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Personal Trainer Vs Kinesiologist - What's the difference?

I want to start this post by saying I DO NOT have any ill-will towards ANY personal trainers or kinesiologists out there. This is simply a general comparison between the two occupations. This is also my own personal take on this subject. I am BOTH a Certified Personal Trainer and a Registered Kinesiologist.

Personal Trainers + CSEP-CPT

For starters, personal trainers don’t NEED a university education in order to get certified. They can simply pick the association they want to be with, take the course, and boom, they’re a personal trainer.

There are so many PT companies out there. There’s ACE, ACSM, CSEP, ISSA, NASM, NCSA, PTA Global, etc. All of these companies have their own mission statements, goals, scope of practices, etc. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to talk about CSEP, which is the main Canadian association for personal trainers. CSEP stands for Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

I chose CSEP because that’s the material I was taught throughout university. My professors were using the guidelines from CSEP and all the methodology that comes with it. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were other certifications out there in Canada. I thought CSEP was the only one! [Insert face palm here]. Anyway, being that I learned most of the material in classes throughout my university education, I found the CSEP certification exams to not be too bad since I’ve seen all the material before.

According to their website, a CSEP-CPT is a “professional with, at minimum, the equivalent of two years of full-time study (or 60 credits) of University/College coursework in the field of Human Kinetics, Kinesiology, Physical Education, Fitness and Health Promotion, or Exercise Science, from an accredited post-secondary institution. A CSEP-CPT works with apparently healthy individuals or those with a stable health condition who are able to exercise independently” (CSEP, 2019).

CSEP-CPT Scope of Practice:

  1. Conducts pre-participation health screening assessments on all clients and gathers information about physical activity and lifestyle behaviours. This is where I get an idea of how you live your life, the choices you make, what you are doing currently, your goals, etc.

  2. Administers various fitness assessments including sub-maximal aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal fitness, and anthropometry. This is where I take you through a full assessment and see what you are capable of and take down your numbers as well.

  3. Gathers and applies information about the physical activity, fitness, and lifestyle of a client o design, implement, and monitor client-tailored sub-maximal exercise programs for healthier living. This is where the meat and potatoes of a program that I design come into play. I look at our assessment and from there, I make decisions on what exercises to do, your sets & reps scheme, etc.

  4. Recognizes their own area of expertise and refers clients who fall outside that expertise to another appropriate health care provider. Basically, if I am legally not able to help you with something, I seek help from others and refer you out! But I always do my damn best to try and help you!


For starters, Kinesiologists (or Kins) have a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of human movement and according to the CKA (Canadian Kinesiology Alliance), Kins are “university-educated health professionals, [who] apply exercise and movement science to promote health and well-being; prevent, manage, and rehabilitate injuries; treat illness and chronic disease; restore function; and optimize human performance in the workplace, clinical settings, sport, and fitness. [Kins] are the only human movement specialists who use science and research to offer movement as medicine, to ANY person with a health or fitness goal who wants a hands-on, personalized approach” (CKA, 2019).

Seems like we’re pretty valuable to the health care space right?! Our scope of practice is very broad as well. It’s actually quite similar to that of a Personal Trainer’s scope of practice. One of the main differences is we can work with ANYONE of all ages and physical abilities. That means we can work with students, adults, seniors, the elderly, pre- and post-natal clients, athletes, children, employees, or anyone with or without pathologies and symptoms, (CKA, 2019).

Kins, for the most part, work in the “rehabilitation” space anyway, so we tend to work with populations who have injuries that need nursing. We also work with a lot of people who have been in an MVA (motor vehicle accident). We are also cleared to work with people with neurological, cardiovascular, pulmonary, or metabolic conditions. Click here or here for the full list! Kins help clients improve their quality of life, most often by using physical activity as the main source of intervention.

My Overall Thoughts & Feelings

If you’ve made it this far, once again thank you for reading and I truly appreciate your support.

So there really isn’t MUCH of a difference between a PT and a Kin. The main differences being, a Kin has a university degree and a PT does not. A Kin can provide their services to ALL types of populations, whereas a PT (at least CSEP-CPTs, not sure about others) can only provide services to healthy individuals, or individuals who can sustain exercising on their own.

To me, honestly, training and rehab, are essentially the same thing. It’s in the details where it matters most. Let’s break this down:

  • Client A is a healthy 44 year old female who is looking to get build muscle, gain strength and lose some body fat.

  • Client B is an injured 30 year old male who has a torn rotator cuff from an MVA. Overall his main goal is to regain his shoulder strength and ROM (range of motion).

I would approach client A with a thorough assessment (body measurements, sub-maximal musculoskeletal tests, an aerobic test, flexibility, etc.) then make a plan to get her stronger on a few compound lifts (like squats, lunges, push ups, deadlifts, etc.) focusing on progressive overload, and incorporate some cardio depending on how much fat she needs to lose.

I would approach client B as well with a thorough assessment (shoulder pain threshold, shoulder ROM, shoulder stability and strength, overall body ROM, strength and stability tests that surround the shoulder girdle, etc.) then make a plan focusing on how to get his rotator cuff stronger as well — focusing on progressive overload over time.

Hopefully you guys see that client A’s sessions are going to be more vigorous and “free to do anything” but in client B’s case, we have to make sure we tread lightly and not do more damage so he can back to pain-free shoulders!

So remember when I said I’m both a CPT and a Registered Kin? I like to mix my style of coaching and training for my clients to make it a more holistic approach. Obviously, whatever your goal is, I’m going to make sure we hit that as our number one priority. Working with me, or with any Kin, you can be sure we’ll work to fix most of your imbalances while still making some strength and muscle gains!

Again, to conclude, I am not downplaying personal trainers at all! I think they’re ESSENTIAL to the healthcare industry and I really believe they are the future!

Once again thanks for reading, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!

See you in the next post!

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