What does a personal trainer do? (And how to become one)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you want a career that allows you to interact with others and that requires physical activity, you may wonder, 'What does a personal trainer do?'. They help their clients with their strength and cardiovascular goals. By knowing the responsibilities of a personal trainer, you can decide whether this is the right profession for you. In this article, we discuss what personal trainers do, provide you with a guide on how to become a personal trainer and answer several frequently asked questions about personal trainers.

What does a personal trainer do?

Personal trainers guide individuals and groups during exercises and routines. These professionals help their clients with their cardio and strength training and focus on their client's health and fitness goals. The average base salary of a personal trainer is $26,304 per year. Here are some other responsibilities fitness trainers may have:

Show clients proper exercises

Personal trainers help their clients exercise properly by demonstrating proper form and showing clients how to use equipment properly. These professionals use equipment like fitness machines, treadmills, elliptical machines and weight machines. Personal trainers also record videos of proper form for clients to use at a later time.

Develop personalised workout plans

Personal trainers create fitness plans by considering their clients' needs. For example, clients who want to improve their cardiovascular health typically have fitness plans that prioritise their cardio. They design customised exercise plans that help their clients achieve their goals within a designated timeframe.

Monitor progress

Personal trainers work with clients for extended time frames that can range from several weeks, months or years. During that timeframe, personal trainers track progress by monitoring metrics like muscle mass and stamina. To do this, they discuss metrics and personal goals with their clients.

Provide advice

Personal trainers provide their clients with advice that helps them accomplish their goals. This advice ranges from information about diet to nutrition and lifestyle. For example, clients who want to lose weight obtain advice about diet and exercises that promote fat loss.

Provide first aid

Personal trainers often require first aid skills to ensure they can help clients who have cardiac issues. Some clients may experience cardiac arrest spontaneously, which requires personal trainers to act as first responders. To do this, they typically keep a first aid kit nearby during training sessions.

How to become a personal trainer

Here's a guide to help you become a personal trainer:

1. Obtain your education

While personal trainers don't require post-secondary education, many decide to obtain a graduate or undergraduate degree in nutrition or business. A degree in nutrition provides you with additional information about diets and the nutritional requirement of clients. This degree also provides you with information about health conditions and how nutrition lessens or worsens symptoms. A degree in business provides you with information about management, navigating finances, obtaining investors and developing business plans. Here are some other degrees for those who want to become fitness trainers:

  • Exercise science: This degree educates you on human movement and how to complete exercises properly. You also learn about general fitness, rehabilitation and athletic training.

  • Kinesiology: Kinesiology majors obtain knowledge about body conditioning, strength training and sports psychology. Students also learn about anatomy and nutrition.

  • Physical education: A degree in physical education prioritises motor skills, physiology and the psychology behind various exercises. This degree also provides you with knowledge of mental health and wellbeing.

Related: Complete Guide: What are nutrition degrees?

2. Complete training

Personal trainers complete practical training while obtaining their certification. If they start their training business, these professionals may provide clients with free consultations or workout plans to complete this training. Those who work for established companies typically teach classes under the supervision of full-time personal trainers. The length of this training depends on the company you want to work for in the future, along with the certification program.

Related: How To Create a Personal Trainer CV

3. Obtain certification

Personal trainers work directly with their clients' physical health, which is why they often require certification. This provides you with additional credibility and shows clients that you have the skills required to safely advise them on the best protocols for their health. Here are some certifications to consider before you become a personal trainer:

CPR

CPR refers to cardiopulmonary resuscitation and helps you navigate emergency situations. This credential demonstrates that personal trainers can provide emergency chest compressions and artificial ventilation for clients who experience cardiac arrest. Personal trainers who use cardiovascular exercises in their fitness plans may find this useful.

AED

This certification trains fitness professionals to use an AED device to restart a client's heart or to help a client regain their natural heartbeat. You typically use this device after performing CPR. Many personal trainers also hold a professional certification that demonstrates their advanced skills and helps them increase their earning potential.

4. Network and create a client base

When you've completed gaining practical and special skills, gaining additional education and certification, consider attending networking events and creating your client base. This can include local and national events that cater to freelancers, small business owners or start-ups. Joining organisations that also focus on specific industries can also help in your search for clients. Also, create relevant social media pages and a website to reach a wider audience and connect with others you may know to gain word-of-mount clients. You may also offer your services to gyms and fitness centres to start and branch out afterwards.

Skills required for personal trainers

Here are some skills required to become a personal trainer:

Interpersonal skills

Personal trainers work with clients daily, along with other professionals. To build relationships with clients and develop a roster of recurring clients, personal trainers require strong interpersonal skills. They know how to listen to others, build rapport and understand their clients' needs.

Related: Interpersonal skills: definitions and examples

Problem-solving

Personal trainers often work with clients who seek help to address fitness or weight issues, which requires excellent problem-solving skills. They know how to assess needs, research solutions, consider options and recommend courses of action. These professionals also use problem-solving skills to solve scheduling issues.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

Stamina and strength

Personal trainers typically perform workouts throughout their workdays, which requires significant stamina. They spend the majority of their day standing or moving. These professionals require the ability to stand, walk, run and exercise for extended periods. Personal trainers also require the ability to work with weights and exercise equipment.

Frequently asked questions about personal trainers

Here are common personal trainer FAQs:

What is the work environment of a personal trainer?

Personal trainers work in a variety of locations, including fitness centres open to the public, workout facilities designed for companies or other groups and private residences. Some operate their own dedicated fitness spaces. Depending on their clients' needs, personal trainers work a wide range of schedules. Some work standard business hours, while others work during evenings or on weekends. No matter when they work, personal trainers remain relatively active throughout the day, often exercising with their clients.

Related: How to work collaboratively

What is the job description of a personal trainer?

Here's an example of a personal trainer's job description:

UK One Gym seeks an experienced personal trainer to work with individual clients. The successful candidate can demonstrate exercise techniques for clients and develop personalised workout plans that meet clients' health and fitness goals. The ideal candidate has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, a Certified Personal Trainer credential from a professional organisation and current CPR and AED certifications. If you are a highly motivated fitness enthusiast with at least two years of personal training experience, we want to hear from you.

Which personal trainer specialities are there?

During your training, you may try several disciplines to determine whether there's a specialisation that interests you. Here are some specialities for personal trainers:

Strength and conditioning

This specialisation focuses on increasing your muscle mass and completing your fitness goals. Professionals in this specialisation often work in sports franchises and fitness centres. You can also apply to work as a strength and conditioning coach for high school sports teams.

Group exercise

Some personal trainers focus on training groups and working towards collective fitness goals rather than individual fitness goals. These professionals typically work for local gyms and lead groups within those gyms. You can teach spinning, yoga, pilates, dance fitness or kick-boxing. Some group classes require additional certifications. For example, yoga instructors for group classes require yoga teacher training.

Fitness manager

Fitness managers recruit staff, manage marketing and finances and schedule tasks. These professionals typically require a graduate or undergraduate degrees and provide you with additional responsibilities. If you want to work in this field, you can expect to manage the inner processes of fitness centres.

Senior fitness specialist

This specialisation focuses on helping older adults reach their fitness goals. You also help older adults maintain their autonomy and independence by ensuring they can navigate their physical environment with more ease. A senior fitness specialist shows clients how to perform exercises safely. They also obtain information about their client's regular activities to help them perform tasks more easily.

Salary figures data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

Related:

  •  Personal Trainer vs Fitness Instructor: In-Depth Comparison

  • How to Become a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist in 6 Steps

  • Personal trainer certification: types and requirements

  • Personal Trainer Skills: Definition and Examples

  • How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?


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