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How to Become a Personal Trainer

Four Parts:Develop the Skills and Attitude of a Personal TrainerQualify to Become a Personal TrainerGet a Job as a Personal TrainerAdditional Resources

If you're passionate about working out and helping other people achieve their fitness goals, consider becoming a personal trainer. It’s one of the fastest growing professions, and for good reason: personal trainers have flexible hours, they get to do what they love, and they inspire people to be at their best. This article discusses the ins and outs of the profession, the qualifications necessary for becoming a personal trainer, and the steps you’ll need to take to excel in the profession!

Part 1
Develop the Skills and Attitude of a Personal Trainer

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    Make sure you can walk the walk. Personal trainers are responsible for educating their clients on physical fitness and self-motivation. In order to be effective, personal trainers must demonstrate that they have mastered these areas in their own lives. As you consider becoming a personal trainer, ask yourself these questions:
    • Are you in optimal physical shape? Clients look up to their personal trainers as examples of what it means to be fit and healthy. Even great educators and motivators may have trouble finding clients if they don’t seem to be in shape. This does not mean meeting status quo standards of physical beauty; every body type is different, and being “in shape” means different things for different people. But personal trainers must be able to demonstrate a range of exercises and train just as hard, or harder, than their clients in order to help them succeed.
    • Do you believe in the power of fitness? Personal trainers don’t just exercise because they want to stay slim. They see physical fitness as a powerful force that fundamentally enhances people’s lives. It is this strong belief in their work that enables personal trainers to be so motivating to others.
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    Understand human anatomy. The best personal trainers have a deep understanding of the way the human body works. It’s a big responsibility: advising clients to perform exercises unsuitable to their abilities can lead to injuries, sometimes severe ones. Clients also work with machinery and weight equipment that could injure them if it’s used improperly. Personal trainers learn much of what they need to know in the courses they take to receive certification, but it’s important to have an interest in working with people’s individual bodies and needs to figure out how to help them get as fit as possible while staying safe.
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    Develop your skills as a leader. Personal trainers must be inspiring, trustworthy, caring leaders. After all, they lead clients through exercise sessions that can evoke pain, frustration and sometimes tears. Personal trainers keep clients’ eyes on their goals and share in the satisfaction and happiness that comes when they’re achieved.
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    Hire a personal trainer. To truly understand the personal trainer/client relationship, hire a trainer to help you achieve your own fitness goals. Note how your relationship with that person develops, and what traits make him or her effective at the job. Every personal trainer has a different style: some operate like boot camp instructors and others take a gentle, intimate approach. Think about what approach you would take if you were the one helping other people on their path to fitness. See Part 3 plus Tips and Warnings below for more about defining your approach to working as a personal trainer.

Part 2
Qualify to Become a Personal Trainer

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    Choose a place to get certified. Most fitness centers and gyms require their personal trainers to have certification from an organization accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The organizations that provide certification each concentrate in slightly different areas. Conduct research to decide which certification program seems right for you. There are also state diploma schools, which will give you hands-on experience and classroom education. An example of a personal training school is the National Personal Training Institute.
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    Choose a specialty. Personal training is a competitive business, and one way to help yourself stand out is by choosing a specialty and receiving additional certification. For example, you may want to find a program that teaches you how to work with children or people with special needs so you can broaden your client base.
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    Have a plan in place. As you pursue your certification, think about what type of job environment would be the best fit for you. Gain experience in your field by working in different gyms in roles that don’t require certification.
    • Many gyms hire people without certification as “floor trainers.” Floor trainers can get experience as a trainer and find a gym that’s a good fit before begin building a personal list of clients.
    • Some gyms actually pay for their trainers to receive certification as an incentive for continuing to work there. Call your favorite gyms to find out if they offer this type of program.

Part 3
Get a Job as a Personal Trainer

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    Find a job at a fitness center or gym. Look at job listings in your area, or better yet, pick up the phone and call gyms. If you’re already a member of a gym, let the administration know that you’re interested in working as a personal trainer.
    • Most trainers start their careers working for gyms, even if they know they want to branch off on their own later. Gyms provide the credibility you need when you’re first starting out. They also give you the chance to learn from other personal trainers and get practice working with a steady stream of new clients.
    • The flip side of working for a gym, as opposed to having your own business, is that the gym takes a significant portion of the money you earn. However, good gyms understand the value of keeping great personal trainers and provide benefits accordingly.
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    Develop relationships with clients. Many gyms attract new clients by offering free first sessions with personal trainers. Use these sessions to keep clients interested in your specific skills and style. Personal trainers’ pay is commission-based, so the more clients you have, the better.
    • Keep in mind that the gym may require you to sign a non-compete agreement to prevent you from taking clients if you decide to leave.
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    Consider starting your own business. With your own business, you’ll be able to set your own rate and keep all the money you earn. You’ll also get to pick the clients you work with.
    • Research How to Start a Small Business and follow the regulations in your state. Make sure you understand all the complexities of running a business, such as the ins and outs of insurance, payroll and taxes.
    • Some personal trainers hold sessions in their homes, where they have a room set up with the proper equipment. This could be a convenient choice, but it’s important to make sure the setting looks professional if you want to attract clients.
    • Other personal trainers rent a studio, which they sometimes share with other personal trainers. This could be a more attractive choice if you have a large client list.
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    Think like an entrepreneur. Once you start your own business, you’ll have to attract your own clients - you won’t have a gym to do it for you. Get familiar with marketing basics and spread the word about your business.
    • Choose a catchy, professional-sounding name to attract new clients.
    • Set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Post pictures of your studio, and, with their permission, your happy clients.
    • Consider advertising in your local newspaper.
    • Hold events and offer specials to help spread the word when you’re first starting out.

Additional Resources

Sample Personal Trainer Cover Letter

Sample Personal Trainer Action Plan

Sample Evaluation Form


  • ”Personal Training Schools,” which offer certification and in-depth training over the course of weeks or months, have become increasingly popular in recent years. They tend to be much more expensive than certification programs, and it is not necessarily more beneficial to graduate from such a school in order to find a job.
  • Have great knowledge on diets & healthy food especially food that tastes amazing but is also good for the body. Clients love learning recipes that taste good and are good for them.
  • Networking is key in this business, most of all when your are just starting out. Attending conferences and conventions is a great way to meet people, keep up with the latest fitness trends and research, and be able to really learn and see how others became successful. Plus, it's fun - you'll meet a whole group of people who are as passionate about health, fitness, and physical activity as you. You'll leave feeling inspired.
  • Don't set unrealistic expectations for your clients. No matter what you do in the gym will be all for nothing unless the proper foods are taken in. Given their specific needs, make up a 5-day diet plan for them.


  • Be careful to avoid disreputable certifications. A proper certification should require several months of preparation and a proctored exam. Avoid sites that offer quick certification for under $100. Do your research and check the organization's credentials to make sure that their certifications are recognized.
  • Working with special needs groups can increase your liability. Make sure you know what you are doing and have the proper insurance coverage.

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