Getting Started as a Personal Trainer FAQ  

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GettinSwole
(@gettinswole)
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Joined: 1 year ago
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03/03/2019 6:30 pm  

Since I have been seeing a ton of questions regarding becoming a personal trainer and what national certification to get, I decided to put together a FAQ to answer questions about where to start and what direction to go. If anyone has any first hand objective info to add please do so as I do not have all 300+ national certifications out there. Also note, this thread is aimed towards the average personal trainer working with average gym member clients, not towards those who want to train elite level athletes or professionals.

Where do I start?
The easiest place to start for someone who has zero personal training experience is to call around to local gyms and find out if they are hiring. Yes, gyms will hire you with no experience and no certification. Some fitness managers even prefer it because they get to train you themselves and can dictate the way they want you to work. Most major health clubs have an in-house training program which they require you to pass. Then you can start doing some work on the floor while you work towards your national certification. Many gyms also prefer one certification over another and may even help you pay for it. I got both my certifications through a PT company I was working for and both times they paid for up to half of it. Also, the company I was working for required a specific certification to progress to the highest level of trainer and the higher pay scale.

What certification is best?
This is the biggest question out there and the answer is really quite simple. You have about 3 nationally recognized certs that IMO are hands down far and away above any other cert. You then have another handful which are recognized by name. And anything after that you’re simply getting certified to say you’re a CPT. Most clients just want to know that you’re a CPT. If you have a degree in the field, even better. A select few of educated clients will really hound you on both your experience and your education. On the other hand most fitness directors or gym managers will recognize one cert above another but will also have preferences regarding your certifications and should evaluate you on other things also. I’ll get into that later. Back to the certs. IHRSA recognizes exactly 6 certifications internationally and I would rank them in this order:
1. ACSM-requires a 2-year or 4-year degree in a health related field or requires the candidate to be in the last semester of his/her program. Also requires current CPR. Hands down the industry standard. Any reputable certification teaches the ACSM guidelines for exercise.
2/3. NSCA or NASM. I rank these 2/3 as I think they are equally good.
4. ACE
5. AFAA
6. Cooper Institute (Unless you live in Texas you’re not getting this one).

Like I said, after that everything else is to learn a little and say you’re certified. Most of the other 300+ odd certifications teach you basic anatomy, biomechanics, cardiovascular and strength training guidelines, and maybe a little about proper diet (When I say proper I mean the food guilde pyramid. Don’t expect anything profound).

What about the personal training schools?
I devoted a special section to these because I am very opinionated about them. These seem to be popping up all over the place these days. They are normally 6-month courses than can cost thousands of dollars to get hands on personal training experience. They claim you’ll get experience working with clients, gain valuable knowledge, all while getting yourself into shape….blah blah blah. I think these are a huge waste of money. Instead of paying out $5,000 to get 6 months of basic experience you could be getting paid to gain experience. Most “floor trainers” can at least get paid minimum wage to work towards becoming a trainer and work with the fitness director. Not to mention the money and time you’ll save. They do have their benefits but I don’t feel the cost/benefit ratio is even close. I steer new trainers away from these programs. I hope I don’t offend anyone that is involved in these programs and you’re welcome to debate their validity with me. I however would not recommend them as a top choice.

What about a CSCS?
People always confuse a CSCS with a CPT. A CSCS is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. It is a specialty certification offered through the NSCA and is not necessary, nor designed for your everyday personal trainer. It does require a degree to sit for the exam though oddly enough it does not have to be a health related field. It is probably the most well known of specialty certifications though many others are offered through different organizations. NASM used to offer a similar cert called a PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist). They eliminated that now and offer an SFS (Sports Fitness Specialist) which isn’t as comprehensive as the PES. I’ve seen both.

Should I work in a gym or on my own?
Another good question. Both have their pros and cons though what it really boils down to is client volume versus hourly rate. Unless you have a ton of clients lined up or don’t want to work many hours chances are you at least want to start in a gym. The gym provides a lot of benefits such as a steady flow of clients, constant exposure to clients, and usually a degree or credibility. The way it normally works is that as new members join a gym they get a free session or two, with a trainer, as part of their membership. That is your chance to pick up a new client. In a high volume gym you could see as many as 20-30 of these new members a week. Even a slightly competent trainer should be able to close 1 out of every 5 new members. That means you could pick up 10-20 clients your first month. The downside is that the gym is going to tell you how much you can charge and they’re going to take a portion of your money. The upside is that you’re always going to have clients until you don’t want/can’t handle anymore. Also, working in a gym you have unlimited access to equipment. Another benefit is that everytime you step out onto the floor with a client, you and your client are advertising for you as a trainer. You better believe people are watching your training methods and your client’s results. I think everyone understands the pros and cons of working in a gym environment by now. Just think, you can always start in a gym, build a nice client base, and they take all your clients somewhere else. A lot of places will have you sign a non-compete clause but that usually doesn’t encompass training clients in home or at a neutral site.

The major benefit to training people in-home or in a studio is that you can charge a higher rate and you keep all the damn money. The only downside is that you have to go out and find your own clients. Once you establish yourself this should be no problem. You’ll hopefully get tons of referrals. When you’re first starting though this can be a little tricky.

How do I choose a gym or PT company?
When you go for an interview there are a couple key questions you want to ask to determine how well the environment sets a trainer up for success.

1. As a new trainer what kind of training program can I expect and will you help me get certified? A good company will have their own in-house training program, ongoing education with the fitness director and trainers and will often help you get certified.
2. If not, what certifications do you prefer?
3. How do you pay your trainers? Some companies pay on a percentage scale, some pay a flat rate. Some companies pay to train you, some don’t. Find out exactly how much money you can expect to make. The manager should be able to give you a ballpark figure. You should also have an idea of how much money you want to make. That was a key question I used to ask potential new trainers. I want someone that wants to make $80,000 a year not someone who wants to make $30,000. There is money in PT, especially per hour worked, you just have to know how to get it.
4. How many trainers do you have? And maybe more importantly, how many are still picking up new clients? See next question.
5. How many new members do you get on a monthly basis? This is important because if a gym gets 60 new members a month and has 10 trainers looking for clients you’re going to struggle for appointments. Conversely, if a gym sees 250 new members a month and has 5 trainers looking for clients you’re going to have your hands as full as you want them.
6. What is your month PT revenue and what percentage of your members participate in PT? This is going a little further but if you’re serious about being successful quickly they are good things to know.

What is going to make a good trainer?
What certification you have and how big you are. JUST KIDDING. In all honestly it’s a combination of things. Education, personality, caring for your clients, a strong business sense, all these things combine to make a strong, successful trainer. No one starts with them all. When I was interviewing trainers I wanted to see that they had everything that I can’t necessarily teach. Things like an outgoing personality, a strong sense of direction, a passion for fitness and helping others reach their fitness goals. Most trainers who have those and add fitness education on top of that are usually booked to their heart’s content with clients and constantly getting referrals, which is the lifeblood of any trainer. What certification you have was way down on my list because I can teach you what muscle causes flexion at the elbow. I can’t however teach you to care about your clients or yourself. Make sure you practice what you preach. You don’t have to be an IFBB Pro or an Olympic runner to be a good trainer but at least care about your own personal fitness. Often times the biggest or most fit person in the gym knows nothing about how to help someone totally different reach their individual fitness goals. Conversely I’ve yet to see a trainer who is really good with all types of people who doesn’t work out themselves.

I’d also recommend finding your niche in the industry. Personal trainers are a dime a dozen. Aside from being extraordinary in the aforementioned qualities, what’s going to separate you from other trainers is finding your own little place in the industry. Meaning, work with clients you like to work with. If you’re a competing powerlifter you’re probably not going to enjoy training 50 year old women with bad hips. And you’re most likely not going to be successful at it either. Find something you’re both good at and enjoy. That will shine through to your clients and keep you happy in your occupation.

I hope this helped some people who are starting out. There’s probably tons of things I missed so either ask questions here, PM me, or add to the thread. Best of luck.

GS


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growingyoung
(@growingyoung)
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Joined: 12 months ago
Posts: 4
03/03/2019 7:27 pm  

Thats some great info.Thank you


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GettinSwole
(@gettinswole)
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Joined: 1 year ago
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03/03/2019 8:00 pm  

Damn, I typed that whole thing up for 1 response and 34 views. I hope I don't see any freakin questions on what certification to get anymore.


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wildman536
(@wildman536)
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Joined: 5 months ago
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03/03/2019 8:42 pm  

Good Read!!


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the iron addict
(@the-iron-addict)
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Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 13
03/03/2019 9:41 pm  

I would go one further and say before you bother to get your cert, you train a BUNCH of people for free first. If you can't get great results for at LEAST 80-90% of your trainees you have no right charging people and getting your certification is not likely to improve your results that much. I'm a trainer and am sad to say MOST PT's SUCK and give the good trainers out there a bad rep.

I'm gonna puke if I see another exteme ecto hardgainer that comes to me and shows me his current routine that was put togther from a PT that is a damn 4-6 day a week volume routine with a low protein high carb diet.

Iron Addict


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liftsiron
(@liftsiron)
Reputable Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 321
03/03/2019 10:30 pm  
Posted by: GettinSwole
Damn, I typed that whole thing up for 1 response and 34 views. I hope I don't see any freakin questions on what certification to get anymore.

Great post GS, I hope that you won't mind if I paste it at a few boards.

liftsiron is a fictional character and should be taken as such.


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GettinSwole
(@gettinswole)
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Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 64
03/03/2019 11:01 pm  

Not at all Liftsiron. I'd like for others to see it.


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ZackMurphy
(@zackmurphy)
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Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 3
03/03/2019 11:35 pm  

Out of curiosity, what kind of hourly rate do most gyms pay for new trainers?

I take the ACE test in February (a buddy already owned the books), and I'm curious what to expect. I already have a non-health B.S., but ACE will be my only cert for a little while.


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saint808
(@saint808)
Eminent Member
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 36
04/03/2019 12:09 am  

i'm getting Ace in Feb as well since it is close and recognized by most gyms. Experience with people will be my biggest problem. Not that I don't understand not everyone has my goals and I can help other people.... it's just i think my look may deter people.

Disclaimer:
saint808 is presenting fictitious opinions and does in no way, shape or form encourage, use nor condone the use of any illegal substances or the use of legal substances in an illegal manner. The information discussed is strictly for entertainment purposes only and shall not take the place of qualified medical advice.

To quote Oscar Wilde, "They say we destroy the things we love, but really the things we love destroy us."

It's strange, how laughter looks like crying, with no sound and rain drops taste like tears, without the pain.


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ZackMurphy
(@zackmurphy)
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Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 3
04/03/2019 12:43 am  
Posted by: saint808
i'm getting Ace in Feb as well since it is close and recognized by most gyms. Experience with people will be my biggest problem. Not that I don't understand not everyone has my goals and I can help other people.... it's just i think my look may deter people.

5'9" 222 ? Probably. But so will mine, actually, from the completely other direction. I'm 5'11, about 175, maybe 11% right now, bulking up.

They'll look at you (especially the female trainees) and think, "geez, I don't want to get all huge - this guy isn't for me".

And they'll look at me and think, "well, he's lean and fit, but obviously has no idea how to gain muscle".

So we'll each have to just not worry about it. Let your mastery of the concepts rule the day.


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RaetherEnt
(@raetherent)
Eminent Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 20
04/03/2019 1:24 am  

Digging up some old posts here, but good information never dies! I'm looking into personal training and GS had a LOT of good info here.


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Pakololo
(@pakololo)
New Member
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 1
04/03/2019 2:04 am  

I like this post,reading it had inspired me to take one step closer i becoming a personal trainer.


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ZackMurphy
(@zackmurphy)
New Member
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 3
04/03/2019 2:54 am  

Since posting here the first time (2004), I've been certified by ACE as a CPT, by ISSA as a specialist in performance nutrition, and then by the NCSF as a CPT, too. Now it's 2007. Time flies.

Things are fine, and there's plenty of money if you're willing to hustle a little. Hustle, as in, work had. Not hustle, as in, scam.

You should do it.


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