How to Become an Online Personal Trainer in 2020


How to Become an Online Personal Trainer in 2020

For fitness professionals, becoming an online personal trainer is one of the most sought after approaches to get more clients and make more money.

Chances are, if you are considering this niche you are attracted to it because there is no income ceiling. Online personal training works while you sleep, doesn’t care how many hours there are in a day, and doesn’t put you in a box that forces you to focus on time as an income limiting factor.

Simply put, online personal training as a business model is scalable. 

Creating online training service offerings that help people achieve their fitness and health goals, but do not require a ton of time, allow you to gain back that ever so important personal and financial freedom. 

So, this sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Of course it does, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

Today we will learn how to become an online personal trainer, the six different types of online personal training business models, touch on some online personal training revenue streams that you may want to consider, and learn a little about online personal trainer software.

But first, let’s define exactly what an online personal trainer is.

What is an Online Personal Trainer?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health and fitness of others through internet-based technological mediums.

The definition of an online trainer is very broad, and to be frank, it is supposed to be. Online personal trainers can do the things that are normally associated with personal trainers — improve fitness levels, body image, health, and performance — all online.

With today’s technology, trainers can literally train anyone, from anywhere, at anytime. This gives every personal trainer an additional medium to earn money and increase their personal and financial freedom by creating an online personal training business.

But before you train clients using online mediums you first have to become an online personal trainer.

4 Steps to Become an Online Personal Trainer (the right way)

There is a logical path that exists for you to become an online personal trainer. In fact, we’ve created an entire course around it. Let’s discuss how to become an online personal trainer while also assuming you are already a personal trainer.


Transition Your First Client Over to
Online Training

Before you go head first into online training, my recommendation is to transition one of your in-person clients over to what is called the “hybrid personal training model.” The hybrid model is a blend of traditional personal training (in-person) along with online personal training (more on the online personal training business models below).

This gives you some experience working with clients online and allows you to begin to develop additional revenue-generating programs in the process. For example, you can take an in-person client and create a PDF workout plan for them to follow and interact with them via online mediums. In between in-person workouts you allow your client to follow your guide and regularly check-in with them via email, text message, phone, or some other method that allows for tracking and accountability.

If you like the freedoms this hybrid method of training affords you, you will likely want to learn how to scale it.


Get an Online Personal Training Certification to Help Structure and Scale Your Online Business

Let’s get something out of the way as it concerns becoming an online personal trainer. You don’t actually NEED any special certification to sell or provide personal training services online.

But, and this is a strong but, would you trust a doctor that didn’t have a proper educational background? Would you let a dentist with no dental education work on your pearly whites?

A professional with credentials is important to the consumer, as it builds credibility and trust, and therefore it should be important to you as well. Earning an online personal trainer certification provides you insight into assisting your clients online, understanding business and program creation, scaling your business, and provides you with credentials that were created to enhance the lives of your clients while protecting their safety. In short, in helps to maintain the integrity of the personal training industry as a whole with a set of principles, guidelines, and recommendations that help both you and your clients succeed using this great medium.

So, while you can skip getting an online personal training certification, I highly recommend you start here before establishing yourself as an online personal trainer.

This portion of your education will also help to transition you into a larger role as an online personal trainer while also allowing you more personal and financial freedom, the hallmarks of the online personal training industry.


Start Building Additional Online Training Revenue Streams

If step one taught you how to gain experience using online training and the hybrid model, step three will be the part where you really scale your online business. In the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Trainer certification (FM-COPT), you’ll learn the various assets you can build to help you sell personal training online. 

Online personal training really weighs heavily on business structure, and understanding how to structure your business from start to finish is very helpful for new online trainers. For example, learning how to leverage online PDFs, video libraries, client management platforms, and integrate them into your website are all educational paths you can learn the hard way or the easy way. The FM-COPT will show you how to start building these assets as well as your new online business model based on the six kinds of online business models I’ll explain more below.

After you begin to build out these additional revenue streams, it’s all about getting more clients online.


Get More Clients Online

At this final stage of becoming an online personal trainer you’ve now learned some of the ins and outs of online training with your experience with a hybrid model, you’ve gotten a certification that helps set some structure and shows you how to build assets out to sell more services, and now all you need to do to be more successful is to get more clients online. 

Notice I did not specifically mention marketing here as that is not the only way to get online personal training clients. There is an opportunity for you to bring your existing in-person clients over to your online suite of services and that is probably an easier transition than marketing itself. While marketing will eventually become an important part of scaling your business, I recommend using existing relationships to truly kickstart some of your online training while you laser focus your online business.

If you want some insight into marketing your business, check out our blog on personal trainer marketing and specifically some of the ideas that relate to websites or online services.

Read on to learn about the types of online personal training services can you offer.

Online Personal Trainer Business Models: The 6 Different Types of Online Personal Trainers

Coaching and training clients online can happen in countless unique ways but the starting point always remains the same: your goal is the focus on improving the health of your clients.

The way you set yourself up as an online personal trainer will dictate the ways you can make money online. It also will determine the amount of clients you can have.

These methods include:

  1. Private Personalized Online Training 
  2. Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs 
  3. Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs
  4. Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Training
  5. Live Video Chat Workouts Online 
  6. Online Group Personal Training

Let’s take a closer look at each variation to see how they create an online personal trainer business. As you read through these think about how they fit into your style of training and your personal interests for business development.

1. Private Personalized Online Training

The personalized element of personal training is retained in this type of online training, but the difference is this method is that the trainer does not work with the client in-person. Using various communication methods — phone, email, text, and especially software — the trainer provides their clients the tools and program needed to achieve a specific fitness goal. Using some of these same technological resources, the trainer is able to track client progress and ensure client success and retention.

2. Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs

Non-personalized PDF fitness programs are created by trainers for general or specific population types. These premade programs usually live on a website and are made available for download. This type of online training requires zero client interaction, but strong online marketing to help drive attention to the program and convince clients to make purchases. 

3. Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs

Like the above PDF programs, these video programs also do not involve direct client interaction. Instead, trainers provide clients access to a video or a series of videos in which they can follow on their own.

4. Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Training

The hybrid model is a mix of in-person personal training combined with online resources that allows trainers to provide hands-on services and reinforce them with online tools. These programs usually are more cost-effective for clients as they usually only see a trainer in-person a handful of times each month, and then are free to use the online resources to maintain their workouts on their own. This approach is a good starting point for trainers who are looking to transition clients from 100% in-person to a combination of in-person and online.

5. Live Video Chat Workouts Online

Live video chat or in-person online streaming is a form of training that allows a trainer and a client to see and interact with each other from their computers or mobile devices. A trainer who uses this tool can provide immediate feedback to clients on form, demonstrate exercises, and answer questions in real time. 

6. Online Group Personal Training

An extension of the above, innovative personal training software company gymGO also allows trainers the option to do one-on-one live streaming sessions or train and interact with larger groups of clients, all online. For example, trainers can hold a yoga, pilates, or other group fitness class and have the option to live stream it, record themselves and make their workouts on-demand via memberships. This potentially opens up the door for much larger revenue opportunities for trainers and this online training opportunity has been proven by Peloton with much success.

If you are looking at the above and are wondering if you can combine them together, you absolutely can. Just like in traditional in-person personal training there is nothing stopping you from adding additional services to your offerings. You just have to learn how to find the appropriate channels in which to deliver your services, market your business, and leverage software to your advantage.

In case you want some other ideas for how to monetize your online personal training business, consider some of the following to set yourself apart from other personal training businesses:

  • Nutritional Programs
  • Phone Consultations 
  • Weekly Phone Calls 
  • Email Support and Check Ins 
  • Online Assessments 
  • Memberships 
  • Affiliate Programs
  • Accountability Services

Considerations for Online Personal Trainer Software

If you are considering expanding your personal training business online one of the investments you’ll want to make will surely be software. Software will help manage your clients, help to deliver programs or services, automate specific tasks, house your documents or videos, and can even help with billing and payments.

Before you decide on a software you should first determine what features you need to run and operate your business. If there is one mistake I see too many trainers make it’s purchasing a software solely based on brands that they’ve heard of rather than features that they need.

Fitness Mentors’ view on online personal training software is that you should focus on finding something that saves you time. Having time allows you to scale your business and potentially make money while you sleep.

Another aspect of online personal training software to consider is how it will play into the evolution of personal training. For example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the trend in fitness for online training and on-demand and virtual, live streaming classes. Many of the existing online personal training softwares don’t allow trainers to leverage this, while newer technologies like gymGO are keeping up with the trainer of the future.

The point is, consider the services that you want to deliver, the demands from clients, the state of the personal training industry as a whole, and how software can help integrate all these aspects to help you scale your business. 

FAQs for How to Become an Online Personal Trainer

Any willing person can call themselves an online personal trainer, but just because they call themselves one doesn’t mean they are qualified. A true certified online personal trainer will understand health and safety protocols, program design, and more.

There are six primary ways in which online personal trainers can make money:

  1. Private Personalized Online Training
  2. Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs
  3. Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs
  4. Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Training
  5. Live Video Chat Workouts Online
  6. Online Group Personal Training

While there is no magic recipe for a profitable online personal training business, yes, online personal training can be very profitable. High profits for online personal trainers are particularly associated with those who can build a successful online presence, sell products or services through automated processes, and develop a scalable business model that is not contingent on the amount of hours in a day typically reserved for in-person training.

The most logical way to start an online personal training business is to transition existing in-person clients over to online clients. Creating online workout programs and giving in-person clients access is one of many examples that can be used to start an online personal training business.

Online personal trainers should charge according to their experience, the target population they are working with, and how much value they are bringing to their clients.

The Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Trainer (FM-COPT) is the only company nationally recognized by the NBFE (National Board of Fitness Examiners) to offer an Online Personal Training Certification.

How to Get Hands-on Training to Build Your Online Personal Training Business

Starting an online personal trainer business has its challenges. Deciding where to put your efforts for the best chance of success and developing strategies can be a bit overwhelming. 

This is why the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Training certification was created. This program, which is also offered as a Week Mentorship, will provide you the insight into creating the business that works best for you while revealing the best strategies for transitioning to a full or part time online personal trainer. 


We encourage this through 5 Major learning sections: 

  • Prepare Your Business – Learn the necessary tasks needed to prepare your business and create services for online success. 
  • Take Your Business Online – Discover the strategies that transition your business to the online space. 
  • Generate Leads to Grow Your Business – Learn the marketing, advertising, and outreach techniques used for attracting an abundance of clients. 
  • Convert Sales – Dive deep into defining your sales personality and use it to set efficient pricing and close sales. 
  • Care for Your Clients – Understand the best practices for supporting your clients and retaining their business to provide yourself with financial freedom and consistent income. 

Choosing to take this path toward creating the career that you envision is an envious task. Your passion for success will shine through as you learn every step toward becoming a successful online personal trainer. 

This passion will allow you to establish yourself as a leader in this new and fast-evolving industry. 

You will be backed by and supported by the quality education provided in this certification course, with the credential to assist thousands of people in improving their health, performance and overall happiness. 

Give yourself credit for taking this step and mentally prepare yourself for the commitment of completing this course and creating the life you want. 

Learn more about the Fitness Mentors COPT today.

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How to Start a Personal Training Business: The Ultimate Guide

How to Start a Personal Training Business:
The Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide

With over 330,000 personal training jobs forecasted in the US by 2026 and a growing body of fitness-conscious individuals, it seems now, more than ever, is the best time to start a personal training business.

However, without a strategy or a sound personal trainer business plan, you’ll make the process of becoming a self-employed personal trainer harder than it needs to be.

To help you start a personal training business that has the greatest chance of success, we’ve put together this ultimate guide so you can avoid common pitfalls, save money, and understand how to put a business plan together that works.

In this ultimate guide on how to start a personal training business, you’ll learn:

  • First Steps for Personal Training Business Preparation
  • How to Create a Personal Trainer Business Plan
  • Types of Personal Training Businesses You Can Start
  • How to Become a Successful Personal Trainer

And if you want an even deeper dive into business structure, building your book of business, sales techniques, and more, check out the online masterclass, Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

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Types of Personal Training Businesses
You Can Start

Today’s personal trainers come from a mixed bag of backgrounds. Some work at gyms, others with colleges or sports teams, many work at community centers, and some create their own personal training businesses.

The businesses that personal trainers can start usually fall into the below categories:

  • Train at a Private a Gym that Allows You to Pay Per Session
  • You Train at Clients’ Homes/Facilities
  • You Train Clients at Your Own Home
  • Start a Personal Training Business Online

Train at a Private a Gym that Allows You to Pay Per Session

In a recent post on personal trainer salaries, we discussed a payment structure where the trainer could bring in their own clients to gyms that they had relationships with. In these relationships, the personal trainer and their clients are independent from the gym’s payroll or clientbase, respectively.

The gym allows trainers and their clients to utilize their facilities and the trainer is able to charge whatever they can negotiate with their clients. The catch is that the trainer will pay the gym a fee each time the facilities are used.

In-home Personal Training: You Train at Clients’ Homes/Facilities

An increasingly popular personal training business is taking your in-person personal training services to the homes or facilities of your clients. If you are interested in this route, there are a few things that you’ll have to keep in mind as you start an in-home personal personal trainer business.

The main question and concern you’ll have as an in-home personal trainer is the type of equipment the client has or that you need to bring. If a client lives within a gated community, condo, or other association with a community gym, then you may have access to some decent machines and/or equipment.

If the training setting is, for example, your client’s living room, you’ll have to get more creative. This may limit the exercises you are able to perform and may impact the results without proper planning.

Regardless, a good trainer can adjust to the equipment on hand and will figure out a way to make the training as effective as possible.

In-home Personal Training: You Train at Your Own Home

In-home personal training in your own homes is similar to training at your clients’ homes with the exception that the training is performed at your home and your clients come to you.

Most trainers I know who train at their own homes have fairly elaborate garages that are built out to accomodate a number of different machines and equipment. This too is a popular form of personal training and can be an ideal business model for trainers who have the space within their homes or who don’t mind clients coming to their personal residences.

Start a Personal Training Business Online

Online personal training is by far the most exciting new personal training business model out there. Compared to the other personal training business models, this model varies in that the personal trainer does not have to meet in-person with a client to create a massive impact on their health. In fact, because of new technology, a trainer can work online from anywhere in the world and change the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of people.

So, what is an online personal trainer?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health of others through internet-based technological mediums.

The variety of online personal trainer businesses is broad, but here is a overview of they types of online personal training businesses you can start:

  • Private Personalized Online Training
  • Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs
  • Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs
  • Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Trainer
  • Live Video Chat Workouts Online
  • Online Group Personal Trainer

Private Personalized Online Training

The private personal online model is most like traditional in-person training. The trainer performs all the tasks of a normal personal trainer but does not work with the client in-person. Through specific software, phone, email and text messaging, this trainer provides all the tools and programming needed to achieve a fitness goal, and the client follows along without the trainer being present.

Fitness Mentors

Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs

Premade, downloadable programs are made by the trainer and published online. These non-personalized models involve zero client interaction and are generally pushed over to the client through automated software.

Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs

Video fitness programs have been around for a long time. However, the advantages for today’s  trainers are the ability to store their premade workout programs online and provide immediate access to a workout video library. Like the PDF programs, there is no client interaction.

Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Trainer

The hybrid model utilizes the internet to deliver programs to local clients, but also involves in-person training 1-4 times per month. Using a “hybrid” model allows the client to

receive the hands-on training of a personal trainer at a lower cost, since most of

the program is performed on their own. This is a great starting point for trainers

looking to take their business online.

Live Video Chat Workouts Online

Video chats or calls allow the trainer to see, hear, and interact with a client live, but not actually in-person. This allows the trainer, and client, to benefit from immediate feedback on form, exercise demonstrations, and cueing.

Online Group Personal Trainer

The online group personal trainer performs live group fitness classes, records them, and delivers them to as many people as possible. Think of on-demand workout classes — Online Boot Camp, Yoga, Pilates, Etc.– that require membership to access the content. Companies like Peloton have cornered this niche exceptionally well and proven people will subscribe to workout in the comfort of their homes.

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How to Become a Successful
Personal Trainer

Now that you have gone through the foundational steps of getting certified, specializing, launching a brand, and choosing the type of personal training business you want to start, now you’ll need to move on to business development.

We do a deep dive on the below in our Business and Sales course, but here are some talking points you’ll want to include in your personal trainer business plan.

Setting Prices

Every successful personal trainer has to figure out how to price their services for maximum profit and value to the client. As your own boss, you are able to charge whatever you like. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Location- Where are you training? A trainer in Malibu will justify charging more than a trainer in Compton.
  • Economy- Personal training is a luxury item for most. When the economy turns, so does interest in luxury items. Be understanding of this when setting prices.
  • Target Population- Set a price that is attainable for your target population by understanding what they might pay for your products/services.
  • Cost to Train Client- Consider things like the travel expenses, the payments you have to make to use a private gym, tools and equipment such as machines and dumbbells, and other expenses like software. You should understand the difference between gross and net income.

Read more: How to Set a Pricing Structure for Your Personal Training Business


Addressing Buyer Hesitation

If every trainer pitched a potential client and got “Yes, I’m in” as an answer we’d all be rich. Thing is, people are not always convinced of your value and have what we call buyer hesitation.

Here are some areas that are common for buyer hesitation and how you can address them.

  • Fear of failure- The thought of accomplishment can outweigh the fear of failure; attach a positive emotion toward your service and give them a little more inclination to buy.
  • Perceived value is less than the cost- Your presentation for services must convince the buyer that the the money is worth the expense.
  • Money- Quite simply, if you have approached a potential client and they truly do not have the means to purchase, then the sale will be impossible. It is important to find that out as soon as possible rather than spend a lot of time/effort only to find you are out of their league.
  • Lack of proof- If a client does not believe what you are selling will work, they will be hesitant to buy. Combat this with examples of clients like them that have experienced the results you are selling.

Read More:


Personal training marketing… There can be entire books written on the topic and while related to starting a personal training business, it goes so far beyond those beginning stages.

One of our most popular articles is all about personal trainer marketing and has 19 personal training ideas catered at getting you more clients. Some of these ideas include:

  • Getting featured on industry blogs
  • How to use email marketing
  • How to create effective referral documents
  • How to do personal trainer search engine marketing
  • And more…

If you are planning on getting some help with your marketing and hiring a firm or doing some advertising, note that the Money Task Force recommends spending 12 to 20 percent of your gross revenue for marketing if you are a new company, and 6-12 percent if you are an established company.

Start Your Personal Training
Business Today

This ultimate guide has nearly everything you need to begin the process of starting your very own personal training business. If you need extra guidance, or like the idea of a reputable personal training certification, check out the Fitness Mentors CPT. If you already are a trainer but want to further specialize and hone your knowledge, check out our CEU courses and blog. If you want a full course on the above with more details and step-by-step instruction, check out our Business and Sales course.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them below.

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Personal Trainer Career Roadmap

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Personal Trainer Salary: Which Gyms Pay the Most?

Personal Trainer Salary:

Which Gyms Pay the Most? How Much do Private and Online Trainers Make?

If the most common question I get asked about personal training is what certification to get, the second most common question has to be “how much can I make as a personal trainer?”

There are numerous ways to make money as a personal trainer, but unquestionably the most common way is to start working at a gym.

When people first consider becoming a trainer they begin to think about the major gyms and how much they pay. And as much as certification bodies like NASM want to tell you that their average trainers make $42k a year, the reality of a personal trainer salary ultimately lies in what the gyms will pay as this is the most common career route.

However, the gym route is not the only one and many existing or aspiring trainers want to venture into the more entrepreneurial routes of private, or online personal training, as higher income levels are more easily achieved.

So, to help trainers understand what popular gyms pay their trainers and to showcase some insider knowledge on what private and online trainers can make, I’ve put together this post that outlines personal trainer salaries as well as what trainers at the most recognizable gym brands around the country get paid, and how they set up their payment structure.

I’ll also discuss the three pay structures that are common to trainers and provide you with next steps from a seasoned personal trainer who has gone through the experience of getting a gym job first-hand as well as utilized the private and online routes.

Before You Get Paid, You Have to Get Certified

First things first, if you want to work in personal training or at a big box gym like 24-Hour Fitness, Equinox, LA Fitness, or the like, you’ll need a personal training certification from a credentialed fitness organization.

Gyms want their trainers to get, or have, certifications, because they provide a baseline for credibility.

We have written a very comprehensive blog on the best personal trainer certifications where you can take a look at our side-by-side analysis of 10 different, popular personal training certification organizations. If you are unsure the exact steps to become a trainer and the prerequisites — education, age requirements, CPR/AED certifications — then check out this post on the topic.

Keep in mind that many gyms may hire you before you get a certification, and some will even have you go through their internal certification, so if you have a gym in mind for your place of employment it doesn’t hurt to ask what their requirements are first. Note that a true personal training certification will allow for a job at a much wider range of locations than just that one gym, something you’ll want to consider as your career evolves.

But before you enter the personal training employee marketplace, it pays to know some of the various pay structures that are common within the personal training industry so you know what to expect going in.

3 Types of Gym Pay Structures Common to Personal Trainers

When you begin your search for gyms that will provide you gainful employment, you can expect the pay structures to fall into one of these three categories:

1. Commercial gym
2. Independent personal trainer
3. 1099 personal trainer


Commercial Gym Pay Structure

In the gym world, the gyms who make you get clients and don’t feed them to you will generally pay the most. The opposite is true too; the gyms that feed you clients will generally pay you the least.

Commercial gyms will typically pay you minimum wage to “work the floor” and try to drum up new clients. Once you are actually training clients, you’ll get a bit more per hour as you are increasing the gyms revenue by performing a training session. If you sell a large personal training package, commercial gyms will often give you a commission.


Independent Personal Trainer Gym Pay Structure

Independent pay structures, or those that pertain to the self-employed personal trainer, are much more favorable to the trainer, but the negative is that they are obviously not as exposed to as many potential clients as they would be on the floor of a major gym, and are only getting paid when they train.

When you are self-employed, or an independent personal trainer not on a gym’s payroll, you may be able to develop relationships with smaller, privately-owned gyms that will allow you to bring in your own clients.

The catch is that you have to pay the gym a fee when you use their gym to train your client. For example, I used to pay a privately-owned, non-chain gym $15 a session to bring my client in and train them.

I could ultimately charge my client whatever I wanted, and had no pressure from any boss to sell more training sessions as it was entirely up to me.

Keep in mind that with this independent structure, you are running your own business, which means you are responsible for additional tasks like accounting, taxes, marketing, advertising, sales and lead generation.

Related: How to Set a Pricing Structure for Your Personal Training Business


1099 by a Gym Pay Structure

The 1099 model is similar to the self-employed trainer model except the gym has a relationship with the clients. A 1099 is a tax form given to an independent contractor as opposed to a W2 which is given to employees.

In this pay structure, the gym does not actually employ you as a personal trainer, but they contract with you so that they can make money on personal training and alleviate themselves from the costs of having an employee.

The 1099 model is like when you hire a plumber to come fix your broken toilet; they are getting paid for their service but they are not your employee.

In the contractor payment style, the personal trainer and the gym typically get a split, like 50/50, on whatever the gym charges. So, if the gym charges $60 for an hour long session, they’d keep $30 and you’d get paid $30. The gym collects the money from the client and then will pay you, the trainer, for the session performed.

With this type of structure the personal trainer will be responsible for claiming taxes on the money they make, as the gym does not set aside any income since the trainer is not an employee.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “how do I know what kind of payment structure the gym I want to work at has?” Excellent question, let’s address that below.

How Popular Brand Name Gyms Pay Their Personal Trainers

While I could have left you hanging with the above information on the three various pay structures that are common for trainers who work at/with gyms, I wanted to do a deeper dive and get some answers from real trainers who work, or have worked, at some popular gym chains.

The Fitness Mentors team reached out to several gyms chains and their current employees, as well as conducted a survey with our current and previous students on Facebook, to get currently used payment structures and insight on how various gyms pay their trainers. We have provided that information below.

If you have any experience with these gyms or would like to comment on something different, please feel free to let us know in the comments so we can update this post. 

  • Equinox
  • 24-Hour Fitness
  • La Fitness
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Crunch Fitness
  • YMCA
  • Planet Fitness

Personal Trainer Career Roadmap

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Equinox logo

Equinox Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:

Floor hours at minimum wage – typically 20 hours a week until your client base grows.

Payment structure:

Less than 42 sessions per pay period (2 week pay period):

  • Tier 1: $26 per one hour session
  • Tier 2: $30.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3: $36.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3+: $45.50 per one hour session
  • Tier X: $64 per one hour session

More than 42 sessions per pay period (2 week pay period):

  • Tier 1: $31 per one hour session
  • Tier 2: $42.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3: $53 per one hour session
  • Tier 3+: $61 per one hour session
  • Tier X: $74.50 per one hour session

The average full-time trainer at Equinox performs 25-30 training sessions per week.

Equinox Income Potential

Equinox Income Potential
24 Hour Fitnesss Logo

24-Hour Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Minimum wage for non-training hours.

Payment structure:

  • 20% Commission on all individual personal training package sales paid up front.
  • 10% Commission on all TC24 group training package sales.

Also, a 5% bonus commission is added to total salary when 60 training sessions or more are performed in one pay period.

24-Hour Personal Trainer Salary

24-Hour PT Tier Structure and Associated Pay per Session:

24 Hour PT Tier Structure and Associated Pay per Session

24-Hour Bonus Structure per Training Session:

24 1

24-Hour Fitness Commission for Package Sales:

24 2

24-Hour Fitness Tiers:

24 3

24-Hour Fitness Salary Example for Entry-level Personal Trainer


An example monthly salary of a new PT 1 trainer that is building up their business at 24-Hour Fitness is shown below:

  • Example minimum wage is $10/hour
  • 120 hours worked in the month at $10/hour = $1,200
  • 60 training sessions performed in the month x $7 = $420
  • $2,500 in training package sales x 20% commission = $500
  • Total Monthly Salary = $2120

24-Hour Fitness Salary Example of a Master Trainer


An example monthly salary of a full-time Master Trainer:

  • Example minimum wage is $10/hour.
  • 160 hours worked in the month at $10/hour = $1,600
  • 120 training sessions performed in the month x $17 = 2,040
  • $5000 in Training package sales x 20% commission = $1,000
  • Monthly Salary = $4,640
  • 5% commission added to the monthly salary of $4,640 since more than 60 sessions per pay period were performed = $232
  • Total Monthly Salary after 5% bonus commission= $4,872
la fitness logo png 3 1

LA Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Minimum wage for non-training hours.

Payment structure:
$6 – $7.50 per 30 minute session
$12 – $15 per 1 hour session

$7.50 – $15 is for larger cities with higher cost of living like in Los Angeles.
$6 – $12 is for less populated, lower cost of living areas like Arizona.

Other findings:

No findable bonus structure. Trainer turnover is very high.

Every person in the Facebook group concurred that LA Fitness is a less than ideal place to work as a trainer, but a few people mentioned they pay their group exercise instructors significantly better.

anytime fitness

Anytime Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment: 


Payment structure:

Varies, these are franchised gyms and each one has a different pay structure. 

Answers varied on payment structure for the trainers we surveyed:

  • 50/50 split 
  • Minimum wage plus bonuses to sign people on to monthly training packages 
  • Trainers can increase income by teaching group exercise classes

Other findings:

Collective agreement that Anytime Fitness is an enjoyable place to work. They are 3,000-5,000 sq ft gyms with only 5-10 trainers per location.

crunch fitness

Crunch Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:


Payment structure:

These are franchised gyms and each location may have a different pay structure.

Here are some quotes from Crunch Fitness trainers concerning their salary. Answers varied on payment structure:

I’m only paid for hours trained and commission on sales. I’m not paid while trying to get clients.”

“I work at Crunch. Mine is a level 3 gym but because I just started I’m at level 2 for a few months. If I charge a la carte the client pays $80/hour or $50/30 minute session. Depending on my sales volume I can make between 40% and 65% of what I sell. I’m given “potential clients” but I have to sell them the personal training sessions. There’s not a sales force like at LA Fitness but the income potential is much better. I set my own hours and can work whenever I like. They encourage me to sell package deals which requires a 3 month commitment from the client. They are not allowed to cancel. Money is debited from their account either monthly or biweekly. They can also get a discount if they pay in full. For level 2, if you wanted to be trained 2x week, it would cost $504. For 3x week $697. Those are monthly rates for hour long sessions. Level 3, of course, is higher and most of the trainers at my gym are level 3. We have about 17 trainers. It’s a great place to work! Just takes time to build your clientele.” 

ymca 3 logo png transparent

YMCA Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:

Minimum wage is paid when not training. 


Payment structure:

Basically, YMCA trainers make $15 – $28 per session/hour depending on their tier. 

We were able to find some training salary data for YMCA but it is just for the Charlotte, NC area. I assume that cities with higher costs of living would be accounted for in pay (and vice versa for smaller cities), but we were unable to find any other data on that.

The information for YMCA trainers and their tiers can be found below, respectively:

  • Tier 1 Trainer– Pay Rate: $15.89 – $19.86; Responsible for training a minimum of 2 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 2 Trainer– Pay Rate: $17.48 – $21.85; Responsible for training a minimum of 5 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 3 Trainer– Pay Rate: $21.00 – $26.24; Responsible for training a minimum of 10 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 4 Trainer– Pay rate: $22.89 – $28.61; Responsible for training a minimum of 20 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months; Serve as a Continuing Education Provider for YMCA of Greater Charlotte teaching at least 1 workshop per year; Serve as a mentor to Tier 1-3 trainers

Other benefits include:

  • YMCA pays for all the trainers CEUs

  • The “Y” also pays the trainers’ recertification fee – approximately $100 every two years

Planet Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Full-time minimum wage positions. 

Payment structure:

Typically no higher pay for trainers, but it is an easy job that requires no sales and just training. Decent for beginners looking to gain training experience but not really career-worthy. No commissions. No bonuses. 

Personal Trainer Salary FAQ

Yes, making good money as a personal trainer is very viable. Even entry-level personal trainers can make upwards of $25 an hour, and easily up to $100 an hour if they are experienced.
Our research indicates that personal trainers make anywhere from minimum wage up to $75 an hour, at more prestigious gyms. Private personal trainers can make even more per hour, charging up top $100 an hour.
The typical beginner personal trainer starts off their career in a gym as opposed to training private clients. On average, personal trainers make around $42,000 per year but the salary can vary by city, with more urban areas commanding higher salaries.
Personal training is a great career choice because it is constantly ranked highly for providing an excellent quality of life, flexible work hours, and a solid work-life balance.
Yes, many trainers that put in hard work can make $100,000 or more a year as a personal trainer. Personal trainers that take their businesses online also benefit from higher incomes as they can sell services while they sleep and are not limited to the available hours in a day as are in-person trainers.
No, it is not difficult to get a personal training job once you have a personal trainer certification. Many gyms are actively hiring personal trainers and the health and wellness industry as a whole is forecasted to continue its growth trend.

Private Personal Trainer Salary

It is a well known fact that private personal trainers have the potential to make far more than gym trainers.

Why? Because private personal trainers can set their own rates.

There is a catch for private personal trainers, however, and that is that they have to drum up enough business to write their own paycheck. But before we get into a sample private personal trainer salary let’s define exactly what a private personal trainer is.

A private personal trainer is a trainer that is self-employed, creates their own work schedule, and is free to choose the clients that they work with. For many personal trainers, this is the end goal of their personal training careers and is what sees some trainers working with celebrities and making big bucks.

Unlike gym trainers, private personal trainers don’t get help from the gym or get funneled clients from fitness organizations. They utilize their own networking, sales, and marketing skill sets to drive leads and ultimately generate new clients.

For that reason, many private personal trainers struggle to make a decent income. You can’t simply get a personal trainer certification and expect leads to come your way. (Check out this course to learn how to build your business and get clients). This is also why so many trainers start out in the gym, get experience, make relationships, begin taking on private clients on the side, and eventually leave the corporate gym environment behind.


How Much Do Private Personal Trainers Make?

A respectable private personal trainer can make upwards of $70,000 per year.

Compare this to the full time salary of a respectable personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness which would likely fall in the low $40,000 range. And by respectable I mean one with a couple thousand hours of sessions under their belt and training 20-30 sessions per week. This low $40,000 range is also commensurate with what NASM says their average trainer makes.

For example, a 24-Hour Fitness trainer in their middle tier (PT3) makes $13 an hour when training. If you compare a potential salary of an entry-level trainer at 24-Hour Fitness, $22,440/year, to that of a Master Trainer at 24-Hour Fitness, $58,464, and split it down the middle (which is more or less where a PT3 would be), you’d get $40,452.

Now, let’s compare the above salary of a gym trainer to that of a private personal trainer.

The average private personal trainer in the U.S. charges around $50 session. Let’s say this trainer works a total of 30 hours per week and making $1,500 in that time. Multiple this time the weeks in a year, 52, and you have a respectable private trainer who is making $78,000 a year.

Potential Salary of Private Personal Trainer

  • Charges $50/session
  • Works 30 hours per week (sessions)
  • Makes $1,500/week
  • Makes $78,000/year

That same trainer can charge $100 a session, work 15 hours a week, and make the same salary.

Gym trainers typically have to work a lot more hours than private personal trainers for a fraction of the salary which is why private training is often the more desirable route. But as we’ll learn, private personal training is not the only way to make money as a trainer outside the gym.

Interested in getting a CPT with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and business development? Check out the FM-CPT for more info.

online personal trainer salary

Online Personal Trainer Salary

Due to the field being so new, it is important to define what an online personal trainer is. It’s common to understand a personal trainer as a person that works with clients with the intent to improve fitness levels, body image, health, and performance.

Personal trainers also work with clients to modify behaviors that align with the achievement of their health and fitness goals. What is unique about this process is that the personal trainer does not have to meet in-person with a client to create a massive impact on their health. In fact, because of new technology, a trainer can work online from anywhere in the world and change the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of people.

What is Online Personal Training?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health of others through internet-based technological mediums.

Now this may seem very broad and, to be honest, it is intended to be. We live in an age where you can create the life that you dream of by helping people online. Every coach, regardless of industry, is jumping to the internet to ensure they are not left behind, as trends have shown that e-commerce and e-services will be where large economic growth will continue to occur. This is also a place where gaining personal freedom through entrepreneurship is booming.

Coaching online can occur in thousands of unique ways and offerings, but by focusing on improving the health and fitness of others as an online personal trainer, you provide a great starting point to the journey of enhancing someone’s life; by focusing on the health of their physical body.

Now that we have defined what an online personal trainer is, let’s understand the potential salary of an online personal trainer.

How Much Do Online Personal Trainers Make?

The online personal training model is as broad in definition as it is in salary potential. The internet never sleeps so you can, in theory, sell online personal training services or products 24/7, 365.

Of course, this is easier said than done and merely having an online training business does not mean you’ll sell to your heart’s content.

So the obvious considerations for online personal training to determine income are the following:

  • How much your product/service costs
  • How much of your product/service you can sell
  • How much physical time you have to dedicate to selling and managing your product/service

For example, let’s take online personal trainer Jake. Jake sells private personalized online training, delivering programs via online documents. Jake offers three packages for his online clients ranging from custom fitness programs starting at $99/month to fully engaged video assessments, weekly phone calls, unlimited email support, custom nutrition, exercise and food tracking for $399/month.

Jake has a pretty good business model but the scaling of his online business is limited because he can only work so many hours a day because his business is still very personalized and requires him to work one-on-one with clients.

Jill, on the other hand, offers a non-personalized, premade 12 week program as a PDF.

Her “Bikini Body Shred” program is $199 and the transaction, program details, and marketing are all done through her website. Jill can sell her program to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Later down the road Jill also adds a non-personalized video fitness program as a product offering and continues to expand on her online services.

In addition to the non-personalized packages Jill sells online, she has continued to maintain her in-person personal training clients but has combined online training to provide them a hybrid program between in-person and online training. Like Jake, she offers packages to her clients but can charge more because they are benefitting from in-person and online services.

Let’s look at a theoretical salary for Jill, who has successfully created an online personal training business alongside her in-person training.

  • Jill sells, on average, seven of her $199 Bikini Body Shred programs per week, or about $72,436 per year.
  • She also maintains six personal trainer clients, on average, who each pay her $500/month for two 30-minute sessions a week. This equates to an additional $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year.
  • Total: $72,4436 + $36,000 = $108,436

Of course, this does not factor in Jill’s business expenses, marketing costs, or taxes, but it goes to show how an online personal trainer can make upwards of six figures by selling a modest amount of their product and substantially more if they combine in with in-person efforts.

It also wouldn’t be uncommon for Jill to invest more effort into her online business to try and ramp up her online sales to double, or triple, of where they are now.

To learn more about building an online personal training business like Jill and structuring a successful business, check out the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Trainer Certification (FM-COPT) with a focus on online personal training and passive income generation.

These examples are just a few of the ways trainers are making money online. I’ve also seen the popularity of live video chat workouts, online group fitness training, custom nutritional programs, premade nutritional programs, memberships and more. These types of services are only possible through personal training software, which I recommend to run your online training business.

The income of an online personal trainer again is substantiated by the type of offering, its price, and the amount of products/services they can sell. Some trainers may make an extra few hundred a month, while others may have found a way to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. To get your start in online training start here: FM-COPT.

If you liked this post or want us to try and find additional information, please let me know in the comments. If you have experience at other big brand gyms and want to share the salary information, please help us educate other personal trainers by sharing your thoughts below.

Next Steps for Aspiring Personal Trainers

Now you know what you can potentially make when you become a personal trainer at a gym. With this information, you may understand the gyms you want to work at and those you potentially want to stay away from.

One thing that should be clear with this information is that personal growth equates to more money as revealed by the tier systems many of these gyms have. The goal of continually developing yourself as a personal trainer is so you can build your book of business and generate a better income for yourself.

If you are interested in becoming an all-around better personal trainer and business-savvy individual, check out my book and online course I’ve made specifically for hungry self-starters looking to earn the income they deserve: Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

In addition to understanding which gym to kickstart your career, you’ll still want to have an understanding of which personal trainer certification is right for you. Amongst the three most popular certifications are Fitness MentorsNASM and ACE, of which we cover side-by-side in this in-depth blog post

Personal Trainer Salary Fitness Mentors

If you like those certifications, check out our best-in-class study guides for Fitness MentorsACE and NASM. We have free NASM and ACE study guides as well as premium study materials that make studying, and passing, your certification a breeze.

If you liked this post or want us to try and find additional information, please let me know in the comments. If you have experience at other big brand gyms and want to share the salary information, please help us educate other personal trainers by sharing your thoughts below.

How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

Have you always wanted to become a personal trainer?

Unfortunately, wanting is only half the battle.

In order to become a trainer and succeed as one, you need to have the right game plan in place and follow it up with consistent action — just like your workouts. As you’ll see in this guide, there are five simple steps you’ll need to take to become a personal trainer. And we’ll be covering the best ways to tackle each one.

If you are interested in training clients online check out our How to Become an Online Personal Trainer blog.


Get Your Prerequisites Completed First

Before you begin with a personal trainer course, you’ll need to have a few items checked off before you can get certified. These are:

  1. 18 years or older
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. CPR/AED certification

Most personal training certification bodies require these items before you sit down for the final exam. Additionally, many companies are requiring the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR), but these certifications can usually be packaged together by the same provider.

The American Red Cross is a popular choice for the CPR/AED certification, and you can check out their website to find classes near you.


Nail Down the Best Certified Personal Trainer Course (for you)

Sara Fedele Fitness Mentors Testimonial

What is the best personal trainer certification?

A better question is “what is the best personal trainer certification for me?” The certification body you choose is a highly subjective decision — and often a confusing one — so here are some questions you can ask yourself before committing to one over another:

How do I learn new concepts best?

Do you understand concepts better when they’re presented in-person with a teacher or can you handle learning on your own?

Personal training education isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You actually have several options, including:

  • Certification via accredited US company (self-study)
  • Vocational college (in-person)
  • University programs with Bachelors or Masters (in-person)
  • Unaccredited online options (self-study)
  • Gym program (in-person)

Learn more about the different personal trainer courses.

How much time do you have?

Are you looking to get certified as soon as possible or would you prefer to get a college degree along with your certification? The self-study options are the quickest approach whereas the vocational college and university programs are obviously more long-term.

As you answer these questions, you should also be thinking about the differences between each personal training program.

Here are some answers to some common FAQs about becoming a trainer that may also help you decide which route you want to go:


Do I Need to Go to College to Become a Personal Trainer?

If the thought of becoming a full-time student isn’t something that interests you, you’re in luck.

You don’t need to go to college to become a personal trainer.

While a university program will give you the most in-depth learning experience, including learning subjects that aren’t solely personal-training focused, it comes at a price not everyone can afford, both in time and money.

However, if you have your sights set on becoming a personal trainer and you love school or are already working towards earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s, a college degree can strengthen your expertise and build trust with future clients.

This is especially important in the beginning of your personal training career when you’re still building your client base.

So if you don’t need a college degree, the next question is:

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Be a Personal Trainer?

As we talked about in this guide, there are five education routes you can follow to become a personal trainer:

  1. Certification by a US company
  2. Vocational college
  3. University programs with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
  4. Unaccredited online options
  5. Internal gym programs

Each option has its own educational program and certification procedures. By completing one of them, you’ll hold a certification from that institute to teach people as a personal trainer.

Keep in mind, only the first three options on that list are accredited.

Let’s go over the difference between an accredited and an unaccredited program so you know which sounds best for you.

Personal Trainer Career Roadmap

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Do I Need to Find an Accredited Program?

An accredited program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, means that it has been credentialed by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) or other top accrediting bodies. While there are other personal trainer program credentialing bodies, the NCCA is considered the gold standard.

More importantly perhaps, NCCA-certified personal training programs are generally recognized at most health facilities, meaning if you go with one of these you are almost guaranteed a job at a corporate gym.

Some of the most popular Accredited personal trainer bodies include:


• Fitness Mentors



On the other hand, unaccredited courses may not be accepted by corporate gyms and fitness studios.

Unaccredited courses are usually better for someone who already has an established network of clients through their own training methods and has no intentions of working at a corporate facility.

The majority of potential personal trainers will want to find an accredited program.

You’ll receive a more in-depth education and will be better prepared to find a job once you pass your test.

You can opt for an accredited self-study program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, or you can enroll in a vocational college or bachelor’s program at your local college, as mentioned earlier. Vocational schools or colleges will have relationships with accredited certification bodies so you’ll walk away with a degree and your CPT.

Once you select a program, grab a calendar and set your exam date.


Choose an Exam Date & Prepare

Picking an exam date is the first major step towards seeing your personal trainer dreams through.

Put it off and you may end up backburnering your goal indefinitely.

That’s why certain programs have you set a date right away for this very reason.

Keep in mind, you should be realistic with your date.

Fortunately, this next section can help you understand the real magnitude of the work so you can adjust your timeline and plan accordingly.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

Consider your schedule, current workload, and other obligations before setting a date that’s too close for comfort.

You should give yourself at least three to six months, depending on your certification, to prepare. Plan on committing anywhere from 75-100 hours to doing so.

Here’s a breakdown of the expected study time for each personal training program specifically:

  • NCCPT: 80-100 hours is the recommended study time
  • FITNESS MENTORS: 80 hours is the recommended study time
  • NESTA: You must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher so study well before this time
  • ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options
  • ACE: Schedule test within 6 months of purchase date, but you can take it before 9 months
  • ISSA: 6 months to complete
  • NASM: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSA: 120 days after purchasing exam
  • NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing exam
  • AFAA: N/A

With your target test date in mind, you can then work backwards to plan out how many chapters you’ll need to cover each week and month in order to be best prepared for it.

However, if you want to fast track your certification, without sacrificing how much information you’re learning, use this study schedule to knock it out in just two months:

  • Read one or two hours per day at a minimum
  • Create your own chapter-by-chapter notes from the book/coursework
  • Use study guides to review hand-picked topics for reference
  • Listen to audio lectures to review the information while driving/working out/during down time
  • Take practice tests for each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of the book at a time every few weeks
  • Reread study guides as you build upon new concepts
  • Quiz yourself and document the questions you miss; revisit the sections of the book discussing the topics you didn’t get right
  • Take a quiz every day leading up to the final week of study
  • Sit down for an entire practice exam and write down questions you missed; revisit topics you need a better understanding of
  • Take the official certification exam when you consistently earn at least 85% passing score on practice exams

You can also use study resources to help you work out pre-test jitters while you get a feel for the test’s format.

All this can help ensure you make it to this next (huge) step.


Pass Your Exam

There’s nothing better than seeing the words PASS after you submit your personal training certification exam.

But you can only get there if you put in the necessary time reading and studying the material and understanding the concepts.

Practicing test questions and using practice test preps also help increase your chances of passing your exam.

And once you do, you’ll officially be ready to start working as a personal trainer.


Land a Job as a Personal Trainer

Before you spend countless hours applying for jobs you may not enjoy, you should take the time to figure out what you really want and think about what gets you excited first.

You’ll save time by only applying to positions that check these boxes.

So consider these questions:

  • Where exactly do you want to work?
  • Do you prefer large group training classes or one-on-one sessions at the gym?
  • Would you prefer working in a hotel or country club setting?
  • Are you trying to start your own bootcamp or studio?

If you’re looking to gain experience, it can also help to approach the staff where you currently work out to see if there are any openings.

Since you’re already familiar with the place and the staff may be familiar with you, you’ll boost your chances of getting your foot in the door.

The last burning question many soon-to-be trainers have is:

How Much Money Can You Make as a Personal Trainer?

personal trainer salary

The good news is personal trainer salaries have an average median of $58,318 and 10% make over $80,000 per year!

When you do what you love and you truly help people become their healthiest, happiest selves, your salary may not matter as much in comparison. But it’s also good to know you’ll be compensated well for all your hard work.

Now that you know what it takes to become a personal trainer, and you understand how to ace all five steps to get there, it’s time to start chasing your dream.

FAQs on How to Become a
Personal Trainer

The qualifications most personal training certifications require include: age 18 or older, has a high school diploma or equivalent degree, a CPR/AED certification, and the passing of a certified personal trainer course.

Some personal training certifications, like the Fitness Mentors CPT, can be obtained in a month with rigorous study. Most programs, however, take 3 months or more to complete the coursework, study and pass the final exam.

On average, personal trainers have an average median of almost $60,000 and 10% of trainers make over $80,000 a year.

Becoming a certified personal trainer is not nearly as time-consuming or challenging as other professions. However, a fair amount of studying and dedication are needed to complete a course and grow and build a client base.

A career in personal training typically begins at the gym for most trainers. This is the most ideal place to learn how to train, speak with prospects, and work on your sales technique.

Research suggests one in ten trainers earn six-figure salaries.

Personal trainers can use their skills to perform other jobs such as gym managers, sales managers, fitness writers, workout program developers, and group fitness instructors..

Most gyms require a qualification from a third-party accredited personal training body or their own internal certification for trainers to gain employment.

A personal training certification is not a legal requirement in order to assist others with their fitness goals. However, the safety and wellbeing of clients is a primary concern of the industry as a whole, which is why it is such an important aspect of any certification.

Personal training can be a great part time job. As an independent trainer you are free to charge as much as you’d like, choose your hours, and try to generate as much supplemental income as possible.


Become a Personal Trainer Today

With all this information under your training belt, now’s the time to take action.

Start by knocking out your prerequisites.

Then choose an education route you know you’ll stick with. Work through the rest of the tips in this guide and you’ll be one step closer to passing your certification test and achieving your personal training goals.

If you are interested in getting certified with the fitness industries three most popular certifications, check out Fitness Mentors and our free and premium study guides for NASM and ACE.

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The 13 Best Personal Training Books: Quickly Become the Best PT You Can Be

The 13 Best Personal Training Books: Quickly Become the Best PT You Can Be

The best personal trainer books may be difficult to uncover, until now. Below, you’ll find 13 of my favorite personal trainer books placed into categories that are important to trainers with high aspirations, including:

  • Business, Sales and Marketing
  • Flexibility and Pain Management
  • Strength and Hypertrophy
  • Power, Olympic Lifting, Athletic Performance
  • Nutrition
  • Personal Development

Most of these books are personal trainer-specific, meaning they were written specifically for you. I did include a few industry-agnostic books in the mix just to provide some insight into other valuable personal training skillsets.

What makes me qualified to recommend personal training books you ask? Well, I’ve written my own for starters, Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer, and I was a former college personal training professor, meaning I was forced to read many books on the topic, on top of wanting to.

But I digress, my pain is your gain. You only have to read 13 rather than the 100’s of others out there, and you should come out better for it. After you read some or all of these books, you’ll:

  • Know how to start and maintain a profitable personal training business
  • Sell personal training to potential clients to keep a robust rolodex and the money to buy a Rolex
  • Gain physical, technical, and anatomical insight into all types of training so you’ll be able to help nearly any client with any goal
  • Understand how to incorporate nutrition into your deliverables so you can be the ultimate client resource

My hand-picked list of personal trainer books includes:

circles@2x 1
cross 1

Business, Sales and Marketing

Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer – Eddie Lester

Written by yours truly, this book was created based on my experience helping more than 4,000 trainers achieve their financial goals while training. The book starts with fundamentals like getting a personal training certification and covers sales, business checkpoints, and marketing.

Little Red Book of Selling – Jeffrey Gittomer

Short and sweet, this book on selling can be applied to selling personal training as well. This book focuses less on how to sell and more on why people buy. I like this book because it includes buyer excuses and how to overcome them.

Start Your Own Personal Training Business – Tom Weede

Weede’s book is a must-read for trainers who want to capitalize on the trend in personal training. This book is catered to the aspiring entrepreneur but also provides a ton of useful tips for existing personal trainers who are looking to expand their businesses.

Flexibility and Pain Management

Becoming a Supple Leopard – Dr. Kelly Starrett

A must-read for the personal trainer who loves to learn about human movement. Ever wondered how to help your clients unlearn bad habits when squatting, snatches, or muscle-ups? Learn to work around range of motion issues, break down the areas of the body that restrict movement, and reclaim the mobility of you and your clients.

Strength and Hypertrophy

Strength Training Anatomy – Frederic Delavier

Put your old high school anatomy book away and pick up this one designed for personal trainers. This book is beneficial for those who want to see what is going on under the skin – bones, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. This book is described as “having an x-ray for each exercise,” providing you the ultimate in how you can improve your training to build strength in your clients quickly.

Get Buffed I-IV – Ian King

A four-part series, the Get Buffed books will help you take on those clients whose sole purpose in life is to get huge. While the title can be a bit geared towards the serious bodybuilder, there are also a whole bunch of tips and tricks for those who want strength and/or advice on leaning out.

Power, Olympic Lifting, Athletic Performance

Olympic Lifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches – Greg Everett

“The best book on Olympic weightlifting” is what the VP of the Pacific Weightlifting Associated called this book. A comprehensive guide, it is geared to not only athletes, but coaches and trainers who benefit from progressions, error correction, programming, competition, warm-ups, and more.

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – Thomas Baechle

The preferred book for the preparation of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam, this five-part book covers an all-inclusive application framework, a program design section, and real-world examples for organizational and administrative (i.e. trainers) professionals in which to operate a specialist program.

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Good Calories, Bad Calories – Gary Taubes

I like this book because it sheds light on the ideas of what is considered to be a healthy diet and dismantles them. A truly eye-opening read, this book changed the way I think about diet, how I make recommendations to clients on nutrition, and that the energy sources we take in are all about the varieties and not so much the number of calories. It gets heavy into the fat and carb debate, which you can use to educate clients on better eating habits backed by evidence.

The Protein Power Lifeplan – Michael Eades

Much of the content of this book is based on the authors’ reference to man’s meat-eating days. A true reference to what many call the “original Paleo diet,” The Protein Power Lifeplan contains no recipes but does contain lots of science, research references, and medical advice opposition.

Wired to Eat – Robb Wolf

Written by a former research biochemist and powerlifting champion, Robb Wolf has championed a book that provides weight loss solutions based on personal genetics as they pertain to diet and metabolism. For the trainer, this book will help you individualize your nutritional planning and help you to repair your clients’ appetites, making you the shining light on custom dieting.

Personal Development

Know: A Spiritual Wake-Up Call – Royce Morales

I recommend this book because it shines the light on our ability to understand how to transform one’s life. As a personal trainer, this is often what you are doing, or, at the very least, selling. After reading Know, you’ll gain some insight into how to bring out the power of intention in yourself as well as be able to see it in your clients to help them achieve their personal goals.

The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris

Personal trainers often gravitate to the industry because of the quality of life benefits the career affords. One of these benefits is hours worked per week, which tends to sit well below the 40-hours of most other American’s. The most popular book on this list, the 4-Hour Work Week provides a blueprint to a luxury lifestyle with high-income and lots of free time as its backbone.

Jump into a Book Today and Excel Your Career

Many of the books on this list are under $20, a small price to pay for a ton of knowledge. Why go through the challenge of becoming an awesome personal trainer when you can learn from the experience of others and quickly apply it to your business model, clients, and your own workout routines? I hope you enjoy this list and please let me know in the comments if you have any solid recommendations that didn’t make it here.

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Personal Trainer Career Roadmap

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Personal Trainer Courses: 5 Ways to Become a Trainer

Personal Trainer Courses: 5 Ways to Become a Trainer

I was perusing a personal trainer forum the other day and I saw a thread by a newly-certified trainer who experienced the following situation: he had just completed an online personal trainer course and wanted the forum’s opinion on whether his certification would be recognized by fitness institutions where he sought employment.

He went on to mention how easy it was to get certified using this $69.99 online method and that he was not satisfied with the ease of completion.

I don’t want to mention the name of the certification website, or be the bearer of bad news for the forum member, but his certification is what is called an “unaccredited personal trainer course.” I will get into more of what this means below, but the short of it is that this certification would not be recognized at major fitness institutions and he would likely be denied employment.

As there seems to be a lot of aspiring personal trainers wondering which personal trainer courses are right for them, I decided to cover this topic here, in-depth, to prevent anyone from spending any time or money on a certification that would not help them accomplish their professional goals.

Below, we get into five ways to become a personal trainer, including three accredited ways, and two unaccredited ways. After reading this, you’ll know which option is right for you based on what you want to do with your personal training career.

The five options are:


  1.       Certification via accredited US company
  2.       Vocational college
  3.       University programs with Bachelors or Masters


  1.       Unaccredited online options
  2.       Gym program (internal)
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Personal Trainer Courses: The 5 Options

to Consider for Your Career


Certification via Accredited US Company

Most major personal training certifications go through a vetting process to ensure that an unbiased, third-party organization can assure the public a safe standard. For personal training in particular, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is the certification agency that reviews some of the most prestigious personal training courses.

Aspiring personal trainer organizations must go through a validation process analyzed by experts to ensure they meet a high standard of professionalism, health, welfare, and safety.

Some of the most popular NCCA-certified personal trainer bodies include:

  •         NASM
  •         ACE
  •         NSCA
  •         ACSM
  •         NESTA
  •         NCCPT
  •         NCSF

At the time of this writing, the AFAA is undergoing the credentialing process and will soon be added to this list.

The ISSA is worth mention as well. While not NCCA-certified, ISSA is accredited through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), but as we note in our Best Personal Trainer Certification post, these are not as highly regarded as the NCCA.

Getting a Personal Trainer Certification through an Accredited US Company

To get a personal training certification through, for example, NASM or ACE, you have to be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and be CPR certified. From there, you can visit the website of the organizations to complete the certification process.

You’ll need to get some personal trainer study materials, prepare for the exam, and pass, to get the official license.

For a side-by-side, objective, comparison of the major certification bodies and how to go about choosing which one is right for you, check out the aforementioned blog on personal trainer certifications.

Who Accredited US Company Certifications are best for

If your goal as a trainer is to work in nearly any gym, get strong fundamentals on exercise and exercise science, and even move on to a more entrepreneurial career in personal training, this may be a route for you.

Vocational college and universities also offer accredited personal trainer courses, however, these require different financial commitments as well as time commitments. Opting to complete a personal trainer course through self-study is who this route is best for. If you don’t do well studying on your own and need constant feedback or value a school setting, the next two options may be better for you.


Certification via Vocational College

Vocational colleges (also known as vocational schools or trade schools) are brief, career-specific programs that help to quickly prepare you for a career in personal training. These schools partner with accredited certification bodies (ex. NASM) to develop academic programs that are specific to one type of personal trainer certification.

For example, I was a professor at California Healing Arts College (CHAC) for the Personal Fitness Trainervocational program. The objective of this program was to help graduates get into a successful personal training career with NASM certifications. This class offered two programs: one 30 weeks long, 900 clock hours, and 32 credits, and the other 42 weeks long, 900 clock hours, and 32 credits.

These timeframes are fairly standard with vocational schools, as are the opportunity to work in a professional environment while in school (externship).

The courses are in-person as opposed to online, and you can expect an experienced personal trainer as your professor. What is great about vocational colleges is that the entire course is geared towards helping you become a successful personal trainer. Contrast this to going through an accredited certification body or university, where your coursework will be geared strictly towards a certification or will include education outside of personal training, respectively.

The cost of these types of programs generally range from about $15,000 to $20,000 for a 300- to 900-hour course.

Getting a Personal Trainer Certification through a Vocational College

Perhaps the best way to find a vocational college that offers personal trainer courses is through a simple Google search. Then, find the section on Admission Requirements and follow the steps or reach out the college directly for insight.

Who Vocational College Certification is Best for

Compared to the cost of going directly through an accredited US company (generally less than $1,000), vocational colleges can be much more expensive. However, because the entire program is dedicated to helping you perform in all aspects of training, vocational programs tend to create the best trainers.

“because the entire program is dedicated to helping you perform in all aspects of training, vocational programs tend to create the best trainers.”

These programs are best for students who enjoy a school-like setting, the ability to interact with professors and their peers, benefit from hands-on experience, and who might be intimidated by self-study programs. These programs tend to be a lot shorter and less expensive than the final accredited option: going through a university.


Certification via University Programs with Bachelors or Masters

The most expensive and time-consuming route for a personal trainer course is by far going through a University. If you opt for this approach, expect 4+ to get a bachelor’s degree and 6+ years if you want a master’s degree.

As mentioned before, your coursework will not be entirely focused on personal training. For the bachelor’s, the first two years will have semi-focused coursework, then the final two years will have a few personal trainer classes sprinkled in. The degree is not in “personal trainer” per se, but rather something like kinesiology.

For example, Louisiana State University (LSU) offers a BS in Kinesiology, with several different areas of concentration including:

  •         Fitness Studies
  •         Human Movement Science
  •         K-12 Health & PE
  •         Physical Activity and Health

For the Fitness Studies concentration, the focus is to prepare students for careers in “personal training, strength and conditioning, corporate wellness as well as hospital, government and community-based fitness settings.”

Check out the course requirements on this program to see how it mixes general studies (ex. English, math, science, biology) with kinesiology courses and fitness studies concentration courses:

BS in Kinesiology


If you were to continue your studies into the graduate level, your master’s wouldn’t be in personal trainer either. It would be a Masters in Kinesiology, or some other specific science (physical therapy, athletic training, exercise physiology).

Getting a Personal Trainer Certification through a University Program

Should you decide that going through a University is the right career path for you, you’ll have to check out the initial admissions requirements of the university you want to attend and apply to get in. Once in, you’ll have to satisfy the coursework for that particular concentration of study. Go to the website(s) of the universities with personal trainer-like programs, and get in contact with the school to ensure it matches up with your career goals and to get guidance.

Going through the university route is a bit more daunting than the other accredited options on this list, however, a quick call to the admissions office will help you determine if a program is right for you and how to go about getting in.

Who University Programs are Best for

If you are in a rush to get into the personal training industry and want to get to work fast, it should be obvious that four to six years of school is not going to get you there. This is not to say you can’t xenical orlistat price work on your personal trainer certification with an accredited US company while in college, but if you want to focus on your education this method clearly takes the longest.

University programs tend to be best for people who want to experience college, round out their knowledge in other areas, like the idea of having an actual degree to fall back on, or who want to pursue higher education like a master’s degree.

However, a master’s in Kinesiology or other health and fitness science won’t really get you anywhere as a personal trainer in my experience; this is best suited for those who want to be more involved in research-style work or athletic management-style work. If you just want to be a personal trainer, a master’s degree is likely and overextension of your time and money and is unlikely to attract more clients than a trainer with a bachelor’s, a vocational degree, or a certification from an US accredited program.


Certification via Unaccredited

Online Options

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Compared to the previous three options, the title of this approach, “unaccredited online options,” may seem like a terrible choice. However, like many things, it has its place for certain people. I am not one of those people, but perhaps you are!

We learned above about personal trainer credentialing agencies like the NCCA, an organization that stands to uphold standards of professionalism, health, welfare, and safety. These standards are important to gyms and other types of employers, and should be important to you if you want a job at an established fitness institution.

A personal trainer may not be held in the same regard as an attorney with a law degree and who has passed the bar exam, or an accountant who has a CPA recognition, but the credibility behind these certificates is meaningful. With an unaccredited personal trainer certification, you’d kind of be like a person who takes a nutrition class and claims they are a nutritionist.

“if you were trying to get private clients who didn’t care if you had credentials, this certification would be fine.”

On the other hand, if you were trying to get private clients who didn’t care if you had credentials, this certification would be fine. But, like our friend from the forum who speculated that his online certification was a bit too easy, you’d probably be ill-suited to represent personal training and may be doing a disservice to your clients due to your lack of knowledge.

Getting a Personal Trainer Certification through an Unaccredited Online Option

The obvious way to find one of these unaccredited personal trainer courses is by a Google search for “online personal trainer certificate” or some equivalent. If you stumble across an online personal trainer course and are not sure if it is accredited, you’ll probably know because of the inherent low cost of entry. You should also be able to do some research on the site to see if the program is credentialed or not.

Who Unaccredited Online Certifications are best for

Again, this type of certification might work for you if your clients really don’t care about your credentials or if you don’t want to get a job at a formal fitness intuition like a 24-Hour Fitness, L.A. Fitness, or some other professional industry setting.

If you want to do the minimum to have an essentially worthless certificate, an inexpensive, non-credentialed option might be for you.


Certification via Gym Program

Most corporate gyms have in-house programs to help their trainers utilize skillsets and approaches that are important to the gym. However, while these programs may help you to progress within a specific gym or brand, they will not necessarily transfer to other gyms and will not mean you are accredited.

“these programs may help you to progress within a specific gym or brand, they will not necessarily transfer to other gyms and will not mean you are accredited.”

One of the best examples we’ve found of an internal gym program is the Equinox Fitness Training Institute (EFTI) available at Equinox gyms. Equinox, like other gyms who offer internal personal training programs, teach you specific skills that relate to Equinox, almost like an internship where the student pays.

There are a lot of pros to this type of program, you’ll learn lots of skills and concepts to help you become a good trainer and benefit from a well-thought education format (as is the case with Equinox). The cons, however, are that you’ll have to pay for a non-accredited program (Equinox charges $1,399 for non-members), you don’t get a personal trainer certification, and the certification of completion you get from the gym won’t transfer to other gyms should you seek employment elsewhere. Furthermore, many of these types of programs want you to get an accredited certification after you complete their program anyway.

To learn more about the Equinox experience, and to give you a good idea of what to expect within these gym-specific programs, we reached out to a friend of ours who was a trainer at an Equinox in New York. Jamie Wolff, now an Integrative Health Coach with Walnut Health, shared some insight regarding her experience at Equinox:

On choosing Equinox?

Jamie, like many trainers looking for some specific PT course or path that would provide her real-life experience, was new to the industry. When she heard Equinox had a training program, she went for it.

“It was the only gym I knew of that really invested education in their trainers – which I needed as a newbie. The beautiful space motivated, as opposed to many other gyms, which are dark and less-than-inspiring.”

On skills learned

Most gym programs will help you learn about sciences like anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, strength and cardiovascular training, and design personal training programs for your clients. The gym program also taught Jamie sales skills that are difficult to come by on your own:

“I was blessed with a wonderful manager (which isn’t always the case) who understood my strengths and weaknesses. But I also learned some basic sales “skills” like the need to move slightly beyond your comfort zone – which helped me.”

On getting an accreditation

Jamie already was NASM-certified before she joined Equinox, but mentioned you can also get hired if you haven’t finished an accreditation course. She did say that the gym had a requirement to get an accredited certification within a few months of completing their program, however.

Getting a Personal Trainer Certification through a Gym Program

Programs like the ones offered at Equinox and other corporate gyms don’t actually provide you with accredited personal trainer certs. As mentioned on the Equinox site, “Equinox Academy is a training program, not a certification.”

With these programs, you get a certificate of completion, not an actual license that is recognized at other gyms.

However, as we learned with Jamie, the experience of working with a gym to hone your skills can be rewarding. If you are interested in this path, contact the local corporate gyms you’re interested working at and inquire about their programs. Similarly, you may be able to find information on these programs online.

Who Gym Programs are best for

Gym programs are best for the personal trainer newbie who wants to be brought into an environment where they will be able to interact with other experienced trainers as well as potential clients. The programs will provide a soft introduction to national certifications and help you establish some knowledge of the coursework within national certs such as exercise science, anatomy, program design, and other concepts.

Many aspiring trainers look to these programs as guaranteed pathways to careers with gyms, however that is not the case. Equinox notes this on their website, and mentions their program is designed to help novice trainers but does not guarantee participants with jobs at their gyms.

Think of the gym program as an introduction to personal training under a live setting.

Which Personal Trainer Course is Right

for You?

This is a somewhat subjective question and the answer depends on your career goals, time constraints, financial constraints, preferred method of study, and the type of experience you want to get before coming a trainer.

For the quickest and most cost-effective method to get an accredited certification, a national certification like ACE, NASM, or NSCA is the way to go. If you like the idea of a more structured school-like setting, a vocational college may be best for you. If you plan on going to college and are interested in personal training and other managerial pursuits, the university path may be for you.

For the unaccredited path, the online courses are only an option if you will practice private personal training and your clients don’t care about your education or credentials. The gym program route has lots of benefits for gaining experience, but does not offer an accredited certification. This approach, combined with the national certification, could be used to set the tone for a great career, however.

Feel free to share your comments, questions, or experience with any of the above in the comments below.

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How to Transistion from Gym Trainer to Private Personal Trainer