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Fitness Definitions: Personal Trainer

Commercial gyms and university recreational centers love to advertise the opportunity for their clientele to work with a personal trainer, lauding their ability to offer you plans for personalized health maintenance. From targeted dieting to individualized training programs, personal trainers seem to do an awful lot for the number of clients they serve: so what is a personal trainer?

Personal trainers are fitness professionals that specialize in the design and implementation of exercise programs for individuals and groups. They assess the needs and expertise of their clients and offer instruction, motivation, and training to lead their clients to their health and fitness goals.

Since personal trainers specialize in tailored health and fitness services, each one will be unique depending on the specific groups and program types they have chosen to focus on. If you would like a more in-depth explanation about this career and finding the right personal trainer for you, then keep reading for the full definition of a Personal Trainer!

Table of Contents

What Exactly Does a Personal Trainer Do?

There are a lot of potential health and fitness services that fall under the expertise umbrella of a personal trainer. Firstly, it is important to understand that a personal trainer is not a kind of doctor and that while many are certified in handling a variety of medical emergencies, you should not seek the advice of a personal trainer for the treatment of serious medical conditions.

Secondly, it is also important to understand that the specialization, experience, and background of every personal trainer will vary as widely as the many services they can choose to offer. Like a lifestyle coach or a counselor, a personal trainer will attempt to help you using their own specialties, and you will need to select a personal trainer whose competencies suit your needs.

Some health and fitness areas that a personal trainer may focus on include, but are not limited to:

  • Designing tailored exercise programs
  • Guiding individual training sessions
  • Leading group exercise programs
  • Supervising individual and group exercise routines
  • Educating clients on safe fitness practices
  • Instructing clients on the use of various exercise equipment and machinery
  • Providing educational resources on related fitness and health topics as appropriate, such as healthy sleeping habits or proper exercise nutrition.
  • Offering suitable medical references as appropriate, such as suggesting advisement by another, more applicable healthcare professional.

While the education requirements of a personal trainer are inconsistent across employment opportunities, ranging from only a high school diploma and participation in a qualified training program to a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree in fields like kinesthesiology, physical education, or exercise science, many personal trainers hold at least one or more professional certifications.

You will need to choose a personal trainer that has education and experience in the health and fitness topics that are relevant to your individual fitness goals. For example, those with little to no experience with a regular exercise routine will benefit from a personal trainer that has familiarity with program design, exercise demonstration, and safe exercise practices.

What Is the Primary Goal of a Personal Trainer?

Ideally, the primary goal of your personal trainer should be to help you reach your health and fitness goals. If you do not have any, or your needs have changed faster than you can meet your current goals, then your personal trainer should also be invested in helping you find and establish new health and fitness goals.

At the end of the day, though, your personal trainer is going to attempt to help you using their own unique approach and expertise. If you do not feel as though you and your personal trainer are compatible in some way, then you should feel free to seek another equally skilled personal trainer. Your personal trainer may even refer you to another, more suitable trainer!

Additionally, personal trainers will have a vested interest in your safety. Personal trainers who push fad diets or nutritional supplements without the backing of appropriate governmental regulatory agencies or medical and scientific research should be avoided. Do not accept offers from personal trainers that advertise opportunities to invest in multi-level supplement marketing.

Be sure to research your personal trainer and check that their certifications are valid and not in need of renewal, as well as that their certifications are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency such as a commission under the purview of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence before joining one of their programs or using their services.

Is It Worth It to Become a Personal Trainer?

Readers interested in becoming a personal trainer will be happy to learn that the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rate of growth for this profession is expected to be a whopping 15% between 2019 and 2029. This is almost four times the predicted national average of 4% and nearly twice the 8% average for personal care and service occupations.

However, whether or not you may find it personally satisfying to work as a personal trainer depends mostly on what you hope to get out of it. Since personal trainers spend a lot of time considering and addressing the individual needs of each client to design their approach, as well as having a lot of one-on-one time with clients, they need to be personable and willing to invest.

Readers with a compassionate, motivating disposition and a strong desire to interact with and support others will likely find agreement with the goals and principles of a personal trainer. If you are not interested in offering support services or an active group working environment, then you may find the dependent nature of clients and often clamorous gym environment unwelcoming.

Additionally, the value of becoming a personal trainer naturally changes with the educational experience of a given applicant. Readers with a high school diploma may consider the prospect of becoming a personal trainer an appealing one, as it may be possible to find employment at a local gym or community center with the correct certifications.

How Do You Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

There are several professional groups that focus on health and fitness education and offer a variety of potential certifications. Each of these institutions offers training courses and professional certifications for both beginner and experienced personal trainers, and each is accredited by an evaluation from a recognized third party:

  • American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the accreditor that approves ACSM, ACE, and NCSF certifications, and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is the accrediting body for the AFPA, NFPT, and NCSA. Meanwhile, NASM certifications are accredited by both the CAAHEP and the NCCA.

Readers with a relevant Bachelor’s or Master’s degree may find this a satisfying freelance or entrepreneurial occupation and might also enjoy seeking specialized certifications for working with clients with special medical considerations such as heart disease, macular atrophy, or behavioral disorders.

How Many Hours Does a Personal Trainer Work?

Generally speaking, the hours a personal trainer works is dependent on how they practice their trade. Personal trainers employed in commercial gyms may have their hours set by the needs of their clients as evaluated by their employer. This may mean that your hours are dependent on popular times for fitness classes or how many clients need your particular skills.

Personal trainers that work in community centers owned by the local municipality may work standard government hours assisting in the operation of the community center, leading classes, supervising recreational activities, and performing basic maintenance on exercise equipment. With the right qualifications, they may also find work as a referee for locally sponsored games.

Personal trainers looking for more interpersonal work and strong client relationships may pursue careers as high-level private trainers at commercial and local gyms alike. These positions sometimes require a related Bachelor’s degree and advanced certifications but may also consider an equivocal amount of workplace experience.

Personal trainers can also pursue freelance work with clients on an individual basis but would likely need to invest in specialty insurance to protect them from liability lawsuits related to the physical injury of a client while under the supervision of the trainer or implementing the trainers’ advice. This also applies to personal trainers interested in establishing their own gyms.

Can You Make a Living as a Personal Trainer?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income of personal trainers in May 2020 was approximately $40,510, or $19.48 an hour, while the top 10% of personal trainers earned above $76 550 and the bottom 10% earned less than $21, 640 in a year. Whether or not this is an adequately survivable salary depends largely on your locale.

Urban areas with high living costs, such as New York or San Francisco, would likely be unaffordable in this income range, while suburban and rural areas with lower living costs would likely be more affordable. However, these areas might see less demand for personal trainers than areas with a higher population.

Many personal trainers supplement their income by designing and selling exercise programs online, opening their own gyms, writing books, or leading local health and fitness workshops. They may pursue positions as sports coaches for community and school teams, community health educators, or local health and fitness advocates.

Other personal trainers may consider advancing their health and fitness education through further classes and credentialling. They might be interested in expanding their circle of potential clients to those with special medical conditions that make travel difficult and require home visits. As long as there are people to teach about fitness, personal trainers can find a way to help!

Final Thoughts

Personal trainers specialize in helping others reach their health and fitness goals by designing individually tailored exercise programs, offering instruction, and providing guidance, classes, and educational resources to their clients. They can come in as many unique combinations of skills, education, and experience as there are unique clients for them to assist, but will always prioritize the health and safety of their clients.

Personal trainers can find employment in many roles, from one-on-one private training with clients as a freelancer to teaching exercise classes at community centers. As a result, educational background, working hours, and annual income can range widely across potential employment opportunities for a personal trainer, but with a 15% growth rate, this occupation will definitely see a plethora of openings.