Skills of a Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re considering a career in fitness, you may be wondering whether you have the skills needed to be a personal trainer. Before you embark on any career, it is important to consider whether you are right for the job - and personal training is no different! 

So, what skills do you need to be a personal trainer? This article discusses all the personal trainer knowledge, skills and abilities you need to succeed. We’ll cover the following: 

Looking to take your personal training career to the next level? Why not check out OriGym’s Level 5 Personal Training Courses to enhance your skill set and increase employability! You can also download our free prospectus to browse our full range of courses. 

If you already know you have what it takes to make a successful career in the fitness industry, check out OriGym’s Level 4 Personal Trainer courses now.


Start your career in the fitness industry today!

Enquire about a personal training course with OriGym and kickstart an exciting and lucractive career in fitness

What Is A Personal Trainer?

Before we delve into the key personal trainer skills, what exactly is a personal trainer? 

Put simply, a personal trainer is a certified individual who works on a 1-to-1 basis with a client to help them achieve their fitness goals. 

They help a client reach these goals by delivering a fitness programme that is specifically tailored to their needs. Every client is different, but common goals include weight loss and building strength. Personal trainers may also work with athletes to help improve their sports performance.

The fitness sector is always evolving and changing, making personal training one of the most exciting career choices out there!

As we will discuss in this article, there are some key qualities, attributes and skills required to be a successful personal trainer. You will also need to have completed a Level 3 Gym Instructing Course and Level 4 personal training course. Once you have both the relevant skills and qualifications under your belt, a whole host of employment opportunities await you! 

Soft vs Hard Personal Trainer Skills

When it comes to discussing the skills needed to be a personal trainer, it is useful to categorize them into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills. 

Soft skills are generally personal attributes, character traits and qualities. They are mostly based on emotional intelligence rather than knowledge, making them difficult to measure and define. 

Hard skills are more concrete skills such as industry-specific knowledge and expertise. These skills are generally gained through practical experience, such as courses and qualifications or on-the-job training. They are therefore much easier to measure than soft skills. 

Employers in all industries look for both soft and hard skills in potential employees. And the same goes for the fitness industry! That’s why the best personal trainer courses enable you to develop both these types of skills to help you stand out in the fitness job market by maximising your employability. 

Soft vs Hard Personal Trainer Skills

1. Motivating Others

Arguably one of the most important skills for a personal trainer is the ability to motivate your clients. After all, this is one of the main reasons that people decide to get a PT! 

As a personal trainer, you should be able to see the potential in your client and push them to reach it. A good PT is fully invested in their client and wants to see them achieve their goals.  

The ability to motivate others is hard to measure, which is why it is seen as a soft skill. But ultimately, if your client is engaged in the programme, working hard and making progress, this is a sign that you are successfully motivating them! 

During the sessions themselves, you should be confident enough to give words of encouragement to your client as they are performing the exercises. If they are close to giving up before the final rep, it is up to you to help them make that one last push! This is all part of having good personal trainer leadership skills.

As well as motivating your clients during a session, creating an interesting and dynamic programme for them is a surefire way to motivate them to carry on. If the programme is too easy, they will lose interest. But make it too difficult, and they could feel like they are failing. Finding a balance between the two is therefore a key skill of a personal trainer. 

2. Empathy and Compassion

Perhaps two of the most overlooked personal trainer skills are empathy and compassion.

When people think of personal trainers, the stereotype is someone who just shouts at clients in the gym - but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

In fact, personal trainers should be sensitive to their client’s emotions and adapt their training style to each individual. This can be harder than it sounds, especially if you have lots of different clients in a single day.

For example, empathy is a good personal trainer skill to have if your client is struggling to complete a workout. Whilst it can be easy to put this down to lack of motivation or disinterest, a good PT should instead think about any other reasons that may be affecting your client’s performance. Is there something on their mind? Have they had a particularly stressful day at work? 

Simply asking your client a few questions such as ‘how was your day?’ or ‘how are you feeling today?’ before you start a session is an easy way to demonstrate this personal trainer skill.  

Empathy and compassion cannot be taught, but OriGym’s personal training courses equip you with the practical knowledge and tools to develop this personal trainer skill. 

3. Communication

Personal trainer communication skills are essential for building a positive and trusting relationship with your existing clients, as well as attracting new ones.

Clear communication between you and your client is particularly important when guiding them through an exercise during a session. Although this can be shown by a demonstration, you should also provide verbal guidance whilst they are doing the exercise itself. 

A good PT can explain even the most complicated of exercises in simple terms. This is a skill that simply requires practice, as well as personal trainer leadership skills. 

Communication is just as much about listening as it is talking! An important aspect of personal trainer communication skills is the ability to listen to feedback from your client. For example, if they say that they are finding the programme too easy, you can then make the appropriate changes to make it more challenging. 

A good PT should keep up communication outside of the gym too. Whether it’s arranging your next session or checking in with your client in-between sessions, it all contributes to maintaining a positive relationship with your client! 

If you think you have good personal trainer communication skills and enjoy public speaking, our CPD course in group exercise training might be for you!

4. Positivity

One of the most important skills needed to be a personal trainer is positivity! Making your sessions a positive experience is an easy way to make sure that you are getting the most out of your clients.

As a personal trainer, your clients will feed off your positive energy. There will be times when they are feeling unmotivated or they are struggling with the programme, and having a positive and optimistic attitude is key for helping your client get through these times. 

Essentially, if you are really passionate about fitness, this should come across to your clients. Positivity really is infectious! 

Having a positive social media presence is a great way to appeal to potential clients. You can post inspiring videos or share your favourite motivational quotes

Positivity cannot be taught or measured, which is why it is a soft skill. However, in a job interview for a personal training role, you can show positivity simply by smiling, being enthusiastic and outgoing.

5. Self-Development

As with any job, it can be easy to get set in your ways and get too comfortable. However, one of the most important qualities of a personal trainer is self-development. 

Self-development is simply about wanting to progress and add new skills to your repertoire. This is not only beneficial on a personal level, but it also means that you can expand your client base to reach more niche clientele. 

In the fitness industry, self-development is one of the best personal trainer resume skills you can have. As one of the fastest-changing sectors out there, employers will want to see how you are keeping up with the latest trends and changes in the industry.

The best way to practice self-development as a personal trainer is to add more skills and qualifications to your CV. OriGym knows how important this is, so we offer a huge range of specialist fitness courses such as our sports nutrition qualification and this Level 5 obesity and weight management course

CPD (Continuing Professional Development) courses are also a great way to learn more skills. From strength and conditioning to circuit training, OriGym has a range of CPD courses no matter your interests. 

6. Being Friendly And Approachable

As a public-facing role, being friendly and approachable is a particularly good personal trainer quality to have. 

Many clients come to personal trainers because they are uncomfortable or inexperienced in a gym environment. So, the last thing they need is a personal trainer who is just as intimidating!

Your client should feel comfortable asking you questions about anything they don't understand, no matter how obvious the answer may be.

Being friendly and approachable is particularly important when it comes to working with clients with special requirements or disabilities. A good personal trainer must be tolerant and understanding to people of all levels and abilities. If you’re interested in designing specialist fitness programs, why not check out OriGym’s Level 5 Diabetes and Weight Management Course?

Since it is a soft skill, a friendly and approachable attitude cannot be taught! It is simply something that you naturally possess or develop over time. This can come either from your own self-development or from observing other personal trainers and how they interact with clients. 

However, there is a fine balance between being friendly and being a push-over; you should still maintain an element of authority and demonstrate good personal trainer leadership skills!

7. Commitment and reliability 

Like any job, a personal trainer must be committed and reliable. This is especially the case if you are a freelance or self-employed personal trainer, as you essentially determine your own hours. 

When you take on a client, you have a responsibility to always deliver only the best service to them. This means always turning up on time and giving your all to every single session. 

A good personal trainer would encourage your client to commit to the training programme, so you need to practice what you preach!

For employers, commitment and reliability is one of the most important personal trainer skills they are looking for, as it determines how you will be as an employee. They may ask for references from your previous job to vouch for how reliable you are.  

8. Creativity   

When wondering ‘what skills does a personal trainer need?’, you might not have thought of creativity. But in fact, whilst it can be a very technical job, creativity is a good personal training quality to have.

Since it is a soft skill, creativity cannot technically be ‘taught’. Many would argue that you have it or you don’t!  

When it comes to keeping your client engaged, having a creative and varied programme is a great way to do this. A good personal training session should achieve a balance of being fun and creative as well as effectively working towards your client’s goals.

As well as making the sessions more enjoyable for your client, another reason why creativity is such a key skill for a personal trainer is that it helps you stand out as a business. If you are known as being a fun and creative PT, potential clients are much more likely to choose you than a PT who follows a more traditional teaching style. 

Social media is also a great way to express your creativity as a personal trainer. You can really build up your personal brand by making creative content such as photos and videos. This ultimately helps to attract clients. In fact, having a strong social media presence is one of the best ways to stand out as a personal trainer.  

9. Flexibility

Another important skill to have as a personal trainer is the ability to be flexible in terms of your working hours. 

Personal trainers certainly do not have a conventional 9-5 working pattern. However, your clients probably do! You should therefore be prepared to meet clients early in the morning before work or late in the evening- and everything in between.

If you are employed by a gym, you may have more regular shifts, but they may still be during unsociable hours! Flexibility is therefore especially important if you are working as a freelance personal trainer. 

In fact, the flexible nature of the job can actually be a great benefit of being a personal trainer. Since you are mostly in control of your own hours, you can schedule a long weekend or a midweek day off if you want to! 

Hard Personal Traine Skills

10. Extensive Fitness Knowledge

Whilst the soft personal trainer skills we have discussed thus far are important, they are irrelevant unless they are backed up by in-depth fitness knowledge! 

The best way to gain this knowledge is of course through completing a personal training qualification.  

When it comes to personal trainer resume skills, a personal training qualification is top of the list. For most PT jobs, you will need to have completed the following: 

Completing a PT course is not only an essential prerequisite for most jobs, but it equips you with all the necessary knowledge to be a good personal trainer. You will gain an extensive knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, nutrition principles, how to deliver training sessions and more. 

It is also important to take the time to choose your personal training course provider wisely. There are several factors you should consider before choosing, such as course accreditation, location, study method and reviews from previous students. Choosing the right qualification for you is arguably one of the most important steps to becoming a PT.

11. Marketing Skills 

When wondering, ‘what skills do you need to be a personal trainer?’, your first thought might not be marketing. But in fact, it is one of the most important aspects of being a PT.

In addition to extensive fitness knowledge, an important personal trainer skill is the ability to use that knowledge to make money! In other words, you need to know how to market your services in order to attract clients. 

There are many aspects to marketing, but generally, it is all about using marketing techniques such as advertising, email campaigns and social media to reach your target audience or retain your existing clients. 

Although marketing is a hard skill, it also requires many soft skills to be an effective marketer. For example, you need to be creative in aspects of marketing such as social media and advertising. 

Marketing also requires other soft skills such as empathy, as you need to be able to understand your target audience and what they want. Knowing your audience is one of the most fundamental principles of marketing!

Before You Go!

So, do you think you have the skills required to be a personal trainer? From soft skills such as positivity to hard skills such as fitness knowledge, there are many important qualities that a PT should possess.

If you think you have what it takes to start a career in fitness, enquire today to see where a personal training course with OriGym could take you! You can also download our free prospectus here for more information about all of our courses! 


Start your career in the fitness industry today!

Enquire about a personal training course with OriGym and kickstart an exciting and lucractive career in fitness

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Enthusiast & Blogger

Abbie is a work-hard, play-hard fitness junkie turned blogger. She loves a scenic run and a good upbeat exercise class. You can usually find her on the front row of a spin class on a Saturday morning.

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