What is a personal trainer? | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

What is a personal trainer?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. 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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  • A good trainer measures their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments.
  • Personal trainers may also provide nutritional education and help their clients with meal planning.
  • A fitness trainer boosts morale, offers encouragement and support, and helps keep exercise fun.

Getting in shape is hard work all around. Sometimes, the greatest hurdle is getting started. Whether you’re trying to tone up or slim down, it’s not easy to figure out the right workout routine for you, especially since we each have our own trouble areas and preferences when it comes to exercise.

You’ve probably seen personal trainers around your local gym. And if you haven’t joined a fitness club yet, you’re bound to come across the men and women who dedicate their days to helping people get in the best shape of their lives.

But do you really need a personal trainer? You don’t want someone barking at you to move faster when you’re on a treadmill or telling you to drop and give them twenty.

There’s a strong misconception that personal trainers are like drill sergeants, but that’s not always the case.

Some may be tougher than others, but every personal trainer is around to help clients look good and feel even better.

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A Personal Trainer Is . . .

A personal trainer is someone who has knowledge of varying degrees of physical fitness. They help motivate clients by helping them define their fitness goals and providing feedback on their progress.

Personal trainers also work with clients in private sessions and introduce them to new exercises. A good trainer measures their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. A fitness trainer boosts morale, offers encouragement and support, and helps keep exercise fun. Personal trainers may also provide nutritional education and help their clients with meal planning.

An experienced trainer recognizes his or her own area of expertise. For example, some may be more on weightlifting while others specialize in building endurance.

What Does a Personal Trainer Do?

Trainers aren’t just there to tell you how to exercise; they’re committed to helping people build confidence, get in shape, and adopt an overall healthier lifestyle. Even if you’re already a routine gym-goer, there are still ways a personal trainer can help you.

Personal trainers are essentially health and fitness coaches. Their primary focus is to make sure that you learn the best way to train and nourish your body, and then they provide exercise regimens as detailed or flexible as you like, along with meal plans and diet recommendations.

Does a Personal Trainer Need Specific Training?

Most personal trainers are self-employed, but being your own boss doesn’t mean you don’t need proper education and qualifications. After all, no one wants to work with a trainer who can’t back up any of their advice with a solid background in fitness education.

Some personal trainers actually have bachelor’s degrees in nutrition, but you can become a personal trainer by completing fitness and personal training courses. These courses are offered online and in-person at many different locations, but one thing you might want to check out when comparing personal trainers is whether their education came from an organization accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

How a Personal Trainer Can Help You Lose Weight

Losing weight — and keeping it off — is all about lifestyle choices. Exercising rigorously but eating an unbalanced diet isn’t going to get you anywhere. Trainers help people lose weight by working with them in one-on-one sessions, teaching them exercises that fit into their schedules, and offering them dietary counseling that will help them change their overall eating habits and lose weight in a healthy way.

Choosing the Right Personal Trainer for You

There are a lot of ways to find a personal trainer. You could head to your local gym and work with one of the trainers employed there or look up local trainers online. Of course, when taking the latter route, you’ll want to make sure that you’re only considering candidates who are verified and certified to train clients.

Sites like FitnessTrainer, ACE Pro, and IDEA Fit can put you in touch with reliable, certified trainers near you.

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Some factors to consider when choosing a personal trainer are:

  • Cost
  • Credentials
  • Experience
  • Education


A common question people looking for a trainer ask is how much it will cost them. The cost of a personal trainer varies depending on location. Luxury fitness centers like Equinox have training sessions that run between $110 to $116 per hour, while individual trainers may charge you $70 to $100. Sometimes, there are even personal trainers who charge less than $50 an hour.

In general, you should expect to pay around $100 an hour for a decent trainer. Also, make sure that you don’t automatically assume someone is a great trainer or a bad one based on their rates alone.


As mentioned earlier, a personal trainer can be certified in many ways. Apart from their actual fitness trainer certification, you want to make sure that your trainer is CPR-certified and knows how to perform First Aid.


A solid education is essential to a good trainer. If they have a certified training background, that’s great, and if they happened to major in health or nutrition, even better. Personal trainers hail from many different backgrounds, but one thing all the best have in common is that they were formally trained and are happy to explain more about their qualifications and training to any prospective client.


While there’s nothing wrong with working with a recently certified trainer, you should explore all your options and try to find a trainer who has a couple of years under their belt. If you have very specific fitness goals in mind like competitive weightlifting or extreme weight loss, then you should try to find a trainer who has particular experience in that area.

Personal Trainers and Their Impact

A trainer can be so much more than just a fitness coach. For many, personal trainers become role models and confidants who uplift and inspire after every session. You should meet with a few trainers to gauge how well you get along and whether their personal style matches your preferences and needs.

It’s okay to meet with one and pass up another session.

A personal trainer is meant to be someone you can rely on. Even after your sessions have ended, the lessons that a personal trainer instills are carried on and used every single day as you live your healthiest life. To find a trainer that can help you reach your goals, sign up for a PRO plan today.

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