physical therapist personal trainer collaboration

Collaboration Between Physical Therapists and Personal Trainers

As a physical therapist, I’ll be one of the first people to admit that I truly feel that I have become a better therapist by learning from and collaborating with many great personal trainers and strength coaches.  I say that because I fear that there are some physical therapists that do not feel this way.  Maybe it is ego, or stubbornness, or maybe even a perceived turf war, but I’m not sure why every therapist doesn’t feel the way I do.

We are all technically in the same field.  Sure, I perform physical therapy and you perform personal training.  That is our respective “products” that we provide.  However, we both provide the same “commodity” to the general public – we help people attain optimal health and function.

In the broad spectrum of care, I see it as helping people “feel better, move better, and perform better.”  While I think both physical therapists and personal trainers can help people achieve all three of those goals, there is no doubt in my mind that collaborating will surely provide the best service to our clients.

And isn’t that what it is all really about?  Helping our clients?


How to Maximize Collaboration Between Physical Therapists and Personal Trainers

physical therapist personal trainer collaborationI am totally excited to announce that I have teamed up with Jon Goodman to coauthor an article on how to maximize collaboration between physical therapists and personal trainers.  Jon has authored a couple of great books (I recommend all therapists read his book Ignite the Fire to enhance our own skills) and is the creator of The Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC), which has quickly become a go-to resource on the web.

Jon and I jumped on Skype about a month ago with no agenda and just started chatting.  One of the things we discussed was the concept of this article.  We took the approach of the two of us writing our own pieces from our own perspective and then putting together.

I think it is a must read for all physical therapists, personal trainers, and strength coaches.  Hope you enjoy:

–> Click here to read the article over at <–




11 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Great post, Mike. We as PTs in our Practice take this approach as often as possible and have forged some great relationships with trainers in-house and around the area. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out as it can go a bit sideways when scopes aren’t maintained. I agree, not sure if it is a turf war or ego, but either way, it isn’t in anyone’s best interest to have a trainer, PT or MD or other who won’t pitch in with their role and collaborate for the betterment of the client. Thanks for bringing the topic up!

  2. AdamMReece
    AdamMReece says:

    Thanks Mike. I definitely get the impression some therapists are interpreting the “neck-up” concept to exclude the notion we do offer a commodity. After reading the comments section (which I felt was a bit harsh) in the article about collaboration, it would seem the same thought process implicitly exists in the personal training world. The over-arching language implied that they too want to be acknowledged for their thought process and not a commodity. I appreciate your perspective… we all offer a commodity (we are paid for our services) in concert with a “neck-up” process.

  3. AdamMReece
    AdamMReece says:

    Mike, (and all PT’s that read this)… I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to study under the guidance of Dr. Carl DeRosa here at Northern Arizona University. A message he is trying to make clear to us students is that PT should no longer be viewed as a commodity based service, but more of a “neck-up” profession; analogous to a physician providing a diagnosis followed by a POC. However, before coming to PT school I was a strength coach for the U.S. Navy, a role I actually hope to return to following graduation. I get the collaboration.. and have pushed for it for a long time. I guess I am struggling with putting the pieces together as to how we in the rehabilitation world move toward a “neck-up” profession all the while successfully collaborating with a commodity based profession. Any words of wisdom?

    • Mike Reinold
      Mike Reinold says:

      Adam, I don’t see why this would change a collaboration. I am sure the docs see PT as a commodity based service and they collaborate with us. Personal trainers collaborate with MDs at times I am sure. Don’t take the “neck up” concept that you are better than anyone, you just serve a different purpose. Again, we can all do better when working together. Just my thoughts…

  4. john power
    john power says:

    What needs to be clarified for personal trainers is they are not allowed to diagnose. I do think assessment skills are valuable not as a means to diagnose but as tools to better understand function, pathology and define scope of practice. Most trainers stretch the hamstrings and common knowledge is to stretch tight muscles yet how many trainers know the difference between restricted myofascial tissue and increased neural tension due to spinal or SI joint pathology etc? Should assessment skills not be taught to trainers? I think personal trainers should be included in the health care team that includes PT’s MD’s, Ortho etc and be taught assessment skills so that they are better informed about indication/contraindication. The distinction that needs to be made is a medical condition requires a medical professional to diagnose and treat. Personal trainers can complement the medical team through proper assessment and screening and referring clients back to their MD etc.

  5. Jessephysio
    Jessephysio says:

    so I admit i wrote my comment before reading the link, your points are all great and my concerns are alleviated haha. I just hope more trainers will take on what you are saying..far too many are playing doctor in an attempt to impress the client and keep their business within their four walls.

  6. Jessephysio
    Jessephysio says:

    Thanks for the post Mike and I agree with your thinking here. I do however have a problem with this concept that needs to be addressed. As a physical therapists I have taken a university level program and done rigorous national and board exams, done multiple clinical placements etc. The public can take some pride in knowing that we are licensed healthcare professionals with a duty to diagnosis and screen for medical red flags so we can refer out. Unfortunately the same can not be said for many personal trainers. In Canada, you can take a 3 day workshop and do an online test to become a personal trainer who works at a box gym. I know some VERY smart trainers who I trust with my clients and refer to them often… I am NOT knocking the training field here at all. It’s just that we have different responsibilities..i.e we have a regulatory college that dictates the standards of practice that we should all abide by. I’m seeing more and more personal trainers taking assessment and corrective exercises courses (which is good!) but many then think they are fit to render a diagnoses and even treat patients…this is very irritating to me as they have very little liability and many are simply not trained in medical differential diagnosis..


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