Personal Trainer Guide

If you’re looking to learn more before you find a Trainer or, if you’ve decided that you might want to become one, this is the place for you to start.

What is a Personal Trainer?

A Trainer is a fitness professional who combines exercise science and experience to sherpa you towards your goals.

Have you been spending a lot of your time focus on other things, other people? If so, it might be time to make yourself a priority.

Is it necessary to hire a personal trainer? Nope, it's not.

That being said - If you weren't motivated, you wouldn't be here.

Let's channel that spark into a flame.

Personal Trainer Steven Mack Smiling in front of the Simple Solutions Fitness Studio in a blue logoed shirt
Written by Steven Mack, a Trainer located in Columbia, Missouri.

What You'll Learn Here:

Why Use A Personal Trainer?

  • Why should you hire a trainer? Motivation? Exercises?
  • Does training work?
  • What are some of the disadvantages?
Talking cartoon icon with blue bubble

What Do Personal Trainers Do?

  • What services do trainers offer?
  • Can your trainer give you a massage? Help you stretch? Provide meal plans?
  • Where do personal trainers work?
an envelope with a green dollar bill sticking out of it

How Much Does a Personal Trainer Cost?

  • What should you expect to pay for a trainer per month? 12 weeks?
  • Why don't gyms list prices?
  • Why are personal trainers so expensive? What does a trainer make?

How to Find a Personal Trainer

  • How do you know if your trainer is good? Does your trainer have to be fit?
  • What should you ask your trainer?
  • How to find a good personal trainer, when you're ready,

How Do You Become a Personal Trainer?

  • What do gyms look for in a personal trainer?
  • How hard is it to become a personal trainer? How much can you expect to make?
  • Why do trainers leave the field?

How Long Should You Have a Personal Trainer?

  • How long does it take to see results?
  • How fit can you get in 3 months?
  • Also related to how much personal training costs.

Ready to talk to a human?

Reach out by filling out the contact form. You'll get a call the moment it's seen.

Related Questions People Also Ask About Training:

What Does a Personal Trainer Do for You?

A pt can help guide you towards your fitness goals of feeling strong and confident.

Each trainer will have their procedures but, the process might look something like the following.

After you sit down for an initial consultation, you’ll both be clear on:

  • What your goals are.
  • How you’re going to workout each session.
  • How you’re going to measure your progress (or not if you don’t like scales).
  • When you’ll be showing up to workout.
  • What you’re going to change when you eventually reach a plateau.

After you get clear on your goals, budget, and some logistics, you’ll meet with your trainer to carry out your fitness plan. Most trainers can give you general nutrition advice or will refer out when necessary.

Do You Really Need a Personal Trainer?

You don’t need a pt if you’re comfortable teaching yourself a skill.

You can learn to workout using:

  • YouTube videos
  • Step-by-step exercise guides and books
  • Strength training programs (online/offline)

Over time, your results will compound. If you're making consistent progress, it's all a matter of staying in the game.

You might want to hire a trainer if you feel that you would benefit from socialization or having someone Sherpa you along your journey.

Your rate of progress will slow down with strength training. The key will be in knowing what you need to try next to keep making progress.

Explainer articles like these four can help get you started:

What Are the Qualities of a Good Trainer?

A fitness trainer needs to have the ability to ask questions, listen, and communicate.

You want to feel like a human is listening to you and considering your needs.

Some basic functions of a training business include:

  • Being able to demonstrate and coach exercises.
  • Walking clients through nutritional roadblocks.
  • Keeping a space tidy and clean for training.
  • Remembering personal details about your life.

Once these basic expectations are met, you can look to make things more personal to each client.

This includes modifying exercise routines, using names, asking for feedback, and celebrating milestones.

How Long is Personal Training?

Most pts work with clients for 30, 45, or 60 minutes. If you’re an endurance athlete or play a sport, a session may be as long as 90 or 120 minutes.

The length of a workout depends on the way that your program and schedule are laid out.

Let’s say that you’ve figured out that you want to build strong legs. There are many ways to follow a routine aimed at that goal.

For example:

  • Will you workout twice a week, three times, or six?
  • Are you going to perform the same exercises every day or change movements every day?
  • Will you be working out for 30 minutes each time or an hour?
  • Is your schedule pretty consistent or do you need a more flexible style of training?

Each of those answers can affect how long your training session lasts.

You could train four times a week for 30 minutes or two times a week for 60 and still do the same total amount of exercise volume.

Can a Personal Trainer Bill Insurance?

Yes, a trainer can bill insurance if it is prescribed by your primary care physician.

I have worked with a few clients who pay for training using their HSA after receiving the all-clear.

Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if this is something you have the option of pursuing.

Do Personal Trainers Work Out with Their Clients?

Fitness trainers do not work out with their clients.

Trainers supervise clients as they perform exercises.

A trainer is looking to:

  • Explain and demonstrate an exercise before it is performed.
  • Watch your form during a set, providing cues as needed.
  • Provide informational feedback after a set or session.
  • Count the number of repetitions you perform (sometimes).

Group fitness instructors may workout with their clients. Some trainers work as fitness instructors. Fitness instructors are not trainers.

Are You Supposed to Tip Your Personal Trainer?

You don’t need to tip your trainer. It would be incredibly helpful if you gave your trainer some feedback.

Feedback can be worth its weight in gold if you’re willing to do some listening.

Often, it can be really hard for businesses to get feedback from customers. You’re the expert on your body. Your trainer can do a better job of helping you when you take the time to talk about yourself and how things are going.

How Much is Too Much for a Personal Trainer?

If you cannot work with a trainer for more than a few months, you might consider another fitness option. To benefit from exercise, you will need to work out with some consistency and frequency.

Aim to lift weights at least twice a week for four to twelve or so weeks.

In a month, you might notice some changes - nothing that will break the internet. Over time, your results will compound, if you’re on the right track.

You might find a trainer that is willing to be flexible with you on scheduling. Some trainers write programs and check in with clients as frequently as they see fit.

Red headed girl wearing glasses staring intently at a macbook laptop while laying in bed

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Personal Trainer?

You do not need a degree to become a fitness trainer.

The first step to becoming a trainer is getting some experience. One of the most interesting things about this industry is the sheer number of paths that people have taken to get to it.

Training can be a first, second, or part-time career for some of the most influential trainers in the market.

I had the pleasure of contributing to two articles you may want to read about in-person and online training:

In the interviews I conducted for the online training article, almost every trainer mentioned a different origin story:

Learn more about getting started as a personal trainer in this guide.

Do You Need a Certification to be a Personal Trainer?

Can you be a personal trainer without a certification? Yes.

Personal training does not require a license or certification. While you don’t need a certification to become a trainer, it’s viewed as a liability to go without.

Depending on the cert, your trainer may or may not have an educational standard.

Expectations for trainers also vary depending on who they work for (or don’t).

A college degree is beyond the educational requirements of most training certifications.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) requires that trainers:

  1. Be at least 18 years old
  2. Have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  3. Have a current CPR/AED certification.

(I suspect COVID-19 will have some effect on CPR/AED certification requirement)

Which Personal Trainer Certification is Best?

The NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification is considered the best.

The CSCS is hard to get and requires a bachelor's degree - just to take the test.

In actuality, there isn’t a way to objectively compare personal training certifications. I’ve held a couple, right now a CSCS. I firmly believe in the NSCAs mission.

The NSCA offers a personal training certification, CPT. It seems to be easier to test for than the CSCS. In 2018, 58% and 78% of candidates passed the CSCS and CPT exams respectively.

While I have no experience with it, the ACSM-CPT carries a high level of regard within the industry as well.

Want to Start a Training Program?

If you didn’t learn to lift in high school or it’s been a while, a weight room looks like a maze of weights, switches, knobs and bros.

Do more than just go pick up a dumbell; let’s create a plan to build strength, get sustainable results (and look like you know what you’re doing).

We’ll start with the basics of strength training and you’ll walk out with (a starter amount of) confidence.