Like many other professions, that of a personal trainer is tainted with many prejudices that it is up to us to deconstruct.
Sometimes, the image of a home fitness professional in the collective unconscious is that of a bodybuilder living only through and for sports, a hulking mass of muscles.
It’s easy to imagine the ripped male training lonely rich women in the better parts of town.
To stereotype even further, imagine the man with everything in his muscles and nothing in his head - a case of resource management, perhaps.
Obviously, this is a reduced vision of the personal training business, because of course being in excellent physical condition is not enough to become a personal trainer. Nor would a brainless fitness instructor advance far.
This profession is regulated in the UK, so if you want clients you need qualifications. These are available from a number of private personal training schools or other fitness organisations.
Personal Trainer Certification UK
To become a personal trainer in the UK you might want to consider the following training certification.
You can go for Level 2 certificates in:
- Fitness Instructing (gym)
- Health, Fitness and Exercise Instruction
- Gym Instruction
Note that gym certification allows you to work as a fitness trainer in gyms and fitness centres and clubs, but NOT as an independent.
Or take it further to a Level 3 course in:
- Fitness Training
- Personal Training
Personal Training lets you give lessons at your clients’ home (rather than tying you to a studio). If you like, you can also get a Level 4 certification. Obviously, the higher your qualification, the more money you can ask.
You can expect to earn something between £14,000 and £22,000. Your salary will depend not merely on your personal training qualifications, but also additional trainer certification you might want to consider to help your career and stand out from other personal trainers.
You can take a training course in many specialised aspects of physical fitness; having a niche will help you set up fitness courses that are guaranteed to bring you new students!
Find out more in this beginner's guide to becoming a personal trainer...
First Aid Certification
Especially if you decide to specialise in, say, senior fitness, you might want to get a CPR certification or take a course in emergency first aid. Even if you don’t specifically get AED certification (or how to work an automated external defibrillator), you should know what to do if your students injure themselves.
Though clients are less likely to become injured while doing aerobics than working with a kettlebell, they can still strain muscles or, if they are elderly or otherwise at risk, even go into cardiac arrest. Even if you are careful in ascertaining their state of health before they start their fitness sessions, there can be a pre-existing condition even your client didn’t know about.
Wouldn’t you feel better if you were prepared and knew how to deal with sprains and injuries and practise CPR while waiting for the ambulance?
On that note, don’t forget to get personal trainer insurance in case something happens.
Performance Enhancement for Professional Athletes
Giving Pilates courses to City executives is not the same as preparing a professional athlete for their next competition. The program design will include not only physical exercises in their chosen sport but additional exercises to improve their flexibility, endurance, speed, strength and confidence to maximize their training sessions and keep them in peak physical condition without risk of injury.
A performance enhancement coach is not there to teach them tactics (for group sports) or put together a sequence (for artistic sports such as dressage, gymnastics or ice skating), rather their job is assessing the physical part of their performance and finding ways of improving it.
The British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine have a series of courses designed for those training athletes, from basic anatomy to exercise science.
You can attend a lecture on Physical Activity in Adolescence to know how far you can push an aspiring swimmer or brush up on fitness nutrition to get a bodybuilder up to weight.
Other UK trainer certification schools such as Premier Global also offer classes in continuing education that will teach you exercise programs for various types of athletes, such as the best workouts for biathlon hopefuls, or sports conditioning for sprinters.
Fitness and Nutrition Qualifications
Many training schools recognise that physical activity alone is not going to get you very far in the personal training business. In face of rising obesity rates, many clients expect a personal trainer to help them lose weight or fight cardiovascular disease or simply help them in improving their lifestyle so they don’t gain weight or fall into unhealthy habits.
This means that, in order to find tutor jobs, many personal fitness assistants are expected to be a nutrition specialist as well as an athletic coach.
But if you want to offer your clients a serious health assessment and tailor a nutrition plan to their needs, you will need to participate in a certificate program on nutrition health or take a specialisation course in nutrition fitness.
Of course, a fitness coach will not be a fully-certified nutritionist (unless you really want to put in the hours.) But a complimentary training will help you set up a nutrition programme tailored to your clients' needs and their fitness goals. Weight and fat loss will require a different diet and different exercises than someone seeking to build muscle.
Here are a few schools offering trainer certification in nutrition:
- YMCA fit offers a course in exercise nutrition, on-site or as home study for just under £400
- Health and Fitness Education offer courses on nutrition and weight management in various cities such as Manchester, Cardiff and Walsall for £275.
- Future Fit Training offers a series of diplomas in nutrition, from Nutrition for Sport and Exercise to Pre- and Post-Natal Nutrition.
Join the discussion: how should personal trainers train to become personal trainers?
Fitness Certification and Wellness Certification Programs
To move with your body rather than against it, you need to be centred and aware of yourself. Only then can you maximize your performance and really give your all.
To allow your students to progress in mind as well as fitness and health, you need to offer them something more than an exercise routine.
Stress relief in personal training
Many of your clients will be struggling with stress; those who are only starting to get fit will often be stiff and insecure. You can help with that by earning a secondary training certificate.
- Learn sports massage techniques to help others relax and to help with the prevention of muscle soreness.
- Add yoga poses to your fitness plan to centre your clients at the beginning and relax them at the end of a personal training program.
- Take a personal training course in stretching, an intensive new type of program that really elongates and relaxes your tired muscles.
- Consider passing a certification in aromatherapy to learn how to use odours to enhance the training experience.
- Get certified in various stress therapies and stress management courses.
Health and fitness: beyond keeping your weight down
Getting fit is not always a question of losing weight. It can mean getting your body back into shape after a long illness or trying to manage chronic pain or bone or muscle disorders through exercise. It can mean a lot to people in those situations to find a personal trainer who can adapt to their needs.
To this end, you might consider choosing, in addition to your personal training certification, continuing education courses for a degree in exercise physiology or kinesiology, or other certifications in biomechanics. The better you know the human body, the better you can attune your coaching to your clients to help them set up an exercise program that will help them compensate for their bodies’ defects.
To that effect, you might consider a personal trainer course focusing on corrective exercise. By becoming a corrective exercise specialist, you can help people supplement their physiotherapy at home and improve their health.
A sports medicine degree might be another idea for learning about corrective sports and how to make sure your client consultation is truly adapted to their physiology.
Learn what other essential qualities a personal trainer must embody...
To make it in the fitness industry, specialising in a certain sport can help you narrow down your target audience and provide fitness programs certain to appeal to someone.
So when you are studying for your personal fitness certification, consider what sports would appeal to the demographic in your hometown. Or, if you want to offer personal training online, what sports are trending but not yet offered by many trainers nationally.
Specialise by demographic
Different age groups or special populations will need different training techniques. You can take a personal trainer course specialising in:
- Youth fitness
- Senior fitness
- Exercise and fitness for the mentally handicapped
- Exercise programs for patients suffering from dementia
- Exercise classes for veterans
The right sports for your clientele
While the image of a certified personal trainer is sometimes that of a home Pilates instructor or someone giving instruction in nothing but weight training, you can become a personal fitness instructor for anything but a team sport. Consider becoming a personal fitness trainer qualified for:
- Cardio workouts
- Aquatic sports
- Resistance training
- Circuit training
Marketing and Business Qualifications
And finally, you might want to gain some expertise in marketing. Enrol in marketing education courses and learn the principle guidelines of how to sell yourself. To find work after your fitness trainer certification, you will need clients. Simply being passionate about what you do is not enough.
To successfully run a personal trainer business, you will need to learn marketing strategies to gain new clients. And once you have them, it’s important to know where you should be registering your new business, how much of your salary will go to taxes and how to file your returns and what type of insurance you will need.
Find out all about marketing your personal training skills in this complete guide...