An overview of the role

The role of a personal trainer is to help clients to achieve their fitness goals, such as losing weight or building muscle. They do this by designing personalised fitness programmes and teaching the clients how to follow them. 

Fitness programmes designed by personal trainers do not only focus on physical exercise but also on other factors, such as diet, that will help the client to gain the shape and fitness level that they want. Personal trainers are therefore expected to have a good knowledge of food.

A personal trainer is different from a fitness instructor or gym instructor in that they possess more fitness qualifications and provide a more personalised service. It is common to train as either of these roles and then become a personal trainer once you have gained enough experience and knowledge. 

What are the responsibilities of a personal trainer?

The basic responsibilities of a personal trainer include:

  • Motivating clients to achieve their fitness goals
  • Instructing clients in how to perform and use various routines and pieces of exercise equipment safely and productively
  • Planning customised fitness and dietary  programmes for clients
  • Maintaining a good level of fitness and health in order to serve as a positive role model to clients
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What are the key skills required by a personal trainer?

Key skills required by a personal trainer include:

  • An outgoing, enthusiastic character
  • Excellent motivational skills and positivity
  • A love of fitness
  • A sound knowledge of physiology, human anatomy, exercise and diet and how all of these things relate to physical health and fitness
  • Good communication skills and the ability to relay information easily
  • Patience

It is also vital that a personal trainer has some skill at marketing, account-keeping, business management and organisation if they opt to work freelance.

What qualifications does a personal trainer require?

In order to become a personal trainer, it is advised to undertake a course in personal training or, if you wish to teach a particular type of exercise, a diploma in teaching your specialism. Aspiring personal trainers can also take a course in fitness instructing and work their way up from there.

Contrary to many people’s assumptions, you don’t need to be perfectly fit in order to be a personal trainer. Your clients are paying you for your expertise and knowledge, not your fitness level, so you will not be disqualified if you don’t look like a professional bodybuilder.

However, you are expected to maintain a good level of health and wellbeing in order to be able to demonstrate exercises to your clients and to act as a positive role model for their own fitness development.

Do I need relevant work experience to become a personal trainer?

Many gyms advertise courses to become a personal trainer that require no experience. However, as many gyms require experience working in the fitness industry when hiring in-house personal trainer roles, it is a good idea to get as much as possible. A role as a gym instructor or fitness instructor 

What are the prospects and salary of a personal trainer?

Personal trainers can work fully or partially in the employ of gyms or health clubs, but often they are freelance. For full-time personal trainers, salaries are relatively standardised.

  • Newly qualified personal trainer: £15,000
  • Personal trainer: £22,000
  • Experienced personal trainer: £30,000

Freelance personal trainers can set their own wages and often earn between £20 and £40 an hour. If you’re experienced, working in a wealthy area and/or with high-profile clients, some personal trainers can charge up to £100 an hour.

In many cases, progression simply means accumulating more knowledge and skills and charging higher fees. An employed personal trainer can progress to the role of health specialist or even go on to manage their own health club, gym or training centre.

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Is the role of a personal trainer right for me?

There are both pros and cons involved in the role of a personal trainer.

Pros of being a personal trainer include:

  • If fitness is a hobby that you love, the role of personal trainer will enable you to pursue that passion and earn money at the same time
  • A sociable, person-focused job that allows you to build good relationships with your clients in much more depth than as a fitness instructor
  • A highly rewarding role – as a personal trainer you will get to see your clients achieve their goals and their health increase
  • Personal trainers tend to earn a higher hourly rate than most professionals, allowing for more free time and a better work-life balance
  • You can control your schedule and book appointments when you want, giving you the freedom to pursue other activities or goals
  • The role is one that affords variety – not only will every day be fresh and challenging, but you can also divide your time between in-house work and freelance, or freelance work and a job in a totally different sector

Cons of being a personal trainer include:

  • If you work freelance you may struggle to build up enough of a client base to support yourself at first and may well need to work another job alongside personal training 
  • You may need to work unsociable hours to fit around a full-time work schedule – most clients will want to see you before 9 or after 5, or at the weekends. If you’re not a morning person, this definitely isn’t the job for you
  • If you decide to work as a freelance personal trainer, all the usual drawbacks of this apply – there is no paid holiday or sick leave
  • You may find that you have less time to pursue your own fitness goals due to the busy 7 days a week work schedule common with personal trainers
  • Clients can sometimes be difficult – refusing to follow exercise and dietary plans and then blaming you for lack of results is not uncommon in the business

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