What Skills Do You Need to Become a Personal Trainer?

Being a personal trainer requires great responsibility, and therefore a different level of skill is required to be able to do this particular profession. There are numerous qualities a personal trainer will have, and as a personal trainer there will be different qualities required depending on the kind of work you wish to do.

Personal Training Qualification

The first key quality of any personal trainer is to be properly qualified. A personal trainer needs to have achieved at least a Level 3 Personal Training qualification. This must be endorsed by CIMSPA, which is the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity. Once this qualification is obtained a personal trainer can then acquire the necessary credentials to be able to start as a personal trainer.

Skills and Qualities of a Personal Trainer

A personal trainer needs to be multi-skilled in many different ways, including skills in

  • programme design
  • client consultations
  • working with clients
  • motivating clients
  • being able to inspire and coach a client on a one-to-one basis to achieve goals which will have been set at the start of the programme.

These are very important skills for a personal trainer to possess as the essence of the role is that the trainer will be working one-to-one with clients. It is quite imperative therefore that a personal trainer has interpersonal skills to be able to work one-to-one with a client.

A Closer Look at Interpersonal Skills for a Personal Trainer

Understanding Your Client - Being able to understand your client during a consultation at the beginning - to understand their needs, their barriers, and their reasons for exercising - is very important. A key attribute for a personal trainer to own is to be able to listen and understand what their client is saying is.

Setting Goals and Creating a Programme – It is important to be able to set goals for your client which are SMART – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed – and to be able to agree with your client where you are going to take them on their fitness journey. Working with the client and designing a programme for the client are vital skills. To be able to have the knowledge and skill to design a long-term periodised programme for your client is essential to your work as a personal trainer. It is not just about allocating some random exercises for a client. A good personal trainer will have a strong rationale behind all choices that they make. A lot of skill is therefore involved in designing a bespoke, specific programme for a particular client to meet their goals and needs.

Inspiring and Motivating - Motivating the client throughout is going to be very valuable skill for a personal trainer to possess. A personal trainer must inspire and motivate, making their client want to exercise and take part, and giving them hope that they are achieving their goals. A personal trainer must give them the motivation needed to continue the programme and the inspiration to do well.

Client Safety – In order to work with a client on a one-to-one basis and deliver a programme to a client, a personal trainer must not only be motivational but also must be very cautious of safety and aspects such as technique and how the client is doing a particular exercise. This is where some fine coaching skills come in because it is not just about standing next to your client and motivating them, but it is looking at their lifting technique or their running technique, at their posture and at their activation of their core etc. It is important that a personal trainer has the skill to look at the technique and how the client is performing an exercise, and then be able to praise anything that’s good and critique anything that needs to be improved. A personal trainer needs to ensure that coaching points are in place and anything that needs correcting is done so during the session. Vigilance is an important skill when working with a client on a one-to-one basis.

Keeping Records - All work with a client must be documented, so it is very important that a personal trainer possesses some organisational and administrative skills. A personal trainer must also be able to keep all information in accordance with the data protection and GDPR regulations. It is important that information on the client is stored safely and appropriately, and it is essential that records are kept of each session and each plan. There should be a full audit trail of what the trainer has done with each client. A certain degree of administration/organisation skill is therefore definitely required for managing clients as a personal trainer.

Running a Business - A final point to touch on is the business side of things. A personal trainer is usually a self-employed, freelance position, and therefore a personal trainer will need to find their own clients. A personal trainer will need to be able to promote themselves and have a basic knowledge of marketing and promotion in order to find and attract new clients. This could be through word of mouth, digital advertising, local media advertising, or it could be through social media. There are numerous ways a personal trainer can promote themselves. It could be a simple as being a friendly figure in the gym and talking to the members, or it could be something more adventurous such as creating an advertising campaign. Whichever route is chosen, a personal trainer must be able to attract their own clients. A personal trainer is essentially running a business, so a certain degree of business savvy is required. They don’t need to be a high-level businessperson to be able to be a personal trainer, but some business skills are required. As a personal trainer will be operating as a small business there will need to be some knowledge for keeping records, and of any relevant employment law, taxes, and business record requirements.

In Conclusion

All elements discussed within this blog are elements which are included in the Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification, and so all the different attributes of a personal trainer and more are all included in a legitimate CIMPSA endorsed Level 3 Personal Trainer Course. In summary, this article has looked at numerous skills and qualities that are needed by a personal trainer to be effective in what they do. I hope this article has been inspiring and provides you with some inspiration for your career as a personal trainer.

What skills do you need to become a Personal Trainer -  Editor Notes:

In my opinion and my experience as a fitness instructor, personal trainer, and as senior tutor/assessor for Study Active I believe there are a wide variety of skills for a fitness instructor and an even bigger variety of personal training skills. Let’s take a closer look at some fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills, where I will explain why these skills and qualities are important.

In my experience motivating and encouraging clients are critical for fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills. This includes creating a positive environment, guiding clients through challenges, offering feedback, and providing necessary support. It is a profession where help is crucial component of fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills. Being able to identify when a client needs additional resources, like therapy, is key. Such skills for a fitness instructor are also required as personal trainer skills for example, effective motivation requires strong communication skills, understanding of different learning styles, and awareness of clients' goals. Fitness instructor skills along with personal training skill use excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Being able to exchange information effectively and respectfully. Examples of these fitness instructor skills and personal training skills includes active listening, the ability to read body language, and be able to respond to verbal and nonverbal cues. Personal trainer skills and fitness instructor skills must use clear verbal and written expressions, as this is crucial for building relationship and a good rapport. Fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills include being able to resolve conflict or on the flip side be able to work with colleagues to collaborate ideas and services, as well as understanding cultural differences and ensuring that equality and diversity is adhered to. In addition to this, skills for a fitness instructor and personal trainer skills are use of observations, appropriate language, patience, and empathy, which are all key as these are essential in developing these relationships with both colleagues and clients.

I also feel that customer service is another significant area in having successful fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills. This requires skills like encouraging strong customer relationships, being able to accurately understand customer needs, effectively resolving customer issues, and providing prompt and accurate information. Having fitness instructor skills and personal training skills like these and qualities where you are constantly seeking ways to exceed customer expectations to enhance their fitness experience is a big advantage.

I believe essential qualities as part of fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills is being able to understand how to use different types of fitness equipment that is essential for any workout. Skills for a fitness instructor, and personal training skills mean you must know the fitness equipment and how it works, for example how to adjust settings and adjust resistance on cardiovascular exercises machines like running or cycling that require treadmills, stationary bikes, or cross trainers, etc.... Fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills also requires the understanding of how to set up resistance exercises for strength training, for example adjusting resistance machines, free weights, etc…, such as barbells and dumbbells, and know the adaptations or alternatives, and how they work for examples functional equipment such as kettle bell, sandbags, resistance bands, etc...

So, what make a good personal trainer? Good question! Whilst educating clients on proper form and technique is vital for both fitness instructor skills and personal training skills, to be a successful personal trainer, and the personal training skills required are down to the advancement of education and being able to maximize workout results and prevent injuries. Personal trainer skills include teaching correct posture and alignment, proper execution of exercises, safe use of machines and equipment, and correct performance of stretches and warm-ups. Whilst these are also skills for a fitness instructor, Personal trainer skills require important knowledge and explanation of why certain exercises are beneficial and how such exercise fit into a workout plan. Both fitness instructor skills and personal trainer skills also include providing feedback on form and technique to help clients improve and work towards their fitness goals.

In my experience unlike fitness instructor skills, personal trainer skills involve designing effective workout plans, which requires extensive knowledge of exercise physiology, and an understanding the mechanics of how our body moves. Personal training skills means the individual must know how different exercises target specific muscles, adjusting intensity based on fitness level, and structuring the workout for optimum benefit. Essential Personal training skills is having the ability to identify proper form and technique as well as identifying potential injuries or limitations. Personal training skills will mean monitoring and adjusting planned workouts due to lifestyle factors that may affect adherence to the program, like work or family commitments. Personal trainer skills require the ability to consider such lifestyle factors and be able to adapt workout/training plans as client’s progress is crucial.

In my opinion vital personal trainer skills also means having the understanding of different exercise techniques and advanced training methods, which are essential for tailoring workout programs to individual fitness goals. Personal trainer skills will require the advanced knowledge of training methods for aerobic exercises like running, swimming, and cycling to help improve cardiovascular health. Personal training skills also require the advanced knowledge of training methods for strength training, involving resistance, which builds muscle strength, improves bone density, and reduces injury risk. Personal trainer skills mean you have the ability to incorporate advanced flexibility exercises to enhance joint mobility, balance and coordination, to improve stability, agility and strengthen core our muscles.

I believe another important personal training skill is to have knowledge of nutrition and dietary guidelines which vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As part of personal training skills having the understanding the different food groups, knowing the daily recommended intake of each, and recognizing the impact of individual foods on overall health. Understanding nutrition and dietary guidelines is an important aspect of personal trainer skills as it can help individuals ensure meals are balanced, providing all the necessary nutrients for optimal health. Personal trainer skills are about having the knowledge to make informed decisions about food choices, which are crucial. This includes choosing foods that are beneficial for health, such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Additional personal trainer skills are also understanding the importance of portion sizes and being able to identify and restrict consumption of unhealthy foods, like processed and refined foods. These personal trainer skills are essential for promoting a healthier lifestyle and making positive dietary choices. Personal trainer skills also require an understanding how to accurately read nutrition labels to determine the nutritional value of foods.

Finally, we come to the personal training skills that require an understanding of planning a personal training business. Personal trainer skills should have fundamental business skills such as marketing and customer service which is crucial for any successful company. Business as part of personal training skills consist of marketing. Having the ability to produce an effective marketing strategy, by researching the target market, and have fully understand the customer's journey. Personal trainer skills will also require the ability to create promotional strategies, and accurately measure the success of marketing campaigns. Financial Management is also a key business skill and important part of personal trainer skills. It requires a basic understanding of budgeting, interpreting financial statements, analysing costs and revenue, managing cash flow effectively, and making wise investment decisions. Lastly, Strategic Planning are necessary personal trainer skills in setting a clear direction for their business. This includes setting realistic goals and objectives, analysing market trends, identifying competitive advantages, and crafting strategies to achieve business success and growth.


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