You can’t walk into a gym without hearing the words “personal trainer.” Everywhere from fitness magazines to the doctor’s office, professionals in all industries speak highly of the ability of a skilled personal trainer to improve our lives. We all know they help people get in shape and stay fit, but the job of a professional personal trainer involves so much more.
Interested in a full personal trainer job description? Read on. If you want to know how to become a fitness instructor, read my article on that, as well.
What is the purpose of a personal trainer?
Put simply, their main purpose is to help their clients become healthier. The way this end goal is achieved is what creates the plethora of different personal training classifications you see today. The goal of improved health is achieved through fitness program prescription, nutrition advice, coaching, and motivation. In many cases, individuals who are uncertain about what they should be doing in the gym hire a personal trainer to guide them through proper workouts and meet their fitness goals.
As a certified personal trainer who has worked in a variety of gyms, I am always surprised by how many people do not know how to exercise properly. Some people only do cardio, and others only do weights. Still, others have terrible form and risk injury every time they walk into the gym. A healthy exercise routine includes a proper mix of both cardio and weights with basic knowledge of how the exercises are done. Hitting all muscle groups regularly with the correct form and intensity ensures the client will reach their goals faster and avoid injuries.
Two of my clients chose to hire me as their personal trainer because they simply do not want to think about their workouts. They like working out with someone who tells them what to do and motivates them through it. This is great for those who can financially afford purchasing large training packages with months of sessions. In most cases, a personal trainer will push their client harder than they can push themselves.
Different Kinds of Personal Trainers
Personal Training certifications vary according to their specialization. Although all certified personal trainers are knowledgeable in the basics, the particular focus of each certification is what makes them different. When choosing which certification you want, consider what niche and emphasis you want to base the majority of your fitness programming. Here are some of the best personal trainer certification organizations.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified: This type of certified trainer is one that works with various individuals in special populations (cancer patients, stroke victims, geriatrics, limited mobility, sports-related injury, clients in physical therapy). Anyone with this certification is interested in a wide range of medical-related specialties and understanding of the science of exercise through continued educational advancement.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified: This type of certified trainer works with athletes and anyone who wants to increase their fitness. From high school students to professional athletes, the trainers with this certification are focused on combining form with technique.
American Council of Exercise (ACE) Certified: This type of certification is based on science with a focus on fitness education. Trainers with this certification are about teaching their clients as much as they are training them. ACE personal trainers want to educate their clients so they have the ability to eventually be knowledgeable enough to do the exercises on their own and live a healthy life. Unlike the other certifications, ACE is a non-profit organization and the emphasis is on educating the public.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA) Certified: This type of certification is also for special populations such as those with temporary or chronic injuries. Trainers with this certification are educated to create programs specifically for those who need coaching to develop or increase their strength after an accident or overall want to become fit. The NSCA is most known for their gold standard Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist cert.
Among certified personal trainers there are a number who concentrate in one specific niche in the industry. Finding a certified trainer who specializes in your needs specifically can greater improve your rate of success. Because their focus is on a specific group they tend to be more knowledgeable on that particular subject.
Youth Fitness, Weight Management, Sports Conditioning, Fitness and Nutrition, Senior Fitness, Pre and Post Natal Fitness, Therapeutic Exercise and Functional training are all very particular areas that some trainers might choose to specialize in. It is important to know that although trainers specialize in specific specialties, all of them have the ability to handle general populations with their fitness goals.
Day to Day
A personal trainer’s schedule can change from day to day. They may be completely booked with back-to-back clients all day one day, and have half a day of sessions the next. Typically they work in the mornings starting at 6am until 10am. Have a break in the middle of the day when they can work out, rest and create programs, and then have a block of clients in the evening from 4pm-9pm.
Any free time is usually spent fulfilling the personal trainer duties, which I detailed in the purpose section at the top of the article. The job duties of personal trainer usually means they are quite busy during their work areas and between sessions. I always am either planning and making programs, or I am doing some of the other job duties expected at the gym I am training people in.
A fitness trainer will typically work Monday through Friday with a half day on Saturday. Most trainers do not have clients on Friday evenings. A trainer’s schedule is based on when their clients are available. Since the majority of people work a 9am-5pm schedule, a trainer works before and after those times.
A salary of a personal trainer depends on their location, qualifications and work environment. I have worked at a gym with 6 trainers and a gym with 38 trainers. Clearly, the less trainers there are, the more in-demand you are and the more you will make. If you are in a major metropolitan area you can make anywhere from $55K -$70K a year or more.
If you are in the suburbs, as a full time trainer you will make $35K-$50K a year. These numbers are based on if you are working for a gym. If you work for yourself and have your own personal training business, these numbers may differ depending on what you charge per hour and your overhead costs.
These numbers are going to vary greatly depending on what all the trainer is specialized in and where someone is located in the country. A gym instructor technically has unlimited earning potential, but you will find the fitness trainers predicted salaries above to be pretty close.
Qualifications, Skills, and Work Environment
One of the best reasons to choose a career in personal training is that everyone comes from a variety of backgrounds. Some may personal train because they lost a lot of weight themselves and want to help others do the same. Some may train because they have always loved being athletic and like to encourage people to work hard and reach their goals.
The minimum qualification you must have to be a trainer is to pass the exam to become a certified personal trainer. Keep in mind that some certifications require you to have a certain amount of continuing education credits to stay certified. The more certifications you have, the more valuable you will be to the gym and the more you will be able to charge clients. As you further gain knowledge in the field by taking continuing education classes, and going to national conferences and industry fairs, more clients will be drawn to you.
To apply for a fitness job or even the certification, you will typically need CPR and AED certification, as well as
Your work environment will typically be a gym or fitness studio. If you are starting off as a new trainer, it is best to train in a gym to develop your clientele. Also, working with other trainers is a great way to learn new exercises and discover a variety of training styles. It is extremely important to keep a positive attitude and an open mind when working in a gym environment. Learn as much as you can from the other trainers but follow up with your own scientific research as some knowledge that is passed around in the gym might be hearsay or a trend.
A personal trainer is hired to be a private coach and often becomes so much more. Once a relationship is built between client and trainer, there becomes a trusting friendship. Goals reached are celebrated together and obstacles in challenging workouts are overcome while the trainer motivates them every step of the way.
Where this intimacy gets tricky is when clients inevitably ask questions that go beyond the scope of personal fitness. Clients may confide in their trainers and ask for advice on hot topics like steroids, eating disorders, and body image.
Because succeeding in weight loss and health is so much more than physical, helping them through emotional issues is critical. As a trainer, you might provide solutions for your clients to stop unhealthy behaviors that keep them on track outside of training sessions.
Having that said, if you sense that the client is facing issues that require professional help, it is also your responsibility to direct them to someone with more expertise in that particular area. Serious mental and emotional conditions should not be left untreated.
Becoming a certified personal trainer is a rewarding and full filling career. It is more than a job, it is a lifestyle. By encouraging others and teaching them how to be healthy, you will make a significant impact on society. As the rate of obesity grows and the number of people diagnosed every day with diabetes, your impact on the lives of your clients is truly priceless.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the primary responsibilities of a personal trainer?
Personal trainers are responsible for keeping up to date with all of the information and knowledge to accurately train individuals and achieve performance and health differences to improve lives. Trainers make a custom plan and content based on results and then provide guidance to their clients through these activities and movements. depending on the personal training certification and experience of the fitness trainer, these details can change. There are many opportunities to add specializations to train specific populations, as well.
What qualifications are necessary to become a personal trainer?
To become a personal trainer, the basic requirements for most certifications will be a high school diploma and CPR and AED certification. This is often detailed throughout the job description. It is important to check the jobs you are looking to apply for, and make sure to call these employers to find out what role they want employees to fill and the exact services and requirements they have for a fitness instructor. If you are freelancing, then you and your clients can somewhat decide the qualifications needed. Lastly, a final requirement might be personal trainer insurance in order to land a job, but this depends on where you are applying.
What type of personality do personal trainers have?
Personal trainers typically have personalities that fit the role of an instructor of any job. They will have great communication skills and be able to easily connect with candidates in the business. The fitness industry is often packed with welcoming, friendly, and confident people, so, a personal trainer will need salthese qualities.
What are some ideal specializations for personal trainers to pursue?
Personal trainers can expand on their knowledge and offerings to clients by specializing in specific areas of fitness like corrective exercise, group fitness instructor, and health coach certification. And for the more committed to higher education, you can always seek out a college for personal training for a degree in exercise science or associated fields.