Personal training is a highly rewarding profession that offers plenty of opportunities to specialise. If you want to be a personal trainer, you’ll need a detailed knowledge of a range of disciplines including nutrition and biology. There are many different training avenues available, so you can pick the one that suits you best.

What is a personal trainer?

A personal trainer is a fitness professional that helps individuals achieve their fitness goals through a mix of advice, workout prescription, strength and weakness assessment and accountability. Personal trainers may also provide nutritional advice and will operate either as an employee of a gym or fitness centre or on a freelance basis, either with their own gym equipment or through a partnership with a gym.

In recent years, some personal trainers have decided to expand their services to include wellbeing and emotional support, and have adopted the name ‘wellness coach’ as an acknowledgement that personal training is not just about working out and improving physical fitness.

Choose a specialty

Because the personal training industry is so competitive most qualified trainers will choose a speciality so they can build a name for themselves. There are a huge range of different specialties; choosing one will typically involve going on a course dedicated to that discipline and then building up your knowledge and experience around the subject area. However, it makes sense to not put all your eggs in one basket, and to ensure you’re still able to provide a range of services outside of your specialty. Common specialities including nutrition, weight loss, or exercise to music.


Training is essential if you want to be a personal trainer. Successful personal trainers blend a variety of disciplines and knowledge to design programmes that work for individuals, and training courses give the knowledge and information necessary to succeed.

When you choose a training course, ensure it is accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REP). You won’t be able to join the REP yourself unless you’ve taken an accredited course, and without personal accreditation it can be difficult to find employment/set up your own business.
The basic qualification you’ll need is a Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification, although to practice as a personal trainer you’ll need a Level 3 Personal Trainer course. Level 4 courses, which offer more specialised areas of study and at a more advanced level.

The most common training providers include CYQ (Central YMCA), Active IQ, City and Guilds and OCR, although there are many other providers around and it’s worth doing your homework before selecting a course.


Overheads will depend on how you structure your personal training business. If you partner with a gym – and therefore use their equipment and advertising space – your costs will be far lower than if you need to buy a van, gym equipment, and pay petrol costs to take your mobile gym to clients’ houses.
Even if you do partner with a gym, you’ll need to buy some specialist equipment, such as hard rate monitors, to enable you to do your job effectively.

Other overheads will include transport to and from your place of work, and marketing, although many personal trainers find that personal recommendation is their biggest source of new client leads.


‘Soft’ skills, such as time management, the ability to empathise and understand the needs of the individual, and sociability, are very important to being a successful personal trainer.

And because everyone’s needs are individual, being a personal trainer requires you to bring the most appropriate skills to the forefront depending on which client you are working with. You’ll need the ability to motivate, encourage, and inspire, as well as the patience to stick with clients when they are not doing well.

Confidentiality is also essential, as some clients see their personal trainer as less of a fitness guide and more a holistic, lifestyle coach, and may tell you sensitive information. This has led to the title ‘wellness coach,’ which you may wish to adopt should you decide to choose a more holistic speciality.

Insurance and compliance

You’ll need public liability insurance because of the high-risk nature of personal training. This cover will compensate you in the event of being sued by a member of the public or client due to injury or loss caused by your actions or those of your employees. For example, if a client follows your workout advice and is then injured by a falling weight stack, public liability insurance will cover the costs of any legal action taken against you.