thanks, Marm217!) in particular to thank for pointing out my error in judgment in regards to the plight of the physical therapist and the personal trainer.

You see, I wrote this blog post a while back about physical therapists and how they were different to personal trainers.

Read it here if you haven’t already:

Physical therapy vs personal training faceoff

Well, Marm217 read the above post and had the following well deserved and constructive comment to make about my short-sightedness in that article:

It’s great to base your statement on the shortcomings of the “average” physical therapist on one client of yours…. I’m sorry you feel that way. I think PT’s and personal trainers would do best working together, but all of the personal trainers I’ve come into contact with seem to resent physical therapists…


This reminds me of being at a presentation by Gary Gray (an amazing physical therapist) that was filled with physical therapists and personal trainers.  It might as well have been a cheesy fight scene from ‘west side story’.  The two could not seem to get along well at all.  I will admit that I was one of those trainers that was resentful of physical therapists, but that I no longer feel that angst – I do agree 100% with the ‘co-resentment’ that seems to happen between the two groups.  of course, Gary Gray had everyone hugging and smiling by the end of the day (I think he slipped something in the water).

Truth be told, why wouldn’t the two dislike each other?

The Trainers envy the therapists for their fancy book smarts, degrees and cushy insurance clients.

The thunderdome revisited:  two fitness professionals enter, one fitness professional leaves!

The thunderdome revisited: two fitness professionals enter, one fitness professional leaves!

Therapists on the other hand get annoyed that the trainer can be allowed to work  with people after having done a 3 week certification instead of a 4 year degree – not to mention that the trainers sometimes make just as much as the therapists (which is neither the trainers nor the therapists fault, it is more the system that is to blame for that one)

One person said that being a PT is really like being an over-priced personal trainer, that he “rehabs people all the time” and another personal trainer would not hire my friend who has her personal trainer certification because she’s in PT school and is “not going to make a career out of personal training”.

I think that is a shame that people will make judgments on others without having seen what they can do or how much they might be able to help.  Truth be told, there are horrible and great professionals  in any industry and there are great careers to be had as either a therapist or a personal trainer.

I honestly feel that the most important thing both occupations could do would be to put aside our egos and work together instead of squabbling with each others collective industries while the client sits patiently waiting to be helped with the best care possible.  By weighing down each other we hurt and confuse the client.

My truth is this:

The therapists role has traditionally been to get the person pain free and functional.  The trainers role has been to get the client to the point of optimal health.

For better or worse, the roles & responsibilities of these two professions are slowly moving towards each other

There is a significant difference between the two, but that difference is changing every day.  Therapists must get better at prescribing exercise, trainers must get better at counting to 12.

PT’s and personal trainers both have valuable knowledge about the body and can offer something different to each client or patient. It’s really a shame because there could be potential there, if more personal trainers were open to it.

I agree with Marm217 and I apologize 100% if my post came across as putting down physical therapists.

My intent was to spark conversation about the human body and how it was more complicated than what ‘the system’ would have people think.

So to rephrase.  We are extremely complicated beings – more complicated than probably a lot of personal trainers (and certainly some physical therapists) will ever care to understand.

But we must ask ‘why’.

so maybe we shouldn't ask 'why' ALL the time... just most of the time.

so maybe we shouldn't ask 'why' ALL the time... just most of the time.

So next time you have a personal training session or need to go to physical therapy and are handed a dumbbell or a band or are given an exercise to do.. ask ‘why’.  You might be surprised by the answer (but probably not as surprised as your trainer/therapist who is probably used to gleeful subservience and will probably give you extra reps/pain for talking back).

Thanks again for your comment, Marm217!  I appreciate your input thoroughly!
Any other thoughts out there about personal trainers or physical therapists?

May I should just break into song ans sing that musical scene from ‘Oklahoma’ where ‘the farmers and the cowboys should be friends’?

Dont know it?  Here is a video below that sums up this whole blog (maybe I should have just posted the video and left it at that):


So remember – territory folk should stick together!

Yours in health,

Jamie Atlas

PS  I have since written a followup article to this post.  See it by clicking below:

Physical Therapist vs Personal Trainer pt 4: Building a bridge

PPS Are you a physical therapist?  Want something that shows my attempt at being more than just a weekend cert dumbbell jockey?

Click on the above post to read about how knee pain can be attributed to the actions of the foot.

If you want to see why I think the bench press should be outlawed, click on the link below:

The Bench Press is a Useless Measure of your Strength pt2 (the juicy stuff)

PSSSST…Want to try something really different?


Well, I mean use you as a guinea pig for some testing of a new method of training I just launched.  Read THIS POST to find out more or click on the link below:

  • […] truth about Personal Trainers and Physical Therapists Collected by jamieatlas 10 mins ago from // Event.onDOMReady(function() { // sizeText($(‘video_title’), 475); // }) collect this […]

  • […] Original post by jamieatlas […]

  • Selena Horner May 7, 2009 Reply

    There isn’t an “ugly” truth between physical therapists and personal trainers.

    Truth #1: Physical therapists are licensed providers of care.
    Truth #2: The educational background for physical therapists has evolved to the point where physical therapists graduate with a doctorate in physical therapy.
    Truth #3: Fellowships and residencies are now post-graduate options for physical therapists.
    Truth #4: Literature indicates that physical therapists are just as well-versed and qualified at evaluating patients with orthopaedic complaints as orthopaedic surgeons.
    Truth #5: Physical therapists are knowledgeable about the impact various co-morbidities have on pain and function (i.e. diabetes, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, dialysis, osteoporosis, balance deficits, cerebrovascular accidents, post-operative healing, pharmacological side effects, osteoarthritis, central versus peripheral pain mechanisms, depression anxiety, fear…)
    Truth #6: Exercise is easy… the skill is in knowing what exercise, when, at what intensity, at what duration, how often, in what manner and the effect the exercise will have on the sometimes multiple co-morbidities.
    Truth #7: Physical therapists also aim at educating patients to such a degree that patients can be safe and can independently exercise within their abilities taking into consideration any co-morbidities.

    In my opinion, public safety is at risk with the lack of regulations on personal trainers – no substantial education and the lack of consistency in certification. Personal trainers can spew out “optimum health” but reality is personal trainers don’t measure “optimum health.” How does a personal trainer measure “optimum health” to ensure clients are optimally healthy? They don’t.

    Personal trainers are not the best choice for consumers.

  • Jade Esquadro May 10, 2009 Reply

    I was hired as a personal trainer at my university while receiving my education to receive my M.S. in physical therapy. Sorry – but there is no comparison between a trainer and a licensed PT. Any idiot-monkey can be a personal trainer. Quite a number of my physical therapy patients sought out care from me BECAUSE of the un-educated actions of a personal trainer. Gimme a f*cking break already.

  • Christie May 10, 2009 Reply


    I think we must consider that there will always be clients dissatisfied with one type of professional or the other. The real question becomes “Where in the system did this person get inappropriately misguided?” While you certainly present an example of a client who was dissatisfied with PT, we as PTs get countless clients who were “injured” by their personal trainer.

    What this usually winds up being is a case where a client had a preconceived notion in their head about an underlying condition and it’s need to get “stronger.” That person often seeks out the help of a trainer where they may or may not full disclose any underlying conditions. The most common example is the mantra of “core stability” which has pushed it’s way into the personal training arena. Are the personal trainers applying exericse appropriately? Perhaps…in fact, they may come up with a perfectly sound and dynmaic program that would make even Gary Gray be pround. However, the issue here isn’t whether the principles of movement were or were not followed, it was that either the client, the trainer or both subscribed to a belief that may have been, in fact, incorrect.

    Going back to your example of your client who had been given unidirectional exercises. The point here is that you do not know the clients underlying pathology or pain subclassification. Those in the physical therapy world understand pain responses to movements to look for phenomenon such as centralization or peripheralization to help guide their treatments. You can read research by McKenzie, Donelson, Long, Fritz, Childs to understand why we give specific exercises to specific clients. We also understand neurophysiological and psychosocial influences on pain. What perhaps your client may have been experiencing was a “posteior derangment” syndrome which required unidirecitonal exercises to reduce the obstruction to movement…or perhaps it was a dysfunction and the movement was being used to remodel dysfunctional and/or shortened tissue, or perhaps it was a person with a sensitized central nervous system who was gradually being introduced to movement and also receiving pain education.

    Was this a case of the therapist not understanding movement? Probably not. What this could have been was the case of a trainer not understanding the neurophysiological effects of movement on the nervous system or the biomechanical effects on injured soft tissue….and subsequently blaming the therapist for “not understanding how the body moves;” OR this is probably also a case of the physical therapist not educating the patient well enough as to the purpose of the exercise. I’ve had to deprogram coutless clients who’ve had it instilled by their personal trainer that the secret to a “good back” is to have a “strong core.” Taking a moment to change that belief system, or at least provide the client with supplemental information to that mantra is a challenge in my work. Yet, it is imperitive to successful client outcomes.

    In the end, it’s often a matter of client relations, conflicting believes and failure for a provider (of PT or personal training) to provide adequate education that often leads to dissatisfaction.

    As Selena said, directing someone in exercise is the easy part…this is why we also use techs and physical therpist assistants. In no way do I consider mayself and overpriced personal trainer. Rather, I am the “detective” and help bring answers to the client.

    The challenging part of the job is understanding what to admister and why…and educating the client.

  • Baffin Inuit Art Mar 28, 2012 Reply

    i had some bad experience about personal trainers. when i joined for a personal traing program thay guy asked me to heavily work out and two months i did. and the result. my backpain was severe and i couldnt handle any work for another three months. so my advice is not to go for any more personal trainers

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