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.