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Jobs 101: Personal Trainer

Part of the job is making his clients work - and when it comes to making people fitter and happier, it's no sweat for Jab at all!

Paul Leng


Published: 19 July 2012, 1:11 AM

Personal trainers are commonplace in gyms but what exactly do they do? Youth.SG finds out more from Muhammad Redzuan Jab (or Jab, as everyone in the gym calls him), a professional personal trainer of six years.

WHO: Jab, 28
OCCUPATION: Managing director of training development at the Integrated Training Institute
STUDIED: Diploma in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics

Youth.SG met Jab at the fitness centre of the Tanglin Club, one of the clubs where he works as a personal trainer.

The first thing you notice when you meet Jab is his amazing physique. But speak to him and you will find out that he is more than just a good bod. Armed with an arsenal of qualifications, (he has a diploma in exercise physiology, another in biomechanics and has been trained in myofascial therapy and pain rehabilitation) he probably knows what happens to your body every time you move a muscle.

Tell us more about yourself. What do you do in your free time?

I’m doing osteopath studies in my free time. I am also trying out new hobbies like learning to play the piano, playing golf and diving. Besides that, my interests mainly lie in sports. I regularly do dragon boating, Muay Thai, mixed martial arts, rock climbing and lifting.

Tell us more about what a personal trainer does.

Personal trainers have a wide job scope. Firstly, we run through fitness programs with clients. These programs include dieting programs, rehabilitation, strength and conditioning, and vary from client to client.

I specialize in kettle bell training, and part of my job involves travelling around the world to teach other personal trainers how to use kettle bells, and how to coach their clients better.

How and why did you become a personal trainer?

During national service, I was in the gym lifting weights and I got interested in lifting.

I knew that I was doing something right at that time, but I didn’t know exactly what. I wanted to find out more about my body and how I could be better at exercising. So, I began to read up more on fitness.

I started out taking fitness classes and getting small certifications, which led me to study fitness at a higher level – I started taking diplomas and even coaching courses so I could eventually start coaching others, and here I am!

I love coaching and being a personal trainer, and I love the sports industry. I would not turn anywhere else for a career.

You are extremely enthusiastic about your job. What keeps you so excited about it?

I think it is being able to mix business with pleasure. I love my job, and it is my hobby. I’m not exaggerating when I say this – I’ve been working seven days a week since I’ve started (with a few off days here and there), but I have never felt as if I have worked a single day.

Being able to earn money doing what you love keeps me really fulfilled.

Describe a typical day at work.

When I meet a new client, I will first run through assessments with them to gauge their fitness level, and then I will work on a program for them.

Work involves continually assessing how a client is progressing, and tweaking the program to ensure that the client can reach his or her maximum potential. There is a lot of thought put into the process and the programs we create for the client.

For example, if a client comes in and complains that he gained weight, we have to do assessments and tests to see what the cause of the problem is, and find the best way to tackle the problem.

Here are some photos of Jab at work:

Assessing a client

Showing a client how to use Kettle Bells

How long have you been in this industry and how has it changed over the years?

I have been in this industry for six years.

The industry has changed so much in terms of education. Personal trainers now are a lot more educated and qualified.

But I think word still needs to go around more that we are much more formally educated (compared to six or seven years ago), and we are not just sports people but trainers. It does not mean that you can be qualified to train just because you were once a bodybuilder.

What are some of the toughest challenges you face?

It is a challenge when clients can’t feel the way we want them to feel on the day of the workout. Sometimes, they are not motivated enough or they are not feeling well.

Other times, it can be frustrating when we are trying our best to come up with ideas, but things do not go our way. Thus, personal trainers must be very patient.

What makes a good personal trainer apart from being knowledgeable about fitness?

The best personal trainers are those who are really good with people. If people like you, they will not only feel more comfortable training with you, but will also recommend you to their friends.

Are there any sacrifices you have to make for the job?

Nothing. I think that if you love your job so much and you are so passionate about it, you won’t see anything as a sacrifice.

What advice do you have for youths who want to explore a career as a personal trainer?

In this industry, one is always a student. The fitness industry is always evolving. There are always new theories, practical applications, and new equipment coming out, so you need to be open and receptive to different views.

Being a personal trainer:

Educational requirements: Although there is no official governing body in Singapore that sets a minimum educational requirement for personal trainers, most companies hire trainers with a certification which is accredited by organizations such as the American Council on Exercise, International Sport Sciences Association, etc.

Qualities needed: Personal trainers need to be jovial and good at communicating with their clients, and be able to promptly spot any mistakes that their client is making. They also have to understand how their clients are doing, not just fitness-wise, but also with their general mood and lifestyle.

Working hours: Full-time personal trainers are usually attached to a club or gym for around eight hours a day, while freelancers pick their own hours – most average around five to eight hours a day.

Salary range: The salary range is highly variable. An entry-level full time position could start at $3,500 a month (inclusive of commission) and most freelance personal trainers can earn up to $5,000. Good personal trainers can make as much as $14,000 per month.

Career prospects/advancements: Sports-specific trainers, nutrition and dieting trainers.

Specialisations: Kettle bells, TRX


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