Kournikova on Biggest Loser: Is She Certified?

by Amanda Vogel, MA on Jun 23, 2011

Have you heard? Tennis star Anna Kournikova will be replacing Jillian Michaels as a personal trainer in Season 12 of The Biggest Loser, a hit reality TV show on NBC.

Kournikova is expected to be a powerful motivator to Biggest Loser contestants, inspiring them to embrace the kind of drive that elevated her to elite-athlete status. But members of the fitness community are wondering: Is this former professional tennis player qualified to be a personal trainer?

The fitness industry requires personal trainers and fitness instructors to become certified and keep that certification current with continuing education. Certification is what sets fitness enthusiasts—people who are familiar with and enjoy exercise—apart from fitness professionals, who have undergone specialized education to teach fitness with safety and proficiency.

Despite the importance of certification, the general public may not think to ask trainers about these basic job requirements.

Certification is an objective way to ensure there’s a level of standardized competency and protection to the general public,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit fitness certification, education and training association. “You can’t mistake being around training techniques and a training environment for being a skilled trainer.”

“Just because someone exercises regularly and understands how to train their body does not mean they understand fully how to efficiently, effectively and safely train other people,” says Sherri McMillan, MSc, a certified personal trainer, educator and owner of Northwest Personal Training, with studios in Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. “They need to acquire a much broader perspective on various training techniques and modifications for a variety of people.”

So, Is Kournikova on the Ball?

As it turns out, Kournikova will bring both skill sets to The Biggest Loser ranch, where contestants work out with trainers to lose weight. In a May 25, 2011, release from Reuters, Kournikova is quoted as saying she’s a “certified trainer.” A representative for The Biggest Loser confirmed that Kournikova holds a certification from the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), a distance education institution and certifying agency. ISSA has verified this, stating that Kournikova was certified on December 23, 2010, and will remain current through December 23, 2012, at which time the credential will need to be renewed.

Kournikova’s new high-profile training position sheds light on the role that certifications play in the fitness industry for demonstrating core competencies. However, celebrity trainers shouldn’t be the only ones held to task on proving their qualifications. All fitness consumers have a right to know what certifications their trainers and instructors hold, and whether these certifications are kept current.

Surprisingly, 45% of fitness professionals claim to be currently certified when they are not. To help protect fitness consumers and promote credible fitness pros, IDEA created a free service called IDEA FitnessConnect (www.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect). It’s the largest directory of fitness professionals, connecting more than 16 million consumers to more than 200,000 fitness professionals with credentials verified by the top 23 fitness certification bodies.

“IDEA FitnessConnect was designed to separate the pros from the posers,” says Kathie Davis, co-founder and executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association. “Consumers can look at professional profiles, which include a standard set of qualification data, to help them make safe, informed decisions. It includes data such as certifications, college education, CPR status, specialties, ratings, reviews and club affiliations.”

Access IDEA FitnessConnect at www.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect.

Share Your Opinion

Come and share your opinion on The Biggest Loser and its impact on the fitness industry at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™. The executive producer and one of the star trainers of the show will discuss the issues in an open forum with two of the fitness industry’s elite trainers. Sure to be a topic of conversation will be the selection of Kournikova as the new trainer for season 12.


  • Who: Panelists include JD Roth, executive producer for The Biggest Loser; Brett Hoebel, personal trainer for The Biggest Loser; Jonathan Ross, 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year; and Shannon Fable, a finalist for 2010 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year. Moderated by veteran fitness professional and journalist Amanda Vogel, MA.
  • What: Session 410: Weighing in on The Biggest Loser
  • When: Saturday, August 13, 4:00–5:50 PM
  • Where: IDEA World Fitness Convention™, Los Angeles Convention Center, LA Live (August 11–14), www.ideafit.com/conference/idea-world-fitness-convention-2011.

For detailed session descriptions, schedule and more information on the 2011 IDEA World Fitness Convention, see www.ideafit.com/conference/idea-world-fitness-convention-2011.

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 9, Issue 7

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a presenter, group exercise instructor and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for the fitness industry. She writes for leading magazines, includi...


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  • Susan Tracey

    Thank you IDEA, Michele & Fabiana for your response. I would be more than willing to spend the money to have my degrees sent and a small fee to IDEA for the processing. I believe the extra cost would be worth it. Another thought, maybe a spot on personal website for conventions/workshops attended. I have gained so much from the IDEA Personal Training Institute and from ACSM Seminars and AAHPERD Conventions. To get back on track, I would think that Kournakova has had some excellent Personal Trainers as she competed and hopefully she retained some of their knowledge. Of course, training a professional athlete is very different from training an obese client.
    Commented Jul 12, 2011
  • Andrea Voras

    Hi Idea, You have a valid point. I can share with you my experience with my diploma. Every time an organization asks me to present my diploma, I call my university, pay a small fee, and I have the university send my transcripts to the organization. In that way they receive it directly from the university. Susan has an excellent point because for all of us who went to study 4 long and intense years (plus hundreds of CEUs) would like to be also recognized by other organizations, or Health clubs that require certifications only for a liability purpose.
    Commented Jul 12, 2011
  • IDEA FitnessConnect

    Hi Susan, Thank you for your comment. We agree, college and University degrees are valid qualifications for fitness professionals. The challenge that we have is on the verification side with so many colleges and Universities and no consistent way to verify that someone actually holds the diploma they are claiming. So, we've included them on profiles so that professionals can share those qualifications with prospective clients, but we don't put them front and center because we have no way to verify the veracity of the claim. Thank you, IDEA FitnessConnect
    Commented Jul 11, 2011
  • Andrea Voras

    Many of you who have posted comments are correct. The reality is that many certifications do not make you a good or best trainer. It is the years of experience and true commitment to yourself to be a better professional that leads you to success! I hold a BA in physical education. I have been practicing for 20 years and I am fortunate that I work in a hospital teaching cardiovascular and nutrition classes. I am surrounded by cardiologists, nurses, dietitians who keep me up to date. I also take many ceus on line or any other workshops that will improve my knowledge. It is also about hands on experience. I agree it is MARKETING. Let's not confuse professions, I will not get in the plane with a pilot who only read books. Pilots must go through hundred of hours flying....
    Commented Jul 11, 2011
  • Clint McDowall

    You're not even asking the right questions! Personal Trainer certifications are a joke. I've known too many incompetent trainers who were both college educated and certified to ever put any faith in any of the current popular certs. I've also known several people who were not certified but who had all of the technical knowledge and skills to have become great professional trainers if they had so chosen. The first question I always ask is "does this person know what s/he's talking about?" "Is he or she qualfied?" is a completely separate question from "is he or she certified?"
    Commented Jul 09, 2011
  • Selina Sahba

    6 months certification does not a trainer make.a nearly anorexic anna also does not set a good example for the contests,who are striving towards a healthy body & lifstyle.bad example,but good ratings.poor choice.i am very disapppinted to have her represent the community of fitness professionals...
    Commented Jul 09, 2011
  • Michele Blake

    Being certified doesn't make us qualified. It's just the first step in the process. As fitness owner, I look for certification plus years of theory and practical training. Some trainers are certified but act like they are certified and/or professional. Since I run my own plus, I require certification, degree, years of work experience, years of education and professional fitness resources. A trainer would at least have to a certification, education and experience for me to give recommendation. For those with more education and experience, let's mentor the trainers and instructors with less. Don't forget, we used to be them and someone give us chance and helped us become more qualified.If notice professionals have the right mentors, they will improve. It's important for us to mentor the new generation of trainers and instructor. Let's offer help in a positive way to other trainers if we see risk for injury to a client. Complaint about the trainer doesn't have the client. Thanks to all my Kinesiology professors (CSU, Northridge) and jobs in the 1980s for giving me a chance and inspiring me to always enhance my education and experience. It's rewarding that I was and still able to mentor so many novice professionals on local, national and international level. Susan Tracey, I know you understand what I'm trying to say. You remember not just the science courses from earning our degrees but the other core classes of Motor Development, Motor Learning, Sociology, Psychology, as it applies to us being fitness professionals.
    Commented Jul 09, 2011
  • Steve Bellesiles

    AFAA? LOL! IDEA and ACE are laughable too. Truth is Jillian made millions for herself and her handlers with no certs, no training, no knowledge and no skill. Knowledge or skill as a trainer has no relevance to the Biggest Loser show. The question of the new person's certs is totally meaningless.
    Commented Jul 09, 2011
  • Amanda Vogel

    This article came to fruition because as soon as Anna was announced as the next Biggest Loser trainer many people in the fitness industry balked, saying she has no certification. But how did anyone know without doing the research? So now we know. She's certified. The next response from the industry: Well, it might not mean anything because she has no previous experience. But how do we know? She might not have previous experience - I hope someone asks this question to the executive producer of The Biggest Loser at the panel we're holding at World. Why was she hired? If no one asks it, I will. (And those of you with all these concerns, opinions and questions are coming to the Biggest Loser panel at World, right?) Let's address how we can make the most of the way fitness is currently being portrayed on TV. We are fortunate that IDEA is at the forefront of providing actual researched info and also a forum for us to discuss a topic that clearly hits a nerve with a lot of fitness pros. Thank you to Brandi Hunter for that first point you made about certifications. Makes complete sense.
    Commented Jul 09, 2011
  • I am beyond disappointed that the Biggest Loser made such a poor decision to hire someone like Ana who has now been a trainer for what 6 months? There are so many talented, amazing, experienced trainers available in the industry who are better prepared to deal with the obesity issues on the show. What a joke. Yeah, lets hire some young blond with no experience to work with these people who truly need veterans in there. I smell danger and injury for this seasons show.
    Commented Jul 08, 2011
  • View Previous Comments

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