T Nation

Attn: Personal Trainers Help!

To you personal trainer folks:

can you give me some pointers on how to go about exploring career options? i see that there are personal trainers at my mega-corporate-gym that don’t know shit. or, if they do, they aren’t allowed to apply it. plus, i can’t believe that they make any money. i also know that there are higher level trainers that work either independently through smaller private gyms or at their own facilities. can you actually make a living with this stuff? what education, certifications, qualifications are required and/or desired? any help is appreciated. how much time is required to get to an employable level? is it something that can be tackled part time or for a part time gig?


First you just need to get certified by a recognized group. ACE, NASM, ISSA, ACSM a maybe 1 or 2 others I can’t think of right now will be recognized in most gyms. Some gyms require that all of their trainers be certified by the same group and in that case you either have to get that one or look for another gym to work at.

Second, you need to get experience and that is best got through a big corporate gym that will charge the client $40-$50 an hour and pay you $15 an hour. Yeah, it’s hard to make a lot of money and they rip you off but they will feed you clients. You can get a lot of experience on how to deal with different personalities, how to communicate exercise form in an effective manner and start to get an idea of what will really work with clients.

After you have done this for a while and feel confident you can try to get a job in a smaller upscale gym (which usually pays better) or you go independant. If you go out on your own then you will have to find a gym that will allow you to train people there for either a flat monthly fee or, more likely, a split of your earnings. 80% you/ 20% them is a pretty standard split.

Or you can start your own facility, something as elaborate as your own gym or something as simple as setting up in your garage or extra bedroom and/ or offering training where you go to the client. It’s really pretty cost effective and easy to get started like this.

As far as education goes, read everything you can get your hands on about training and performance enhancement. Psychology is also a great subject to become familiar with. If you can get results and can sell yourself you most definitely can a make a lot of money training.

ISSA can be done from home. Its really simple, just a bit time consuming. It can be done in your part time.

As far as making a career out of being a “personal trainer,” become a salesman. You must be able to talk yourself into getting business. If you cannot convey your abilities, you will not receive many clients.

Also, make sure you have a vast understanding of different exercises and how to make them enjoyable. Most PT clients could care less about powerlifting and you have to understand what they want. They want to sweat, and lose weight. Reguardless if you tell them do not use the scale as a guage to how much progress they are making, they will. There is NO way around that.

If the client cannot see results, many couldn’t care less about how much weight the move, they will be dissapointed. So you have to know and understand what will get the client the best VISUAL results possible. Thats for the MAJORITY of PT clients.

There are the few who want to get stronger, but they are very far and few between. There are also a few that use a PT just as an excuse to go to the gym. When you get these “need motivation,” clients you have to make the workouts fun for them. This includes MAJOR variety.

For the most part PT has nothing to do with training people like athletes. They dont want it. They just want to look good. Thats the way to make money in this business. You must be able to sell yourself like you would not believe. You have to talk yourself up majory as to what changes you can bring to the client. After your rep has hopefuly grown, you can look into starting up your own studio. When you come to that stage, take a few business classes so you get an understanding of how a business runs.

If you want to take further and become like one of the big boys on this board, like CW, years of schooling/reading, and yes degrees are necessary.