What is Personal Training?

Learn how to find a personal trainer and other questions that you should be asking by reading this extensive guide.

What is Personal Training?

Typically associated with gyms, Personal training involves working with a certified fitness professional towards your goals.

When you think about fitness, you might feel a little intimidated;

  • What sort of routine should you follow?
  • How do you perform the exercises, safely?
  • How often should you come to the gym?
  • Is 30 minutes enough?

In addition to answering those questions, a personal trainer can help you get started and stay motivated towards reaching your fitness goals.

Read next: Why should you hire a personal trainer?

In this guide, you'll find the answers to a number of questions you may have about personal training including;

  • How do I find a personal trainer?
  • Where do you find a personal trainer?
  • Is hiring a personal trainer worth it?
  • How do I choose a personal trainer?
  • How do I know if my personal trainer is good?
  • What qualifications do you need to be a personal trainer?
  • Do you need a degree to be a personal trainer? No.
  • What certification do you need to be a personal trainer?
  • Can you be a personal trainer without a certification? Yes.
  • What personal trainer certificate is most respected?
  • How much does a good personal trainer cost?
  • How Often should I see a personal trainer?
  • How long should you have a personal trainer?

Let's get started.

How to Find a Personal Trainer

The most common way that people find personal training options in their area is by searching “personal training (city, state)” on google.

For example, personal training columbia, mo.

While that might be the easiest, I can name a number of other places to round out your search process.

There are seven ways that you can find a personal trainer:

  1. Use a search engine, like google.
  2. Call or Visit your local gyms and private studios.
  3. Ask friends and family.
  4. Check social media channels like instagram and facebook.
  5. Your local yellow pages.
  6. Aggregator website listings like thumbtack.com, fitnesstrainer.com and ideafit.com
  7. Personal Training Certifications provide forms to validate credentials on their websites.

Before you can pick a location, there are a number of questions that you will need to ask yourself before signing up.

Where Can You Find a Personal Trainer?

Are you intimidated by a big, loud open gym? Outside of gyms with personal trainers, there are many settings to get your sweat on.

You can find a personal trainer just about everywhere you look these days;

  • Large commercial gyms
  • Small group personal training
  • Private training studios
  • In-Home gyms
  • Parks
  • School and university gyms
  • Remotely via Skype or similar means
  • Some travel to your location

Some clients want that big, open, loud environment with all of the equipment. You might want something more private so you can get through your insecurities and build up the confidence to eventually go to that sort of gym.

Some remote personal trainers (this is how I got started in Columbia Missouri) will travel to your home gym or bring equipment with.

In your research process you’ll want to checkout locations (if you want to train in person) and reach out for more information. Most gym websites will have contact forms for you to fill out or numbers to call. Hopefully, they will get back to you in a reasonable amount of time.

Is Hiring a Personal Trainer Worth It?

Before you can answer this question, you need to decide what’s important to you.

The first step is to make an account of what’s going on in your life. When did you first realize that you wanted to seek out personal training? What was going on in your life? Based on how you’re feeling, what would you say that your goals are?

Try not to stop at placing your goals in the oversimplified boxes of “weight loss”, “muscle gain”, “toning”, “strength”, etc.

What might make you happy? It does not have to be related to a negative experience.

If you want to be able to perform a pushup, pullup, handstand or complete a bike ride with friends, you can enlist the help of a personal trainer.

You might find that there are some things that have become less comfortable for you lately. Some clients have trouble participating in physical activities, while others feel uneasy trying on new clothes.

You might want to work on your motivation.

It’s perfectly fine to “not have goals”. Your personal trainer may help you figure that out. If you do have some, please do share, they will help you both ensure that you’re headed in the right direction.

If you’re ready to think about this read What You need to Know About Goals and Motivation.

After you have narrowed down your list of potential goals, you’ve figured out what would make training “worth it” for you.

How Do I Choose A Personal Trainer?

Every trainer has their own story.

John Berardi of Precision Nutrition and Change Maker Academy writes about five common origin stories for personal trainers:

  1. Growing up with physical activity and sport. Finding a sense of connection through movement.
  2. Getting coaching and mentorship at a pivotal point in life. Opting to pay that transformative experience forward.
  3. Excelling at a particular goal. After achieving a goal, wanting to teach others how to do the same.
  4. Watching someone suffer. Watching someone close to them struggle, leading them to help others from avoiding that same fate.
  5. Fixing your own problems. Coaching themselves and feeling inspired to help others.

For me, it was a combination of these origin stories. In my about page, I talk about how I grew up as “cousin pudgy”. I found connection with my mentor and friend Joseph Miller through high school football, and started teaching myself about strength training.

After many mistakes, Joe helped me grow stronger for college football. My coaches at The University of Missouri were there for me at many low points in my life. Andrew Paul helped fix me after several injuries in sport.

I finished athletics and had to start over my last year of college, coaching myself back to shape.

I started this business.

Every trainer has a style or way of communicating with clients. You will gain a sense of a person upon meeting with them. Is your trainer the drill sergeant type? Do you like someone who is a little more laid back? Do you want a male or female trainer?

Compare personal trainers. Preferences are valid once you know your trainer is qualified.

How Do I Know if My Personal Trainer is Good?

Another way to ask this question is, what qualifications do you need to be a personal trainer? The bar may be much lower than you’re thinking.

Do you need a degree to be a personal trainer? No.

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


Yes, you read that right. There is not a personal training licensure out there ensuring that all trainers are certified. What there is are insurance companies and court rooms making sure that personal trainers protect against liabilities.

This allows almost anyone to declare themselves a personal trainer. Certification is really about liability. Confusing, I know.

Should that worry you? I think not.

I love a low barrier to entry for personal training. As you read in the origin stories above, there are many paths into the field. Who is anyone to say that you can’t become a trainer after years in your career?

You know your trainer is good if you're getting better at the things you're training. It's that simple.

As long as you attain an accredited personal trainer certification, you have the beginning qualification to seek out a career in personal training.

What Certification Do You Need to Be a Personal Trainer?

There is not a sole certification that you need to become a certified personal trainer. The most common, credible certifications include:

  1. American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer (ACE-CPT)
  2. American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT)
  3. National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT)
  4. National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)

All of the above have achieved NCCA accreditation. This accreditation means that they have been reviewed by an objective third party and have been found to ensure the health welfare and safety of the public.

What personal trainer certificate is most respected?

Trainers in the industry will tell you that a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS) is the industry gold standard.

While not technically a “personal trainer certification”, the CSCS has a higher degree of difficulty and requires that a candidate have a Bachelor's degree or higher degree OR currently be enrolled as a college senior at an accredited institution.

Some gyms have preference when determining certifications that they’ll accept. I haven’t heard of a gym turning down a trainer for having a CSCS.

How Much Does a Good Personal Trainer Cost?

Because trainers come in many different forms, they also come in various prices.

In Columbia, Missouri alone there is a wide range of prices for trainers, anywhere from $35 to $70 and up per session.

I have heard of some trainers in cities like Chicago charging as much as $150 per session. Some online trainers may charge more than that.

If there is room for it in your market, you will find trainers all over the spectrum. The only real way to find out the answer to this question is to make a few phone calls.

You’re not really comparing apples to apples when you shop around. Consider the setting, experience level and specialty when thinking about how much a trainer might cost.

A great online personal trainer that I can recommend is my friend Meghan Callaway. Look and see if she has some openings by checking here.

How Often Should I See a Personal trainer?

How often you see a personal trainer depends on a number of things, mainly your schedule, ability to learn and your budget.

In Strength Training for Beginners, I talked about how often you should exercise. For review, a minimum of twice per week is needed and cited in various textbooks.

Training more often allows you to fit in more volume but everyone has their own ‘goldilocks zone” or amount of training that will produce results.

If you have more room in your budget, you might perform more sessions with your trainer. If you pick up skills quickly and have access to everything you need, you might not see your trainer as often.

Some goals take more time.

If you're looking to lose half of your body weight, you won't do that in 3 months. If you're looking to get into "better shape", you can pull that off pretty quickly.

What matters most is consistent practice. How long should you have a personal trainer? It depends on what your goals are and how you respond to training.

If you’re in a stressful point of life, it’s hard to make progress in the gym. Keep at it and you will find in the long run that achieving milestones can be very motivating.

On some days you will be motivated by how good you feel after exercising. On other days you will enjoy the process of exercising itself.

After you figure out specifically what you need help with, reach out to a personal trainer that feels like a good fit to you.

Phone: 1-573-443-1495

  • I want to see changes in my:
  • I want to start:
  • I am interested in training:

Here’s How to Find a Personal Trainer:

  1. Narrow down your goals. What makes you want to hire a trainer?
  2. Decide where you want to train. Do you want to go to your trainer or should they come to you?
  3. Think about the trainer that fits your personality. You know yourself best.
  4. Figure out if your trainer is certified. That will help you narrow down your list.
  5. If your personal trainer is good, you'll progress towards your goals. Not just progress for the sake of progress.
  6. Set a budget. Based on how often you can train, how fast you learn and how lofty your goals are.
  7. Fill out contact forms, make calls and schedule a consultation.

I hope that you're able to find the trainer for you.