What is the difference between a gym instructor and a personal trainer?
In the fitness industry there are many different roles with two that are very common and popular being that of gym instructor and personal trainer. But are these the same thing? Absolutely not. There are definite differences between these two roles, and we will explore some of those further.
Firstly, it is worth noting that many personal trainers are also gym instructors, however there are also many gym instructors who are not personal trainers. The two roles can coexist, or you can have someone who is purely working as a gym instructor. It is also worth noting that the prerequisite to any personal trainer course is being a qualified gym instructor, so you would not find someone who is a personal trainer but not a gym instructor. It is therefore quite common that fitness professionals will be qualified in both gym instructing and personal training. Let’s take a dive in and look at the differences.
What is a gym instructor?
Simply put, a gym instructor instructs fitness in a gym. A gym instructor will instruct healthy adults on how to use pieces of gym equipment. This could be cardiovascular machines, resistance machines, free weights etc. A gym instructor will show healthy adults how to use these pieces of machinery and will write them a basic programme that will allow them to move around a gym and follow an exercise programme suited to them.
Does a gym instructor go any further than this?
This will depend on what other qualifications they have attained. If they are solely a gym instructor then those tasks, as far as fitness goes, are the role that a gym instructor would fulfil. If, however they have an exercise class qualification, such as a group-based training qualification or exercise to music qualification, then they may also take classes.
Can a gym instructor do personal training?
The simple answer to this is no. A gym instructor is not qualified to work one-on-one with a client if they have only got a gym instructor qualification. While there may be times where it is a one-to-one approach, for example showing a client how to use a piece of machinery, a gym instructor would not work for long periods of time with an individual client. The job is more focused on showing a client how to use equipment and making sure they are using it safely and effectively.
What does a personal trainer do?
A personal trainer, on the other hand, does work one-to-one with a client for prolonged periods of time. A personal trainer will work with a client, designing them a long-term programme which often follows quite thorough fitness assessments. The personal trainer won’t just design this long-term programme, but they will then deliver it one-to-one. So, whilst a gym instructor is writing very basic programmes and showing people how to use equipment, a personal trainer will write advanced programmes and will take the client one-to-one through each session. This could be an hour-long session which might include a range of different, advanced cardiovascular resistance techniques. The personal trainer will be there every step of the way one-to-one to support the client.
A personal trainer will also give nutrition advice. Within the scope of their practise, a personal trainer’s job is to effectively pass on government guidance regarding nutrition and personal trainers can do this very effectively through exercises such as setting food diaries and giving advice to their clients on where they may be able to improve. This work isn’t something that a gym instructor would do unless they had achieved a separate nutrition qualification. Nutrition is a mandatory unit to become a personal trainer, and therefore all personal trainers should be able to give nutritional advice within their scope of practise.
In terms of classes, this would again depend on whether the personal trainer has attained an exercise class qualification. If this is the case, then you will see them taking classes. Being a personal trainer by itself is all about working one-to-one with clients.
What are the differences in pay structure?
In terms of pay, a gym instructor is always employed by the gym whereas a personal trainer is usually self-employed. A gym instructor is therefore a position where you have a contracted job, a gym employs you and you receive a salary. A personal trainer on the other hand, is more often undertaken on a freelance basis where the personal trainer will charge their own fees and deal directly with the clients.
So overall there are some definite differences between a gym instructor and a personal trainer. This has explored a few of the key aspects and highlighted some of the differences as to what a gym instructor does and what a personal trainer does. Hopefully this will prove helpful when choosing your career path within the fitness industry.
To find out about becoming a Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer please see our range of Gym and Personal Trainer Course options