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.
So, to help aspiring trainers understand how much they can make and to showcase some insider knowledge on what popular gyms pay their trainers, 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.
First things first, if you want to work 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.
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:
Independent personal trainer
1099 personal trainer
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 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
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.
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.
Floor hours at minimum wage - typically 20 hours a week until your client base grows.
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.
Minimum wage for non-training hours.
Also, a 5% bonus commission is added to total salary when 60 training sessions or more are performed in one pay period.
24-Hour PT Tier Structure and Associated Pay per Session:
24-Hour Bonus Structure per Training Session:
24-Hour Fitness Commission for Package Sales:
24-Hour Fitness Tiers:
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
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
Minimum wage for non-training hours.
$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.
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.
Varies, these are franchised gyms and each one has a different pay structure.
Answers varied on payment structure for the trainers we surveyed:
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.
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:
Minimum wage is paid when not training.
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:
Other benefits include:
Full-time minimum wage positions.
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.
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 two most popular certifications are NASM and ACE, both of which we cover side-by-side in this in-depth blog post.
If you like those certifications, check out our best-in-class study guides for both ACE 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.
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