T Nation

Personal Trainer

Today I got a somewhat sick feeling of satisfaction...

I got a job...as a Personal Trainer. The bill in my credit card is ringing $500 bucks higher, and bills are sucking the very small reserves in my back account. I took the offer without so much a blink in my eyes.

Of course, worthy of all T-Men, The supervising Personal Trainer told me I look the part and I certainly have the knowledge.

So my question becomes: 

Are there any personal trainers here? How do you succeed in an environment where you're selling your services to someone? Being a reader of T-Mag is clearly 2 steps forward for me, but are there any tips to succeed and take a decent paycheck home - enough to pay your bills...?

All T-hood may now point your fingers at me, hurl rocks, and yell 'Traitor Traitor! Kill!' But your advice will be apreciated as this will most likely be my livelihood till March next year when I ship out to Boot Camp.

Let me put on my fire-proof suit so I can better deal with the flameage here lol...


That's it. You're gay.

Just kidding. There's nothing wrong with being a personal trainer. There are a lot of things wrong with a good deal of personal trainers, though.


Realize that 60% of your clients will never follow through. Also, your clientele will be out-of-shape 30- and 40-something housewives who want to "tone up" without sweating.

Hmmmmm.... What else?

Oh, and if you want to make $$ in the franchise gyms, check your morals at the door and make everything an opportunity to get a client. Don't ever give out free advice.

50% of your time will be a total waste, but you have to put in that 50% to get the 50% that will pay.

Realize that the gym is going to get about 60% of the $$ from the contracts you generate.

Anything else? Maybe do a forum search. I know this has been touched on before. Might be able to come up with something else.


Okay, so now that I've given you the jaded view, the things that will help you make it as a trainer are the same things that will help you make it in business. People skills. Read some books:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People by Les Giblin

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

That should get you started.


Diesel you been here long enough to know there are several people here that work as personal trainers of some variant.

I'm not one, but i'll give you some pointers on things I would like to see in a personal trainer. Keep in mind some of this stuff isn't really up to the pt but the place they work for, so maybe some things are due to the structure of the job and not the worker.

  1. Actually showing that you care about your clients, or more specifically, being willing to ascertain what level they want you to be there for them and following through.
    That is my #1 complaint about pt's. A regular joe will go and pick out a pt, then go through his diet and have a routine set up for him. Then say several weeks into it, the pt will start showing a lack of interest due to other things in their life. Or maybe the pt will be soo die hard into an upcoming contest or show that they constantly overpush a client, or try to steer them where they don't want to go. Anyway it's bad.

  2. Not asking the client about goals and/or not offering to show the client the reasoning behind the plans you give them.
    Please don't operate under the "keep my secrets to myself" type of mentality. I mean I can understand not telling a client everything in the book if they are only willing to buy 1 session, but if they buy a decent amount of them at least give them some "send off" info about how to keep going to their longer term goals.


Okay, the biggest thing you have to do is sell yourself. That means looking the part, if you've got the body you're half way there. When you dress at the gym make certain that while you may dress casual you're not dressing cheap. I know that it's not supposed to be a fashion show but there are a lot of differences in track pants that can make the difference between making money or not.

Make certain you talk to everyone at the gym, fat chicks (okay, flame away if you must) are a great source of income. However, you need to realize that everyone you train needs to be handled differently. Some people want you to hold their hand, others want you to make them cry. Make certain you know what they want and help them get it.

Offer people free tidbits when you talk to them so they know what they're missing by not hiring you. Once they start to realize how much more you know then them they're more likely to realize they're paying you for more than just counting reps. Phrases like conjugated periodization are great, it's even better if you know what they mean.

Always make certain that people are feeling like they're accomplishing something.

Always make certain that the first thing you do is fix problems (posture, muscle imbalances, lack of flexibility) before you try anything else. If you fix the problem at the beginning they'll feel much better which means that they'll like you more. Plus they're less likely to have problems down the road.

Communicate with your clients. Let them know why you have them doing what they're doing.
"Okay, we've got speed bench next, that's going to help increase motor unit recruitment so you can use more of your muscle each time you lift."

I hope this helps, above all remember that they're paying you for your time. Make certain they think they're getting their money's worth . . .



As far as hourwives, yes, I train several. But, you won't catch my people doing tricep kickbacks or the adductor machines. Nope, they squat, dead, some do Oly variants, etc. Pretty strong bunch of housewives! Hehehe.

A big thing, besides showing that you have a clue, is to just be personable. If you can talk to people, you'll make good money doing this.


As a trainer, I can say this much to you:

1) Be yourself, you will develop a following and people will respect you for your training methods.

2) Do NOT give away too much advice for free. People will try to get anything (including pt) for nothing. This is your bread and butter.

3) Walk the walk, talk the talk. Your physique sells. People will notice and think "this guy takes pride in himself".
You can't (or shouldn't in my opinion) be a trainer when you've got a gut/belly that would be better suited for sumo wrestling.

4) Show your clients that you care and listen to them. Don't try to train everyone the same way. Cookie cutters are not good for the training industry.
Hear what the goals of the individual are and lay out a plan for success.

It really can be a rewarding, fun job if you truly love fitness. Best of luck to you!



Brider is right on the money.I became a personal trainer back 1993 because working out changed my life and I wanted to change the lives of others(cue the violins).I worked at a gym owned by the wrestlers Lex Luger and Sting.They would sell 10 workout session packages and very rarely would anyone finish them.It sucked for me because I felt life I failed them when actually people just don't commit and lose interest fast.If you can handle that then it's a great job


Wow Brider, that really was the jaded view! I'm a personal trainer and I love my job. Diesel, just try to give more personal trainers a good name, ok? There are a few of us out there that work to convert clients to a love of lifting. Use it as an opportunity to teach what you know.

It's true that a lot of your clients will be 30- and 40- something women, but same age group men are often even worse, lol. And there will be some who just do not catch the vision. But some will, and it's rewarding to watch them learn to squat or deadlift and get excited about how strong it makes them feel. Today I had a mid-twenties client do her first push press with the Olympic bar. She was sooooo excited! She felt stronger than ever before and it is fun to help someone feel empowered, especially women who never knew they could feel that way.

And once in a while you get to work with someone really fun, like an athlete or bodybuilder that just realizes they don't know everything and you can help. I am currently working with a guy in his early 40's who used to compete in bodybuilding when he was in his 20's. He's fun to work with because he's strong and already knowledgeable, but willing to learn more.

My best advertisement is word of mouth. If you really teach clients how to lift, how to eat, how to begin to design their own programs, and where to find their own information (like here at t-mag), well, the word gets around. My client load stays as full as I want it to be most of the time. Satisfied clients tell their friends. Past clients come back and purchase another smaller sized package so I can give them a new workout program or critique some new lifts.

Good luck. I hope you enjoy yourself. It can be fun and rewarding.



I have been working with a trainer for months now, and though I could train on my own, I will continue to work with her for the forseeable future, simply because I enjoy it so much. And I'm not the only one. She's been there six months, and already has a waiting list of people who want to work with her.

My gym is part of a regional chain, nice place, with tons of trainers. She's the most consistently busy, and I've watched her to figure out why. This is what I came up with.

First off, she knows her stuff, looks it, and is strong as hell.

She is extremeley friendly. She has a smile and a word of encouragement for everyone she recongizes. However, she always keeps her focus on me during our time together.

She helps out anybody who needs it. She saw a woman, obviously starting out and uncertain, watching us during a set of squats, and while I was resting, my trainer went up to her, introduced herself, and offered to design a program for her, free of charge. There was no sales pitch--she meant it.

She explains why we're doing what we're doing, and is patient even when I become restless and want to progress into more advanced lifts/weights (I'm older and sedentary, but motivated). And because I trust her, I curb my impatience.

She's a lot of fun to be around.

She's open to new ideas. And even if someone brings in something completely wrong, even idiotic, she never takes a lecturing or dogmatic tone--she's respectful. She's not arrogant.

She's diplomatic. Remember that people who can afford to hire your services regularly are generally highly successful people in other areas of their lives. Diplomacy goes a long way.

Best of luck, Diesel; it seems like a tough business. But if you identify what your clients want, and deliver it to them in a way in which they can hear it, you'll succeed.





That is GREAT advice! Where is all the flameage that is supposed to be taking place?

Your advice is MUCH apreciated. Im pretty excited about the fact that my job will consist of doing something I love to do - fitness and help others get where they need to be. Besides Itll get me some experience using my interpersonal skills and develop some leadership.

Any more trainers want to pitch in?


Hey Diesel, I love my personal trainer. I was beyond clueless, overweight and absolutely terrified about hauling my fat ass into the gym the first time. Now my goal is ultimately to be able to compete in power lifting and that is nothing short of a miracle. One that I couldn't have imagined even 4 short months ago when I had to go hurl 30 minutes into my first training session. Now I currently squat 275, deadlift 225, and bench 135 (I know the bench is weak, I'm working on it). I attibute a huge part of this to the encouragement and motivation that my PT has provided me with, as well as just overall excellent training. He has put up with all my stupid questions and never made me feel stupid. He has never been condescending or made me feel like "the fat girl", instead encouraging me to train hard. Instead of having me do endless sets on machines, like most trainers do with their female clients, he has taught me how to train with free weights, with proper form. He has taught me about periodization, nutrition, timing, etc. All of the above has given me confidence and commitment that spills into all other areas of my life as well so I can absolutely say that he has been a really positive influence that ultimately has changed my life (a single tear slides down Sabrina's cheek).
Okay, I admit it, I'm gay. lol.
Anyway, just my rambling 2-cents...


When it comes to selling yourself try to sell a product or a result not just X amount of hours training.

Paul Chek once said to me 'There are two ways to make money as a trainer. Specialise in training people with low back pain, people will pay a lot of money if you can stop them hurting. Specialise in training women, they generally are more proactive about their health, generally control the money and if you turn an overweight housewife into a hot woman who wears lycra in a gym you can charge whatever you like.


The gym I got my job at - Bally's (Traitor! Traitor! Kill!)- is well known for being strict on their expectations of trainers. Not meeting client expectations? Outta here no questions asked. Thats the way theyre known to operate.
Now, the last thing I need is an 1 week gig before Im left with no job again. I need a job to carry me till I go to bootcamp.
Is it hard to make new clients? I know it depends on you but is it generally hard to get someone to sign a contract?


Pretty funny diesel. I'm in the process of trying to do the same thing. Hopefully an opportunity training athletes will present itself otherwise it looks like its back to "personal training".


Diesel,you have sold out! sorry buddy you are no longer a T-man but a Richard Simmons wannabe.There was that the flame you were looking for? :slight_smile:

Seriously,I wish you luck I spent a long time working as a PT in the commercial clubs,the best way to get business is to just talk to people.

I would always introduce myself,then have a chat with that person,find out their training goals,how long they had been at the gym,what they did for a living,what their interests were etc,etc.Then after a pleasant 10 min chat I would leave them.
Next time I saw them I would say hello(always remember their name it says a lot) make small talk,have a look at their programme and ask them if there was anything they were unsure of,or would like to change(there always is).
This time I would spend 15-20 mins with them,no charge just advising them on a few things,or maybe showing them a new exercise.

I can honestly say that after that 90% of the time,once they were showered and changed,they would approach me and ask if I could fit them in for a PT session.

This worked for all trainees,I ended up coaching people from Professional Cricketers (I am in the UK) to Powerlifters,and lots of unfit women who were looking to lose a dress size.

Within 3 months I was fully booked up and actually had a waiting list.

These are a few of the mistakes that I have seen a lot of other Pt make,so if you can avoid these you should be ok.

1/ Giving free sessions,If you do this you shall be plagued by timewasters,do not worry if other trainers do this,you are different.Plus it is very hard for people to put a value on something if they have received it for free.

2/ Not giving client full attention.This happens more than you believe.

3/Do not trust the other Trainers,you are in competiton with them.By all means be friendly to them but never confide anything in them.

4/ Never discuss clients,with other trainers or other clients.

5/Never complain about your personal life to your client,they really do not want to hear your hard luck stories.In the world of the trainer,the sun always shines.
Good luck hope it works out for you.


Okay, with all of the great advice up above, I'm going to go against the grain a bit and say that if you're going to go into bootcamp in March, you might want to find something else to do until then besides PTing. Why? Because with virtually everyone, even the really good PTers, it takes several months to build up a decent client base. About the time that you're really starting to see some decent money from the venture, you'll be off to start your military service.

So if you can find something that'll pay you more right from the start, I'd say go for that instead. I actually think that you'd make a good PTer, as you have the knowledge and seem to be fairly people-savvy. It's just the timing here.

That said, if you want to stick with it, there are a couple of really good threads on the subject in the archives, with loads of other great advice. You should look them up.

Good luck.


I am going to call on diesels military boot camp I don't think its going to happen;) I think all diesel was doing was talking a good game;).

But, if you are diesel, char-dawg is
correct on most of Personal Trainers will not able build a base of clientele until a couple of months.

Even, if you are working at a facility that feeds you clients. Which, Bally's does not feed their trainers. You need to pull them off the floor.


Ok, I am not a personal trainer, but if I were to go that way I would find one very motivated person, preferably female, and get her into the best shape of here life, for free. But under the condition that she tells everyone about me and how i am helping her, and to tell nobody she is getting it for free.

I have a friend who owns a lawn service. He has one very big client, and everybody in town has seen this lawn. He purposely undercharges them so he can keep their business, and use them as a reference. When people find out he does their lawn, they often hire him on the spot.

The right person could be a walking, talking billboard for you.