Should Personal Trainers Use Client Contracts? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Should Personal Trainers Use Client Contracts?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Personal training contracts spell out terms, conditions, and costs of sessions.
  • Professionally composed contracts benefit both the trainer and the client.
  • Contracts should not serve as a substitute for separate injury/liability waivers.

Personal trainers find themselves earning money while doing something they love. Trainers discover great rewards beyond monetary compensation when helping people achieve fitness goals. Trainers may even purposefully keep their rates low in order to be more accessible to clients who need assistance.

One error trainers make, however, is that their desire to help others leads them to lose out on income due to improperly signing up and billing clients.

While personal training can be a lifestyle, responsibilities related to the business end need to be shored up. Requiring clients to sign a personal training contract helps make running the business end of a personal training career a lot more organized.

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Why Should a Personal Trainer Require a Contract?

While there is nothing wrong with training someone who wants to take in a session “here and there,” no personal trainer can survive financially without a clear idea of how much he/she earns each week. Requiring a minimum number of sessions locked in at a certain price over a certain period simply makes good business sense.

Clients benefit from a contract as well. The contract spells out the price and terms of the arrangement. Handshakes and verbal deals aren’t always easy to understand. The black-and-white text in a contract reveals all.

Both the trainer and the client benefit from the accountability of the contract. Since there is a locked-in agreement, the trainer must perform the duties as required or breach the contract. A breach of contract likely leads to a refund or, worse, a trip to small claims court. Clients also make a commitment to the trainer. For example, the client may be required to complete all sessions within a set time period or lose them.

Avoid Guarantees in the Contract

The personal training contract should spell out particulars such as the parties to the contract — client and trainer — along with the services to be rendered and at what cost. What should not find its way into a contract is any guarantee of specific results.

Instead, language noting “individual results may vary” would be better. Too many factors contribute to the results a client can achieve for any trainer to make a guarantee. Failure to live up to a guarantee in writing could be deemed a breach leading to refunds or bad reviews online.

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The Refund and Cancellation Policies

Sometimes, you have to give a client a refund. If the client is unhappy with the training sessions, refunding money paid in advance for sessions not taken seems reasonable. Even refunding a portion of the funds on previous sessions can be acceptable. Ultimately, the trainer decides on the specifics of a refund policy but those specifics should be in the contract.

Those preferring not to provide refunds for services rendered must also spell this out in the contract. Do not try to hide this particular clause out of fear a client may not sign up. Personal trainer contracts should be free of fine print and footnotes. Reveal all terms in an unambiguous manner.

Also, not every client can make every session with a trainer. Things do come up unexpectedly, and trainers do need to understand this. Trainers, however, shouldn’t be under any obligation to give “no shows” a pass. To avoid confusion, a contract should include the rules regarding cancellations. Requiring a client to provide more than 24 hours notice in order to avoid paying for the session seems fair.

Injury and Liability Waivers

Certain personal training contract templates may include injury and liability waiver language, which is fine. Not requiring a client to sign separate waiver and liability documents, however, could be a big mistake. From a legal perspective, the signing of separate documents makes sense. Acquiring the documents from a lawyer may be worth the investment as would purchasing a personal training liability insurance policy.

Check Out Contracts Available Online

Free personal training contracts can be downloaded or printed online. Several top personal training organizations make basic contracts available. These contracts usually include all the necessary components required for an agreement.

You may need to make amendments to the contract based on personal needs or even state law.

For example, putting a clause in that the contract may be canceled within three days might be necessary for a certain geographic area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I become a personal trainer?

You become a personal trainer by becoming studying for, taking, and passing a personal training certification exam.

Is it hard to become a personal trainer?

The level of difficulty to become a personal trainer depends on which certification you choose to obtain — some certifying agencies are harder to become certified with than others and some may require extra pre-requisites like a college degree.

Can I become a personal trainer without studying for the exam?

It is unlikely that you will pass your personal training exam for any agency if you do not study thoroughly for the exam beforehand.

How do I find clients?

Most personal trainers initially find their clients by working for a gym.

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