Fitness Expert's Quest for A New Standard

The Hunt for The Fitness Apprentice

Fitness 21, Weston, Florida -- Oct 22, 2005


Contact: Jennifer Cohen
Phone: 954 326-2067


October 22, 2005/--Ashley the cat’s parents would be very proud of her, indeed. Ashley, a grey and white Persian may be the first cat who has ever been certified as a personal trainer.  

Well-known fitness expert Phil Kaplan took an online fitness certification test, paid $69.00, used the name “Ashley Kaplan” and now Ashley the cat has a very nice certificate, a card identifying her as a qualified certified personal trainer, and even a letter of reference from the certifying agency.  This one simple act showed that anyone, feline, human, or other, can become a “certified personal trainer.”   

A fitness professional for the past 22 years and a respected industry leader, Phil says, “I grew so frustrated with the incompetent trainers, with the absence of a standard as far as who is eligible to call themselves a personal trainer, and I become fed up with the array of worthless certifications. The fact that I was actually able to get a fitness certification for my cat made me want to expose a primary national problem within the fitness industry; specifically, the lack of standards when it comes to personal trainers.” 

Currently, there is not one governing agency that monitors or measures the competency of those who call themselves professional personal trainers in the United States. Phil has supported actions to establish a national board, but has met criticism from some certification agencies for taking a stand that might invalidate their credential.  Based on face-to-face interviews with hundreds of personal training applicants, and seminar audiences numbering in the tens-of-thousands, Kaplan finds most who aspire to training careers have little or no understanding of anatomy, muscle function or exercise safety precautions. “They think, ‘I’m strong, I have muscles, I look good in shorts, I can be a trainer,’” said Kaplan. Perhaps the strongest evidence of the magnitude of the problem is the number of wrongful death cases in the court systems related to personal training negligence.  Kaplan feels, “even one is one too many.” 

“If nobody else will set the standard,” Kaplan asserts, “I will raise the bar and work with my peers to establish an unofficial but recognized standard.”  In an attempt to find the best personal trainers and follow through on his promise to raise the bar by setting a new industry standard, Phil Kaplan decided to run “The Fitness Apprentice Hunt.”  He put the call out to over 100,000 personal trainers letting them know he was looking to hire the best in the field and he posted an application / questionnaire at his high traffic website. ( More than 8,000 trainers accessed the page.  The description page led to a very time-consuming application which was completed by over 900 trainers.  Kaplan was not surprised that over 7,000 who accessed the contest information declined to devote 45 – 90 minutes to completing an in-depth questionnaire ( After a grueling process of reading through applications, and recruiting key members of his staff to assist in the selection process, 100 “finalists” were invited to create a five minute video about themselves. 

Phil Kaplan, his business partner Terry O’Malley, and his associate Juan Carlos Santana spent an entire day viewing videos and by the end of that day the candidates were narrowed down to the top ten.  Five were from the U.S. mainland, the other five from as far away as U.K. and the island of Malta.   

On October 25, Phil planned on flying the top ten applicants to South Florida, all expenses paid so that each contestant could compete for two days in challenges at the Headquarters of Fitness 21 in Weston, the 25,000 square foot health club co-owned by Kaplan and O’Malley.  Tasks may include taking a group through an exercise program impromptu, designing fitness routines for special populations, or spontaneously putting together attention-grabbing events, all in a limited amount of time. Dr. Anthony Abbott, founder of Fitness Institute and activist dedicated to establishing a personal training standard, will serve as one of the judges.  Ironically days before the competition, Abbott will be sitting as an expert witness in a wrongful death case related to personal training. 

Hurricane Wilma was an unexpected visitor and she forced postponement of the final phase of the competition.  The Top Ten will now be flown to Florida to compete on November 7th and 8th, 2005. 

Winners will be offered a job at Fitness 21 in Weston, at one of the Fitness 21 Express locations (Coral Springs and Coral Gables) or at Juan Carlos Santana’s Institute for Human Performance in Boca Raton.  Personal Fitness Professional Magazine will publicly track the winners’ career progress over the next six months.   

 “I never set out to do my own version of “The Apprentice” but when I saw I was able to get a certificate for my cat, I knew I had to go to great lengths to find the top personal trainers and I know the team I’m about to put together will serve as a model for the competence and quality of service our industry can deliver.  After all, the trainers are the ground army who hold the power to restore Americans to health.  The Fitness Apprentice Hunt is more than a competition.  It can spark the clarity and empowerment the general public needs to make fitness a way of life.” 


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