A physical therapist working with a female athlete on a treatment table.

Are physical therapy and personal training redundant?

Short answer: Of course they’re not.

Physical therapy and personal training have different goals and approaches.

Physical Therapy Is Healthcare

Physical therapy is a type of healthcare that is performed by licensed physical therapists.

Physical therapists are medical professionals.

The goal of physical therapy is to help folks recover from injury, reduce pain and improve function, and prevent future injury or disability.

PTs use a variety of techniques such as exercise, manual therapy, and other modalities to help their patients reach these goals.

Pelvic floor physical therapy, in particular, focuses on the rehabilitation and strengthening of core and pelvic floor muscles. 

Personal Training Is Exercise Guidance And Coaching

Personal training, on the other hand, is not healthcare. It’s exercise guidance and coaching offered by a certified personal trainer or certified strength and conditioning coach.

The goal of personal training is to help individuals achieve their fitness and performance goals.

Personal trainers design exercise programs, provide exercise instruction and offer coaching to help their clients reach those goals.

Postpartum personal training helps folks safely and effectively build strength and achieve their fitness goals after pregnancy.

Distinct But Complementary Scopes of Practice

Personal trainers can’t diagnose or treat pain and they can’t perform manual therapy.

But they can bridge rehab to performance. They bridge low-level rehab exercises to higher level activities.

Physical therapists can treat pain and provide manual therapy. And of course, pelvic floor PTs can perform internal pelvic floor exams, diagnose pelvic floor dysfunctions and offer treatment.

In most cases (there are absolutely exceptions), they’re not trained in designing higher level exercise programs.

I have had a handful of potential clients over the years decide to “just do physical therapy” because they’re insurance covers X numbers of sessions.

Yes. And, if you have long term fitness goals, physical therapy alone won’t get you there.

It’s not either/or.

It’s both/and.

If you have goals, find yourself a good PT and a good trainer. That’s your dream team.

Rhonda Chamberlain, physical therapist and fitness coach, and I recently discussed this topic on her podcast, Pelvic Health And Fitness Podcast.

Pop in your AirPods and take us with you while you walk:

Cover art for my interview with Rhonda Chamberlain on the Pelvic Health And Fitness podcast.

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Redmond, WA-based Seattle birth doula Laura Jawad, headshot

My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.

I offer customized, online pregnancy and postpartum personal training to folks locally (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and beyond.

Laura Jawad holds a PhD and a personal training certification (NASM). She’s a Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach, and Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist. You can check out the rest of her alphabet soup here.

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