Although I am certified, I do not consider myself a "Personal Trainer". I work only with athletes, and I prefer the term "Performance Enhancement Coach". Personal trainers tend to work more with the general population and mainly focus on the goal of changing the way one looks. To do this, they often use exercise machines and teach their clients how to isolate muscles to work one-at-a-time (very similar to a bodybuilder). I, on the other hand, am less worried about the way an athlete looks aesthetically, but more worried about the way they move and how they perform.
Any program that trys to impress you by mainly promoting how exhausted and sore you will be is not one that I want to be associated with. Soreness isn't always a bad thing, but let's just hope that strength coaches whose main goal is to accomplish this at least ask if you have a game the next day! Don't get me wrong... I'll most likely push you harder than you've ever been pushed, but my main goal is not to make you sore. Rather, I want to improve the way you move and apply force. If I load you with a ton of resistance before you have the ability to handle it, then I'm acting careless and most likely promoting a future injury.
It is true that I may have athletes spend a lot of time in the off-season working on traditional "body changing" goals such as lean muscle gain or fat loss (especially if it is needed to improve performance or to get noticed by coaches or scouts). However, we'll usually spend the pre-season and in-season phases by utilizing multi-joint exercises that work the entire body as one dynamic unit. Rather than isolating muscles, I prefer to teach my athletes how to fire them in a sequential fashion (since this is the way muscles work in sports and in life; e.g., swinging, throwing, and jumping). The goal is to synchronize the “Neuro” (brain) and the body so that they flow together and not get in the way of one another. Instead of looking "mechanical," the hope is that the athlete will be much more coordinated and able to "flow" with their movement... leading to more overall power and performance.
Performance enhancement does not come from lifting weights or speed drills alone. Rather, I believe that it takes a holistic approach that incorporates many areas of life. Along with understanding the importance of general training principals (such as a proper warm-up, correct exercise techniques, etc.) athletes also need to be aware of how nutrition, sleep/rest, stress, social life, and mental habits can all effect their performance. As a "Performance Enhancement Coach" I attempt to identify if any of these areas need extra attention. I can provide basic answers, but I also know when to refer.
One of my biggest strengths is the ability to improve an athlete's mental habits and approach. Again, I am not a psychologist, and must refer in certain circumstances, but I am very skilled in identifying when one is (and isn't) in a positive mental frame for peak performance. I work hard to build trust with each of my athletes, and because of this, they'll usually open up and provide important feedback. This feedback helps me identify whether they need to be pushed harder, calmed down, or simply left alone at the moment.
Sports at a high level is usually won or lost by the narrowest of margins. Sometimes it comes down to under a tenth of a second, or an eighth of an inch. Athletes need to possess or develop a proper habitual approach toward training, competition, and life that helps them succeed in these situations. I teach my athletes to have a motivated, yet relaxed mind while they're performing and I often get feedback from parents that these habits spill into everyday life such as taking tests in school. Quiet-confidence is very powerful and leads to many good things such as improved body language and posture (better muscle balance), improved perception from others, and overall enjoyment of whatever you are doing.
I put a huge emphasis on the "process" of achieving something, rather than on the actual "outcome". As Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything, but the will to win is." Whether it's sports, playing an instrument, or running a company, whatever YOU choose to do... do it well and with passion!
I am not a "physical therapist" or "athletic trainer". In other words, I am not ethically qualified to diagnosis or provide rehab to injured athletes. I do, however, heavily provide injury prevention/prehab exercises in all of my training programs. These exercises mainly include core stabilization drills, and mobility/stability exercises for the major joints of the body. Some muscles (such as the transverse abdominis, glutes, and posterior shoulder areas) chronically need to be strengthened or "turned on," while other muscles (such as the lower hamstrings, hip flexors, chest, and upper neck area) chronically need to be "turned off" or lengthened with mobility exercises.
Creating proper muscle/joint balance and proper muscle firing patterns will lead to injury prevention (including ACL injuries) and performance enhancement. I believe in building athletes from the inside-out. In other words, just like a house, we must start with the foundation (mental habits, core stabilization, muscle balance, etc.). When the foundation is established, we can then start to add the fancy bricks (increased strength, speed, power, etc). The take home message is that while I probably attempt to prevent injuries more than most strength coaches through the use of identifying muscle imbalances and teaching the benefits of massage... I also realize that I am not a physical therapist, massage therapist, physician, orthopedic surgeon, or athletic trainer. If I believe that a situation is serious enough and beyond "general knowledge", I will refer out to professionals that are more qualified.
This also applies to nutrition. There are certain "general knowledge" nutritional concepts that I try to instill such as eating breakfast and pre/post workout meal guidelines. If not followed, the athlete may be wasting all of their time training in the gym. However, I am not a nutritionist and I do not create specific meal plans for athletes to follow.
I am also not a sports coach. Although I might be qualified, I do not give advice on specific sports skills such as the golf swing, shooting a basketball, etc. That is the job of your coach and I must respect that. My job is simply to improve your bodies' qualities (such as mobility, strength, and power) so that you can better perform at whatever you need to do in your sport. Sometimes, however, I might present general suggestions of ways you may be able to produce more force or be more efficient. For example, if I happen to catch a game of a softball pitcher that I am training (even though I know nothing about softball pitching), I may let her know that I think she might stand to gain more force/velocity by better using her legs and hips and relaxing her arm. The only exception to the above is that I heavily teach the steal-start technique to baseball players since this is crucial to improving their speed and because I am one of the leading coaches in the country on this skill (see www.60yarddash.com).
Basically, I love to teach. Although, I love working with athletes, my goal is to eventually get them self-sufficient so that they have the answers within themselves. I believe in teaching about concepts more than I believe in individual drills. I believe that drills and certain exercise programs are overrated! If an athlete understands a certain training philosophy, they'll be able to come up with their own exercises. This is especially important when they go off to college and may have different goals than what their strength coach implements. Of course, I use drills all of the time, but what I'm saying is do not fall in love with a drill or the newest exercise program on the market. Rather it is the philosophy behind the drill or program that is important. For example, I can put you through agility ladder exercises and you no doubt will improve on the ladder. However, the bigger question is will that agility transfer into competition? Chances are it will not if you were just running through it without focusing on the underlying concept of listening to your body's center of gravity as you were performing on the ladder.
I really appreciate mature athlete's that (in a healthy way) pay attention to seemingly meaningless details that others of their age do not. They understand the value and appreciate the little things because they know that when you add them up this is what often makes the difference in higher level athletics and life!